A series of tornadoes was triggered by thunderstorms. Amite was the strongest of these and it was responsible for the deaths of 143 people out of a total death toll of three hundred.
In the first half of 1908 a series of severe thunderstorms triggered eighteen tornadoes across the central part of the Gulf states, killing more than three hundred people. The strongest of these was Amite, so named because it was in Amite that it did the greatest amount of damage. This F4 strength tornado arrived on April 24, 1908, and swept bare a path two miles wide as it raced along through Louisiana into Mississippi.
Most of the town of Purvis, Mississippi, a town of 2,000, was leveled by it, leaving only seven of its 150 houses standing and causing half a million dollars’ worth of damage. By day’s end Amite was responsible for the deaths of 143 and the injuring of 770 others, making it one of the country’s deadliest.
Amite began as a two-mile-wide tornado and, as it passed on into Mississippi, its path narrowed to a width of half a mile and then to two hundred yards. As always happens when a tornado’s path is narrowed, its destructive power increases, and so Mississippi experienced a more devastating storm than was seen in Louisiana. A railroad crew at work hid from the approaching storm inside boxcars but their refuge was far from being safe. The boxcars were thrown a distance of 150 feet and torn apart in the process. Seven people lost their lives in them. Thousands of tall pine trees were uprooted, broken and scattered.