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1907 Orestes, Indiana tornado
F5 tornado (NWS)
Tornado damage in Elwood, Indiana

Tornado damage in Elwood, Indiana
Date May 7, 1907
Times Roughly 3:25 p.m. to 6:20 p.m.
Touchdown location 1 NW of Romney, Indiana
Highest winds

315-330 mph

Injuries 1,208 injured
Fatalities 71 dead, 8 missing
Damage Likely around $200,000 (1907 USD)
Areas affected North Central Indiana
Part of the
Tornadoes of 1907

the 1907 Orestes, Indiana tornado, also known as the 1907 Tippecanoe-Randolph County, Indiana tornado or the 1907 Summitville, Indiana tornado was a long-tracked and devastating F5 tornado that devastated communities across north central Indiana on May 7, 1907.

For a time the deadliest tornado in Hoosier state history, with 71 deaths occurring, this tornado was, at the time, one of the deadliest in US history.

Initially left unrrated, the tornado was assigned a F5 rating in 2004 after reanalysis by the National Weather Service, particularly due to damages in Orestes, as well as in Elwood and Summitville.

Meteorological setup

In late April of 1907, as a strong trough proceeded southeastward, unusually hot weather was noted across portions of the Midwest. Over the last week of April 1907, Indianapolis' average high increased from 59°F to 80°F. This left plenty of instability in the atmosphere, and on May 6, muggy conditions were noted across the region. On May 7, a cold front moved into the region, that was to bring much needed relief from the near record-high temperatures with rain arriving that morning. However, this was a extremely strong cold front, and with high wind shear, the atmosphere was determined to be extremely unstable. With extreme instability in place, a supercell likely popped up around 2:40 p.m west of Romney, Indiana. Other thunderstorms produced F1-F3 tornadoes across the region that same day.

The tornado

At roughly 3:25 p.m, a tornado touched down about a mile northwest of Romney, the tornado proceeded east, causing F1-F2 damage in Romney, with several poorly constructed houses being destroyed in northern Romney. The tornado passed south of Stockwell at 3:35 p.m, causing near-F4 damage to a barn, killing one occupant. The tornado struck the town of Jefferson near directly at 3:40 p.m, causing widespread significant F3-F4 damage in the town, and killing 9. The tornado continued north through rural areas, narrowly missing Frankfort, causing F2 damage to one house just on the edge of the town line, killing 3. The tornado hit various farms, causing F3-F4 damage to most of them, and killing 12 people in the process. The tornado finally hit the northern edge of Tipton at 4:30 p.m, causing widespread F4 damage, and killing 20 people in Tipton. The tornado caused near-F5 damage to one house in Hobbs, before hitting Elwood, where widespread F3-F4 damage was documented, with a row of houses sustaining F5 damage at around 4:50 p.m, however surprisingly, only 6 people died in Elwood.

The tornado then suddenly pulled southeast, hitting the village of Dundee at 5:05 p.m, causing F4-F5 damage to every house in the village, and killing 3. The tornado then near directly hit Orestes at 5:10 p.m, where the worst documented damage of the tornado occurred, houses "completely disappeared" in Orestes, with one particular house sustaining damage so severe that the foundation was partially ripped out, 5 people died in Orestes. The tornado then pulled northeast just before hitting Alexandria, preventing a worst-case scenario for the city, however the city would run out of luck 49 years later. Between Orestes and Summitville, a railroad line was severely bent, with one area being completely torn out, leaving only the bolts behind. The tornado struck the southern half of the town of Summitville, where F3 to in some instances F5 damage was documented, and another 8 people died in Summitville. The tornado then entered largely rural areas as it once again pulled towards a more general eastward direction, by 5:30 p.m, the tornado was north of Gaston, still likely a F5 tornado, it was also the first F5 tornado to hit Blackford County, and the last until 2018, 111 years later. One house near modern-day Shamrock Lakes sustained F5 damage, with 2 being killed there. The tornado then passed between Eaton and Shideler in Delaware County around 5:40 p.m, and the final documented instances of F5 damage occurred in Granville, where 1 person was killed. The tornado proceeded into rural areas after this, causing F3-F4 damage north of Albany at 5:50 p.m, and this is where the final death of the tornado occurred. The tornado further moved northeast, causing F2-F3 damage northeast of Ridgeville at around 6:05 p.m, and the tornado lifted over rural areas of Randolph County at 6:20 p.m.

Tornadoes

FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
≥0 ≥0 ≥3 ≥1 3 3 1 ≥11




May 7 event

F#
Location
County
Time (UTC)
Path length
Damage
Illinois
F1 Chatsworth Livingston 11:45-11:50 a.m. CDT 5 miles 1 death - First tornado of the day. The owner of a horse carriage was killed, and several houses were heavily damaged.
F4 Gibson City Ford 1:00-1:20 p.m. CDT 15 miles 39 deaths - Second deadliest tornado of the day, various houses were completely destroyed near Gibson City, resulting in the deaths of 39 people. Originally thought to have been a F5.
F3 Hoopeston Vermillion 1:15-1:25 p.m. CDT 10 miles A large cone tornado swept away poorly constructed houses near Hoopeston, just west of the Indiana state line. Miraculously, despite hitting rather populated areas and causing great damage, no one was killed in this tornado.
Indiana
F2 SE of West Lebanon Warren 2:30-2:40 p.m. EDT 5 miles 1 death - A poorly constructed home was partially flattened, resulting in one death. First tornado of the Orestes tornado family.
F5 NW of Romney to Near Ridgeville Tippecanoe, Clinton, Tipton, Madison, Delaware, Blackford, Randolph 3:25-6:20 p.m. EDT 114 miles 71 deaths - See section above. Second and main tornado of the Orestes tornado family
F3 Muncie Delaware 5:30-5:35 p.m. EDT 1 mile 7 deaths - A stovepipe tornado reportedly caused moderate damage to several houses before destroying a train depot, killing 7. Satellite tornado of the Romney-Ridgeville F5.
F4 Linton Greene 5:50-6:10 p.m. EDT 20 miles 35 deaths - A deadly, extremely violent and long-tracked tornado knocked down various houses in Linton. 35 people were killed, and the tornado is disputed as a F5.
F1 Portland Jay 10:30-10:35 p.m. EDT 1 mile A cone tornado struck houses on the outskirts of Portland during the nighttime hours of May 7.
Ohio
F3 Rossburg Darke 6:55-7:10 p.m. EDT 15 miles 3 deaths - A destructive tornado struck the village of Rossburg, destroying almost every building in the village. Third and final tornado of the Orestes tornado family.

May 8 event

F#
Location
County
Time (UTC)
Path length
Damage
Pennsylvania
F4 West Mifflin Allegheny 3:25-4:00 a.m. EDT 40 miles 17 deaths - Violent and long-tracked tornado caused "great devastation" in West Mifflin. Originally thought to be the strongest tornado to ever strike Pennsylvania.
F1 Punxsutawney Jefferson 6:25-6:30 a.m. EDT 5 miles 10 deaths - A cone tornado caused extensive damage in Punxsutawney. Rated a F1 after reanalysis in 1998.

West Mifflin tornado

THIS IS A WORK-IN PROGRESS!

Aftermath

On May 15, President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt declared a state of emergency for the state of Indiana following confirmation of extreme tornado damage in north central Indiana.

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