March 1890 middle Mississippi Valley tornado outbreak

The middle Mississippi Valley tornado outbreak was a major tornado outbreak occurring in the middle United States on March 27, 1890. To this day, this outbreak is still one of the most deadly tornado events in United States history. At least 24 significant tornadoes were recorded to have spawned from this system, and at least 146 people were killed by tornadoes that day.[1]

F4 tornado
Max. rating1F4 tornado
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale

The most notable of the spawned tornadoes was one measuring F4 on the Fujita scale, which visited Louisville, Kentucky. The tornado carved a path from the Parkland neighborhood all the way to Crescent Hill, destroying 766 buildings (US$2½ million worth of property – a little over $1 billion in current dollars)[2] and killing an estimated 76 to 120 people. At least 55 of those deaths occurred when the Falls City Hall collapsed. This is one of the highest death tolls due to a single building collapse from a tornado in U.S. history. In addition, it was one of the 25 most deadly tornadoes in U.S. history until May 22, 2011. It was relegated to 26th when the May 22, 2011, tornado in Joplin, Missouri, killed 158.

The day after the destruction, the Louisville Courier-Journal labeled the tornado "the whirling tiger of the air".

Due to the fast pace of reconstruction, there was almost no sign of this tornado having occurred just one year later.

Tornado table

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
? ? ? 12 6 6 0 24

March 27 event

F# Location County Time (UTC) Path length Damage
F2 S of Ste. Genevieve Ste. Genevieve, Randolph (IL) 2100 7 miles (11 km) A church was struck in Missouri, before the tornado crossed into Illinois and destroyed a barn.
F2 Bloomsdale area Ste. Genevieve 2100 5 miles (8.0 km) Four homes were destroyed in Bloomsdale.
F2 SW of Rockwood, Illinois, to E of Sunfield Perry, Randolph (IL), Jackson (IL), Perry (IL) 2100 33 miles (53 km) 3 deaths — Trees with trunks 18 inches (1.5 ft) thick were carried from the Missouri side of the river into Illinois. Fatalities occurred near Rockwood, Shiloh Hill, and Campbell. Homes were unroofed near Sunfield as well. An F5 tornado also hit Sunfield on December 18, 1957.
F4 Grand Tower, Illinois/Poplar Ridge areas Cape Girardeau, Perry, Jackson (IL) 2220 30 miles (48 km) 7 deaths — Tornado began near Shawneetown before crossing into Illinois. The tornado struck the town of Grand Tower, where 27 homes were destroyed, some of which were swept away. Four people died in Grand Tower. Several homes were leveled at the small community of Poplar Ridge (south of Murphysboro) as well, where two people died. At least 80 people were injured before the tornado lifted north of Carbondale.
F3 E of Charleston to Bird's Point Mississippi, Ballard (KY) 2225 20 miles (32 km) 4 deaths — Tornado struck the communities of Huff's Station and Bird's Point. A family of four was killed in Huff's Station, where several buildings were destroyed and trees were debarked. At least 8 buildings were destroyed at Bird's Point. Five others were injured. Tornado continued into Kentucky before dissipating.
F4 NE of Scott City to Stonefort, Illinois Scott, Alexander (IL), Union (IL), Johnson (IL), Williamson (IL) 2245 55 miles (89 km) 2 deaths — A tornado family began northwest of Thebes, Illinois, then crossed into Illinois. It destroyed two-dozen farm homes around the communities of Mill Creek, Springville (now a ghost town south of Jonesboro), and Mt. Pleasant. Additional homes were destroyed near Vienna. A school was destroyed near Stonefort, and seats from that location were found 2 miles (3.2 km) away. 30 people were injured.
F2 NW of Belleville St. Clair 2115 8 miles (13 km) 1 death — Three homes were destroyed and one person was killed near Centreville. Two people were injured near Cahokia as well. A total of seven people were injured along the path.
F2 S of McClure Alexander 2230 unknown A house and a barn were destroyed.
F3 W of Sparta to NE of Nashville Randolph, Perry, Washington, Jefferson 2315 40 miles (64 km) 1 death — A man was killed in the Pollander community. The community of Little Prairie was completely destroyed. At least two or three tornadoes were likely involved.[1]
