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30th Anniversary Of The "Super Tornado Outbreak" (April 3, 1974)

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by David Von Pein, Apr 3, 2004.

  1. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    Who else recalls that awful day in the breadbasket of the U.S.?

    On April 3-4, 1974, a record 148 twisters tore through the U.S., killing 330 people in 13 states, while injuring an incredible 5,484 in just a 16-hour period.

    Xenia, Ohio was home to the worst damage caused by the tornado outbreak of 1974. Xenia is located 16 miles west of Dayton and has a population of 25,000. At 4:42 PM on April 3, 1974, an F5 tornado--which was estimated to be a 1/2 mile wide--struck Xenia. The tornado lasted nine minutes, which is nearly twice as long as a normal tornado. When the tornado was over, it left 33 people dead. There were nine churches, four schools, and 1,333 homes and businesses destroyed. The cleanup lasted three months.

    Here's a terrifying shot of the massive Xenia twister:

    [​IMG]

    How would you feel seeing that speeding your way? Or these? .....

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    http://www.april31974.com/

    http://www.shorstmeyer.com/tornadoes/1974.html
     
  2. Scott Leopold

    Scott Leopold Supporting Actor

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    I lived in Xenia at the time, in the Arrowhead housing development, and was directly in the path of the tornado. I was not quite 2, but the image of the tornado through the small window in my parents' room is my earliest memory. The tornado was actually bouncing as it moved through our neighborhood, touching down, then lifting off for a short distance before touching down again. It landed on the house behind us and across the street from us, but "bounced over" our house. My mom was at home with me, my brother, and a girl she was babysitting. She'd been doing Spring cleaning. Our TV was busted, so we were listening to the radio, WHIO AM. Gil Whitney came on and announced the warning. My dad was at work, as he usually was during all major natural disasters when I was a kid. My mom took us into the bedroom, showed us the tornado through the window, and put us on the floor. She laid on top of us and covered us with a blanket. None of us were injured, but the house took a pretty good deal of damage. My brother still remembers the feeling of the wind whipping at his fingers as he held a corner of the blanket. Our dog tried to get into the room with us, but my mom wouldn't get up to let her in. She ran to mine and my brother's room, and hid beneath the bed. It was one of the few rooms in the house that wasn't damaged.

    The houses behind and across from us were flattened. Across the street, the father was at home with the two boys. The older boy was watching TV, while the father and the younger boy were asleep in the bedroom. When the warning hit, the older son ran to the closet and pulled a mattress over him. A bunch of bricks fell on top of the mattress, but he was unharmed. That closet was the only thing in the house left standing. The father woke up when he heard the younger son screaming as the tornado was pulling him out the window. He grabbed him, pulled him back in, and hit the floor. After the tornado passed, there was nothing left of the bedroom, but both were okay.

    One neighbor down the street found a body in his attic that night. The neighbors next door were extremely religious, and thought the world was coming to an end. They had about 30 other neighbors crowd into their living room with them to pray. Their house was completely unharmed--not even a crack in a window. One lady down the street ran to the closet when the tornado hit. She got a bad feeling and dropped to her knees. Just as she hit the floor, a 2x4 passed through the closet, inches from the top of her head. Had she remained standing, she'd have been cut in half.

    One of the neatest stories I heard from that day was about a guy who was sitting in his pickup at an intersection in downtown Xenia. The tornado lifted his truck and set it down lightly on the other side of the intersection, facing the opposite direction. The man was unharmed.

    A few years later, my brother was staying at my grandparents' house in Dayton when another tornado warning was issued. I think I was 4 at the time. We piled into my dad's Gremlin and headed to their house since they had a basement. Many people in Xenia were still traumatized from the big one (a lot still are). The sky turned a sickening orange and green color, and the clouds appeared to be boiling. As we drove down SR35, the highway was crowded with abandoned cars. People were wandering around, sitting and laying down in the highway, crying and screaming about how this was the end of the world. I've never been more scared than I was at that moment, and I proceeded to puke all over the inside of my dad's Gremlin.
     
  3. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

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    Tornados frighten me. I've never even seen one in person (they don't happen in my part of the world), but even a picture is enough to give me the shivers. I hope I never have to live through one.
     
  4. Seth_L

    Seth_L Screenwriter

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    I narrowly missed a 2nd Xenia tornado a few years ago while I was at college. The sky was green that day. Thanfully the twister narrowly missed our college and only rotated a few cars behind my dorm parking lot (where I was in the basement).

