The storm reached West Frankfort, a city of more than twenty thousand people, 3:10 p.m. on March 18th, 1925. It entered the city from the west at Joiner School and swept a path about a mile wide, leaving death and destruction in its wake. The northwest part of the city was completely demolished.
More than 1500 coal miners were at work beneath the surface in the devastated area and thus escaped injury or death. But the tornado had reduced to kindling more than 500 miners’ homes near the mine, not sparing the women and children in them. As they came to the surface the miners ran toward their wrecked homes and began digging out the dead and wounded. Many mangled, bleeding fathers and mothers were rushing frantically among the wrecked homes, pleading for some word of their loved ones. Children ran screaming about the streets, calling for father and mother. Sounds could be heard of people moaning among the wreckage.
Since these neighborhoods had no paved streets a downpour that had followed the storm created almost impassable mire. Rescuers slipped and slid as they carried out the dead and wounded on makeshift stretchers.
The rescue of the injured and the dead was the first task. Before darkness, nearly a hundred and fifty dead had been found. Nearly forty of the dead were small children. One of the most heart-touching scenes was the long morgue of little bodies from which life had been snuffed.
Hundreds of injured were cared for at the hospital and emergency first aid shelters in all parts of the city. Doctors, nurses, and ambulances rushed to West Frankfort from surrounding cities to aid in caring for the injured and the dying. Improvised beds were set up in the hospital on the floors, corridors, and bathrooms. Churches, lodge rooms, and school houses were converted into emergency hospitals and still there were not ample facilities to care for the injured.
Only a few hours before were joyous laughing humans, living and loving, concerned with those things that make up life. Almost in the twinkling of an eye, it had all been changed. A black ugly-looking cloud, a terrific wind that threw hailstones about, the crash of falling walls, screams, and then blackness, and for many, eternity. And scarcely an hour later, had the warm sunshine streamed down as if in mockery on the wreckage of the victims.
In addition to the dead and injured, thousands were left without shelter or food. Fires erupted, worsening the damage. Looting and theft, particularly of the property of the dead, was reported. Recovery was generally slow with the event leaving a setback to West Frankfort.