Today in Weather History: May 17, 1896
Counties Affected: Washington, Marshall, Nemaha, Brown & Richardson (Nebraska); Length: ~100 Miles; Average Width: 1 Mile; Maximum Width: 2¼ Miles; Killed: 21; Injured: 200; Damage: $400,000
Initially touching down around 500 PM five miles southwest of Palmer in South-Central Washington County, the tornado moved east/northeast across Southern Marshall County. It then veered toward the northeast, passing 1 mile south of Frankfort in Southeast Marshall County where the huge vortex was seen for half an hour as it approached. In Nemaha County, the towns of Seneca, Oneida and Sabetha suffered incredible devastation as 15 people were killed; 6 in Seneca, 6 in Oneida, and 3 in Sabetha. In Seneca, the opera house was swept off its foundation while the court house and a new $40,000 schoolhouse were destroyed. Many farms vanished with the countryside left “bare as the prairie”. As the tornado roared across Northwest Brown County it widened incredibly to between 2 and 2 ½ miles as it ran roughshod through the tiny town of Reserve in extreme North-Central Brown County where 5 more were killed and only 3 buildings were undamaged. The vicious vortex then crossed the Kansas/Nebraska border just northeast of Reserve.