Tornado outbreak of April 29 – May 1, 1909

A deadly tornado outbreak affected much of the central and Southern United States from April 29 – May 1, 1909. Affecting particularly the Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys, it killed over 180 people, more than 90 of them in the U.S. state of Tennessee alone. The deadliest and longest-tracked tornado of the outbreak was a violent F4 tornado family that tracked across portions of northern Mississippi and western Tennessee on April 29, claiming at least 29 lives. Another deadly F4 tornado struck portions of southern Tennessee early the next day, killing 31. Other F4s in southern Missouri and southern Illinois on April 29 killed a combined 16 people. Deadly F3s in Georgia and Tennessee from April 30–May 1 killed a total of at least 53 people as well.[nb 1][nb 2][nb 3]

Tornado outbreak of April 29–May 1, 1909
TypeTornado outbreak
DurationApril 29–May 1, 1909
≥ 43
Max. rating1F4 tornado
Duration of
tornado outbreak2
1 day, 21 hours, 55 minutes
Fatalities≥ 181 fatalities, ≥ 770 injuries
Areas affectedMidwestern and Southern United States
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale
2Time from first tornado to last tornado

Background and impact edit

During the late afternoon and the overnight hours of April 29, 1909, numerous strong to violent tornadoes affected the areas of northern Alabama, eastern Arkansas, southern Illinois, northern Mississippi, southeastern Missouri, and western Tennessee (the NWS Memphis, Tennessee, coverage area). In that general area, at least 72 were killed by tornadoes.

The deadliest tornado touched down just south of the Tennessee-Mississippi state line in Desoto County and tracked east-northeast for about 145 miles (233 km) across Shelby, Fayette, Hardeman, Chester, Henderson and Decatur Counties. While it was estimated to be an F4, some reports indicate that there was more than one tornado. Among the towns affected were Horn Lake, Mississippi, where about half of the fatalities were recorded, and Whitehaven, Tennessee, where the tornado damaged 30 homes. The parent supercell continued on to produce additional tornadoes in Scott County.

North of Memphis, Tennessee, two F3 tornadoes killed a total of 22 from Crittenden County, Arkansas, to Carroll County, Tennessee. Homes were destroyed in Marion, Arkansas, resulting in five deaths in Arkansas. In Tennessee, the town of Locke was mostly destroyed by the first F3 tornado. The second F3 tornado flattened structures near Covington and Medina. Several of the injured people who later died were plantation workers. A family of tornadoes also affected Hickman and Williamson Counties southwest of Nashville and later moved into the city of Cookeville and Putnam County. Three other tornadoes killed four people in the Memphis coverage area, including in St. Francis and Lee Counties in Arkansas and Haywood County in Tennessee.

Other F4 tornadoes were reported in Missouri near Golden, in Illinois near Texas City, and in south-central Tennessee near Bee Spring, just north of the Alabama state line. 11 deaths were recorded in the Missouri storm, five near Texas City and 31 just north of the Alabama–Tennessee state line. The Bee Spring tornado affected parts of Lincoln and Giles Counties in Tennessee. Hardest-hit areas were in and around Pulaski, Bryson and Fayetteville. Another strong tornado struck Franklin County near Decherd.[10]

