Tornado outbreak of May 1968 Article

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Tornado outbreak of May 1968
CharlesCity tornado.jpg
An F5 tornado near Charles City, Iowa on May 15, 1968
TypeTornado outbreak
DurationMay 15–16, 1968
Tornadoes confirmed46 confirmed
Max rating1 F5 tornado
Duration of tornado outbreak227 hours, 32 minutes
Damage>$52.5 million
Areas affected Central and Southern United States
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale 2Time from first tornado to last tornado

The Tornado outbreak of May 1968 was a significant and deadly tornado outbreak that struck most of the central and southern United States from May 15 to May 16, 1968. Producing 46 tornadoes, the outbreak killed at least 72 people, including 45 in Arkansas alone. The outbreak also produced two F5s in Iowa. It was one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in the United States since the 1960s and is one of the deadliest outbreaks in Iowa history.

Outbreak description

Severe weather activity started during the afternoon of May 15 as a low pressure system crossed the area. The first tornado touchdowns were across the Midwestern States including the two Iowa F5s that hit central and eastern parts of the state about 45 minutes apart during the late afternoon. Both tornadoes killed 18 in total. The first F5 tornado moved through five counties and 65 miles (105 km). It affected the town of Charles City just before 5 PM destroying much of the area. Damage figures were pegged at $30 million in Charles City alone while $1.5 million of damage was recorded elsewhere. This tornado killed 13 and injured 462 others. The second F5 tornado affected Fayette County and damaged or destroyed nearly 1000 homes. The hardest hit areas were Oelwein and Maynard where homes were completely swept away from their foundations. Five people were killed while 156 others were injured. Damage was estimated at $21 million. These were two of four F5 tornadoes across the country in 1968, the others being in southeastern Ohio on April 23 and in southwestern Minnesota on June 13. The next F5 tornadoes in Iowa took place in Jordan in 1976 and Parkersburg in 2008. [1] [2]

Outbreak death toll
State Total County County
Arkansas 45 Baxter 3
Craighead 34
Independence 7
Jackson 1
Illinois 8 De Witt 4
St. Clair 4
Indiana 1 Wabash 1
Iowa 18 Fayette 5
Floyd 13
Totals 72
All deaths were tornado-related

After the first tornadoes struck the Northern Plains, activity developed further south during the evening hours including several deadly tornadoes in Arkansas. One of the tornadoes touched down west of Jonesboro before hitting the Craighead County city itself at around 10 PM CDT. The tornado caught most residents by surprise since most of the warning systems failed and killed at least 34. [3] One more person was killed in neighboring Jackson County. The tornado was the deadliest in Arkansas since an F4 tornado that affected White County on March 21, 1952 killing 50. [4] [5]

The same city was hit by another destructive tornado five years later killing at least three and injuring 250 others while leaving much more destruction throughout the city than the 1968 event. The damage figures were about $62 million in 1973 dollars. [6] Another F4 tornado just to the west of Jonesboro killed 7 in Oil Trough in Independence County and 3 others were killed in Baxter County. [7]

The activity ceased across the Deep South when the final tornadoes of the first part of the outbreak touched down across the Metropolitan Memphis area and northern Mississippi as well as in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area. A smaller tornado outbreak from the same system took place across Oklahoma and Texas during the following day where seven tornadoes touched down including an F3 in Wilbarger County, Texas.

In addition to the 45 fatalities in Arkansas and 18 in Iowa, the outbreak killed eight in Illinois and one in Indiana.

