The Ten Worst Tornado Related Disasters in Schools

This list will be updated when the Moore, Oklahoma school death toll of May 20, 2013 is official.
Although it is not common for tornadoes to cause fatalities in schools in the US, it has happened a number of times. Gyms and auditoriums, with their free span roofs, offer very little resistance to the winds that are present in a severe storm. The chance that a violent tornado will strike and badly damage a school is very small, but present. It is doubly important, then, for teachers, administrators, and students to be aware of proper safety procedures during tornado season.

133Mar 18, 1925?Desoto, ILF5
225Mar 18, 19252:00 PMMurphysboro, ILF5
317Feb 1, 19552:20 PMCommerce Landing, MSF3
416Jan 4, 191711:00 AMVireton, OKF3
514Nov 9, 19262:23 PMLa Plata, MDF3
613Apr 21, 19673:50 pmBelvidere, ILF4
713May 2, 192912:55 PMRye Cove, VAF2
88Mar 22, 18978:30 AMArlington, GAF2
98Jan 11, 19181:40 PMDothan, ALF3
10 8 Mar 1, 2007 1:20 PM Enterprise, AL F4

On November 16, 1989, a wind gust at 12:05 PM blew down the free standing cafeteria wall at the East Coldenham Elementary School near Newburg, NY. Nine students were killed. The event was called a tornado, but the only rotation seen in the area was a dust swirl in the parking lot. Professor Fujita's detailed survey of the entire path showed only evidence of microbursts. It exists on official records as a tornado, the deadliest F1 "tornado" in history.

This color illustration is the artist's conception of the disaster at Belvidere High School, mentioned above, which took place while high school students were boarding sixteen buses already containing elementary school students. Twelve of the buses were overturned or thrown. One bus driver was killed, but most of the dead were students, who were "tossed like leaves" into adjacent fields. Students and teachers used school doors and plywood from nearby houses as stretchers for the injured students, of which there were 300. There was near F4 damage to homes nearby. South of Harvard, a school bus was ripped in half and thrown into power lines as the driver and 20 students hid in a ditch.

More information on this event and the more than 40 other tornadoes which have caused deaths in schools is available in the book "Significant Tornadoes"

The Top Ten US Killer Tornadoes Page
The Top Ten Tornado Statistics Page

© 2015 The Tornado Project All rights reserved. All content, text, and graphics on this page is the property of The Tornado Project and may not be reproduced, electronically or otherwise without permission.