Author Recounts Day That Deadly Tri-State Tornado Hit Southern Illinois; NONFICTION - BOOKS

By Levins, Harry | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 7, 2014 | Go to article overview

Author Recounts Day That Deadly Tri-State Tornado Hit Southern Illinois; NONFICTION - BOOKS


Levins, Harry, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


On March 18, 1925, a tornado blew up in southeastern Missouri, near Annapolis. It traveled east-northeast across Illinois and finally died out in southwestern Indiana. That storm, quickly dubbed the Tri-State Tornado, blew for 3 hours across 219 miles.

It killed 695 people the most ever for an American tornado.

Writer Geoff Partlow specializes in the history of Southern Illinois, a region that many of us know as "Little Egypt" but that Partlow shortens to "Egypt." In "America's Deadliest Twister," he recounts that awful day in 1925 a day that he says Egypt has yet to recover from.

His book, dotted with 49 black-and-white photos of black-and- white devastation, follows the tornado from west to east, describing in detail what happened in each town. He notes that because the twister struck coal-mining country, many men were sheltered underground. Not so their wives at home and their children in school.

He quotes from a story filed for the Bloomington Pantagraph of March 20 by a 25-year-old reporter named Adlai Stevenson:

"The few available hearses are racing back and forth to the cemetery, carrying two caskets at a time, many of them small ones. Of formal funerals there are none, but of heroic fortitude there is much."

Partlow interviewed scores of survivors, most now in their 90s, and also uses quotes gathered by journalists at the time. Nine decades later, the quotes remain moving. Garrett Crews was a teenager in De Soto when the tornado hit the high school. His memory: "Down in the northeast corner . …

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