St. Louis January 17, 2018
A Terrifying, Deadly Storm Struck St. Louis In 1896… And No One Saw It Coming
It’s easy to joke about our unpredictable weather here in St. Louis, but we all know that weather is not always a laughing matter. In May of 1896, a cyclone had been predicted for the St. Louis area, but locals disregarded the message (probably thinking about that whole
if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes thing). Subsequently, the damages and loss of life was incredible.
In 1896, St. Louis' cityscape looked vastly different than that of today.
That is due, in part, to the most costly tornado to ever strike a U.S. city.
It happened on May 27 as locals witnessed the predicted onset of a cyclone.
As the day started, there was no obvious sign of inclement weather. But then barometric pressure dropped disturbingly low, and locals watched in horror as the skies darkened.
By 4:30, locals were spotting ominously green clouds. Winds picked up, soon reaching 80 miles per hour.
By 6:30, two super-cell thunderstorms produced two more tornadoes.
As one of these monstrosities touched down in STL, it tore through homes and claimed 137 lives.
Homes were completely swept away and the most seemingly permanent buildings were reduced to ruins.
A total of 7,500 buildings were destroyed or damaged in the aftermath.
The sheer force of the tornado left locals in a state of shock.
This image speaks volumes about the strength and size of this destructive even. An everyday shovel was shot like an arrow into the trunk of this tree, burrowing an astonishing six inches into its trunk.
In total, the storm claimed a confirmed 255 lives, leaving more than 1,000 injured.
As evidenced by this total destruction at Jefferson and Allen Avenues, the event was catastrophic. The super-cell tornado was later named an F4 on the Fujita scale.
The tornado was the most costly in U.S. history, and went down in infamy as the third deadliest.
Here, a group of women huddle together in front of the colossal pile of rubble that was once the Union Club. Standing on the southeast corner of Lafayette and Jefferson Avenues, they clutch an infant close.
Some estimate that the damage was far greater than what could be seen.
It is thought that as many as 400 people died, perhaps on boats or buildings that washed away down the Mississippi River.
The tornado caused more than $4 billion in damages, leaving thousands homeless and without any possessions.
This striking moment in history is remembered in history books and photographs, but the city eventually recovered from the damage of this infamous event. It even went on to host the 1896 Republican National Convention in June.
Love St. Louis history? You’ll be delighted to learn that
St. Louis was the first city in the nation to do these 11 things.