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Event
Summary

The Snyder, Oklahoma Tornado of 10 May 1905

Summary

On Wednesday May 10th, 1905, the Oklahoma Territory was struck by one of the worst natural disasters in early American history.  Tornadoes pounded the southwest part of the Territory, one of which flattened the town of Snyder.  The “official” death toll is listed today as 97, but the actual number of victims may never be known. One hundred years later, this single tornado remains the second most deadly (at least) in Oklahoma history, and ranks among the 20 most deadly tornadoes in United States history. [1]

To commemorate the one-hundred-year anniversary of this tragic event, the staff of the Norman Forecast Office collected information on the events of May 1905, in an effort to understand exactly what transpired in Snyder and surrounding areas a century ago.  We gathered as many newspapers of the time as we could find, along with any other available information sources we could track down.

The end result is this three-part chronicle. In Weather Synopsis, we present what we know (which isn’t very much) about the meteorological conditions that led to the tornado outbreak.  The “Cyclone” includes eyewitness accounts of the storm as it bore down on, and eventually tore through, Snyder.  It also includes our detailed assessment of the entire damage track of the Snyder tornado, along with a few others that were known to have occurred that day.  Finally, the real story of the Snyder tornado is presented in Aftermath.  This section is truly the heart of the story, as it describes the human tragedy as recounted directly by those who were a part of it.

After poring through dozens of newspaper articles and other written accounts of the Snyder tornado, several key points emerge.

First, writers of those days had a different style of penning their thoughts than most present-day writers do.  Their style of writing and their attention to detail are quite impressive - almost enchanting, in a way.  So, our retelling herein is not really a retelling at all, for we will quote liberally from those authors of the early twentieth century.  Stated simply, we could not say it any better than they did.

Second, it becomes evident that the horrible tragedy in Snyder was far beyond the ability of even those eloquent writers of the time to describe.  But they tried, and in so doing they often offered graphic descriptions of the storm’s aftermath.  (Censorship was not an issue back then.)  In the interest of decorum, and out of respect for those who suffered from this event, we will forego the graphic details here.

Finally, there is a good side to every story, no matter how tragic.  The Snyder tornado is no exception.  We found that the true spirit of the Nation’s Heartland was as alive and well back then as it is now.  Read Aftermath to see how neighbors helped neighbors, how surrounding communities responded quickly to the call for help, and how a small town, beaten down, picked itself up and put itself back together.

This summary is dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Snyder tornado of 1905, and to those who suffered the loss of friends, families, and loved ones.

Pages for Acknowledgments and Endnotes are also available.


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