Descriptions of the Top Ten US Killer Tornadoes

#4: The Tupelo Tornado

Counties: Lee / Itawamba, MS — 
This tornado was probably a member of a tornado family beginning near Coffeeville, Yalobusha County, Mississippi. Little attention was paid to any part of the track except that through Tupelo. As plotted here, this massive funnel moved east-northeast across central Lee County, passing through residential areas in the northern half of Tupelo. Unlike the Gainesville, Georgia event, the next morning, this tornado missed the downtown business district. The tornado leveled over 200 homes, many of good construction on the west side of town. It completely swept away poorly constructed homes several miles to the west of town, and on the northeast side of town. Entire families were killed, up to 13 in a single home. When the official death toll of 216 was set, there were still over 100 people in hospitals in three states. Many were in serious or critical condition. The Mississippi State Geologist estimated the final death toll at 233. Since only the names of the white injured were published in newspapers, it is not possible to follow up on the fate of the black injured. This racial aspect of tornado documentation was common until the late-1940's, and occasionally present, in some form, until the mid-1950's. About 150 box cars were brought to town as temporary housing. A movie theatre was turned into a hospital with the popcorn machine used to sterilize instruments. This tornado may have been of greater intensity than the Gainesville event, which produced a similar death toll by striking the multi-story downtown area buildings at the start of the business day. $3,000,000.

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