On this day in 1884, an astonishing series of 37 tornadoes sweeps across the Southeast United States. The twisters, which came at a time in which there was no warning system in place to alert area residents, killed 167 people and injured another 1,000.
The tornadoes began early in the afternoon in Alabama. The town of Goshen lost 26 people to an F4 twister, classified as “devastating” with winds between 207 and 260 mph. A brick school building literally exploded when the tornado hit it dead on, killing six students and a teacher. Outside of Goshen, 13 more people lost their lives in Alabama.
Late in the afternoon, the storm began battering North Carolina. The town of Philadelphia lost 23 people, while another eight were killed in other smaller tornadoes in the state. There were several reports of bodies thrown hundreds of yards by the powerful twisters. In South Carolina, 27 people died, and there were also deaths reported in Kentucky and Mississippi.
Of the 37 reported tornadoes that struck the Southeast on February 19, 29 killed at least one person. The hardest-hit state was Georgia, where 68 deaths were attributed to the storm. The town of Jasper suffered 22 casualties when another F4 twister struck. Across the state, hundreds were injured, many of them rural sharecroppers.
In the years since this disaster, there have been other occasions when a series of tornadoes has reached across a broad area, but advances in weather forecasting and communications have helped to minimize deaths and injuries.