1904 Moscow tornado

One of only three disastrous tornadoes that occurred in central Russia in recorded history

Hurricane of June 16, 1904. The damaged Cadet barracks, Lefortovo
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The June 29, 1904 Moscow tornado was one of only three disastrous tornadoes that occurred in central Russia in recorded history (1984 Yaroslavl tornado occurred June 9, 1984 in Ivanovo with Yaroslavl regions and 2009 Krasnozavodsk tornado occurred in Krasnozavodsk 3 June 2009, located in Moscow region).

Hurricane of June 16, 1904. The damaged church of Peter and Paul in Lefortovo, Moscow
pinterest button Hurricane of June 16, 1904. The damaged church of Peter and Paul in Lefortovo, Moscow   unknown, Public Domain

The 1904 disaster started as a thunderstorm in Tula region. It travelled northward, passing through eastern suburbs of Moscow into Yaroslavl region.

When the cloud approached remote Moscow suburbs, it formed a tornado funnel, destroying suburban settlements and Lefortovo district within the city itself.

Contemporary reports

The tornado was recorded by thousands of witnesses in Moscow, but few outside of the city. The Dean of Sukhanovo church reported that the cloud passed some 18 kilometers west from his town, through the villages of Kapotnya (200 homes destroyed), Chagino (65 out of 67 homes) and Khokhlovka; all three of these settlements are now within Moscow city limits. Nearer suburbs of Lyublino and Karacharovo were completely demolished too.

Many witnesses in Moscow, including the journalist Vladimir Gilyarovsky, report the same picture of the advancing storm: an unusual black cloud, 15–20 kilometers wide, advanced from south-east at estimated 25 meters per second (no instrumental wind readings were made).

The tornado was preceded by a hailstorm and a sudden drop in temperature. Two black funnels, one from the sky, the other from the ground, merged into a wide tornado with a yellow fire-like light in the middle. Witnesses mistook this light for an explosion at some oil tanks that, indeed, were close to the path of tornado, but were spared from destruction.

The tornado broke into the city proper in Lefortovo District, destroying the freight yard of the Kursk railroad, then shaving off the Annenhof Forest – an old, neglected park in Lefortovo (north of the present-day Aviamotornaya subway station).

It passed through the Lefortovo barracks, tearing roofs from masonry buildings, passed over the Basmanny District into Sokolniki Park and left the city in a northward direction. Apparently, the tornado faded away, thus destruction in the densely populated Basmanny was far less than in Lefortovo.

From: 16 (29) June 1904

Period 1900s, Empire (1721-1917), Nicholas II of Russia (1894-1917)

Useful Information

1904 Moscow tornado
Russian: Смерч 16 (29) июня 1904 года

Present-day assessment

Modern scientists rate the 1904 tornado at F2–F3 in the Fujita scale.

Total damage is estimated at 3,000 single-family homes (Razuvaev), while the loss of life was not properly counted (Gilyarovsky reported seeing only one dead).

The disaster occurred in the middle of the Russo-Japanese War, and clearing the rubble and counting the bodies was not a top priority; police reports and formal damage assessments were not published due to war-time censorship.

Many of the victims are presumed to be squatters in suburban parks and the Annenhof Forest, which was cleared of fallen trees years after the incident.

Other tornadoes

Other tornadoes were recorded in 1945 in Moscow and in 1970, 1971, 1984, 1987, 1994, and 1997 in Moscow Oblast 100 km south-east from Moscow (near Zaraysk).

Another was seen in June 2009 near Sergiyev Posad.