Sneed Tornado of 1929

aka: Tornado Outbreak of April 10, 1929

The only F5 tornado ever recorded in Arkansas destroyed the Sneed and Pleasant Valley communities in Jackson County on April 10, 1929, one of a series of twisters on that day that claimed at least fifty-four lives in the state.

At least eight tornadoes hit northeastern Arkansas on April 10, 1929. The most powerful, with wind speeds of 261 to 318 miles per hour, formed near Batesville (Independence County) and traveled northeast, entering Jackson County at about 6:15 p.m., with a half-mile-wide path. As it approached Pleasant Valley (also known as Possum Trot) north of Swifton (Jackson County), people sought shelter in homes that were quickly destroyed by the tornado “dipping down into the farm communities as if a gigantic hand had reached from the skies to snatch off farm buildings.” Twelve people gathered in the home of Cleo and Lessie Nicholson, fleeing from room to room as the winds tore the building apart; as the last room exploded, they were hurled about, many of them killed. Four of the eight members of the Charles DeFries family were killed when the twister smashed their house. It then continued into the Sneed community, which was also destroyed. Twenty-three people were killed in the Jackson County storm, and most of the buildings in the area were leveled. At least fifty-nine people were injured.

A Missouri Pacific Railroad engineer traveling from Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Hoxie (Lawrence County) spotted the tornado and pushed his locomotive to speeds of seventy-five miles per hour, successfully outrunning the twister and saving his train.

The F5 tornado that destroyed Sneed then went into Lawrence County, passing near Alicia (Lawrence County) and possibly continuing on to Lorado (Greene County), where eight people were killed or mortally injured.

An F4 tornado with wind speeds of 207 to 260 miles per hour formed around Mount Pleasant (Izard County) around 5:00 p.m. on April 10 and moved quickly to Guion (Izard County) on the White River. As people huddled in sand caves on the bluffs above the river, the tornado ravaged the town, leaving only three buildings standing. Three people were killed in Guion.

Another F4 tornado started near Wynne (Cross County) at around 8:00 p.m. The storm divided south of Wynne, with one part heading northeast to hit St. Francis Bay, Princedale (Cross County), and the northern section of Parkin (Cross County), while the other cut to the west, “causing destruction in the South Chapel and McElroy neighborhoods.” At least thirteen people died in Cross County, including the entire family of Ben Graham, an African American man.

Other tornadoes that were recorded during the April 10 outbreak formed near Calico Rock (Izard County), Diaz (Jackson County), and Monette (Craighead County), causing some damage but no fatalities. One of two that began at Almond (Cleburne County) caused several injuries at Moorefield (Independence County). Including the Jackson County casualties, more than 200 people suffered injuries in the outbreak.

In the aftermath of the tornado outbreak, many of the survivors at Guion lived in sand caves and overturned boxcars, with Red Cross workers inoculating them against typhoid. Though eighty buildings were destroyed in the disaster, volunteers from Batesville helped rebuild much of the town. Similarly, at Lorado, “through the cooperation of various civic organizations” in Paragould (Greene County), more than twenty farmhouses were rebuilt by late May 1929.

In the devastated Jackson County villages of Possum Trot and Sneed, where forty houses and thirty-six barns were destroyed and forty other homes were damaged, survivors living in tents were also inoculated against typhoid. Some rebuilding took place, but both had become ghost towns by the twenty-first century.

For additional information:
“$200,000 Loss in Cross County.” Arkansas Gazette, April 13, 1929, p. 8.

“50 Known Dead from Series of State Storms.” Arkansas Gazette, April 12, 1929, p. 1.

Burkett, Lucille Tucker. “The Story of a 1929 Tornado and Its Effect on a Woodruff County Family.” Rivers and Roads and Points in Between 12 (Spring 1984): 23–30.

“Complete List of Known Dead After Tornado.” Hot Springs Sentinel-Record, April 16, 1929, p. 2.

Craig, Robert D. “Sneed’s F-5 Tornado of 1929.” Stream of History 47 (August 2014): 17–25.

“Guion, Tornado-Destroyed Town, Will Be Rebuilt on New Site.” Arkansas Gazette, May 1, 1929, p. 1.

Harris, Hertie A. “History of the Town of Guion.” Izard County Historian 15 (October 1984): 3–17.

National Weather Service. “The F-5 Tornado of April 10, 1929.” (accessed November 21, 2023).

“Only One Survivor in Family of Eight.” Arkansas Gazette, April 13, 1929, p. 8.

“Paragould.” Arkansas Gazette, Part 2, May 26, 1929, p. 14.

“Provisions Taken to Guion Residents.” Arkansas Gazette, April 13, 1929, p. 1.

“Workers Continue Rebuilding Guion.” Arkansas Gazette, May 8, 1929, p. 1.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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