More Added…..Documented Tornadoes Within the Cities of West Lafayette/Lafayette 1833-2013

March 15th, 2013 at 12:50 pm by under Chad's WLFI Weather Blog

These are the documented tornadoes that have passed within the modern-day city limits of West Lafayette & Lafayette.  There are many more tornadoes that have passed very close to the city limits.  You could add a lot more to this list if you put tornadoes within 2 miles of the city limits.

In fact, since 2003, 9 tornadoes have been confirmed by NWS surveys very close, but not within the confines of the city limits of West Lafayette &/or Lafayette.

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, April 11, 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.

August 3, 1859

A “violent tornado” is reported to have passed through Sheffield Township, moving across Wildcat Prairie, passing just north of Dayton.  Two people were injured & several homes were demolished.  The tornado is said to have moved right down Haggarty Lane from east of present-day Tippecanoe Mall to north of Subaru to north of Dayton.

Limited evidence suggests this was EF2 (based on the damage reports), but there isn’t enough to push it to EF3 (even with “demolished” wording) or bring it down to EF1.


May 31, 1858

Tornado hit Lafayette with a storm accompanied by strong winds, heavy rain & hail.  It is said to have “come up from the southwest up the Wabash River & switched over towards the northeast along the line of the old canal.  The Wildcat Valley seemed to be their objective point.”  It has been written that “[the] tin roof of the Salem street Depot was blown off, rolled up like a scroll, carried two hundred feet away & deposited in the commons.”  The Wildcat bridge was heavily damaged & numerous homes received at least minor damage with trees uprooted.  St. Bonifice cemetery trees sustained heavy damage, though it appears that the twister was EF0 at that point.  Based on reports, it appears the greatest damage occurred from Salem & Union to Greenbush.  This points towards EF1 strength.  There may have been other EF1 strength in the path, but there is not enough evidence to suggest such.

A severe t’storm also reportedly hit Logansport on this date.

Another tornado on this day killed 19 & injured 60 in the west-central Illinois town of Ellison.

Overall, May 1858 was very stormy with flooding rainfall.  Some of the highest levels ever observed on area rivers occurred in May-June 1858.  Interestingly, it turned very hot & dry mid- to late-summer.


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.

June 19, 1897

More soon

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, with even a round of snow, making any clean-up efforts difficult.  It is the training of the heavy rainfall & the snowfall that led to the great Flood of 1913.

May 18, 1926

Likely EF2 tornado struck at 5:30 p.m. & barely made the survey because it just marginally moved into modern-day West Lafayette city limits.  However, it is likely it was EF0-EF1 strength southwest of this location in the bottoms, per newspaper reports’ evidence. The EF2 rating was at the end of the twister’s track.

Originating in the bottoms southeast of Purdue University with tree, powerline, barn & chimney destruction, twister moved northeast, hit the old Stingle farm at present-day Route 26 & Newman Roads.  There, it shifted the entire farm house off it foundation 6″, destroyed the garage (with splinters of wood from the garage driven into nearby orchard tree trunks), picked up a chicken house & tossed it 300 yards with trees uprooted & ripped apart & wreckage strewn over a large area.  Across the roadway, at a Purdue farm, a barn, garage & chicken shed were destroyed (many chickens killed, but amazingly some survived).  Fences were blown down & trees uprooted, snapped & twisted off at this location.  Damage path continued to the northeast, then lifted near the new present-day Purdue baseball stadium & tennis center.

However, widespread straight-line wind damage occurred in West Lafayette, Lafayette & areas west of town.  Hundreds of trees & power poles were damaged or downed.  Many signs & fences were destroyed, as well.  It was reported that long stretches of power poles were downed along present-day Route 26 (called State Road 6 at the time or Montmorenci Road) west of West Lafayette.

Surface low & cold front passed through area with highs in the 70s to around 80.  Rainfall totaled 0.80″ at the Purdue Ag Farm on this day.


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.


September 14, 1965

On April 11, 1965, a violent F4 tornado occurred from Concord Road, crossed U.S. 52, then Newcastle Road, present-day I-65, Dayton Road & Bethann Lane before crossing Wildcat Creek, then Route 38 south of Dayton.  This twister actually continued northeast, crossed U.S. 421, then Route 26 east of Rossville & lifting just before it reached Route 29.  This was a major tornado, but it did not make the survey, as it was just out of the modern-day city limits of Lafayette.

In the very, very active severe weather year of 1965, an unseasonable tornado outbreak occurred in the viewing area as a rather strong surface low pivoting through central Wisconsin, dragged a surface cold front through the area.  Supercells & multi-cells popped in the late evening & gelled into a squall line as they pushed southeastward overnight out of the viewing area.

A tornado, with a peak width of 1200’, touched down ¾ mile south of Shadeland on County Road South 250 West at 8:15 p.m. & tracked northeastward, crossing present-day U.S. 231/Route 25 intersection.  It lifted near the Elston/Old Romney Road intersection, with damage to numerous homes amounting to $¼ million (1965 dollars).  Another F2 occurred northwest of Camden, in Carroll County.  Winds gusted to 65 mph in Howard County.


