A single tornado travels 150 miles through Louisiana and Mississippi, leaving 143 dead in its wake. In total, 311 people lost their lives to twisters during the deadly month of April 1908 in the southeastern United States. Another 1,600 were seriously injured.
Two of the locations worst hit by the single extraordinary tornado on this day were Amite, Louisiana, and Purvis, Mississippi. In Amite, the tornado was 2.5 miles wide as it touched the ground, killing 29 residents. In Purvis, 55 people were killed and 400 were injured.
Tornadoes on average travel four to eight miles along the ground at about 60 miles per hour. This one traveled more than 150 miles. Though large, it is not nearly the most impressive on record—a 200-mile-long tornado was recorded on one occasion.
In the United States, it is rare that a single tornado kills more than 50 people, although a series or grouping of related tornadoes sometimes causes such damage. The death rate from tornadoes has plunged since this 1908 disaster. Until the World War II era, public warnings were very rare. During the war, spotters were used to protect ammunition plants and, when the war ended, this system was adapted for use as a civilian-warning system.
It is estimated that 15,000 people in the United States lost their lives to tornadoes in the 20th century. The most deadly twisters now take place in the densely populated nations of India and Bangladesh, the only other area in the world besides North America where the climate conditions regularly cause these dangerous storms.