Xenia Tornado of 1974

Xenia tornado cloud 1974

Xenia tornado cloud, April 3, 1974

Spooky wild and gusty; swirling dervishes of rattling leaves race by, fleeing the windflung deadwood that cracks and thumps behind.

~ Dave Beard

One of the scariest things about spring in the Midwest is the ever-present danger of tornadoes. As a child growing up in central Illinois, I remember stories my parents told of friends having homes blown away, of crops being flattened, and other such terrifying possibilities. My mom, for example, watched a tornado go behind her car by just a few miles. My father told stories of barns full of machinery and tools being leveled by the force of the wind. For years, I couldn’t stand to watch The Wizard of Oz, just because of the tornado scene.

Not long before my mother passed away, I remember getting the phone call that a tornado had gone through my hometown. And where was my mother? Watching it through the kitchen window. The same kitchen window that was directly behind the tree that ended up through the back window of the car. The same kitchen window that was next to the dining room, where a board from the shattered storage unit crashed through multiple layers of siding and house construction materials to wind up horizontally stuck into the back of the dining room hutch, from the outside of the house. The same kitchen window that was directly across from the large propane tank, which was later found in the middle of the front yard, on the other side of the house from where she stood.

Since moving to Ohio, however, I’ve learned that those fearsome tornadoes of my childhood were nothing to the King of Tornadoes of lore in these parts. We live just a few miles from Xenia, Ohio, which I have learned sort of functions like a tornado-magnet. The most famous of those, however, was the F-5 tornado which struck as part of a supercell of 148 tornadoes across the Midwest on April 3, 1974.

Xenia tornado destruction of house

House demolished by Xenia tornado, April 3, 1974

That one killed 33 people and injured more than 1,300. Creating a path more than half a mile wide, it damaged more than $100 million of property in Greene County. (For more information and pictures, check out our Dayton Daily News blog post from 2011.)

Scary stuff, tornadoes are. What’s the closest weather disaster you’ve encountered?

[Note: This post is #24 of 26 of the April A-to-Z Challenge. Please see the button at the right of the page for more information.]


Filed under April A-to-Z Challenge, History

6 responses to “Xenia Tornado of 1974

  1. My mom and uncle had similar experiences with the ’74 Xenia twister, watching it from their farm. My family and I were in Florida on vacation right before Hurricane Charlie, but didn’t get to see it. I’d like to ride out a hurricane!

  2. sherri

    this is too weird! as i was looking for the link to your main page to mark your blog in my bookmarks, the title caught my eye. i’m originally from Dayton and my husband; then future husband, was deployed in the Xenia tornado aftermath. small world.

  3. tomshiba

    The closest that I ever had was in 1962 when a tornado went through our backyard in Toledo, Ohio. It wreaked some havock in the neighborhood, mostly large trees, but it was my first and only encounter so far. I was more afraid of my older sister screaming when the lights went off than the storm itself. It was an adventure afterwords when we saw the damage it had inflicted, and the natural playthings that the fallen trees became. I hope to see more tornadoes in the future.

  4. tomshiba

    Oh, one more thing. I remember the day that Xenia was hit. The weather in Toledo was pretty bad as I recall. I can’t remember details, but we probably had a thunderstorm warning along with a tornado watch. I do remember Channel Eleven news showing a special report about a town called “Xenia” getting hit very badly by a tornado. My only thought was, “Where is Xenia?”

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