March 19, 1971

An F2 tornado struck Lafayette at 2:03 a.m. on March 19, 1971.  If this tornado would strike today in the same spot, it would touch down at Lafayette Bank & Trust & Courtyard by Marriot Inn, damage or take out those high-tension power line towers, knock out the traffic signal at Route 26 & Farrington (where you turn in to go to Chili’s & Spageddie’s), hit Chili’s, Spageddies Italian Restaurant, Fairfield Inn, Chipotle Restaurant, Sylvan Learning Center, Knights Inn, & Arby’s, then continue northeastward, cross numerous homes on Rome Drive, Pippin Lane, Golden Place & Jonathan Way, before lifting at I-65.

Back in 1971 there was very little development here, so damage was sparse.  Today, this is a sea of sprawling subdivisions, restaurants & hotels near the highly-developed Route 26/I-65 interchange.


March 12, 1976

This tornado occurred just 8 days before a violent, large multi-vortex F4 tornado would touchdown less than 1.5 miles due north of this tornado’s touchdown.  Striking at 3:25 p.m., this moved over largely rural area in 1976, but damaged Tippecanoe Memorial Gardens.  It continued northeast into farm fields.

Like so many other tornadoes, this one would have a much bigger impact today.  It would go through the most-rapidly developing area of Tippecanoe where subdivisions are popping up like weeds in a summer garden.

Today, a tornado like this would hit homes on Black Forest Lane, then Lafayette Venetian blind directly, the farmstead just south of Klondike school, then hit the subdivisions east of McCormick to near Cook then the gas station at U.S. 52 & Morehouse, Tippecanoe Memorial Gardens.  Twister would then move across fields north of Just-Kids Daycare, then  pass between two farmsteads on the county road that takes you to Harrison High School.  It would then finally lift in fields only about 550′ north of the north edge of the Arbor Chase subdivison.


April 23, 1978

A storm with 1” hail produced a brief F1 tornado (300’ wide) that caused extensive damage to 22 mobile homes in Lafayette north of St. Elizabeth near Greenbush.  This amounted to $1/4 million in damage (1978 dollars).  Another F1 tornado touched down in Howard County.

April 23, 1978

This F1 tornado occurred in a very rural area at the time, but would cause much larger impacts today.  This twister occurred in now a highly-developing area of subdivisions just of Brady Lane, towards Concord Road.  The F1 damage occurred at present-day Sean Court to Commanche Court.  Interesting, this is very close to the track of a strong F3 tornado almost 2 months later on June 25, 1978.

1978 may have been the year of the snowiest winter on record & one of the coldest, but it was also the year of the tornado for West Lafayette/Lafayette with 4 twisters in the city limits.


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.


June 8, 1993

Touching down at 5:40 p.m., this tornado, like many others, would have a much bigger impact if it struck today.  Where open farmland existed near the Veteran’s Memorial Parkway corridor in 1993, is now sprawling subdivisions & a highly-developed stretch of road with stores, restaurants, banks, apartments, homes & doctor’s offices.

With F1 strength, this twister was largely over rural areas with damage to crops trees & a few farmsteads.  A few barns were heavily damaged.  It had a long track at over 9 miles from east of Shadeland,  cross Old U.S. 231 & moved over the sod farm, & eventually crossed U.S. 52 at South 500 East & East 450 South.  It continued to I-65 & lifted there just north of the Wyandotte Road overpass.

5958  61

July 4, 1998

The violent, large F4 tornado in April 1994 did not pass through the confines of the modern-day city limits of West Lafayette, so it was not included in the survey.  Another violent tornado, an F4 occurred near the same area in 1976, but did not make the survey, as it passed over county & not within the city of West Lafayette.

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

First F0 tornado spin-up occurred with a t’storm (heavy rainfall & pea-sized hail) along a stationary front in West Lafayette at 6 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.


June 11, 2003

Second 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.  A touchdown occurred along the Wabash & then again between Old U.S. 231 & Poland Hill Road  around Rostone Court & Wise Drive.

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.

32 4657

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.


April 19, 2011

This tornado’s path ended just about directly on the southern city limits of Lafayette, so it barely made the survey.  Regardless, this twister heavily damaged the timber of the wooded, picturesque Red Oaks subdivision.  Many homes were damaged & one was pretty much destroyed when the tornado’s strength peaked at EF2.

The twister began in wooded areas just north of County Road East 500 South.  Progressing northeastward, it crossed Red Oaks Lane, where much of the structural damage occurred, then tracked northeast before lifting near North 9th Street at South Wagonwheel Trail, close to Wea Ridge Baptist Church.




One Response to “More Added…..Documented Tornadoes Within the Cities of West Lafayette/Lafayette 1833-2013”

  1. Doug in Flora says:

    Chad, et all….there’s Yahoo News article in their current news…speculating how weather changes may have also led to changes in tornado seasons and patterns. Might be worth checking out…

Leave a Reply