Confirmed tornadoes edit

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
? ? 1 30 8 4 0 ≥ 43

April 29 event edit

Confirmed tornadoes – Thursday, April 29, 1909[nb 4][nb 5]
F# Location County / Parish State Time (UTC) Path length Max. width Summary
F2 Northern Caddo Gap Montgomery Arkansas 19:00–? Un­known Un­known 4 deaths — A strong tornado destroyed 10 homes. Four large trees fell onto a home, killing a family of four. 25 injuries were reported.[13]
F2 Shibley to S of Alma Crawford Arkansas 22:40–? 4 mi (6.4 km) Un­known 1 death — 12 or more homes were severely damaged or destroyed. Nine people were injured. The tornado passed near Kibler.[13]
F2 NW of Brinkley to N of Palestine Monroe, St. Francis Arkansas 23:00–? 20 mi (32 km) 200 yd (180 m) 1 death — 30 injuries were reported along the path, 21 of which were distributed among 14 homes.[13]
F2 Charleston to Hector Franklin, Logan, Johnson, Pope Arkansas 23:00–? 60 mi (97 km) Un­known A probable tornado family skipped along, wrecking barns at more than 12 sites. 14 people were injured: eight near Piney and half a dozen near Prairie View.[13]
F4 SW of Golden to S of Viola Barry, Stone Missouri 23:00–? 15 mi (24 km) 200 yd (180 m) 11 deaths — Numerous small homes were leveled, some of which were obliterated. 18 people were injured.[14][13]
F2 Moreland Pope Arkansas 23:30–? Un­known Un­known This strong tornado formed from the same storm as the Charleston tornado family and wrecked six homes. Four people were injured.[13]
F2 N of Round Pond St. Francis Arkansas 00:00–? Un­known Un­known This tornado wrecked several small homes. Losses totaled at least $11,000. Tornado-related damage may have continued as far as Crawfordsville, which reported an additional loss of $5,000.[13]
F2 E of Formosa to Bee Branch Van Buren Arkansas 00:15–? 5 mi (8.0 km) 200 yd (180 m) 1+ death — This strong tornado destroyed Bee Branch, causing numerous fires in its wake. Four other deaths may have occurred but went unreported. 18 people were injured and losses exceeded $50,000.[15]
F2 WNW of Marianna Lee Arkansas 00:15–? 10 mi (16 km) Un­known 1 death — This tornado destroyed or damaged roughly 40 tenant homes, along with six farms. 25 people were injured.[15]
F3 N of Marion (AR) to E of Quito (TN) Crittenden (AR), Shelby (TN), Tipton (TN) Arkansas, Tennessee 00:30–? 20 mi (32 km) 100 yd (91 m) 8+ deaths — This intense tornado destroyed 12 or more small homes in Arkansas and later destroyed Locke, Tennessee. 40 people were injured along the path. Five additional deaths may have occurred.[15]
F3 SE of Covington to Medina Tipton, Haywood, Crockett, Madison, Gibson, Carroll Tennessee 00:45–? 60 mi (97 km) 200 yd (180 m) 14+ deaths — This intense tornado family probably formed from the same storm as the Brinkley, Marianna, and Marion tornadoes. Small homes and barns were destroyed. The most significant damage began near Bells and ended past Medina. 50 people were injured, many severely; some of these may have died later.[15]
F4 N of Eldorado to Texas City Saline, Gallatin Illinois 01:00–? 8 mi (13 km) 200 yd (180 m) 5 deaths — This violent tornado leveled a farmhouse, leaving bodies 14 mi (0.40 km) from the homesite. All the deaths were in a single family. Six people were injured.[15]
