Severe Weather Preparedness: 90th anniversary of deadliest tornado in American history

WABASH VALLEY (WTHI) – Severe Weather Preparedness Week continues in Indiana as Storm Team 10’s Kevin Orpurt takes us on a journey back to the deadliest tornado in recorded American history.

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Griffin: A small town in southwest Indiana looks just like any other little town.

But, on the afternoon of March 18, 1925 Griffin took a direct hit from the deadliest tornado in recorded American history. With a path of 219 miles, more than 2,000 injured and nearly 700 dead it would later get the name of the tri-state tornado.

This tornado was on the ground from Missouri to Indiana and hit the town of Griffin with estimated wind speeds in excess of 300 MPH. It also had a forward motion of 73 MPH. The town of Griffin was 100 percent destroyed.

One survivor and immediate family members of survivors can still recall that day:

“It was balmy… it wasn’t hot and it wasn’t cold…of course it was March and the day seemed ok until about 4 and then it began to cloud up” – Evelyn Stone, survivor.

“They said you couldn’t really see it because there was so much dirt and debris blowing ahead of it. They said when it crossed the Wabash it sucked the river dry” – Larry Stinson, relative of a survivor.

It wasn’t until after the tornado hit that people began to realize the total devastation that had occurred. After the massive tornado had passes, the remaining residents of Griffin slowly realized what had just happened.

“Of course, the destruction was everywhere; it just tore everything to pieces…..” explained Carroll Fletcher. Her grandmother was a survivor from that storm. “She helped clean up the people after it was over and she would tell me they’d have to take needles and pick the gravel out of their skin.”

Larry Stinson’s uncle was described as a miracle survivor. But others were not as fortunate.

“I know this lady, she had a brother………and the grocery store caught afire….and they screamed ‘save me, save me’ but nobody could get to them,” Evelyn Stone recalled.

Out of a population of a few hundred, 67 people lost their lives on the afternoon of March 18, 1925. Since that time Griffin has rebuilt some but the scars still remain.

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Severe Weather Preparedness week continues tomorrow with Storm Team 10’s Joseph Dames.

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