|Formed||May 7, 1840, 1:00 PM|
|Max rating1||Unrated tornado|
($31.6 million in 2018 dollars )
|Casualties||317+ fatalities, 109+ injured|
|Areas affected|| Natchez, Mississippi |
|1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale |
The Great Natchez Tornado hit Natchez, Mississippi, on Thursday, May 7, 1840. This tornado was the second deadliest tornado in United States history; at least 317 people were killed and at least 109 were injured.
Natchez is the county seat and only city of Adams County, Mississippi, United States. Natchez has a total population of 15,792. Located on the Mississippi River across from Vidalia in Concordia Parish, Louisiana, Natchez was a prominent city in the antebellum years, a center of cotton planters and Mississippi River trade.
A tornado is a rapidly rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the Earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. The windstorm is often referred to as a twister, whirlwind or cyclone, although the word cyclone is used in meteorology to name a weather system with a low-pressure area in the center around which, from an observer looking down toward the surface of the earth, winds blow counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern. Tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes, and they are often visible in the form of a condensation funnel originating from the base of a cumulonimbus cloud, with a cloud of rotating debris and dust beneath it. Most tornadoes have wind speeds less than 110 miles per hour (180 km/h), are about 250 feet (80 m) across, and travel a few miles before dissipating. The most extreme tornadoes can attain wind speeds of more than 300 miles per hour (480 km/h), are more than two miles (3 km) in diameter, and stay on the ground for dozens of miles.
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.
This massive tornado formed southwest of Natchez, shortly before 1 p.m., and moved northeast along the Mississippi River. It followed the river directly, stripping forests from both shores. The vortex then struck the riverport of Natchez Landing, located below the bluff from Natchez. This windstorm tossed 60 flatboats into the river, drowning their crews and passengers. Other boats were picked up and thrown onto land. A piece of a steamboat window was reportedly found 30 miles (50 km) from the river. Many doing business on shore were also killed. At Natchez Landing, the destruction of dwellings, stores, steamboats and flatboats was almost complete. It then moved into the town of Natchez, though its full width of devastation also included the river and the Louisiana village of Vidalia. It was reported that "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 central and northern portions of Natchez were slammed by the funnel and many buildings were completely destroyed. Forty-eight people were killed on land, and 269 others were killed on the river.
The Mississippi River is the second-longest river and chief river of the second-largest drainage system on the North American continent, second only to the Hudson Bay drainage system. Its source is Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota and it flows generally south for 2,320 miles (3,730 km) to the Mississippi River Delta in the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains all or parts of 32 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces between the Rocky and Appalachian mountains. The main stem is entirely within the United States; the total drainage basin is 1,151,000 sq mi (2,980,000 km2), of which only about one percent is in Canada. The Mississippi ranks as the fourth-longest and fifteenth-largest river by discharge in the world. The river either borders or passes through the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
A flatboat was a rectangular flat-bottomed boat with square ends used to transport freight and passengers on inland waterways in the United States. The flatboat could be any size, but essentially it was a large, sturdy tub with a hull.
A steamboat is a boat that is propelled primarily by steam power, typically driving propellers or paddlewheels. Steamboats sometimes use the prefix designation SS, S.S. or S/S or PS, however these designations are most often used for steamships.
Numerous other deaths may have occurred further along the path as the tornado struck rural portions of Concordia Parish, Louisiana as well. The Free Trader stated that "Reports have come in from plantations 20 miles distant in Louisiana, and the rage of the tempest was terrible. Hundreds of (slaves) killed, dwellings swept like chaff from their foundations, the forest uprooted, and the crops beaten down and destroyed. Never, never, never, was there such desolation and ruin."
Concordia Parish borders the Mississippi River in eastern central Louisiana. As of the 2010 census, the population was 20,822. The parish seat is Vidalia. The parish was formed in 1807.
The final death toll was 48 on land (with 47 deaths in Natchez and one in Vidalia) and 269 on the river, mostly from the sinking of flatboats. In addition to the 317 deaths, only 109 were injured, a testament to the tornado's intensity. The tornado is to this day ranked as the second deadliest in American history, and caused $1,260,000 in damage. The actual death toll may be higher than what is listed, as slave deaths were often not counted during this time period.
Senate Document No. 199 (27th Congress, 2nd Session) was the report of the Commission to fix the demarcation between the United States and the Republic of Texas. In the Journal of the Joint Commission under date of May 26, 1840 at page 62 of said document, is written the following: "We crossed to-day the path of a recent tornado, which had prostrated trees and cane on the river banks. Its course was observed to be from south 72 degrees west to north 72 degrees east, and the track to be from 300–400 yards [274–366 meters] wide. This was supposed to be the same tornado which occasioned such dreadful destruction of human lives and houses in Natchez on the 7th of May." These observations were made on the Sabine River which is the boundary between Louisiana and Texas.
The Sabine River is a river, 510 miles (820 km) long, in the Southern U.S. states of Texas and Louisiana. In its lower course, it forms part of the boundary between the two states and empties into Sabine Lake, an estuary of the Gulf of Mexico. Over the first half of the 19th century, the river formed part of the Spanish–American, Mexican–American, and Texan–American international boundaries. The upper reaches of the river flow through the prairie country of northeast Texas. Along much of its lower reaches, it flows through the pine forests along the Texas–Louisiana border, and the bayou country near the Gulf Coast.