F3 W of Yukon Texas Missouri 01:10–? 15 mi (24 km) 200 yd (180 m) 2 deaths — This intense tornado destroyed much timberland, along with four homes. Five people were injured.[15]
F4 SSW of Horn Lake (MS) to NE of Linden (TN) DeSoto (MS), Shelby (TN), Fayette (TN), Hardeman (TN), Chester (TN), Henderson (TN), Decatur (TN), Perry (TN) Mississippi, Tennessee 01:30–? 145 mi (233 km) 600 yd (550 m) 29+ deaths — See section on this tornado
F2 W of Dickson to White Oak Flat Dickson Tennessee 02:00–? 20 mi (32 km) 300 yd (270 m) This strong tornado struck Charlotte, destroying or damaging 25 structures there. Elsewhere eight or nine farmsteads were wrecked. Five people were injured along the path. The tornado may have ended near Bellsburg.[15][11]
F3 SE of Clarksville (TN) to N of Sango (TN) to NNW of Keysburg (KY) Montgomery (TN, Robertson (TN), Logan (KY) Tennessee, Kentucky 02:00–? 20 mi (32 km) 400 yd (370 m) 4 deaths — This intense tornado wrecked homes on three farmsteads. A school was found intact 2 mi (3.2 km) from its original location, having left intermittent gashes in the earth, each at 200-to-300-yard (600 to 900 ft) intervals. 50 people were injured and losses totaled $25,000.[15][11]
F3 E of Alton Oregon Missouri 02:00–? 8 mi (13 km) 200 yd (180 m) 6+ deaths — This intense tornado destroyed five homes, injuring 14 people. As many as eight deaths may have occurred.[15]
F2 W of Heber Springs to N of Floral Cleburne, Independence Arkansas 02:30–? 25 mi (40 km) Un­known 4 deaths — Most of the casualties occurred just northwest of Heber Springs. 25 people were injured.[15]
F3 W of Shipp Bend to N of Clovercroft Hickman, Maury, Williamson Tennessee 04:15–? 45 mi (72 km) 300 yd (270 m) 17+ deaths — This deadly, long-tracked, intense tornado tracked through or near Shipp Bend, Centerville, Littlelot, and Leiper's Fork; its path continued just south of Franklin. Losses at Centerville alone reached $100,000, with approximately 75 homes destroyed or damaged. Four deaths occurred in a home at Leiper's Fork, and additional deaths may have occurred nearby. Damage in and near Leiper's Fork may have reached F4 intensity. 43 injuries occurred along the path. The Nolensville F2 formed in the same storm as this.[15][11]
F2 Near Bold Spring Humphreys Tennessee 04:30–? Un­known Un­known At least one home was destroyed. A few injuries were reported, one of them possibly fatal.[11]
F2 Sidney Shelby Ohio 04:45–? Un­known 70 yd (64 m) An apparently strong tornado caused $60,000 in damage.[16]
F2 S of Bakersfield (MO) Baxter Arkansas Un­known Un­known Un­known At least a few homes were destroyed.[13]
F2 E of Hot Springs Garland Arkansas Un­known Un­known Un­known This tornado destroyed a small home, injuring four family members, and unroofed and destroyed others. A 1,300-pound (21,000 oz) tank was found 14 mile (1,300 ft) distant.[13]
F2 Near Brownsville Haywood Tennessee Un­known Un­known Un­known 2 deaths — Approximately 20 homes were destroyed or damaged at Hanley. 10 injuries were reported.[15]

