SPC Stats

Path length: 28.3 miles

Width:  300 yards

Fatalities:  11

Injuries:  200

Rating:  F4

County:  Jackson, Williamson, Franklin

A total of 25 tornadoes occurred on December 17, 1957, all in Illinois or Missouri.  Two were later rated F4 and 1 was given an F5 rating.  In this summary, we look at an F4 that traveled close to 30 miles through parts of Jackson, Williamson and Franklin Counties in Illinois.  Per Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes, the path followed closely to a section of the great Tri-State Tornado of March 18, 1925.  He also notes that the point of origin may have been in Missouri.  

40 homes were destroyed in Gorham.  Intense damage occurred at Murphysboro.  40 homes destroyed and 10 were killed.  The deaths occurred in an older portion of town.  There was another fatality in the Sand Ridge area.  Estimated path speed at 60 mph.  Murphysboro was without power for close to 3 days.

Tragically, 4 members of a family were killed.  The Southern Illinoisan from December 19, 1957 interviewed George Butcher.  He lost his wife and 3 children when their home was hit.  A daughter was seriously hurt and another son was not injured.  Here is the article and a picture which epitomizes what loss looks like.

Climatological Data National Summary Entry

About 40 houses destroyed in Gorham and 40 in Murphysboro. Man killed at Sand Ridge and 10 killed at Murphysboro. Funnel followed river bottom on southeast side, destroying older buildings. Gas, electric and water utilities knocked out. Lack of water hampered firefighting. City without electric power for 60 hours. Intermittent path continued east-northeastward with damage near DeSoto, Hurst, Bush and Plumfield. Tornado reported at Plumfield about 505pm. This tornado may have traveled at 60 mph but there is some doubt as to accuracy of time fixes.

Tornado Path

SPC coordinates:  Start: 37.70 / -89.48      End: 37.88 / -89.02

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

Newspaper Clippings

Discrepancies:

We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the December 1957 Climatological Data National Summary (CDNS) and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:

Path Length:

  • SPC/NCDC have a 28.3 mile path length.
  • Grazulis and CDNS have a length at 30 miles.

Counties in Path:

  • CDNS lists Jackson and Williamson Counties.
  • Remaining sources include Franklin County.
  • SPC Coordinates include all 3 counties.

      Sources:

      The Storm Prediction Center

      NCDC Storm Events Database

      December 1957 Climatological Data National Summary

      Murphysboro citizens remember 1957 tornado

      newspapers.com

      Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. Page 1013.

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