SPC Stats

Path length: 27 miles

Width:  100 yards

Fatalities:  1

Injuries:  26

Rating:  F2

County:  Stoddard, Scott

A total of 40 tornadoes are a part of the SPC Database, December 14-15, 1971.  Most that occurred on the 15th were during the early AM hours.  We look at one of those in this summary.  It was given a rating of F2 and had an intermittent path of 22+ miles through from Bell City to Scott City in Missouri.  There is a discrepancy on path length.  Storm Data states 22 miles while SPC states 27 miles.

There was damage to a farm near the development point SW of Bell City.  On the north edge of town there were several businesses and homes that sustained damage.  Just south of Mesler, 4 box cars of a freight train were lifted off their tracks.  Two barns and business were damaged near Oran.

In the Illmo area, a man was killed when his mobile home was destroyed.

Storm Data does mention that the tornado “jumped the Mississippi River and apparently touched down again in East Cape Girardeau, IL.”  There is no information on that in the Storm Data or SPC records.

Storm Data Entry

The tornado apparently first touched down on a farm southwest of Bell City destroying irrigation pipe and uprooting trees. It then skipped to the north edge of Bell City damaging several businesses and homes. A half mile south of Mesler it lifted 4 box cars of a freight train off the tracks. The tornado next touched down north of Oran where two barns and business were damaged. The tornado continued to skip along causing minor damage until it touched down near Illmo where one man was killed and two injured when their mobile home was destroyed. The tornado then moved in a north-northeasterly direction causing a path of destruction two blocks wide and 3 ½ miles long through Scott City. It then jumped the Mississippi river and apparently touched down again in East Cape Girardeau, IL.

Tornado Path

SPC coordinates:  Start: 37.02 / -86.85      End: 37.25 / -89.48

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

Newspaper Clippings


We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the December 1971 Storm Data Publication and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:

Path Length:

  • SPC/NCDC have a 27 mile path length.
  • Grazulis and Storm Data have a length at 22 miles. Both mention “skipping”. 


  • SPC/NCDC have a 100 yard width.
  • Grazulis and Storm Data have a width at 200 yards.


      The Storm Prediction Center

      NCDC Storm Events Database

      December 1971 Storm Data Publication


      Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. Page 1128.

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