On June 23, 1944, the deadliest tornado outbreak in West Virginia history nearly destroyed the Harrison County community of Shinnston. Sixty-six people died in and around the town, with victims ranging in age from 85 years to only 6 days. Overall, the outbreak killed 103 West Virginians and seriously injured another 430.
The storm started about 8:30 p.m. It first struck the farming communities northwest of Shinnston and moved on to the town’s Pleasant Hill section, where only 10 houses were left standing. It then carved a path through Marion, Taylor, Barbour, and Randolph counties.
The storm knocked out power throughout the region. Clarksburg’s two hospitals—already overwhelmed with storm victims—had to treat patients by candlelight. Assistance came from an unlikely source, when a traveling circus lent one hospital a generator.
Meteorologists estimate that the tornado was an F-4, with winds of more than 206 miles per hour. The outbreak came as a great shock because deadly tornadoes are relatively rare in the Mountain State. The Shinnston Tornado, though, is a tragic reminder that natural disasters can strike suddenly, without warning, and in many forms.