As we in the Ozarks brave our annual season of severe weather, it seems fitting to mention one event that has largely been forgotten to history, as those who survived it have long since passed on.

Columnist's Note: I originally wrote this several years ago, but since we recently passed the anniversary of the 1975 Neosho tornado (April 24, 1975), marked the anniversary of the infamous “Mother's Day Eve” tornado in Newton County (May 10, 2008), and will also observe the seventh anniversary of the Joplin tornado (May 22, 2011) this month, it would be appropriate to again mention one black storm long since forgotten. By the way, an old Ozark superstition says never to call a coming tornado for what it is, or risk bringing it upon you. For instance, instead of saying “the tornado risk is high tonight” one would say “the sky doesn't look good” or something to that effect. Don't say “tornado,” in other words. Are you superstitious?

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As we in the Ozarks brave our annual season of severe weather, it seems fitting to mention one event that has largely been forgotten to history, as those who survived it have long since passed on.
On Sunday, April 18, 1880, southwest and south-central Missouri were ravaged by a series of tornados that ultimately killed more than 150 people and all but destroyed three towns. I have long heard that the community of Cyclone, in McDonald County, was named for this storm, but I never knew much about the event itself.
There used to be, I hope there still is, the remains of the grist mill that was destroyed when the twister actually moved up Big Sugar Creek. Or that’s one story. Another story is that it was actually a big flood that destroyed it. At the least, the storm certainly ripped through the vicinity. A few years later, a post office was established nearby and named “Cyclone.” I have also read that Cyclone may have been named for a different storm altogether, though.
At any rate, the funnel cloud touched down late on the afternoon of April 18 about one mile south of Pineville and moved east-northeast a distance of about 16 miles before losing strength and dissipating about three miles east-northeast of Powell. One little girl was killed about a mile east-northeast of Powell when the twister hit her home and she was hit by falling rocks or bricks from the chimney. It would be interesting to find out that child’s name. I do not know it.
The twister is said to have sucked the water completely out of Mike's Creek, in the same vicinity. Feathers and straw were found sticking straight into trees and fenceposts.
The tornado reformed and touched down about two and half miles south of Rocky Comfort and continued east-northeast into Barry County.
That same storm produced several tornados throughout that terrifying evening, as the widening front, or fronts, moved east-northeast through Barry, Stone, Christian, Taney, Greene, Webster, Wright, Laclede, Texas, Dent, Crawford, Camden, Morgan, Moniteau, Cole, and Callaway counties. The towns of Marshfield, Licking and Barnettsville (now Barnett) lost most of their structures, and 152 people died – 92 in Marshfield alone. Hundreds more were injured.
Based on the damage, the supercell has been estimated as being an F-4.
Obviously, people then didn’t have the benefit of Doppler radar and storm warnings from television, radio and Internet sources. They simply had to be aware of any change in the weather and recognize the signs of possible severe weather. With all of the early warning tools we have today, we ought to at least pay attention. And I think most people around here do.

Wes Franklin writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.