Confirmed tornadoes

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
0 5 20 10 7 2 2 46

May 15 event

List of confirmed tornadoes
Time (UTC)
Path length
F2 NW of Northfield to S of New Trier Rice, Dakota 2028 15.4 miles
(24.6 km)
One woman was injured when a barn collapsed onto her.
F0 NW of Hutton Freeborn 2200 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief tornado caused minor damage.
F1 SW of Dodge Center Dodge 2207 7.8 miles
(12.5 km)
Tornado damaged outbuildings on 3 farms.
F1 W of West Concord Steele, Dodge 2240 16.6 miles
(26.6 km)
Outbuildings were damaged on 7 farms.
F1 W of Newburg Fillmore 2345 8.4 miles
(13.4 km)
Tornado damaged 3 farms and a church.
F3 E of Easton to SW of Emden Mason, Logan 2030 12.6 miles
(20.2 km)
15 homes were damaged or destroyed beyond repair, with near F4 damage in some areas. Trailers and smaller buildings were destroyed and scattered. [8]
F1 S of Waynesville to S of Farmer City De Witt 2200 25.4 miles
(40.6 km)
4 deaths-Passed along the south edge of Wapella, destroying 3 homes and several buildings on multiple farms. A library in Waynesville was torn apart. Grazulis states that this tornado produced near F4 damage, despite the official F1 rating. [8]
F3 E of Milford Iroquois 2350 7.1 miles
(11.4 km)
One home had its roof blown off and was torn apart. 25 loaded freight cars were blown from the tracks. Barns and trailers were destroyed as well. [8]
F3 SE of Freeburg St. Clair 0245 2 miles
(3.2 km)
4 deaths A trailer park was completely destroyed at Freeburg, where 4 people were killed. Frame homes and other structures were badly damaged. [8]
F3 NE of Louisburg, KS Miami, KS, Cass, MO 2045 2.7 miles
(4.3 km)
Tornado struck 8 farms in two states. One farm home was unroofed and torn apart. Barns were destroyed as well along the path. [8]
F5 NE of Hampton to SE of Chester Cerro Gordo, Franklin, Butler, Floyd, Chickasaw, Howard 2110 62.1 miles
(99.4 km)
13 deaths In Charles City, 13 people died, 450 were injured, and $30 million damage occurred. 372 homes were destroyed, 188 sustained major damage, and 356 sustained minor. A new housing project was leveled. 58 businesses were destroyed, 90 sustained major damage, and 46 sustained minor damage. Multiple homes in town were completely swept away. Farms were swept away in rural areas outside of town, and intense cycloidal scour marks were visible in fields. A department store was flattened and the downtown area on Main St. was heavily damaged. All 8 churches and 3 of the city schools were damaged or destroyed. All the bars were spared. The police station was heavily damaged. 1250 vehicles were destroyed. In Elma, nearly $1.5 million damage occurred. Five homes and 20 cars were demolished and the Roman Catholic Church was unroofed. Along the path, 13 people were killed, 462 injured, and $31.5 million damage occurred inflated to $195.57 million damage.
F5 Oelwein to W of Fayette Fayette 2157 13.1 miles
(21 km)
5 deaths-Tornado struck the towns of Oelwein and Maynard. Homes in both communities were completely swept away. Churches, businesses, and schools in Oelwein were badly damaged and destroyed. Nearly 1,000 homes in total were damaged or destroyed by the tornado along its path. 34 people were hospitalized as a result of their injuries. [8]
F1 W of Jackson Junction Fayette 2158 0.3 miles
(0.5 km)
Brief tornado touchdown with minor damage.
F1 Audubon area Audubon 2245 2 miles
(3.2 km)
Barns were destroyed and house windows were blown out. [8]
F2 S of Vernon Springs Howard 2315 4.7 miles
(7.5 km)
The roof was torn off of a home and a concrete block garage was destroyed. Barns were destroyed as well. [8]
F2 W of Pittsville Johnson 2130 5.2 miles
(8.3 km)
Tornado struck 7 farms, destroying barns and outbuildings. A gas station was destroyed and one home had its roof torn off. [8]
F1 NW of Richmond Ray 2145 3.6 miles
(5.8 km)
Tornado struck 5 farms, damaging barns and sheds.
F2 Fayetteville to Concordia Johnson, Lafayette 2200 12.3 miles
(19.7 km)
Large barns and outbuildings were destroyed. [8]
F1 S of Blackburn Lafayette, Saline 2200 4.9 miles
(7.8 km)
Four farms sustained outbuilding damage. Trees and roofs were damaged, and a car was flipped by the tornado.
F1 S of Alba Jasper 2300 2.5 miles
(4 km)
Tornado damaged or destroyed structures on 3 farms. Tree damage occurred and a car was flipped, injuring the 3 occupants.
F1 W of Hillsboro Jefferson 0140 5.9 miles
(9.4 km)
Tornado caused tree damage along its path.
F2 SW of Neelyville Butler 0250 0.2 miles
(0.32 km)
Brief tornado destroyed two buildings and flipped a truck onto a station wagon. 1 person was injured.
F1 S of Campbell Dunklin 0320 1.5 miles
(2.4 km)
Tornado caused damage to treetops before lifting, then touching down fully in a rural area.
F2 Mooresville area Hendricks, Morgan 2145 8.8 miles
