The tornado that hit St Louis, Missouri — and its sister city in Illinois, East St Louis — on May 27, 1896, is considered one of the deadliest on record. Though this news story reports 300 dead, the confirmed number later turned out to be a little lower: 255 lives lost. Still, that ranks the F4 tornado of 1896 among the top 3 deadliest in US history. Here is one story that appeared the following day on the front page of a New York City newspaper.
Two tornadoes meet at St Louis with awful results
Fire follows the crash
The loss of life is probably 300 and may be more
East St Louis hit also
A report that 200 girls are in the ruins of one building
St Louis, May 27  – Death and destruction mark the pathway of a tornado which passed over this city shortly after 5 o’clock this afternoon.
The list of the dead in St Louis cannot be estimated until the alarming reports of loss of life in collapsed buildings can be confirmed. At least forty lifeless bodies have been found up to 10 o’clock.
If the reports are true that 200 girls are in the ruins of a cigarette factory, and that many were killed in East St Louis, the list will reach nearly 300.
The city is in a state of panic. Nearly all electric wires are down and the city is in darkness.
To add to the confusion, the tornado was followed by a deluge of rain, accompanied by vivid flashes of lightning, which still continue.
Telephone wires are useless, and livery men refuse requests for conveyances on account of prostrate electric wires.
The scene in East St Louis is appalling. The tornado struck that city with terrible effect, and it is now estimated that 300 persons are dead in that place alone as a result of the wind, flood, and flames.
The tornado was followed by an outbreak of fire, caused by lightning, and before the flames were got under control, property to the value of nearly $3,000,000 was destroyed.
The tornado passed in an easterly direction and it is reported that Vandalia and Caseyville, in Illinois, suffered severely. One report says that the railroad depot in Vandalia was blow away and thirty people were killed.
Top photo: Jefferson and Lafayette Avenues, St Louis, Missouri, after the 1896 cyclone