Tornadoes That Have Hit Modern-Day West Lafayette & Lafayette City Limits……..More On Other Towns Soon

February 12th, 2013 at 2:31 pm by under Chad's WLFI Weather Blog

I am still working on this…………I am continually adding more as daily duties & tasks permit.

June 2, 1833

A tornado of up to 1/2 mile wide blasted through Union & Wea Townships south & southeast of early Lafayette in the early morning hours.  Trees, fences & barns were completely demolished & thrown great distances.

This tornado occurred after a tornado hit early Cincinnatti, Ohio, April11, 1833, damaging buildlings after “unusually warm weather for the season prevailed across Ohio much of the week prior”.  That particular day “strong southerly winds swept over Ohio, but evening found conditions somewhat sultry”.

A tornado hit Nashville, Tennessee in 1833, though I was unable to locate an exact date to link up whether that twister apart of the same system that caused this large tornado in Lafayette.

May 3, 1835

A 1/4 mile wide tornado passed just south of Lafayette (just village at that point) in the evening with heavy damage to “valuable timber” on the night of May 3, 1835.  It unroofed a barn near present-day Route 26/U.S. 52 intersection.  A two-story brick home was demolished nearby with at least 3 farms being damaged/destroyed.  Remarkably only 1 person was reportedly injured.

December 23, 1871

Pre-Christmas tornado hits Lafayette with narrow corridor of rather heavy damage.  Damage path was 0.5 miles long & near 0.2 mile wide.  Damage resembled high-end EF0 strength with winds to 85 mph.

A newspaper reporter on South Street & corner of Fifth, saw the twister at 12:30 p.m. as the storm blew in.  He said it reminded him “of a great screw driven point foremost shot out of a cannon………southwest traveling northeast” with sound like that of a “minnie ball”.  From South Second & Columbia to North Street & North 9th, many buildings were damaged, including Trinity Church with debri thrown everywhere, damaging structures on either side of the tornado.  General, damaging straight-line wind occurred over a 2-square mile area prior to the twister to the southwest.

The storms passed in the morning as temperatures rose overnight to spring-like levels & a strong, intense surface low passed through northwestern Illinois.

Cold front was very sharp with temperature dropping from around 61 to the 20s very quickly.  Interestingly, the morning low on December 21 was -3, but the intense storm pulled a potent chunk of warm air with strong gusty winds included ahead of & behind, the strong cold front that sliced through the area.

At 4:35 p.m., with howling northwest winds here, temperature was down to 29 at Lafayette, while Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania had 67 & Cleveland, Ohio 59.

March 4, 1880

Severe weather outbreak occurred in the viewing area & over a good chunk of Indiana.

A tornado (likely EF2 with winds to 125 mph)  is said to have struck the “northwest side” of the Lafayette area.  Coming from the southwest, it struck at 9 p.m. & was “600 yards wide” with the temperature at 68 degrees just prior to it hitting.  Splinters of wood were found a “great distance” from the twister as the tornado began on the northwest side of Chauncey, continued northwestward, doing heavy damage to barns & homes, heavily damaging a bridge over Wildcat Creek, then two ice houses, 56’ high 107’ long & 70’ wide (with 2500 tons of ice), were “blown to splinters” with debri blown over a mile.  Many stables & farm builders were completely destroyed.

A tornado hit Indianapolis at approximately 10:30 p.m. with substantial damage, while damage from the tornado & straight-line winds was reported in West Lafayette & Lafayette from the storm.

A tornado near Alto, in Howard County killed one & injured 9 when the twister destroyed a house shortly after 10 p.m.

Other damage occurred in Warren, Fountain & Clinton counties with numerous downed trees with outbuildings damaged, even destroyed.

On this same night, a major tornado “caused immense damage” (2 fatalities, numerous injuries) in part of Toledo, Ohio at 11:15 p.m., while tornadoes likely hit Spencer, Indiana at 10 p.m. & Liberty, Indiana “in the early morning hours” of the 5th.  A “great loss of property” from damaging winds was reported at Madison, Indiana (just north of Louisville) at 5 a.m.

