Central Illinois' deadliest tornado

By Chuck Collins

March 30, 2013 Updated Oct 26, 2013 at 1:21 AM CDT

SOUTH PEKIN, Ill. -- Saturday marked a dark day in Central Illinois weather history. It was the 75th observance of the deadliest tornado we've seen locally...the South Pekin tornado of March 30, 1938.

The village of South Pekin seems to be a target for violent tornadoes.

It was a warm late March afternoon.

The wind was getting strong and the sun was being filtered by fast moving clouds.

Severe weather, which was firing in Northeast Missouri, was on the way.

"Most likely from the direction it was traveling and the type of tornado it produced," noted Chris Miller of the National Weather Service," it was likely a super-cell type of thunderstorm that produced a series of what we call a family of tornadoes that moved up through the area."

National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist Chris Miller said research indicates the super-cell, which produced as many as five tornadoes, began west of Quincy and proceeded Northeast.

"West of the Illinois river from Rushville up to Astoria was one separate," said Miller, "and then another one North of Havana up through South Pekin, Morton to Eureka. That may have been two separate ones there."

The tornadoes killed 13 people in West Central and Central Illinois but clearly South Pekin was hardest hit with nine fatalities.

In addition, two people were killed near Deer Creek.

Dozens were injured and damage was massive.

In those days, tornado warnings and weather radar didn't exist so people were at the mercy of mother nature.

"The way people were notified was just by word of mouth," said Miller," making a telephone call, off to the Southwest the storm just came through here. It might have been a tornado or a cyclone as they called it, sometimes they called it a hurricane because they weren't quite sure what it was and they would just do it that way but most people had no notification what so ever."

South Pekin has also taken direct tornado hits on May 13th, 1995 and May 10th, 2003.

Damage was devastating but there were no fatalities or serious injuries in those twisters.