Louisville, KY Tornado, Mar 1890 - Hundreds of Lives Lost


Hundreds of Lives Lost at Louisville, Ky.


A Terrific Cyclone Swept Through the City Destroying Everything in Its Path--Buildings Razed to the Ground Killing Hundreds of People and Injuring Thousands--Jeffersonville, Indiana, Also Suffers By the Same Storm

LOUISVILLE, Ky., March 29.--The meager reports sent out from the city yesterday morning gave but a faint idea of the terrible cyclone which swept through the city Thursday night which worked frightful havoc, entailing a loss of life and property appalling to contemplate. The excitement is still so great as to prevent a full description of the terrible havoc wrought, but the loss of life is variously estimated at from 500 to 1500 souls and the number of buildings demolished placed at 2,000.

At about 8:30 o'clock Thursday night a mighty tornado with a velocity and violent incalculable, struck the city at its southwestern limits and tore across the west end in a southeasterly direction, ploughing an appalling path of desolation and death. Square after square of residences and business houses were wrenched from their foundations and scattered like chaff, and miles of territory which had been populous with houses and pulsing with trade, are now blasted wastes of ruin.

The list of killed and wounded amounts to hundreds. The amounts of property amounts into the millions.

All evening a storm had been gathering, and the lightning and thunder were enormous. At about 8 it began to rain and the storm gradually increased in intensity. The rain changed to hail, and people kept within doors. The signal service in the afternoon predicted a cyclone, but no one thought it would strike Louisville. At 8:25 the disaster came. The heavens were black as ink. There was a deep, threatening roar as the cyclone struck the southwestern portion of the city. The buildings crushed like egg shells, and abroad swath of devastation was the result.

Just west of New Albany and the Ohio bends to the south and it was here and on the Indiana side that the storm assumed the proportions of a cyclone and started upon its devastating course. Crossing the river at a point just below New Albany is struck the suburb of Portland and unroofed several houses; and apparently fed by the partial destruction, it struck the city at Seventeenth street and Broadway and took a direct northeast course, striking the square in its path at the angles and extending about one-and-one-half squares in width.

Each square brought it nearer to the business portion of the city until its track was broadened until it covered three squares passing out of the city at Seventh street where it crossed to the Indiana side. The space traversed was not less than three miles, and on every side widespread desolation was visible. Massive buildings of brick and stone were crushed and scattered on every side, and hardly a residence fell that some of the inmates were not killed or injured.

The path of the tornado was from Eighteenth and Maple streets, northeasterly across the city past Seventeenth and Broadway, Sixteenth and Chestnut, Twelfth and Jefferson, and then to the Union depot at the foot of Seventh street. The worse ruin was wrought among the large and substantial structures on Market and Main streets, and it seems as if the demon of the storm did its worse when just about to leave us.

The whole thing was over in a minute and a half.