100 Years Ago Today: The Omaha Palm Sunday Tornado of 1913

March 23rd, 2013 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

I ran across an old pamphlet with photos of the tornado which struck Omaha 100 years ago today, and thought I would post a few. The tornado killed 140, injured 350, and demolished 550 houses (click on the photos for the full-size versions).
Here’s the 1st page description:
Nut-Shell Story of the Deadly Tornado
This most destructive windstorm hit Omaha about six o’clock in the evening, Easter Sunday, March 23, 1913. To the eye it had the distinctive funnel-shaped twisting character of the typical tornado, sweeping along at a furious rate of speed.

To the ear it conveyed the sound of a crashing din and a mighty rush of water. It was accompanied by a lurid brass-yellow luminous atmosphere followed immediately by dense darkness and a heavy downpour of rain lasting nearly an hour.

It came from the southwest, crossing the city diagonally striking the most densely populated residence districts, the poorer dwellings in the lowlands, and the most beautiful homes on the hills. It’s passage was almost without warning except a sharp fall of the barometer and temperature; it came and went within a few seconds, giving people scarcely time to get to their cellars.

The path of the tornado through the city is from two to six blocks wide and four and a half miles long. Its destructiveness is not uniform, being mostly noticeable at intervals indicating an undulating movement of the storm cloud, rising and falling each time it struck with full force.

The damage done and the desolation left in its wake are clearly portrayed by the photographs taken the next day, and by those taken a second day after a light snowfall.

The description suggests an isolated supercell thunderstorm merging with a squall line, which was followed by a cold air mass. Clearly, had they known about the science of tornadoes back then, the event would have been blamed on the methane emissions from their horses. /sarc

Check out the cool skull-tornado artwork:



Note the board driven through the side of this upright piano:





If the tornado had hit this area today, there would be much more damage simply because there are more structures. It is hard to say what the loss of life would be, though, with a higher population density but better warnings.

7 Responses to “100 Years Ago Today: The Omaha Palm Sunday Tornado of 1913”

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  1. Milton Hathaway says:

    Timber into piano – Escher?

  2. Norman says:

    What is interesting is that the climate blogs and media were all over last year’s very warm March (in US) as proof of the disasters of Climate Change. This year is below normal and silence.

    Last March in Omaha NE, temps were way avove normal:

    This year much below normal:

    Not many climate sites are showing Europe’s harsh winter and abundant snow:

    Climate Change needs to be on a more scientific basis than maniupulative. If it is hot report it but also report when it is not so hot to create proper scientific balance. Science is not about Ego or being right, it is about seeking the Truth and finding out what is the actual reality. Emphasizing warm years while hiding the cool ones is not a scientific approach that is seeking the truth, it is a religious approach to suppress information that does not fit the model.

    • Roy Spencer says:

      I agree completely, Norman. Otherwise, you could have no warming, and yet the public would be misled into believing there was warming. It’s pure propaganda at that point, not reporting.

  3. pochas says:

    What is happening to the AMSU channel 5 temperature? Its dropping like a rock! Are the other satellites doing this?

  4. John R T says:

    Text says Easter Sunday. Your title: Palm Sunday.

    Thanks for continuing contributions.

    A Joyous Great Easter. John

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