April 30 event edit

Confirmed tornadoes – Friday, April 30, 1909[nb 4][nb 5]
F# Location County / Parish State Time (UTC) Path length Max. width Summary
F4 SW of Aspen Hill to Bee Spring to S of Mulberry Giles, Lincoln Tennessee 05:00–? 35 mi (56 km) 1,760 yd (1,610 m) 31+ deaths — This extremely large and violent tornado, Middle Tennessee's third deadliest on record, annihilated many homes at Bee Spring and Millville, some of which were large and well constructed, before wrecking Harms. The communities of Cyruston and Clardyville were affected as well. 70 injuries occurred along the path. A few additional deaths may have been unrecorded. Grazulis indicated that the tornado formed over Limestone County in northernmost Alabama, but reanalysis by the National Weather Service in 2017 only located damage in Tennessee.[14][15][17][11]
F2 ESE of Franklin to S of Nolensville to SW of Statesville (1st tornado) Williamson, Rutherford, Wilson Tennessee 05:15–? 35 mi (56 km) 800 yd (730 m) 2 deaths — This large, strong tornado passed near Smyrna and Walterhill, destroying 10 homes before ending as a downburst at Statesville, with numerous trees blown down and much cattle killed at the latter place. Barns, a few churches, a mill, and utility poles were wrecked along the path as well, and large tracts of forest were leveled. 20 people were injured along the path. Other possible but unconfirmed tornadoes occurred along a 100-mile-long (160 km)[citation needed] track through six counties northeast of this.[18][15][11]
F2 SW of Statesville (2nd tornado) to E of Alexandria Wilson, DeKalb Tennessee 06:00–? 15 mi (24 km) Un­known Most of Statesville was badly damaged. Three churches and a schoolhouse were destroyed. Several barns and businesses lost their roofs as well. Two people were injured. The tornado may have been F3 or stronger.[15][11]
F2 WNW of Broadview to Decherd to ENE of Piedmont Franklin, Grundy Tennessee 06:15–? 22 mi (35 km) 1,760 yd (1,610 m) 6+ deaths – This tornado, which likely formed in the same storm as the Bee Spring F4, wrecked 23 homes. A depot and a hotel lost their roofs as well. 30 people were injured and losses totaled $150,000. Additional fatalities may have taken place. The tornado may have been F3 or stronger.[19][11]
F2 Northwestern Cookeville to Algood Putnam Tennessee 07:00–? 6 mi (9.7 km) Un­known Several homes were blown off their foundations, a church was wrecked, and a number of barns were flipped or destroyed. A two-story residence was flattened as well. Trees were splintered and lofted for considerable distances. Two people were injured. The tornado may have been F3 or stronger.[11]
F1 Wilder Fentress Tennessee 07:30–? Un­known 100 yd (91 m) A spacious, two-story building was wrecked, and a home or two were moved off their foundations. Timber was destroyed as well, some of which fell onto and damaged houses. Two people were injured.[11]
F2 NE of Tinch to N of New River Fentress, Morgan, Scott Tennessee 08:00–? 20 mi (32 km) 800 yd (730 m) 1 death – A few homes, a sawmill, and much timberland were destroyed. Four people were injured.[11]
F3 SW of Felton to Stilesboro Haralson, Polk, Paulding, Bartow Georgia 10:30–? 30 mi (48 km) 150 yd (140 m) 13+ deaths — Seven fatalities occurred in Felton and five more near Rockmart. A final death took place near Cartersville. In all, 40 people were injured. Four additional deaths may have occurred elsewhere.[19]
F2 Victory to Clem Carroll Georgia 11:30–? 7 mi (11 km) Un­known 2 deaths — A number of homes were destroyed. 10 people were injured.[19]
F2 SW of Moulton to N of Danville Lawrence, Morgan Alabama 18:00–? 18 mi (29 km) 200 yd (180 m) 4 deaths — This strong tornado wrecked seven homes and killed approximately 100 livestock. 18 people were injured and losses totaled at least $15,000.[19][20]
F2 Red Bank Hamilton Tennessee 19:00–? Un­known Un­known Six homes were unroofed and destroyed. Eight people were injured.[19]
F2 Quillians to Concord Hall Georgia 22:30–? 5 mi (8.0 km) 500 yd (460 m) 1 death — At least 12 homes were destroyed. 20 people were injured, one of whom was carried 12 mi (0.80 km).[19]
F2 Piedmont Calhoun Alabama 22:45–? Un­known 100 yd (91 m) A tornado destroyed a church and three homes.[19]
F2 W of Pyriton Clay Alabama 02:00–? 15 mi (24 km) Un­known A tornado destroyed three homes near Delta, injuring six people.[19]
F2 Cunningham Landing Clarke Alabama Un­known Un­known Un­known 1 death — A tornado wrecked a mill, ramp, church, and three homes. Debris was strewn for many miles. One person was injured.[15]
F2 Hartwell Hart Georgia Un­known Un­known Un­known Several homes were reportedly damaged or destroyed.[19]

May 1 event edit

Confirmed tornadoes – Saturday, May 1, 1909[nb 4][nb 5]
F# Location County / Parish State Time (UTC) Path length Max. width Summary
F3 S of Milford to SE of Albany Baker, Dougherty Georgia 08:30–? 30 mi (48 km) 300 yd (270 m) 6 deaths – This intense tornado affected 11 plantations, obliterating tenant homes on some of them. 25 people were injured.[19]
F2 Meigs Thomas, Mitchell Georgia 09:00–? 5 mi (8.0 km) 150 yd (140 m) 1 death — A fertilizer factory and several small homes were wrecked. One person was injured and losses totaled $40,000.[19]
F2 Southwestern Savannah Chatham Georgia 16:55–? 0.5 mi (0.80 km) 50 yd (46 m) 1 death — The uppermost level of a four-story building was torn off, and a small home was wrecked. A 300-pound (140 kg) slab of concrete was moved 3,000 ft (0.57 mi; 0.91 km). One person was injured.[19]