    The tornado went through a shopping center where a Walmart and Kroger were. I was at the Walmart just a few minutes earlier and drove back back to school to narrowly miss it again. [​IMG]
     
  5. Jason_Els

    Jason_Els Screenwriter

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    I was in Ohio on a similiar night, May 31, 1985 when there was a super outbreak of tornadoes all over eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. The storm produced the only F5 tornado in PA history. I was at college and the town right next to us was nearly leveled-- except for a stone bank, a water tower, and a funeral parlor with a little debris in its lawn but otherwise untouched including the hanging baskets on the porch!

    That night we all stayed outside as my dorm had no basement and the walls were all glass. We could hear the storms all around the town and people were getting calls from friends in surrounding areas talking about the horrendous damage. It was a terrifying night. Just sitting outside, waiting for something to happen.

    I do not understand living in tornado alley and not having a basement or a storm cellar. Even my parents' house here in NY has an alcove in the basement that doesn't extend under the house for just such emergencies (and oddly enough an F2 touched down not 50 yards from the house in 1981). I have to imagine that trailer parks must have zoning requirements for community shelters yet it appears many places don't. It really boggles my mind that someone would buy or build a house and NOT have someplace other than a closet or interior room and it's pathetic zoning doesn't appear to require it.

    I have been close to two tornadoes living here in New York. One at my parents' house, another at work in Newburgh, when something hit a school (though Dr. Fujita classified it as an F1 or a microburst) less than half a mile away taking the lives of nine children when the cafeteria wall collapsed. Never assume, "it can't happen here."
     
  6. Jason_Els

    Jason_Els Screenwriter

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    It's like a cliche from Twister but it's true. I've seen that color and it scares me. I stop what I'm doing and look around when I see, as Rusty says, "greenage".
     
  7. Scott Leopold

    Scott Leopold Supporting Actor

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    I guy I know was in the Xenia tornado from a couple years ago, and didn't know it at the time. He was at the Wal-Mart that got hit, then ran across the street to the gas station. He drove away, looked in the rearview mirror and saw the lights of the gas station. He drove a little further, looked in his mirror again, and the lights were gone. He figured they had shut down for some reason and had turned out the lights. He didn't realize until he got home that the gas station just wasn't there anymore when he looked back.

    A couple years after the big Xenia tornado, a small one ripped through, taking about the same path as the big F5. We heard the sirens, and ran back to the restroom. before we could get there, a bunch of insulation came down from the attic through a vent. We heard the tornado go overhead, then ran out front to see what had happened. This skinny, gray whisp of a tornado was making its way across 35. There was a house across the highway where they'd been redoing the roof. We watched as it ripped what little roof was there off the house. It went a little further, then dissipated. Our house didn't take any damage, but our neighbor's chain-link privacy fence was bent down in the middle.
     
  8. Scott Leopold

    Scott Leopold Supporting Actor

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    I get a sick feeling in my stomach when I see the sky turn that unnatural green color. About eight years back, shortly before I got married, we had a terrible storm come through. I still lived at my parents' house at the time, which is only about 5 minutes from work. I left around 3pm, and came home as the sirens were going off. It was windy, but I didn't think much of it.

    When I got home, the air at ground level was still, but the clouds were moving quite fast. The sky had also turned a sickening green color. I realized that was a bad sign, but wasn't really worried until I looked up and saw the clouds circle back in on themselves. A massive funnel cloud formed right about my parents' house as I watched.

    I decided that was a good as time as any to get inside, so I ran in, grabbed the phone and my stereo, and ran down to the basement with the dog. I was down there all of ten seconds when my curiosity got the best of me. I went up and looked out front. The rain was coming down so hard, I couldn't see out the window. I looked out back, and it was just as bad. That's when I noticed that there was rain spraying in on the enclosed patio. The windows were bowed in, and the rain was spraying in as if someone was holding a firehose on them. I did the sensible thing, and ran upstairs to get some towels. I went out on the patio and put the towels down, trying to soak up as much of the water as I could. While I was doing this, a piece from our neighbors' fence exploded against the side of the patio, right above one of the windows. That kind of snapped me back to my senses, and I ran down to the basement.

    After 15 minutes or so, things quieted down. As I headed upstairs, my dad got home. We looked out back, and it didn't look too bad. The creek had flooded, and was as much as 60 feet wide in spots (normally 1-3 feet across). There was no visible damage to the house or patio, but a piece of the neighbors' fence had punched a hole in our portion of the fence. About half of their fence had also been knocked down on the far side. We drove around the neighborhood and saw some trees down, but that was about it.

