May can be a volatile month when it comes to severe weather in the Quad Cities, and that was made clear on May 5, 1995 when several tornadoes tore through many local communities.
The one that stands out among the rest is the pair of tornadoes that tore through Bureau County, specifically an F3 that formed near Neponset and tracked northeast through Walnut. This was just one of nearly 300 tornadoes that touched down across the United States during the month of May in 1995. *Note: The current tornado intensity system has changed since this outbreak, and the old naming scheme is used.
The strongest tornado formed shortly after 5pm near Neponset and then raced northeastward through Sheffield, jumping across Illinois Route 40 and ending up in Walnut. It was one of four tornadoes in Bureau County alone that afternoon and evening. Glen Stamerjohn, the coordinator of the Bureau County Emergency Services and Disaster Agency at the time, reported that tornadoes touched down northeast of Neponset, northwest of DePue and two near Walnut and Normandy. Stamerjohn noted that several reports of funnel clouds were called in at the time of the storms, according to the Bureau County Republican.
The National Weather Service estimated the tornado that struck Walnut contained winds in excess of 113 miles per hour and at one point had a path around 200 yards wide. Four homes were destroyed along with 36 farm buildings. Metal from impacted buildings was also reported being driven into the ground. Large hail up to the size of tennis balls was also reported in and around Walnut.
Thankfully given the strength and size of this strong tornado, there were no fatalities with this storm. On average, Illinois experiences around 1.4 violent or strong tornadoes (rated EF3 to EF5) per year (1991-2010). The overall average number of tornadoes per year stands at 54 for the same time period.
Other notable strong tornadoes in Bureau County include:
March 4, 1976 – F3
December 6, 1951 – F3
Meteorologist Andrew Stutzke