In 1913, Easter was a little earlier than usual, as it was on March 23rd. Nebraska was promised to have normal Spring weather, but the sky had different plans. On an evening devoted to families spending time together, little did they know that it might have been their last time with their loved ones.
According to the National Weather Service, the tornado first tore through Cass and Saunders county, which had killed 38 people total. With a sharp fall in barometers and temperature, Omaha became a target as well, and without any warning, they were hit hard. The tornado went through Omaha around 5:45PM, and left a trail of destruction from southwest Omaha, all the way to Northeast Omaha.
The Extent of the Damage
According to Sasse, 800 homes were completely ruined, and 2,000 homes were damaged in Omaha. Joslyn Castle was hit extensively and houses in Gold Coast, Bemis Park, and other neighborhoods were destroyed. Omaha’s infrastructure was ruined as well, as streetcar lines, telephone lines, and water lines were brought up and used as weapons by the tornado to cause more destructuction. The damages amounted to $8,700,000. Due to the lack of forewarning, along with not every home having telephones or a radio, 2,000 people were injured and 103 people died in Omaha alone.
The Impact on North Omaha
One of the areas impacted by the tornado was North Omaha, most notably, North 24th and Lake Streets, which was nicknamed Near North Side. This region was filled with venues that filled North Omaha with life. Alongside this, the neighborhood local to this area had a mix of immigrants and African Americans. Each and every ethnic group had their own businesses, religious sites, and bars that they could gather and feel safe in. Even though this region made Omaha more diverse, they still devoted themselves to “Americanizing” themselves in local public schools where they learned English and the culture of the United States.
Two businesses in Near North Side that were active during the tornado were the Diamond Movie Picture Theater and the Idlewild Pool Hall. The theater was able to evacuate safely due to hearing the tornado approaching them, but the 13 customers at the pool hall were not so fortunate. Players at the pool hall were able to take shelter at the venue’s basement, but they died from smoke inhalation or from the building actually crushing them. Due to being a commercial region, this area was hit the hardest and had the most fatalities.
After the tornado, Omaha residents could not even rest after the tornado. Without their homes, there was nothing to help them against the snow storm that came the day after. This hindered recovery efforts and put a damper on the situation. Despite this, most of Omaha was able to be rebuilt…asides for parts of North Omaha. There are open lots in Near North Side still, signifying a grave of a business. Neighborhoods mostly recovered, but not without decades of struggle, where citizens tried to pick up pieces that were lost.