The Most Powerful Tornado to Ever Hit Missouri Had Winds as High as 300 MPH

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: May 11, 2023
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Missouri is no stranger to bad weather. Although it’s not a part of the traditional Tornado Alley, the state still receives many tornadoes. In fact, Missouri receives upwards of 30 to 45 tornadoes per year, making it the tenth-worst state for twisters in the U.S. Some of the most powerful, deadly tornadoes recorded in the country have occurred in this state. Learn about the most powerful tornado to ever hit Missouri including when and where it struck and how much damage it left in its wake.  

How Do Meteorologists Classify the Strength of a Tornado?

Tornado formation

Tornadoes form when warm, humid air collides with cold, dry air.

©Tsyntseus Anastasiia/

Meteorologists determine the strength of tornadoes by measuring their wind speed and the type of damage they cause. The Enhanced Fujita Scale has been in service since 2007. Before that, the Fujita Scale used wind speed to determine the strength of a tornado.

The Enhanced Fujita Scale uses the following wind speed indicators to determine a tornado’s rating:

Enhanced Fujita ScaleWind Speed
EF065 to 85 mph
EF186 to 110 mph
EF2111 to 135 mph
EF3136 to 165 mph
EF4166 to 200 mph
EF5Over 200 mph

The most powerful tornadoes are rated EF5, and any tornado that reaches that extreme level will cause incredible damage to buildings, trees, vehicles, and even the landscape.

What Was the Most Powerful Tornado to Hit Missouri?

Tornado hitting a house

The Tri-State Tornado struck in 1925.


The most powerful tornado to ever hit Missouri was the EF5 Tri-State Tornado, a twister that had winds of more than 300 mph. This tornado originally struck Missouri, but it also tore through parts of Illinois and Indiana. The Tri-State Tornado is often considered one of the worst, deadliest, and most powerful tornadoes to ever hit the United States.  

This tornado struck on March 18, 1925. Meteorologists lacked the technology to identify and disseminate information about dangerous tornadoes. So, when this tornado rapidly intensified and grew to almost a mile wide, many people were caught unprepared.

The tornado or multiple vortexes as part of a larger outbreak tracked for 235 miles and lasted for over 3 hours. By the time the tornado or tornadoes finally ended, about 695 people were dead, about 2,298 people were injured, and large portions of towns were laid to waste. During the entire March 18, 1925 outbreak, 751 people died from tornadoes, making it the deadliest day for tornadoes in history.

Not only was the Tri-State Tornado the strongest one to hit Missouri, meteorologists believe that it was also the strongest tornado to ever hit the United States.

What Animals Were Affected By the Most Powerful Tornado in Missouri?

Along with humans, many animals were probably caught in the tornado’s path. Unable to escape or hide well, many of them would have probably perished in the storm. Some of the animals affected include:

However, it’s impossible to know the number or types of animals killed by this tornado with any certainty aside from farm animals and pets that were deemed missing.

Missouri’s Most Recent Powerful Tornado

Joplin, MO tornado damage

The Joplin Tornado killed over 150 people, injured 1,150, and accrued $2.8 billion in damages. It is the most costly tornado in United States history. 

©Melissa Brandes/

Missouri has had the misfortune of being struck by a few powerful tornadoes, including an EF5 in 2011. The Joplin Tornado struck on May 22, 2011, and it struck the city with wind speeds of about 200 mph. The tornado tracked for six miles on the ground and grew to a width of about one mile!

The Joplin Tornado killed about 161 people. That makes it the deadliest tornado on record since people developed official records. Also, this twister cost over $2.8 billion in damages, making it the costliest tornado ever recorded in the U.S. up to that point.

While the impacts of the tornado were nothing short of horrible, people learned valuable lessons from the twister. The effects of this tornado prompted the development of better communication tools, readily available public shelters, advanced warning systems, and more.

The hope is that no city will have to endure the same fate as Joplin. The most recent EF5 tornado to strike the U.S. at the time of this article’s publishing was in Newcastle, Oklahoma in 2013.

What Was the Deadliest Tornado to Hit Missouri?

The deadliest tornado to ever hit Missouri was the Tri-State Tornado that struck the state in 1925. The twister killed over 600 people across three states and injured four times that number. Recently, the 2011 Joplin Tornado killed 161 people in a much smaller area than the Tri-State Tornado.

How Many Tornadoes Hit Missouri Each Year?

Welcome to Missouri sign

About 30 tornadoes or more hit Missouri each year.


Missouri received about 32 tornadoes per year for the period between 1950 and 2016. However, tornadoes in this state and others are becoming more common. That means a higher average exists for Missouri between the years 1990 and 2020.

Tornadoes are happening more frequently in Missouri. Also, the increasing population in this region is leading to greater numbers of people being impacted by twisters.  

The most powerful tornado to ever hit Missouri occurred about a century ago. Fortunately, people are learning about better ways to thrive in places that are often hit by tornadoes. Better infrastructure, planning, communications, and education could help reduce the number of people that die as a result of tornadoes hitting their area in Missouri and beyond.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Erin D. Maxwell / CC0 – License / Original

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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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