A Modern Look at the Historical 1896 St. Louis Tornado (150)

Jared Guyer, NOAA/NWS Storm Prediction Center, Norman, OK



With the location of the NWA Annual Meeting in St. Louis this year, it seems appropriate to make a retrospective examination of one of the most deadly and destructive tornadoes in the history of the United States. On the afternoon of 27 May 1896, a tornado developed in southwest parts of St. Louis, moved into downtown, and subsequently crossed the Mississippi River into East St. Louis. At least 255 people died in St. Louis and East St. Louis with more than 1,000 injuries from a tornado that was one of the first tornadoes to strike a major U.S. city. When adjusted for inflation, the 1896 St. Louis tornado is arguably the most damaging in United States history (Brooks and Doswell, 2001), and it ranks as the third deadliest single tornado in the U.S. This tornado was a part of what has been described as &ldquoperhaps the most violent single week of tornado activity in U.S. history&rdquo (Grazulis). Aside from highlighting some of the historical accounts and impacts of this tornado, the presentation with take a modern look at the meteorological environment of the 1896 St. Louis tornado using available surface observations and NOAA-CIRES 20th Century Global Reanalysis data.