The tornado approaching Effingham, Illinois
|Date||March 18, 2025|
|Touchdown location||Eureka, MO|
|Areas affected||Eastern Missouri, central Illinois, central Indiana|
| Part of the|
2025 tornado season
The 2025 Saint Louis - Indianapolis tornado was an exceptionally long tracked, violent EF5 tornado that touched down in the Saint Louis metropolitan area and tracked over central Illinois and central Indiana before dissipating northeast of downtown Indianapolis, breaking the record for the longest tracked tornado ever as well as the fastest forward speed.
On March 18th, an impressive upper level trough positioned itself over the northern Great Plains and, with an unusually strong jet stream, pushed a deep surface low in the western Midwest. As the low deepened and the jet stream accelerated, unstable air was pushed up north in the midwestern states and windshear values increased significantely. By 11 AM, 0-1 km SRH reached the 400-450 m2/s2 range over southern Illinois and surrouding areas, with values in the 250-400 m2/s2 for the rest of the Ohio River and Mississippi River valleys, making the atmosphere across a large portion of the United States perfect for a violent tornado outbreak, much like the day before.
Supercells started to fire between 9:30 and 10 AM in far southern Missouri and raced east-northeastward at an extremely fast pace, with speeds up to 90-95 mph and continued to develop as the afternoon progressed. The northern supercells dissipated during the late evening hours in northern Ohio and the southern ones developed after 3:30-4:00 PM in Mississippi and western Tennessee before dissipating in Alabama after an east-southeasterly movement.
Missouri and Saint Louis area
The supercell that spawned the Saint Louis - Indianapolis tornado developed around 9:50 AM southeast of Jefferson City, Missouri and moved towards the east-northeast. The first Severe Thunderstorm warning for the storm was issued at around 10:15 AM as golfball size hail was reported in Owensville and Rosebud. As the storm continued towards the Saint Louis metro, storm spotters and chasers started seeing a wall cloud, which started to rotate violently around Union, forcing the National Weather Service to issue the first Tornado Warning for the storm at around 10:30 AM. East of Union, funnel clouds were reported without ground circulations and the first official tornado report came from the public in the Eureka area as the tornado developed in forested areas.
The twister started tracking towards the metro area, downing trees in the Sherman community along with power poles and then entered the Twin Oaks neighbourhood at EF3 strength as multiple homes were completely destroyed, trees partially debarked and cars tossed. The tornado damaged numerous buildings in the Keyes Summit area and then crossed Interstate 270 and devastated Saint Louis Community College at EF4 strength. As the tornado entered the Kirkwood neighbourhood, numerous homes and multiple stories tall buildings were either demolished or leveled, with damage in this area rated high end EF4. Paralleling Interstate 44, the twister continued to strengthen as it devastated entire residential areas; homes were completely leveled, cars were tossed hundreds of yards, trees were debarked and deep ground scouring started to occur. In Webster Groves a few instances of EF5 damage occurred as a couple of homes were completely swept clean from their foundations and others were picked up and disintegrated. Webster Groves High School and the nearby university were devastated, with the main buildings losing the higher floors and entire sections of the rest of the buildings were demolished. In this area, a few cars were found wrapped around trees after being picked up a couple of miles back. The tornado then crossed I-44 into the Lindenwood Park neighbourhood where it mantained EF5 force as it swept clean entire sections of the community and deeply scoured Tower Grove Park and Missouri Botanical Garden; multiple concrete buildings were severely damaged or demolished as well. The twister tracked right over the I-44 - I-55 and I-44 - I-64 intersections where hundreds of cars were picked up and thrown, homes were once again completely leveled and trees were ripped out of the ground. The twister tracked just south of the Gateway Arch crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois passing over Malcom W. Martin Memorial Park where the ground was deeply scoured, tombs were opened and coffins were thrown or destroyed.