Widespread wind damage occurred 40 miles southwest of Bloomington, Indiana near Odon.  It was written that wind leveled many old buildings & blew down fences & orchards.

This appears to have been a racing squall line with a bulge in the line in the Warren to Howard County areas with an embedded tornado likely at the top of the line kink, which may have produced damage at Lafayette & then the bigger damage at Alto.  The storms hit at the same time at Spencer & Lafayette & if you drawn a line they line up nearly due north & south, meanwhile the Howard County storm hit shortly after 10 p.m. with Indianapolis getting hit with a tornado at 10:30 p.m.

November 11, 1911

A QLCS squall line/cool-season derecho blasted the area on November 11, 1911 with the storm striking the Lafayette area at 9:11 p.m.  Widespread, damaging straight-line winds occurred across the viewing area.  It is highly-like that there were embedded meso-vorticies & LEWPs in the line that caused some brief EFO-EF1 tornadoes to crop up.  However, straight-line winds were the primary severe aspect.  There were a few embedded stronger EF2-EF3 tornadoes in the line near Fort Wayne & in Michigan.

A tornado was reported in Montgomery & it is highly-likely a low-end EF1 struck Lafayette squarely winds winds of 90 mph.

It looks very similar (in terms of damage & storm mode [QLCS meso-vortex or LEWP]) to a tornado at Paoli, Indiana November 14, 2011:

There was straight-line wind damage to trees & powerlines in West Lafayette & a livestock barn was damaged, but the substantial structural damage occurred in a 1.3-mile long & up to 0.2-mile wide path in the city.  There was also a stretch of significant straight-line wind damage 4 miles south of Lafayette.

Reports show trees as twisted off in Lafayette, than the toppled & damaged trees in West Lafayette.  According to Purdue University, old wind anemometer measured winds of 55 mph, but I am not aware of the exposure or height of this anemometer.

The worst damage was near the levee where streets were totally covered in debri & some structures were nearly destroyed.  Otherwise, windows were blown out, buildings unroofed with one heavily damaged & homes to churches received damage.  A church roof was swirled & then hurled northwest from North 9th & landed on Cincinnati Street.  Trinity Church, damaged in the high-end EF0 in 1871, was damaged again.

March 21, 1913

I originally thought this was a tornado, but much deeper examination points towards a widespread, damaging straight-line wind event with embedded microbursts.  This squall line, as it roared through 6-6:30 a.m. produced winds of likely 60-100 mph across West Lafayette-Lafayette area.  Damage was widespread in the viewing area, but everything seems to have been blown west to east.

However, a killer likely high-end EF3 to low-end EF4 tornado hit the far south side of Terre Haute on this date, killing at least 19 people & injuring over 200.  Many homes were damaged/destroyed there.  Many two-story homes (including brick homes), had their entire upper floors removed.  Some homes had only foundations & porches left in a sea of rubble.

Following this, widespread heavy rainfall trained & trained over the area, making any clean-up efforts difficult.  It is the training of the heavy rainfall that led to the great Flood of 1913.

June 13, 1953

A brief F1 tornado occurred from Main, along Tinkler Street to Rush Street (just west of Murdock Park) at 9 p.m. on June 13, 1953.  The worst damage was right on Cason Street, just west of Asher where brief F1 strength was reached.

Heavy tree damage & roof damage occurred with winds to 100 mph.  Widespread, extensive wind damage occurred in Clinton County, too.  Entire tops of trees were blown out on the Clinton County Courthouse lawn & a factory was unroofed on Barner Street in Frankfort.  The Frankfort damage all points towards straight-line wind damage (winds up to 90 mph where factory was unroofed), but the Lafayette damage supports a tornado.  This was confirmed by the U.S. Weather Bureau out of Indianapolis at the time (now the National Weather Service).

This tornado was just west of the 1981 touchdown.


March 19, 1971

An F2 tornado struck Lafayette at 2:03 a.m. on March 19, 1971.


