SHINNSTON, W. Va. – June 23rd, 1944. 8:30 PM. The Mountain State’s deadliest tornado happened right here on Pleasant Hill in Shinnston, West Virginia.
More than 100 West Virginians died and hundreds more were injured in the storm when an F-4 tornado with 170 mile-per-hour winds tracked from Marion into Randolph County…and drilled the small community of Shinnston.
Not one family was unaffected by the tornado in the small Harrison County town, says lifelong resident John Rice, who was almost six years old when it happened.
He remembers the storm like it was just yesterday.
“I remember that there was a barn that had a horse in it. The barn was gone and the horse was still standing there. And they found people’s belongings in Morgantown. The wind and the river have taken them for a joyride to Morgantown,” said Rice
Even though there was physical damage, the storm shaped the fiber of the town for years to come.
Former Shinnston Mayor Wanda Ashcraft, who was 11 years old on that fateful June evening, says that living through the storm taught her about community service, being a better person, and most importantly…that anything can happen.
“Everyone said it will never happen in West Virginia because we have hills. People came from hundreds of miles just to see it. They realized that in one instant your life could be changed. Your family is wiped out. Everything you own is gone,” explained Ashcraft.
And with everything gone, there was only one thing to do – rebuild and make this little community a bit stronger.