From there, the tornado impacted the northern portion of East Saint Louis tracking along Interstate 55 as an EF4 and then regained strength and devastated an entire neighbourhood at EF5 status. A nearby transport facility and the Lansdowne Church of Christ were leveled as well. In this area, cars were found wrapped around the few still standing completely debarked trees, other trees were ripped out of the ground, grass was completely scoured and well constructed homes were completely swept clean from their foundations. The Washington Park and State Park Place communities were devastated as well before the tornado entered the Collinsville area, destroying a few industries west of town as well as Collinsville Middle School where kids were been hold in for the storm. A mexican restaurant on the other side of the road was completely leveled rating this area of the path as EF5. Striking the northern portions of the city, the twister leveled numerous homes down to their foundations and reduced trees to splinters. Cars from the industries to the west-southwest were found irrecognizable in this area while other vehicles were picked up and thrown around. While widening to about three quarters of a mile, the tornado left Collinsville reducing an entire forest to bare ground with a few left standing trees which were completely denuded and debarked. The tornado then hit the southern portions of the town of Troy, devastating an entire subdivision where numerous homes were completely destroyed and a couple leveled and swept clean from their foundation, gardens were reduced to muddy fields and cars were wrapped around trees. Triad High School suffered heavy damage as well. From there, the tornado started to track over mainly farmland between Interstate 70 and Highway 40, missing cities like Saint Jacob and Highland to the north. While tracking over open country, the twister managed to devastate crops and fields as vegetation was ripped out of the ground along with several trees and power poles. A few farmsteads suffered damage as well but none of them was directly impacted by the twister although windmills, silos and barns were completely leveled by the growing tornado. The vortex passed over Highland Silver Lake and devastated a couple of small subdivisions to the east while the main towns to the south got hit with 70 mph Rear Flank Downdraft winds and falling debris. A few homes were completely leveled in this area as well and one was partially found in a forest to the northeast while the country club and the airport were scoured and the buildings swept clean, with the weaker ones being picked up and disintegrated. A food shop was leveled as well and cars were thrown from I-70 as the tornado started tracking right over it towards Pocahontas destroying a couple farmsteads in the process.
Crops on the south side of I-70 were ripped out of the ground as the tornado deeply scoured the farmland while widening to about a mile before hitting the town of Pocahontas dead on. All the structures in town suffered damage, with about 70% of them being completely destroyed, demolished or swept clean from their foundations. Cars were picked up and some of them were found irrecognizable several miles to the northeast while trees were either ripped out of the ground or disintegrated with only a couple of them still standing after being completely denuded and debarked. Two small lakes in the park of the town were left completey without water and the park itself was reduced to bare mud, much like a forest on the northeast corner of town. The twister came back over Interstate 70, ripping pieces of asphalt from the ground. Then the tornado devastated more forests and fields as it moved towards Greenville. In town, the northern part suffered minor damage while the southern most part was taken out. Highway 40 in southern Greenville was completely scoured while the FCI Greenville buildings were completely demolished with parts razed to the ground. A couple of cars in this area were even found half buried in mud while a few homes were reduced to piles of rubble, 18-wheelers were mangled beyond recognition and a mobile home park was devastated. Tracking over Highway 40, the twister took out the Smithboro community as well leaving almost all of the homes in town leveled. Continuing to the northeast, an entire forest was razed down to the ground as the tornado widened to over a mile engulfing both Highway 40 and I-70 upon reaching Mulberry Grove.
In town, 90% of the buildings were either demolished or leveled at EF5 strength, the schools on the western side of town suffered EF3 damage, grain elevators in the community were left irrecognizable about 2 miles to the northeast and trees were reduced to splinters or completely denuded and debarked sticks. A train was hit in town and several carts were found wrapped around trees or in fields to the northeast of where the tornado picked them up. The twister continued to widen to about a mile and an half reducing forests to fields and stripping crops out of the ground as it tracked along I-70; the small community of Hagarstown suffered EF3 to EF4 damage as it was struck by the southern side of the twister: outbuildings and mobile homes were taken aloft and thrown while homes, cars and trees were completely destroyed. Approaching the city of Vandalia, the tornado reached its maximum width of 2 miles and engulfed almost enterely the city, with only the northern part being spared. On the western side of town, a Walmart Supercenter lost enterely its last floors and got its wall demolished by cars picked up from the parking lot and thrown against the building, while a Midwest Tractor Sales building to the south was completely leveled and all the tractors and combine harvesters were picked up, mangled beyond recognition and partially found several miles northeast of Vandalia. Several other businesses in the area were wiped out as well. In the rest of Vandalia, hundreds of homes were completely destroyed or leveled, with the Fayette County Hospital suffering high end EF4 damage. Vandalia Community High School lost entirely its roof and several cars from the parking lot were picked up and left on top of the building. Leaving the city and passing just to the north of the small community of Bluff City, the tornado crossed I-70 stripping the asphalt from the ground and throwing several cars. From there, the tornado paralleled the interstate tracking right over Highway 40 hitting and devastating the cities of Brownstown, St. Elmo and Altamont, scouring fields and trees from the ground in between as well as sweeping clean tens of farmsteads.
