It seems like almost yesterday that the most devastating tornado in American history passed through Southeast Missouri. The F-5 tornado first touched down in Reynolds County, west of Ellington and stayed on the ground for approximately 220 miles, for three and one-half hours, crossing southern Missouri and Illinois, finally dissipating in southern Indiana.
The severe storm, called the tri-state tornado, killed 695 people, injured 2,027 more, and resulted in over a billion dollars in property damage. The weather channel recently rated it as the seventh worst storm to ever hit the United States.
Cemeteries in southern Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, tragically have approximately 700 tombstones which carry the date of death, March 18, 1925.
It was an unusually calm and warm march day when a cold front moved through the region in the early afternoon of that tragic day. The storm spawned the deadly tornado which moved out of Reynolds County, across the small community of Annapolis where a resident stated, "It was like a curtain came down over the sun."
The storm swept across Bollinger County and into Cape Girardeau and PerryCounties. At approximately two o'clock it destroyed the hotel at Schumer Springs, took four lives in Biehle, and removed the roof of the Garner school house, killing a ten year old student. It killed livestock and flattened farm buildings as it moved south of Longtown, north of Frohna, and ravaged the small community of Ridge, then crossed into Illinois where it delivered it’s greatest fury.
Murphysboro was hit at 2:40 p.m.and in a matter of minutes 234 residents were killed, hundreds of buildings were destroyed and much of the town was on fire.
Desoto, Illinois was next to receive monumental losses when the storm arrived at 2:50 p.m. 69 people died there, including 38 children who were killed in the collapse of the elementary school building.
At approximately four o'clock the storm crossed into Indiana bringing death and destruction to Hamilton, White, and Gibson counties. At Princeton, there were 45 fatalities, many injuries and massive property damage.
Finally, three and one-half hours after it began, the storm dissipated near Petersburg, Indiana. What it left in its wake will remain an important part of the history of all who were touched by it. For residents of this region, it is remembered as if it was almost yesterday.