Tornado of 1907
Ringgold county, Iowa
Late March 1907 was unusual for the residents of southwestern Iowa. High heat gripped Ringgold County and the nearby counties in Iowa and Missouri with temperatures in the lower 90s, a record-breaking number as of 2018. Compared to the typical season of cold and snow, the summer-like weather was unexpected by residents. By nightfall, the high temperature had suddenly dropped. The change in temperature and pressure created the perfect conditions for a tornado.
“About 7 o’clock Thursday evening of last week a funnel shaped cloud formed in the southwest and in less than ten minutes it had destroyed our house. It looked like the tail of a large kite moving back and forth and swaying to and fro,” said Jesse Wion, a resident of neighboring Decatur County. In ten minutes, the tornado traveled 16 miles from Caledonia, Iowa to Bloomington, Iowa.
As it traveled, the tornado destroyed multiple barns, homes, and sheds. First, a $2,000 house was demolished by the storm ($50 thousand in property damage in 2018 dollars). Ringgold county residents Frank Euritt, Joe Beck, and John Wiley were next in the tornado’s path. They had their homes, barns, and landscapes destroyed. Luckily, no one was injured. From this point in Ringgold County, local newspapers report, the storm split into two parts.
Further damage occurred as a nearby coal house was picked up by the storm and tossed into the Battle Hill School House, demolishing the building. Locals Perry Scott, Cany McGahney, Bert Hickman, and J.H. Payton also suffered at the hands of the tornado. Still, no one had faced significant injuries.
By the time the storm reached Jesse Wion, he had enough warning to rush his family to their cellar. When they resurfaced, their house and their belongings were gone, taken by the storm. Had they not made it underground, it is likely the family wouldn’t have survived the storm.
The storm made it five more miles to Grand River, Iowa, before finally dissipating. While there were thousands of dollars in property damage done, there were no fatalities. The storm only seriously injured one individual; everyone else escaped with scrapes and bruises. As for the rest of the spring, the weather turned back to chilling cold and late season snow, leaving the day in late March to stand out in the minds of the locals.
Tornadoes in Ringgold County are nothing new as the area sits at the edge of tornado alley. In the county history, there are almost thirty notable tornado events from 1955 to 2008. However, the more developed land in their paths, the greater the damage.
Sources: on-line: “This Day In History,” KWWL Weather, March 2011; “Notable Weather Incidents of Ringgold County, Iowa,” Ringgold County IAGenWeb, September 2008; SHSI: “A Destructive Storm,” Decatur County Journal, April 1907.