Horn Lake, Mississippi/Bolivar–Scotts Hill, Tennessee edit

Horn Lake, Mississippi/Bolivar–Scotts Hill, Tennessee
F4 tornado
Max. rating1F4 tornado
Fatalities≥ 29 fatalities, ≥ 100 injuries
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale

This violent, long-tracked tornado family killed at least 14—and possibly as many as 20—people in Mississippi. Twin tornadoes may have been responsible for these deaths, which occurred around and in the southern and northern outskirts, respectively, of Horn Lake. Crossing into Tennessee, the tornado struck and damaged 30 homes near Whitehaven. Five fatalities occurred in Fayette County: a few on a farmstead and three at a poorhouse. Farther along, 20 homes were damaged on the outskirts of Newcastle; one of the homes was leveled despite having been well constructed, indicating F4-intensity damage. Farmsteads, including numerous barns and six farmhouses, were wrecked near Bolivar, with 13 injuries and a death. Eight or more people were injured near Toome, along with four more near Whiteville. At Montezuma many stores and homes were destroyed, with a dozen people injured. Three deaths may have occurred near Lula. Near Scotts Hill many small homes were wrecked, with nine fatalities. Meat from smokehouses was carried a few miles distant. Two injuries occurred at Perryville, and a final death and four injuries in Perry County.[15][11]

Aftermath, recovery, and records edit

Prior to 2017, the outbreak, with 60 confirmed deaths, was the deadliest known tornado outbreak to affect Tennessee until March 21, 1952, when 64 people died statewide. However, reanalysis subsequently confirmed more than 90 fatalities in the state, once again making this outbreak the deadliest—even the April 3–4, 1974, Super Outbreak and the February 5–6, 2008, Super Tuesday outbreak produced just 45 and 31 deaths each in the state, respectively.[11][17]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ An outbreak is generally defined as a group of at least six tornadoes (the number sometimes varies slightly according to local climatology) with no more than a six-hour gap between individual tornadoes. An outbreak sequence, prior to (after) the start of modern records in 1950, is defined as a period of no more than two (one) consecutive days without at least one significant (F2 or stronger) tornado.[1]
  2. ^ 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.[2][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.[7] Most countries only recorded tornadoes that produced severe damage or loss of life.[8] 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.[9]
  4. ^ a b c 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. ^ a b c Prior to 1994, only the average widths of tornado paths were officially listed.[12]

References edit

  1. ^ Schneider, Russell S.; Brooks, Harold E.; Schaefer, Joseph T. (2004). Tornado Outbreak Day Sequences: Historic Events and Climatology (1875–2003) (PDF). 22nd Conf. Severe Local Storms. Hyannis, Massachusetts: American Meteorological Society. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  2. ^ Grazulis 1993, p. 141.
  3. ^ Grazulis 2001a, p. 131.
  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. 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. 2016. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  7. ^ Grazulis 2001a, pp. 2514.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Cook & Schaefer 2008, p. 3135.
  10. ^ Rose 2004.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n National Weather Service (2017). Written at Old Hickory, Tennessee. NWS Nashville Tornado Database (Report). Mississippi State, Mississippi. Retrieved 8 February 2023 – via Mississippi State University.
  12. ^ Brooks 2004, p. 310.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i Grazulis 1993, p. 720.
  14. ^ a b Grazulis 1984, p. A-24.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Grazulis 1993, p. 721.
  16. ^ Grazulis 1993, pp. 538, 721.
  17. ^ a b Roscoe Nunn (25 November 1921). Mark A. Rose (ed.). "Tornadoes, with Special Reference to Those That Have Occurred in Tennessee". National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Nashville, Tennessee. Old Hickory, Tennessee: National Weather Service. Archived from the original on 2009-05-10. Retrieved 17 December 2012. But the most disastrous tornadoes, so far as we have record, in Tennessee, occurred on April 29, 1909, when 60 people were killed.
  18. ^ USWB 1909.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Grazulis 1993, p. 722.
  20. ^ Horton 1909.

Sources edit