A Terrifying, Deadly Storm Struck Mississippi In 1936… And No One Saw It Coming

On April 5, 1936, one of the deadliest spates of tornadoes in United States history struck several southern states, with Mississippi receiving some of the worst damage of all. The first of many deadly twisters touched down in Coffeeville and then headed to Tupelo, utterly devastating the town as a result. By the time the unexpected twister arrived in Tupelo, it was doing F5 damage that was three blocks wide, with wind speeds in excess of 300 miles per hour. Some reports after the fact mentioned that the wind was so strong that it caused pine needles to become embedded in the trunks of trees.

Damage on this scale – in both its intensity and strangeness – wasn’t necessarily unheard of, but it was unique. It is not uncommon for violent tornadoes to create fascinating (if not terrifying) examples of their own strength. For example, the infamous Philadelphia, Mississippi tornado of 2011 was a brutal EF5 that dug a two-foot-deep trench in the earth it passed over and peeled concrete roads from the ground (and this tornado was just one of no less than 360 confirmed tornadoes during a three-day period, further adding to the nightmare).

When all was said and done, the tornado claimed the lives of 216 Tupelo residents; however, the number is actually much higher as the names of African-Americans were not reported. One notable survivor of the 1936 twister is Elvis Presley, who was just one year old at the time. Regardless of how much time has passed, the Tupelo tornado remains one of the worst in the nation’s history.

Do you have any storm stories to share? Do you know of anyone who was affected by the terrifying Tupelo tornado? Let us know!

If you can’t get enough of the wild weather in Mississippi, you might also want to check out all the details about the coldest winter in MS while you’re at it.

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Tupelo Tornado

December 26, 2022
  1. What was the worst tornado in MS history?  

Although the qualifier “worst” is subjective, there have been several horrific tornadoes that went down as the worst tornadoes in MS history. Some of these tornadoes were:  

  • The Philadelphia, MS tornado of 2011 – EF5 
  • Amite/Pine/Purvis 1908 – F4 
  • The Tupelo Monster, 1936 – F5 
  • Natchez, 1840 – Unrated, still the second deadliest in US history 

 

2. Have there been tornadoes in MS as bad as the Tupelo tornado?  

Unfortunately, yes – several times over. Mississippi lies in an area known as Dixie Alley, which is known in meteorological circles as one of the hotspots for dangerous, violent tornadoes in the United States. Some notable Dixie Alley tornadoes include:  

  • May 27, 1896 – Missouri – killed 255 
  • April 6, 1936 – Georgia – killed 203 
  • May 22, 2011 – Missouri – killed 158

 

3. What kind of natural disasters in MS can be expected?  

Mississippi is in no way immune from natural disasters (as much as it pains us to write that). Some of the most common natural disasters in MS are:  

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