Almost no one was prepared. It was early morning in a small Illinois town on March 19, 1948 when the ominous clouds rolled in. A monster tornado dropped onto an unsuspecting Illinois town leaving only 20% of it standing once the winds subsided.

What would become known as the Bunker Hill Tornado leveled 80% of this small Illinois town as documented by Western Illinois University. The towns of Alton, Fosterburg, Bunker Hill and Gillespie were almost completely wiped off the map by the twister. The newsreel video from that era says "like a land blitzed by a thousand bombers" and that is an accurate description of the devastation.

75 Years Ago, Monster Tornado Destroys 80% of Small Illinois Town

19 dead in the tiny town of Bunker Hill with 60 losing their lives from all the storms that hit Illinois that day. It's considered the 6th worst weather tragedy in Illinois history. The Fujita Scale wouldn't be introduced until 23 years later, but we now understand the damage surveyed from this tornado easily ranks as a strong EF-4 if not borderline EF-5. The fact that early warning systems were primitive by modern standards in 1948 likely added to the death toll.

Considering the fact that the population density in this part of Illinois just northeast of the St. Louis area has vastly increased, it's hard to imagine the damage a tornado of this strength would do today. Let's hope we never find out.

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