(14.1 km)
30 homes were damaged or had their roofs torn off, and multiple trailers were destroyed in Hazelwood. 20 additional homes were damaged at Lake Bodona, with some unroofed or nearly destroyed. [8]
F2 N of West Lafayette Tippecanoe 0351 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Two small buildings were destroyed.
F2 N of Beard Clinton 0430 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
A barn and farm machinery were destroyed near Beard. [8]
F3 S of Wabash to E of Fort Wayne Wabash, Huntington, Allen 0602 50.3 miles
(80.5 km)
1 death-13 trailers were destroyed, one of which was thrown across a highway, resulting in a fatality. 35 homes were damaged, 15 of them in New Haven. Twenty garages and barns were destroyed, and 3 planes were damaged at Wabash airport. 15 people were injured. [8]
F1 SE of Wooster Wayne 2315 1 miles
(1.6 km)
Barns and outbuildings were destroyed. [8]
F2 Dalton area Wayne 0000 1 miles
(1.6 km)
Barns and outbuildings were destroyed. [8]
F3 NE of Mountain Home Baxter 0030 7.3 miles
(11.7 km)
3 deaths-20 homes and 12 trailers were destroyed. 4 businesses and 15 other homes were badly damaged. Boats, docks, and resorts were damaged at Lake Norfolk. [8]
F1 NE of Viola Fulton 0115 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Tornado caused damage in the Viola area where two trailers were flipped and a recreation hall sustained roof and wall damage. The roof was blown off of Viola School and several homes in Viola were damaged as well.
F4 N of Oil Trough Independence 0236 0.3 miles
(0.5 km)
7 deaths-Tornado struck Oil Trough, destroying over half of the town. An implement company, a grocery store, and the post office were destroyed. The high school was badly damaged as well. A church with 60 people inside was badly damaged, but only one injury occurred there. [8]
F4 E of Tuckerman to SW of Blytheville Jackson, Craighead, Mississippi 0245 20.9 miles
(33.4 km)
35 deaths-Tornado first struck the south side of Tuckerman before tearing through Jonesboro. At least 164 homes were destroyed in Jonesboro, and multiple others were damaged. Several fatalities occurred when vehicles were thrown from a road and wrapped around trees. The tornado also impacted the towns of Fairview, Nettleton, and Manila. The downtown area of Manila was destroyed, and Nettleton School was completely destroyed as well. [8]
F1 Memphis area (southeast) Shelby 0520 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Tornado remained over open country.
F1 Germantown area Shelby 0715 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Brief tornado reported.
F1 SW of Dixonville Shelby 0750 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
No damage reported.
F2 SW of Lewisburg DeSoto 0620 5.2 miles
(8.3 km)
Two concrete block houses were badly damaged and another was pushed several feet from its foundation. An additional 3 homes were destroyed, one was unroofed, and 3 others were damaged. A mobile home, antique shop, implement company, garage, and chicken house were all destroyed. A barn was unroofed, and many trees and power poles were downed. 6 people were injured.
F1 E of Bowman Tate 0640 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
Tornado uprooted multiple trees.
F1 NW of Taska Marshall 0730 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
One truck was pushed from the road, another jackknifed, and two others were involved as the tornado briefly moved down the highway.

Tornado History Project Storm Data - May 15, 1968

May 16 event

List of confirmed tornadoes
Time (UTC)
Path length
F0 SE of Wilson Carter 2015 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
F0 NW of Overbrook Love 2115 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
F0 NW of Taylor Cotton, Stephens 2143 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
F1 W of Marietta Love 2345 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
F0 NE of Asphaltum Jefferson 0000 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
F1 NW of Bellevue Clay 2015 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
F3 SW of Vernon Wilbarger 2110 2 miles
(3.2 km)
A home lost its roof and two walls. [8]
Source: Tornado History Project Storm Data - May 16, 1968

See also


  1. ^ Abbotsford Tornado
  2. ^ Fayette County, Iowa Tornadoes
  3. ^ Case Studies - Tornadoes - Forces of Nature Archived November 7, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ National Weather Service - Little Rock, Arkansas...Top 25 Weather Events of the 20th Century
  5. ^ Tornado History Project
  6. ^ "News Story". Archived from the original on 2013-01-05. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Grazulis, Thomas P (July 1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. ISBN  1-879362-03-1.

External links