Fort Smith, Arkansas, tornadoes of January 11, 1898

On January 11, 1898, a series of tornadoes affected the U.S. states of Arkansas and Missouri, as well as the Indian Territory, presently Oklahoma. At least five in all, these included the Fort Smith tornado, which struck the city of Fort Smith, Arkansas. Retroactively rated a violent (F4) tornado on the modern-day Fujita scale,[note 2] it was part of a tornado family that formed 60 mi (97 km) to the southwest,[7] and struck the city around midnight, killing 55 people and injuring 113. The twister nearly destroyed the newly constructed Fort Smith High School that had opened in fall 1897. Other tornadoes were reported that night in Arkansas and Missouri. The Fort Smith tornado is tied with one that struck Warren in 1949, also rated F4, for the deadliest tornado to strike Arkansas.[8][9]

Fort Smith, Arkansas, tornadoes of January 11, 1898
Destroyed homes in Fort Smith
Tornado outbreak
Maximum ratingF4 tornado
DurationJanuary 11, 1898
Overall effects
Damage≥$453,000 (≥$16,590,000 in 2024 USD)[note 1]
Areas affectedArkansas, Missouri, and Indian Territory (now Oklahoma)

Part of the tornadoes and tornado outbreaks of 1898

Confirmed tornadoes edit

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
1 ? ? 3 0 1 0 ≥5

Prior to 1990, there is a likely undercount of tornadoes, particularly E/F0–1, with reports of weaker tornadoes becoming more common as population increased. A sharp increase in the annual average E/F0–1 count by approximately 200 tornadoes was noted upon the implementation of NEXRAD Doppler weather radar in 1990–1991.[10][note 3] 1974 marked the first year where significant tornado (E/F2+) counts became homogenous with contemporary values, attributed to the consistent implementation of Fujita scale assessments.[14][note 2]

List of confirmed tornadoes – Tuesday, January 11, 1898[note 4]
F# Location County / Parish State Time (UTC) Path length Width[note 5] Damage
F2 W of Fayetteville Washington Arkansas 04:00–? Un­known Un­known Un­known
A two-story home was wrecked, injuring a person.[18]
F2 Bradleyville Taney Missouri 05:00–? 5 mi (8.0 km) 300 yd (270 m) $3,000
1 death – Homes were wrecked, with five injuries. One of the injured died weeks later.[18][19]
F4 Western Fort Smith to E of Van Buren Sebastian, Crawford Arkansas 05:15–? 10 mi (16 km) 200 yd (180 m) $450,000
55 deaths – See section on this tornado – 113 people were injured.
F2 S of Alma to NW of Ozark Crawford, Franklin Arkansas 05:30–? 15 mi (24 km) 200 yd (180 m) Un­known
Four homes lost roofs, and several barns were wrecked. Outbuildings were damaged as well.[20][21]
FU Near Sans Bois Choctaw Nation Indian Territory Un­known Un­known Un­known Un­known
This, the first member of the Fort Smith family, formed over the Sans Bois Mountains.[21][7]

Fort Smith, Arkansas edit

Fort Smith, Arkansas
Meteorological history
FormedJanuary 11, 1898, 11:15 p.m. CST (UTC−06:00)
F4 tornado
on the Fujita scale
Overall effects
Damage$450,000 ($16,480,000 in 2024 USD)

Part of a long-lived tornado family, this event may have first damaged trees near the Arkansas River in Oklahoma, beginning near Cache Creek. Intermittent damage to vegetation continued past the Poteau River. The tornado was confirmable at the Fort Smith National Cemetery, where it leveled a 1-mile-long (1.6 km), 5-foot-high (1.5 m) stretch of masonry, downed trees, and severely damaged a lodge. Farther on, it extensively damaged a schoolhouse. The tornado then tracked into the business district of Fort Smith, causing scores of fatalities. "Dozens" of businesses and residences were flattened, some homesites being left bare. At city hall, 40 large trees, up to 50 ft (15 m) tall, were felled, and an iron flagstaff, embedded in granite and fastened by 1-inch-thick (25 mm) guy wires, was pulled out, the wires being snapped. A 500-foot-long (150 m) brick wall, 1 ft (0.30 m) thick and 4+12 ft (1.4 m) tall, was leveled. A three-story brick building was moved off its foundation, and 30 homes in town, mostly frame, were destroyed, along with a quartet of churches. 130 other homes of similar composition were damaged. An iron beam, driven into a brick wall, could not be dislodged, clothing was found 30 mi (48 km) away, and signage from Fort Smith was carried 22 mi (35 km). Initial reports indicated that 33 people died instantly, while 18 later succumbed of injury. Of the 113 injuries, 44 were severe, 73 minor. Final tabulations totaled 113 dead and 113 injured, including three dead near Van Buren, where rural farmsteads were wrecked.[22]