    It turns out things were a bit exciting at work. One of the managers and one of my coworkers were out on the dock smoking when the storm hit. They tried to get in, but the wind pulled the door shut on the manager's arm. She was caught out there in the pouring rain until someone opened the large overhead door and was able to pull her free of the other door.

    My uncle worked at the Ryder garage just down the road. Several employees there reported seeing a twister touch down. They watched as it picked up a semi and threw it through one of the garage doors. A mechanic was walking past the door at the time, and when the truck hit he was knocked through the air, and landed on the other side of the garage. He spent a week or so in the hospital after that.

    The NWS reported that, contrary to all the reported sightings, there were no tornadoes that day, and that there had only been straight line winds.
     
  9. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    There's a name I'll never forget.
    Although I never lived in Xenia...I lived fairly close in eastern Indiana. Seemed like every other day we were under a tornado warning.

    I recall Gil Whitney well. And seeing the old-fashioned type radar scopes used on the TV weathercasts, with 04/03/1974 yielding a distinctive "hook" echo pattern at Xenia on the radar. I'll never forget that. Scary as hell.

    At about 4:00 PM WHIO-TV weatherman Whitney broadcast an unofficial tornado warning for Xenia based upon images from the station's newly-installed radar. His action violated National Weather Service procedures but was widely credited with keeping the number of casualties low.


    Here's some stuff that'll really taken all Buckeyes down memory lane ......

    http://www.marmotgraphics.com/jim/jo...al_021004.html
     
  10. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    Xenia, Ohio; April 1974.....

    [​IMG]
     
  11. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

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    I'm guessing the violation was declaring a tornado warning?
     
  12. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    Evidently.

    I seem to recall a "3-tiered" tornado advisory system in place back in the 70s .... Tornado Watch, Tornado Warning, and Tornado Alert. I don't think the Alert phase is utilized anymore. Anyone else recall this system being used by the Natl. Weather Service?
     
  13. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    Amazing Tornado Trivia.....

    The deadliest tornado in U.S. history was the "Tri-State Tornado" of March 18, 1925. Nearly 700 people died in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. It stayed on the ground for an unbelievable 3.5 hours, encompassing 219 miles: from Ellington, Mo., across the southern tip of Illinois to Princeton, Indiana.

    http://www.atmos.albany.edu/student/tomjr/tristate.html

    [​IMG]
     
  14. Chris_Morris

    Chris_Morris Screenwriter

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    Being a big weather nut, storm lover, and trained SkyWarn spotter, I can't believe I forgot this was the anniversary. I think I have a tape about the Super Outbreak, I'll have to go back and watch it.

    Not completly sure about the Tornado Alert, couldn't find anything on NOAA or NWS. Most likely that was a local thing.

    One of the best sources of information, outside of taking Basic and Advanced SkyWarn classes is NOAA/NWS Tornado FAQ


    Chris
     
  15. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    Yes, perhaps you're right about that, Chris.
     
  16. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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  17. Seth_L

    Seth_L Screenwriter

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    My friend was in the Chinese resturaunt that was in between the Kroger and the Walmart he was in the bathroom washing his hands opens the door to walk out and everyone runs in with him. When they left the place was destroyed...
     
  18. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    ....And then the very next afternoon, on Thursday, 04/04/74, Henry Aaron (on his first swing of the '74 N.L. season) smacked his 714th career home run off of Reds' righthander Jack Billingham, at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, tying Babe Ruth's all-time HR record.

    Areas surrounding Cincinnati, in fact, were also hit fairly hard by the tornado outbreak of April 3rd & 4th, with several fatalities.

    In fact, the Reds/Braves Opening Day game at Riverfront was in some doubt until the last minute due to the left-field fence actually being blown down by the fierce storms of the previous night.

    That '74 Opener, for those Reds' fans who might recall it, was one of the better Openers at Cincy...with the Reds pulling out a 7-6, 11th-inning win when Pete Rose sprinted home all the way from second base on a wild pitch by Atlanta reliever Buzz Capra.

    "And this one belongs to the Reds!!"

    http://www.baseball-almanac.com/boxscore/04041974.shtml
     
  19. Matt Pelham

    Matt Pelham Screenwriter

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    Wow, I had never heard of this before but that is incredible. I remember being in the middle of the "mini-tornado outbreak" in Florida on February 22, 1998 which left 42 dead, and that was scary enough.
     

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