St. Louis-East St. Louis Tornado of 1896

This tornado, which was to be one of the deadliest in US history, touched down about 6 miles west of the Eads Bridge in St. Louis.

From the northwest edge of Tower Grove Park, this complex combination of tornado and downburst widened to over a mile and moved due east. It collapsed or swept away portions of houses, factories, saloons, hospitals, mills, railroad yards, churches, and caused a total of over $10,000,000 in damage. In most areas, roofs and trees were not carried away, but thrown to the ground. In other areas, homes were swept away. The 36-acre Lafayette Park was turned into "a wasteland of stripped trees and stumps." On the east end of the Eads Bridge (built as tornado proof after the 1871 event in the same place) a 2-inch by 10-inch white pine plank was driven through the 5/16" thick wrought iron plate.

What may have been the first tornado of the day killed a woman near Bellflower, Missouri. At 3:15 PM, three students died and sixteen were injured in the destruction of the Dye School in Audrain County, Missouri. A few minutes later, the same tornado killed one student and injured nineteen at the Bean Creek School. At 6:15 PM, two children died on a farm in Osage County, Missouri. At about 6:30 PM, two tornadoes touched down almost simultaneously from separate storms. One leveled entire farms near New Minden, Hoyleton, Richview, and Irvington, Illinois. The other was the third deadliest tornado in US history, taking a total of at least 255 lives. In Saint Louis, Missouri, people died in homes, factories, saloons, hospitals, mills, railroad yards, and churches, as a half-mile-wide swath was cut across the center of the city. At least 137 people died at Saint Louis. Other people living on shanty boats may have perished in the Mississippi River, but were not counted because their bodies were washed downstream. At East Saint Louis, Illinois, the funnel had narrowed but may have also intensified. Devastation there was more complete, and 118 people were killed. Twenty seven more people died in other Illinois tornadoes this day.

Four hundred killed and twelve hundred injured is the record of the cyclone which struck St. Louis and its suburb, East St. Louis, on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 27th, 1896. During the same fateful half hour or less thousands of families were rendered homeless and property was destroyed to the extent of fifty millions, or nearly so. It was the most disastrous storm of modern times, and the destruction it worked was far more appalling than that of the Charleston earthquake, generally quoted as the most terrible disaster of the generation.

The 1896 St. Louis – East St. Louis tornado is a historic tornado event that occurred on Wednesday, May 27, 1896, as part of a major tornado outbreak across the Central United States on the 27th, continuing across the Eastern United States on the 28th. One of the deadliest and most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history, this very large, long-track, and violent tornado was the most notable of an outbreak which produced other large, long-track, violent, killer tornadoes. It caused over $10,000,000 in damage (1896).