EF-4 Tornado* Tears Up East-Central Alabama - March 28th, 1920

By P.H. Smyth, Meteorologist, Montgomery Weather Bureau
(from Monthly Weather Review, April 1920)

This, the principal tornado** in Alabama on the 28th, first appeared about 1 mile north of Deatesville, in western Elmore County, near the Autauga-Elmore County line, at about 3:30 p.m. From Deatesville it moved eastnortheastward over northern Elmore County, through south-central Tallapoosa County, wiping out the little village of Agricola, thence across southern Chambers County, crossing the Georgia-Alabama line at West Point, Ga., at about 3:37 p.m. The length of the track in Alabama, from Deatesville, Ala., to West Point, Ga., is about 65 miles on a straight line. Assuming the times as given above as correct, the speed of translation was about 60 miles per hour. As shown by a number of reports received, the tornado was well defined, from 100 yards to a quarter of a mile in diameter, marked by the usual funnel-shaped cloud, and accompanied by winds of very destructive violence.

Evidence of rotation was slight, amounting to the directions of felled trees at West Point, Ga., as reported by Conductor Hal Cline, of the Atlanta & West Point Railroad. He states that trees on the north side of the storm's path lay to the left; in the center, straight ahead; on the south side, to the right. Mr. Cline, while he did not see the funnel-shaped cloud, describes the clouds at West Point, Ga., just before the tornado struck, as follows:

"Coming to West Point about 3:30 p.m., I noticed awful black, greenish-looking clouds: stood there about five minutes loading passengers. As we pulled out it began to rain a little; in about two minutes the storm hit us. We had to stop the train until it passed; came very near moving the train from the track. Of course, we were not directly in the path of the tornado, but on its edge. Being inside the cars and the rain so terrific, we did not look to notice the clouds."

Seventeen persons were killed in Alabama by the tornado and 40 and 50 persons were injured, some of them seriously; and property, variously estimated at from $100,000 to $200,000*** was destroyed. The greatest destruction was in Tallapoosa County in the vicinity of Susanna, Agricola, and the Red Ridge settlement. There is one reference to hail at Deatesville contained in newspaper reports. No reference to thunder is made in any of the reports received, but it is very likely that the tornado was accompanied by thunder and lightning, at Montgomery, Wetumpka, and Dadeville, points in close proximity to the storm’s path. Numerous references are made in press reports to torrential rains in Tallapoosa County attending the tornado’s passage. At Alexander City, an estimated rainfall of 5 inches in one hour was reported. These reports are in part corroborated by the record of the rainfall station at Dadeville of 3.45 inches of rainfall from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.  
 

Monthly Weather Review April 1920 Page 200

 
 

 

March 1920 Tornado Path
Track of East-Central Alabama Tornado - March 28, 1920
Click to Enlarge
 

* Grazulis et al. 

** This tornado was one of multiple tornadoes that formed that day.

*** Today, this would be approximately $1.23 to $2.46 million


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