March 23 marks the 99th anniversary of a tornado that devastated parts of Omaha on an Easter Sunday. It was, at that time, the most disastrous tornado to property in the United States, and 150 people were killed. I have included excerpts and photos from the March 24, 1913, World-Herald.
An excerpt from the paper: “Great residences and buildings were cut so cleanly in two that a mathematician might employ calipers in aligning the exact, razor edge of the storm.”
“As far as can be ascertained, the twister started upon its career in horror somewhere in Cass County, wiping out the town of Yutan, and then striking through Waterloo and Ralston.”
“Its zig-zag course was baffling, and many towns report losses which which indicate that the main stem of the tornado was constantly giving off smaller twisters which acted as flankers with the deadly intent of making a clean sweep over the outlying territory.”
Below is a 1913 illustration of the path the tornado took through Omaha.
There were actually six tornadoes in this area that day. This National Weather Services page details and maps their paths.
Sacred Heart Convent, now Duchesne Academy, suffered one of the heaviest losses. The entire north wing was torn off, and the roof and the fourth floor of the south end were destroyed.
Above is a 1950s photo of the only house that remained standing in Bemis Park after the tornado. Drive down Cuming Street and you’ll still see it there.
The photo above was reprinted in the March 22, 1971, World-Herald. The caption: “Crowd gathers to watch rescue operations at the Idlewild Pool Hall. … Pool table shot straight up.”
According to a World-Herald account in the late 1920s or 1930s, fifteen people were killed in the pool hall and four were found under a pool table.
A sign on a demolished building at the right gives the locations of relief stations. Hundreds were in need of food, clothing and shelter after the disaster.
Knights of Columbus workers rake for valuables in the ruins of the home of Mrs. Sullivan, who died in the storm.
And finally, my believe it or not photo.
“CM Sizer & board with straw blown through board in tornado” was the only thing written on the back of these photos, and I was unable to find any information in the archives.