Descriptions of the Top Ten US Killer Tornadoes

#2: The Natchez Tornado

Counties: Concordia, LA / Adams, MS —  A massive tornado touched down at least 20 miles southwest of Natchez, Mississippi, and moved to the northeast. It hit the Mississippi River about 7 miles southwest of the city and moved upriver, "stripping the forest from both shores." This long track over water contributed to the high death toll. The central and northern part of Natchez was ripped apart by the mile-wide funnel as "the air was black with whirling eddies of walls, roofs, chimneys, and huge timbers from distant ruins ... all shot through the air as if thrown from a mighty catapult." The most reliable death total listed 48 on land at Natchez and 269 on the river, most of those in the sinking of flatboats and steamers. It was noted at the time that the death toll on the river was probably high because of the "large number of transients and itinerant boatmen on the river that day." A piece of a steamboat window was carried 30 miles. At least one person died at Vidalia, Louisiana, on the opposite shore of the river. Reports that "hundreds" of people were killed on plantations in Louisiana were never confirmed, but it is quite possible that there were many more deaths in areas away from Natchez. This was the pre-Civil War era of slavery, and slave deaths were not always counted. $1,260,000. There was nothing like Natchez for another 20 years .... not until Camanche, Iowa was hit in 1860. The riverboat traffic on the Misssissippi River was a factor there also. More than 100 people died on farms . on the river, and in the town of camanche. This "spike" is typical of the kind of thing that might happen in the future. Today the spike might occur as a sporting event or a crowded suburb is hit at night.

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