The next big city in line was Effingham. Citizen said that the tornado was so huge that it looked like just a big cloud on the ground. While approaching, people heard a constant, growing thunder which quickly became a deep, furious roar. Effingham suffered a direct hit at full EF5 force. Storm survey teams classified the damage in the city as the worst in the whole path, with estimated wind of over 280 mph (450 km/h). Still being two miles wide, the tornado tracked right through the middle of town, wiping clean both Effingham High School and Sherwin-Williams Distribution Center. Overpasses collapsed on people who were trying to seek shelter and hundreds of homes were swept clean from their foundations; in some cases even foundations and basements were cancelled. St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital suffered EF3 damage being on the northern side of the tornado, but homes around it were destroyed, trees were snapped at mid height and cars rained down from the sky after being picked up to the south. Only areas north of Evergreen Avenue suffered EF0 to EF1 damage, while the rest of the city was devastated. Community Park and both industrial and residental areas to the east were completely razed to the ground, with trees from the park being thrown away. The twister continued along Highway 40 right into Teutopolis, where more homes were swept clean from their foundations. From here, the tornado started to wrap in rain as the storm occluded on itself; the mesocyclone weakened and so the tornado did as it tracked south of Interstate 70. Tracking south of there, the tornado managed to cause little damage, with the maximum rated EF3 in the Liberty Hill community south of Greenup. Every now and then, a farmstead was struck but the tornado weakened to a mile wide EF2 which caued mainly crop and tree damage.
Indiana and Indianapolis area
Upon reaching the Illinois-Indiana state line, the tornado came out of the rain and began to re-intensify and crossed the line as an EF4 as crops and grass was deeply scoured south of Marshall. East of town, rain began again to wrap around the tornado as it remained an EF4 and devastated several forests debarking hundreds of trees while tracking south of the towns of Weaver and State Line. A Tornado Emergency was declared for the Terre Haute area, much like for the rest of the path, as the tornado neared the Wabash river, crossing it where I-70 passes on a bridge. Tracking over the interstate, several cars were picked up and thrown in the river as the twister entered the city limits regaining EF5 strength while being wrapped in rain. The mile wide tornado passed over the south half of town causing extreme damage in several neighbourhoods, where hundreds of homes were either demolished or swept clean from their foundations; a recycling plant was completely destroyed, St. Patrick School lost its last floor and a shopping area just east of Woodrow Wilson Middle School was completely leveled at EF5 force, while the middle school itself suffered EF3 damage. DeVaney Elementary to the southeast suffered EF2 damage while all the homes in between and around were destroyed at EF3 to EF5 strength. Grass was scoured, trees reduced to debarked splinters, cars were left irrecognizable and St. Mark United Church was swept clean from its foundations; the tornado devastated the cemetery as well leaving a field of mud and scattered debris. Both Central Christian Church and the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology to the northeast suffered EF5 damage with most buildings completely swept away, cars wrapped around trees and grass ripped out of the ground. From there, after destroying Terre Haute, the tornado started racing along Highway 40 striking the small communities of East Glenn, Seelyville, Cloverland and Billtown, virtually removing them from the maps as the lowest end damage in this part of the path was rated EF4:
homes were razed to the ground, cars were thrown for hundreds of yards, trees and grass ripped out of the ground and asphalt was scoured. Next in line was Brazil, which suffered a direct hit at EF5 force: schools on the far southwestern part of town were completely destroyed, rows of homes were flattened and downtown Brazil was hit dead on, with hundreds of commercial buildings devastated, roads scoured, cars picked up and thrown away and homes around downtown almost swept clean. St. Vincent Clay Hospital suffered an hard hit at EF4 force, with most of the building destroyed and ambulances wrapped around trees; to the east a large warehouse was taken aloft and disintegrated, while a Walmart discount was completely destroyed. Continuing along Highway 40, the twister tracked over the nearby Harmony community, where homes were once again leveled at EF5 strength and a Great Dane Trailers facility was swept clean, with hundreds of 18-wheelers thrown or left several miles to the northeast completely irrecognizable. Two churches were leveled as well, while trees continued to be debarked or thrown.
