The Tri-State Tornado Essay Example

Is the Tri-State Tornado just a deadly disaster or a lesson to learn? In this essay, I will be covering how a tornado forms and what conditions does it prove to be the deadliest. I will also be covering how the tornado started in Annapolis, Missouri, and what towns did the tornado effect. From Southern Missouri, how the tornado went into Southern Illinois. I will also write about the impact in Indiana and the dissipation of the tornado in Petersburg, Indiana. The main question I will be answering is “How did the tri-state tornado affect the development of Illinois and how did the tornado affect the lives of the people living in Illinois?” This question is crucial to answer because it is important to know how our state was rebuilt after such a disaster.

Background Information

I first want to explain what a tornado is and in what situations do a tornadoes form and what type of tornado was the Tri-State Tornado. First, “What is a tornado”? A tornado is a dark, funnel cloud that continuously rotates violently. Most tornadoes usually form in the great plains or central united states, which is also known as the Tornado Alley, because when dry, cold air from Canada moves south and moist, warm air from the Gulf of Mexico moves north, it creates the ideal environment for a storm to form. Tornadoes can form during any time of the year, but most of the time they form during late spring and early summer of in the months of May to June. Since tornadoes usually form of thunderstorms, there are 2 main types of tornadoes that form from thunderstorms; supercell and non-supercell. Supercell tornadoes tend to be more common and more dangerous. A non-supercell tornado doesn’t form an organized scale, rotation, which means that the tornado doesn’t always spin in the same direction; it spins in the direction that the wind goes. The tri-state tornado was a Supercell tornado. More specifically, it was a multi-vortex EF5 tornado. A multi-vortex tornado is a type of supercell tornado in which the tornado has multiple vortices rotating inside the tornado.

The Beginning

Many tornadoes form because cold air from Canada moves in and warm air from the Gulf of Mexico moves in and both air fronts create an ideal environment for a storm to form, the Tri-State tornado wasn’t any different. Early afternoon, about 1:01 pm in Ellington, Missouri on March 18th, 1925; there were just a few thunderclaps in the distance, but the weather seemed nice enough to predict that there wouldn’t be a storm. Later that afternoon, at 1:01 pm, some dark, smoky fog touched the ground 3 miles northwest of Ellington, Missouri. The residents in Ellington were caught off guard because there was no warning in the news and the weather seemed fine lately. The tornado rapidly gained speed and moved northwest; from Ellington, the tornado went to Annapolis, Biehle, and Frohna. When the tornado entered in Biehle, Mo, there was a double tornado about three miles wide.

Moving into Illinois

Most tornadoes cross the state border and go into other states, The Tri-State tornado wasn’t different either. The tornado crossed the Mississippi River into Southern Illinois. The first city the tornado hit was Gorham. Buildings and homes were destroyed, of the 500 residents in Gorham, 37 lives were claimed and 250 injuries were counted. The tornado picked up the wind and traveled into the town of Murphysboro, Illinois. Out of all the towns the tornado passed, Murphysboro was the hardest hit because almost 40% of the town was destroyed. Murphysboro had a total death count of 234 people and about 623 casualties. When in Murphysboro, the tornado was said to be about a mile wide and the tornado destroyed about a 100 square miles. Moving on from Murphysboro, the tornado went into the town by the name of De Soto, Illinois. A lot of power from the tornado was released here; trees were snapped, roads were cracked in half. Out of all the destruction, 69 people were killed and of the 69 people, 33 people were killed in a school. Moving on from De Soto, the tornado’s next stop was West Frankfurt, where most of the men and the boys would work in the coal mines. Due to the tornado, the electricity went out. When all the boys and men went to go check on the electrical outlet, the tornado swept in and destroyed ¾ of the area. About 400 injuries and 148 deaths were in West Frankfurt alone. Next up was a town by the name of Parrish, Illinois. Not many buildings were damaged and not much is known about Parrish’s destruction, but we do know that a train track was destroyed and a train station was in pieces. In Parrish, the tornado killed 46 people and 100 people were injured. Between Gorham and Parrish in Southern Illinois, 541 lives were claimed out of the 695 people that got killed, due to the tornado. The next hour the tornado mainly went over farms and a few schoolhouses or general stores got destroyed along the way.

Into Indiana

After an hour of just roaming around, the tornado found its next destination, Princeton, Indiana. Just like Missouri, residents didn’t know about the tornado until it approached them. Many residents in Princeton claim they saw “blackness” moving across the sky. No one in Princeton knew that Missouri and Southern Illinois were wiped out until it came to them. Not much is known about what happened in Princeton either, but they had 45 deaths and 152 injured victims. The tornado slowly, but steadily moved on into Petersburg, Indiana. The wind wasn’t as fast as it was earlier that day and the tornado was still moving along. When the tornado came into Petersburg, Indiana, the wind slowed down and the tornado finally dissipated at around 5:00 pm that afternoon of March 18, 1925. The tornado was on the ground for 3 hours and 30 minutes and destroyed close to 220 square miles in all three states. Out of all the three states, Illinois was the most damaged due to its deep destruction in several towns. This record that the Tri-State tornado hold, 219 square miles in 3 hours 30 minutes is still unbeaten by any other US tornado since 1925.

Counterclaim and Rebuttal

Like I mentioned earlier, “Is the Tri-State Tornado just a deadly disaster or a lesson to learn?” Throughout my paragraphs, before this, I have proved that the Tri-State Tornado is a deadly disaster, because of the deaths it has caused along with injuries, 219 square miles of destruction, and has demented the lives of the people who have lost their loved ones in the disaster. Out of everything though, how could we learn from this experience, how could it be a lesson to learn? It could be a lesson to learn, “a lesson to learn how to build better infrastructure for our states, Illinois.” If this tornado never came around we would never know that our states could be improved through thoughtful planning and executing. Another way this could be a lesson to learn is “a lesson to learn how to move on with our communities.” If we never had the Tri-State Tornado we would never let go of our past and we would never move on with life. This experience taught us that we can grow together as a community and to forget our past. These are just 2 ways how the tornado has become a lesson to learn for the three states.


In conclusion, even this tragic disaster could prove to be helpful in several ways, for example the rebuilding of our infrastructure and just moving on with life are ways of how the tri-state tornado proved to be helpful. This tornado started in Annapolis, Missouri and dissipated in Petersburg, Indiana and caused the deaths of 695 people and injured about 13,000 men, women, and children. The tri-state tornado has a record of 219 square miles in about 3 hours and 30 minutes. This is one of the deadliest tornadoes in US history and I hope it remains that way, I don’t want any other tornado that is able to cause so much damage in such a little amount of time and a tornado that tornado that leaves a mark in US history.


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