Vidalia is the largest city and the parish seat of Concordia Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was 4,299 as of the 2010 census.
Vicksburg is the only city in, and county seat of, Warren County, Mississippi, United States. It is located 234 miles (377 km) northwest of New Orleans at the confluence of the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers, and 40 miles (64 km) due west of Jackson, the state capital. It is located on the east bank of the Mississippi River across from Louisiana.
The Natchez Trace, also known as the "Old Natchez Trace", is a historic forest trail within the United States which extends roughly 440 miles (710 km) from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi, linking the Cumberland, Tennessee, and Mississippi rivers.
The Tri-State Tornado of Wednesday, March 18, 1925 was the deadliest tornado in United States history. It was also the most exceptional tornado during a major outbreak of at least 12 known significant tornadoes, spanning a large portion of the Midwestern and Southern United States. This one tornado alone inflicted 695 fatalities, more than twice as many as the second deadliest, the Great Natchez, Mississippi Tornado of May 7, 1840. The 151 to 235 mi track left by the tornado was the longest ever recorded in the world, as it crossed from southeastern Missouri, through southern Illinois, then into southwestern Indiana. Although not officially rated by NOAA, it is recognized by most experts as an F5 tornado, the maximum damage rating issued on the Fujita scale.
The 1936 Tupelo–Gainesville tornado outbreak was an outbreak of at least 12 tornadoes that struck the Southeastern United States from April 5–6, 1936. Approximately 454 people were killed by these tornadoes—419 by two tornadoes alone. This outbreak is the second deadliest ever recorded in US history. Although the outbreak was centered on Tupelo, Mississippi, and Gainesville, Georgia, where the fourth and fifth deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history respectively occurred, other destructive tornadoes associated with the outbreak struck Columbia, Tennessee; Anderson, South Carolina; and Acworth, Georgia.
The Natchez are a Native American people who originally lived in the Natchez Bluffs area in the Lower Mississippi Valley, near the present-day city of Natchez, Mississippi in the United States. They spoke a language with no known close relatives, although it may be very distantly related to the Muskogean languages of the Creek Confederacy.
The Anchor Line was a steamboat company that operated a fleet of boats on the Mississippi River between St. Louis, Missouri, and New Orleans, Louisiana, between 1859 and 1898, when it went out of business. It was one of the most well-known, if not successful, pools of steamboats formed on the lower Mississippi River in the decades following the American Civil War.
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Natchez has been the name of several steamboats, and four naval vessels, each named after the city of Natchez, Mississippi or the Natchez people. The current one has been in operation since 1975. The previous Natchez were all operated in the nineteenth century, most by Captain Thomas P. Leathers. Each of the steamboats since Leathers' first had as its ensign a cotton bale between its stacks.
New Orleans was the first steamboat on the western waters of the United States. Owned by Robert Fulton and Robert R. Livingston, and built by Nicholas Roosevelt, its 1811–1812 voyage from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to New Orleans, Louisiana, on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers ushered in the era of commercial steamboat navigation on the western and mid-western continental rivers.
The 1953 Vicksburg tornadoes were a deadly severe weather event that affected northeastern Louisiana, southeastern Arkansas, and western Mississippi on Saturday, December 5, 1953. At least four confirmed tornadoes touched down; one of the tornadoes produced F5 damage on the Fujita scale as it moved through the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, causing 38 deaths in the area. It remains the fifth-deadliest tornado to affect the U.S. state of Mississippi, behind the 1840 Great Natchez Tornado, the 1936 tornado in Tupelo, the 1971 tornado in Cary, and the 1966 tornado in Jackson. It is one of just four F5 tornadoes recorded in Mississippi since 1950.
Fred Lyle Schiele, Sr., known also as Buddy Schiele, served from 1964 to 1968 as a United States Democratic Party member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from Concordia Parish in the eastern portion of the state adjacent to the Mississippi River.
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The 2011 Joplin tornado was a catastrophic EF5-rated multiple-vortex tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri, late in the afternoon of Sunday, May 22, 2011. It was part of a larger late-May tornado outbreak and reached a maximum width of nearly 1 mile (1.6 km) during its path through the southern part of the city. This particular tornado was unusual in that it intensified in strength and grew larger in size at a very fast rate. The tornado tracked eastward across the city, and then continued eastward across Interstate 44 into rural portions of Jasper County and Newton County. It was the third tornado to strike Joplin since May 1971.
Louisiana Highway 131 (LA 131) is a state highway located in Concordia Parish, Louisiana. It runs 6.80 miles (10.94 km) in a southwest to northeast direction from LA 15 in St. Genevieve to U.S. Highway 84 (US 84) and U.S. Highway 425 (US 425) in Vidalia.
The city of Natchez, Mississippi, was founded in 1716 as Fort Rosalie.
New Brunswick, NJ (1835)
| Costliest U.S. tornadoes on Record|
May 7, 1840
Grinnell, Ia. (1882)