The tornado continued northeast, while getting farther away from Highway 40 into rural countryland and getting completely wrapped by rain. This caused the twister to weaken, as a maximum of EF2 damage was noted to trees and a few farmsteads and homes. The tornado continued as an EF2 as it tracked between Highway 40 and the Greencastle area. But as the twister neared Highway 40 once again and got out of forested areas into farmland, rain stopped falling around the vortex, which started to re-gain its power, although EF2 damage was still the worst in the part of the path as many farmsteads were severely damaged but not destroyed. The tornado crossed Highway 40 northeast of Stilesville, heading for the south-central part of Plainfield. As the storm neared the Indianapolis metropolitan area, a new Tornado Emergency was issued for the metroplex and the tornado tracked over Plainfield. It entered as an EF3 and dramatically intensified while in town. Subdivisions and a jail on the west side of the city suffered EF3 damage, while Plainfield Community Middle School and surrouding homes were demolished at EF4 force. Approching Highway 270, the tornado leveled hundreds of homes, while cars and trees were thrown around; entering an industrial area on the east side of Plainfield, the tornado re-gained EF5 status. There, Highway 270 was scoured, homes swept clean and tens of facilities, factories and industrial buildings were completely leveled as the tornado neared Indianapolis International Airport and the main part of the metro, getting back to a width of 2 miles. The twister struck directly the airport and there terminal buildings were completely leveled, cars from parking lots and trucks were picked up and thrown while planes of any size were either destroyed or even picked up and flipped. The tornado then continued towards the northeast and as it entered West Indianapolis it tracked over Interstates 465 and 70 picking up cars and scouring asphalt, leveling homes and businesses as well as a mobile home park, devastated by EF3 force winds on the south side of the tornado. In West Indianapolis, numerous factories and industries of any kind were demolished with vehicles thrown away, grass completely scoured and a solar plant completely swept clean from the ground. Homes, restaurants and businesses were swept clean from their foundations, cars were either wrapped around the very few still standing trees and both vegetation and asphalt were ripped out of the ground. The twister once again crossed I-70 right into downtown Indianapolis: Lucas Oil Stadium was completely devastated, while several skyscrapers and other buildings to the north were destroyed almost completely; iron structures were bent but they managed to withstand EF5 force winds, businesses and hotels were completely demolished, while cars were even found wrapped around the structures of skyscrapers. Crossing I-70 once more, the tornado shrinkied to a mile and an half before devastating Arsenal Technical High School and leveling to their foundations surrounding homes. While continuing to shrink and get wrapped by rain, the tornado maintained EF5 strength while tracking over the northeastern neighbourhoods of Indianapolis. Between downtown and the Lawrence suburb hundreds of homes were completely swept away from their foundations, trees completely debarked or ripped out of the ground, cars left irrecognizable and grass scoured from gardens. A RIIS building was completely destroyed suffering EF4 damage, while the intersection between I-465 and I-70 to the northeast was the final instance of EF5 damage, as asphalt was destroyed and cars were thrown around.
The tornado finally began to weaken as it tracked over the southern portions of Lawrence: an entire commercial and industrial area suffered EF3 to EF4 damage as many buildings were completely destroyed and 18-wheelers were thrown on top of each other. The tornado became completely rain wrapped as it exited the metro area striking Indianapolis Regional Airport and surrounding farmsteads, where the maximum damage was rated EF3. The twister then dissipated completely north of the small community of Maxwell as debris of any kind fell down from the sky on homes, farms, moving cars and cattle.
In total, the tornado claimed 214 people between homes, mobile homes, vehicles and other structures. Many school managed to keep the students safe, even the ones that suffered a direct hit. Economic losses are still unknown due to the extreme and widespread nature of the damage, being on an extremely long path and on extremely populated areas. Many roads, highways and interstates were closed for many weeks because of debris and missing asphalt. As many as 100.000 structures were completely destroyed, with at least 500.000 suffering some degree of damage. Most of these buildings were in metropolitan areas, where damage occurred well away from the tornado because of falling debris. Hospitals had to treat almost 2000 people, with some of the clinics and hospital themselves being hit by the tornado. For that reason, many hospitals of neighboring cities and states had to take care of many of the wounded.
Many meteoroloigsts declared that a tornado of this magnitude was way worse than the Tri-State Tornado just because it hit metropolitan areas. If the twister would have hit more rural areas or even followed the exact same path as the 1925 storm, it probably would have caused much less deaths and damage.
Governators of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana declared states of emergencies for 14 counties in total between the three states on March 19th and on the 22nd, the President of the United States flew over the devastated areas and talked with many of the people that lived through the storm.
Storm chasers made an effort to study the tornado thanks to their videos from beginning to end, in order to understand what made this twister so violent. This study, combined with the work of many meteorologists and scientists, also tried to understand why this tornado did not lift but remained on the ground for so long. The study was called VELLTOS (VEry Long Lasting Tornadoes Study) and wanted to achieve the secrets of twisters that stay on the ground for over 100 miles without lifting or being replaced with another vortex that absorbs the previous one making a long, continuous path. The work also took in exam many past events such as the 1925 Tri-State Tornado, the 1966 Candlestick Park tornado, the 2008 Super Tuesday tornado in Arkansas, the 2011 Hackleburg-Phil Campbell tornado and the other two twisters that struck the Ohio River Valley on that day.