June 25, 1978

This tornado would be disastrous if it took this track today.

This tornado, which peaked at F3 strength (old Fujita Scale), clipped the modern southwest city limits of Lafayette.  At this time, this area was rural, unlike now where numerous homes & subdivisions have sprung up, along with businesses.  The very rural nature around the tornado track, limited severe damage & likely injuries to fatalities.  Compare the early maps to the last one (from 1976).

Damage was largely to trees, barns & powerlines in Tippecanoe County with a few homes unroofed.

4 right-turning supercells producing 7 tornadoes, golfball hail & microbursts in eastern & central Illinois moved into Indiana during the evening.  Two F3 tornadoes with path lengths of 18 & 9.4 miles roared through Tippecanoe & southwest Clinton counties.  An 80 mph microburst was produced east-northeast of Lebanon. Another supercell produced 1” hail & a funnel cloud in Tipton & Clinton counties.  A long-lived supercell with a history of microbursts produced 0.88” hail at Covington before weakening.

My father-in-law explained to me how the storms took the roof off of their grain dryer factory at Beech Grove, Indiana & that the wind blew grain dryers unto I-465, which shut the interstate down.

July 2, 1978

An F1 tornado struck at 12:15 p.m. on July 2, 1978.  This tornado had a narrow path, but heavily damaged & uprooted trees with minor damage to several homes to broken windows to numerous damaged roofs.

June 24, 1981

This short-lived F1 spin-up of a tornado damaged a few homes & knocked down trees east of Murdock Park between Ferry & Cason Streets.  The heaviest damage to structures was on North 24th Street.

July 4, 1998

An F1 tornado struck at 12:30 a.m., Independence Day 1998.  It occurred as three gust fronts popped storms surging in from the northwest & another gust front popped a squall line of storms coming in from the north-northwest & yet another from the north & northeast amidst a hot, sultry, unstable airmass.  Where the three suddenly intersected, the tornado occurred.  This was apart of a squall line event that brought damaging straight-line winds to the area.


June 11, 2003

A brief F0 tornado spin-up occurred with a t’storm (heavy rainfall & pea-sized hail) along a stationary front in West Lafayette at 6:45 p.m. on June 11, 2003.

As an upper low spun in western Kentucky & spokes of showers pivoted around it, line of t’storms popped on a front sitting right atop the area.

With sunshine, some cold air aloft & nice surface convergence with the front and the surface wind shift (shear) on the front, the F0 tornado quickly spun up.

The funnel tracked from near the Purdue Airport, through West Lafayette to 9th Street in Lafayette.  The funnel reportedly touched a few times briefly.   Sporadic damage was limited to trees from the island in the Wabash to near the Purdue Airport to Old U.S. 231 & eventually 9th Street.

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July 21, 2003

A squall line with two distinct bows passed through the area on the night of July 20-21, 2003 around 4 a.m.  Where two bowing segments linked-up in a Bookend vortex, this tornado was spun with EF0 strength (winds of 85 mph).  Another EF0 appears to have struck Battle Ground, resulting in tree damage.

Otherwise, this was a damaging straight-line wind event after what had been a very, very stormy, wet July with flooding rains.

The tornado may have began as far south as Bishop Woods, but was definite with tree & stoplight damage in the neighborhood just southwest of & right at Teal & 18th.  Minor damage occurred at Lafayette Jefferson High School with fence damage & the bleachers picked up & thrown counterclockwise by the brief twister.  After this, it lifted.




















One Response to “Tornadoes That Have Hit Modern-Day West Lafayette & Lafayette City Limits……..More On Other Towns Soon”

  1. Cantore says:

    I find this info interesting and really find it interesting where most tornadoes have formed in the city. Wasn’t there a tornado reported out by the state police post on 43 and moved on to Lafayette Venetian Blind in the mid 90′s? I can’t recall the exact year. At that time I was terrified of tornadoes and my brother got a call to go take pictures. I had a room in the basement of my parents house and my mom wanted to wake me, but my dad was like why he is safe down here and wouldn’t want to know about it.

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