F2 Olney area Richland 2330 6 miles (9.7 km) A farm home was destroyed near the beginning of the path, and 32 homes were damaged or destroyed in town. Many businesses were unroofed and 5 people were injured. Caused $50,000 in damage.
F2 SW of Xenia Wayne, Clay 0000 10 miles (16 km) Tornado struck eight homes and 20 barns.
F2 W of Carmi to Crossville White 0000 5 miles (8.0 km) 1 death — Multiple homes were destroyed along the path.
F3 SW of Owensville Posey, Gibson 0200 25 miles (40 km) Tornado blew apart buildings on 15 farms, including at least five homes.
F4 E of Kevil to West Louisville McCracken, Massac(IL), Pope(IL), Livingston, Crittenden, Webster, Daviess 2315 95 miles (153 km) 21+ deaths — Tornado began in Kentucky and crossed into Illinois and struck Metropolis, where over 100 buildings were unroofed or blown over, $150,000 in damage was done, and one person was killed. Tornado crossed back into Kentucky and traveled across rural areas, destroying homes, trees, and causing numerous fatalities. May have been a tornado family.[1]
F4 NW of Benton to E of Eddyville Marshall, Lyon 0000 25 miles (40 km) 7 deaths — Half of the buildings were destroyed in Grand Rivers, and forests, homes, and farms were destroyed in rural areas. Three people died in homes near Kuttawa and Eddyville. 50 people were injured.
F4 W of Shively to Jeffersonville, Indiana Jefferson, Clark (IN) 0057 15 miles (24 km) 76+ deaths — Tornado tore through the Parkland neighborhood, leveling multiple homes. The tornado went on to strike downtown Louisville, where several multi-story buildings were reduced to rubble. The Falls City Hall was completely leveled, and 55 fatalities occurred there. Caused $2,500,000 in damage. Damage occurred in Indiana as well, but it is not clear if it was from a tornado or downburst winds.
F2 N of Patesville to S of Knottsville Daviess, Hancock 0100 25 miles (40 km) 2 deaths — Fatalities occurred in destroyed homes.
F2 SE of Cadiz to W of Hopkinsville Trigg, Christian 0100 10 miles (16 km) Farm homes were destroyed. Caused $30,000 in damage.
F3 S of Eminence to N of Pleasureville Shelby, Henry 0115 5 miles (8.0 km) 3 deaths — Four farm homes were destroyed, with a family of three killed at one of them. 10 people were injured.
F4 NW of Hartford to Rineyville area Ohio, Grayson, Breckenridge, Hardin 0200 60 miles (97 km) 7 deaths — Likely a tornado family. Many small farming communities and acres of forest were leveled along the path. Homes reportedly "vanished" near Sulphur Springs and Falls of Rough. Long-time residents compared the damage to that of another tornado which destroyed Big Spring on March 19, 1849.
F3 S of Scottsville to near Tracy Barren, Allen 0300 15 miles (24 km) 4+ deaths — Multiple homes were destroyed along the path. At least 20 people were injured. May have killed up to 17 people.
F3 N of Gallatin to E of Westmoreland Sumner, Macon 0245 15 miles (24 km) 5+ deaths — All eight homes and two stores were destroyed in the small community of Rogana (south of Bethpage). May have killed upwards of 20 people in rural areas.
F2 NE of Fosterville to SE of Murfreesboro Rutherford 0330 10 miles (16 km) Homes were destroyed in the southern part of the county.
F2 Fayetteville Lincoln 0400 unknown 1 death — Forty homes were damaged or destroyed in the NW part of Fayetteville. One person was crushed to death under a wall. 15 others were injured.
Sources: Grazulis (1993)[1]

See also


  1. Grazulis, Significant, pp. 648-651
  2. Brooks, Harold E.; Charles A. Doswell III (February 2001). "Normalized Damage from Major Tornadoes in the United States: 1890–1999". Weather and Forecasting. American Meteorological Society. 16 (1): 168–76. Bibcode:2001WtFor..16..168B. doi:10.1175/1520-0434(2001)016<0168:NDFMTI>2.0.CO;2.


  • Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1.
  • — (2003). The Tornado: Nature's Ultimate Windstorm. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-3538-0.
  • Yater, George H. (1987). Two Hundred Years at the Fall of the Ohio: A History of Louisville and Jefferson County (2nd ed.). Filson Club, Incorporated.
Preceded by
Grinnell, Iowa (1882)
Costliest U.S. tornadoes on Record
March 27, 1890
Succeeded by
St. Louis, Mo. & E. St. Louis, Ill. (1896)
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