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America's Deadliest Twister

America's Deadliest Twister

The Tri-State Tornado of 1925

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Geoff Partlow


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)
48 illustrations

Shawnee Books


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About the Book

Winner, ISHS Certificate of Excellence, 2015

Disaster relief as we know it did not exist when the deadliest tornado in U.S. history gouged a path from southeast Missouri through southern Illinois and into southwestern Indiana. The tri-state tornado of 1925 hugged the ground for 219 miles, generated wind speeds in excess of 300 miles per hour, and killed 695 people. Drawing on survivor interviews, public records, and newspaper archives, America’s Deadliest Twister offers a detailed account of the storm, but more important, it describes life in the region at that time as well as the tornado’s lasting cultural impact, especially on southern Illinois.

Author Geoff Partlow follows the storm from town to town, introducing us to the people most affected by the tornado, including the African American population of southern Illinois. Their narratives, along with the stories of the heroes who led recovery efforts in the years following, add a hometown perspective to the account of the storm itself.

In the discussion of the aftermath of the tornado, Partlow examines the lasting social and economic scars in the area, but he also looks at some of the technological firsts associated with this devastating tragedy. Partlow shows how relief efforts in the region began to change the way people throughout the nation thought about disaster relief, which led to the unified responses we are familiar with today.


Geoff Partlow, a freelance writer of both fiction and non-fiction, was a resident of southern Illinois for over forty years. He now lives with his wife, Sarah, in Hilton Head, South Carolina.


"This account of the deadly tornado of March 18, 1925, chronologically follows the track of the storm as it destroyed homes, farms, and businesses. Freelance writer Partlow collected the statements of eyewitnesses and victims along with news reports of the deadly and destructive effects across Missouri, Indiana, and especially southern Illinois, an area locally referred to as 'Egypt,' to create this book [which is] moving and...accurate. The book includes many black-and-white photographs and an appendix, 'Rosters of the Dead by Town.'"—CHOICE

“So few people have any understanding of this event and its aftermath. . . . It needs to become a part of the history of southern Illinois.”—Jim Brigham, longtime southern Illinois community leader and businessman, former president of the Southern Illinois University Foundation

“By all accounts, the 1925 Tri-State Tornado ranks as one of the modern era’s fiercest and most destructive weather events. . . . Geoff Partlow’s account of the disaster succeeds primarily as a window onto the enormity of physical destruction and the depth of human suffering. . . . In the final chapter . . . the author tackles some meaty historical questions. Assessing the tornado’s long-term impact, Partlow holds it responsible for the economic and demographic collapse of the southern Illinois district known informally as Egypt. . . .This calamity of tremendous proportions deserves a place in the region’s collective memory and Partlow’s readable and moving chronicle will certainly facilitate remembrance.” –Andrew Hurley, Journal of Illinois History