Notes edit

  1. ^ All losses are in 1898 USD unless otherwise noted.
  2. ^ a b The Fujita scale was devised under the aegis of scientist T. Theodore Fujita in the early 1970s. Prior to the advent of the scale in 1971, tornadoes in the United States were officially unrated.[1][2] Tornado ratings were retroactively applied to events prior to the formal adoption of the F-scale by the National Weather Service.[3] While the Fujita scale has been superseded by the Enhanced Fujita scale in the U.S. since February 1, 2007,[4] Canada used the old scale until April 1, 2013;[5] nations elsewhere, like the United Kingdom, apply other classifications such as the TORRO scale.[6]
  3. ^ Historically, the number of tornadoes globally and in the United States was and is likely underrepresented: research by Grazulis on annual tornado activity suggests that, as of 2001, only 53% of yearly U.S. tornadoes were officially recorded. Documentation of tornadoes outside the United States was historically less exhaustive, owing to the lack of monitors in many nations and, in some cases, to internal political controls on public information.[11] Most countries only recorded tornadoes that produced severe damage or loss of life.[12] Significant low biases in U.S. tornado counts likely occurred through the early 1990s, when advanced NEXRAD was first installed and the National Weather Service began comprehensively verifying tornado occurrences.[13]
  4. ^ All dates are based on the local time zone where the tornado touched down; however, all times are in Coordinated Universal Time and dates are split at midnight CST/CDT for consistency.
  5. ^ The listed width values are primarily the average/mean width of the tornadoes, with those having known maximum widths denoted by ♯. From 1952 to 1994, reports largely list mean width whereas contemporary years list maximum width.[15] Values provided by Grazulis are the average width, with estimates being rounded down (i.e. 0.5 mi (0.80 km) is rounded down from 880 yards to 800 yards).[16][17]

References edit

  1. ^ Grazulis 1993, p. 141.
  2. ^ Grazulis 2001a, p. 131.
  3. ^ Edwards et al. 2013, p. 641–642.
  4. ^ Edwards, Roger (March 5, 2015). "Enhanced F Scale for Tornado Damage". The Online Tornado FAQ (by Roger Edwards, SPC). Storm Prediction Center. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  5. ^ "Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF-Scale)". Environment and Climate Change Canada. Environment and Climate Change Canada. June 6, 2013. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  6. ^ "The International Tornado Intensity Scale". Tornado and Storm Research Organisation. Tornado and Storm Research Organisation. 2016. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Multiple sources:
  8. ^ Grazulis 1993, pp. 681–682, 941.
  9. ^ Grazulis, Thomas P.; Grazulis, Doris (26 April 2000). "The Most "Important" US Tornadoes by State". St. Johnsbury, Vermont: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 2 May 2024.
  10. ^ Agee and Childs 2014, p. 1496.
  11. ^ Grazulis 2001a, pp. 2514.
  12. ^ Edwards, Roger (March 5, 2015). "The Online Tornado FAQ (by Roger Edwards, SPC)". Storm Prediction Center: Frequently Asked Questions about Tornadoes. Storm Prediction Center. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  13. ^ Cook & Schaefer 2008, p. 3135.
  14. ^ Agee and Childs 2014, pp. 1497, 1503.
  15. ^ Agee and Childs 2014, p. 1494.
  16. ^ Brooks 2004, p. 310.
  17. ^ Grazulis 1990, p. ix.
  18. ^ a b Grazulis 1993, p. 681.
  19. ^ Henry 1898, p. 9.
  20. ^ Douglass 1898.
  21. ^ a b Grazulis 1993, p. 682.
  22. ^ Multiple sources:

Sources edit