|Download For $1.99: - March 22, 1952 - News reports from WMPS-Memphis Tennessee - Gordon Skene Sound Collection|
The Tennessee Tornado Outbreak of 1952. Going down in history as the 4th most destructive series of Tornados to hit the U.S. in a single day.
The tornado outbreak of March 21–22, 1952, also known as the March 1952 Southern United States tornado outbreak, generated eleven violent tornadoes across the Southern United States, which is the fourth-largest number of F4–F5 events produced by a single outbreak. Only the 1965 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak, the 1974 Super Outbreak, and the 2011 Super Outbreak surpassed this number. The outbreak caused a total of at least 177 deaths—officially 209 fatalities—fifty of which occurred in a single tornado in Arkansas. The severe weather event also resulted in the fourth-largest number of tornado fatalities within a 24-hour period since 1950.
An F-4 rated tornado with wind speeds in the range from 207 to 260 miles an hour, moved east-northeast through the immediate Fayetteville, Tennessee area around 430 pm cst on February 29, 1952. The tornado was estimated to be at least 300 yards wide and was on the ground continuously for around seven miles, initially touching down just northwest of the Old Lincoln County Hospital, before lifting near the Lincoln County Lifestock Market along Highway 64. According to the Lincoln County News, now the Elk Valley Times, “ Eugene E. McGehee, died only a few minutes after arriving at the hospital. The other casualty, Willard McCown, was killed instantly when his home on Polk Street was blown away.
The Lincoln County News gave this detailed account of the surveyed damage. “ A complete survey of the damage by Tennessee state officials showed that of the 1,828 buildings in Fayetteville, 932 were damaged or destroyed. The survey was broken down as follows: There were 139 homes destroyed, 152 with major damage, another 164 with minor damage, 23 farm buildings were destroyed, 15 farm buildings with major damage, and 11 farm buildings with minor damage. There were 105 business structures destroyed, 58 businesses with major damage, 37 businesses with minor damage and 9 businesses with superficial damage. Damage to six churches alone in the downtown Fayetteville city area was at $300,000, estimated by the Reverend J.E. Wolfe, disaster chairman of the local Red Cross chapter.
This was also the fourth tornado that struck the city of Fayetteville, Tennessee in a similar track in 100 years. The previous tornadoes that struck the Fayetteville area were on March 14, 1851, March 27, 1890, and April 29, 1909. Property damage in 1952 numbers was estimated to be at more than $3,000,000, and this does not include the many trees that were downed and destroyed by the tornado.
Here is a running account of the Tornado and its damage, as reported by WMPS Radio in Memphis on March 22, 1952.