Shinnston Tornado – West Virginia – June 23, 1944

This tornado had a width of a thousand feet as it touched down. It killed 153, seriously injured eight hundred others, and destroyed four hundred homes.

In Harrison County of western West Virginia, on June 23, 1944, the community of Shinnston was hit with one of the most destructive tornadoes in the state’s history. Its main path had a width of a thousand feet and in its two-minute transit it took the lives of 153 persons and seriously injured more than eight hundred.

Over 1,600 families were affected and over four hundred homes destroyed. The devastation was all the more tragic because it occurred within nine miles of West Virginia’s worst mining disaster, that of Monongah, in 1907.

This tornado arrived shortly after 8 P.M. and the first impression that people had was of a fire. Then, as it came closer, people could see a heavy mass of debris, timbers, and trees traveling before the cloud; then they knew the worst. The place hardest hit was Pleasant Hill, a suburban section of Shinnston with about fifty homes. This group of houses simply disappeared. Persons who witnessed the event said that at one moment it was there and the next it had gone. Dozens were killed at that spot. Bonds, checks, and papers from Shinnston were found two hundred miles away in different parts of the state.

The steel radio tower of the State Police Headquarters was broken in two. A barn was blown away, leaving the horse in the stall uninjured. A pigpen disappeared leaving the pigs. Hailstones were described as being as big as baseballs. Streetcar tracks were twisted as though made of macaroni, and a cook stove was found three miles away from its former home. The tornado faded out in the Allegheny Mountains.

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