1974 Tornado
April 3, 2003 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Twenty-nine years ago today, a single storm spawned 148 tornadoes across the American Midwest, including twenty-three F4 and six F5 tornadoes. Here are a couple of sites about this incredible storm. If you're feeling a little uneasy after seeing some of these images, maybe you can assuage your fear by boning up on your tornado safety tips; and, as an added bonus, learn how to detect tornadoes using your television.
posted by Johnny Assay (23 comments total)
"...how to detect tornadoes using your television"

The Weather Channel?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:33 PM on April 3, 2003

The Weather Channel?

That's one way. If your television is being sucked out the of your former living room that's another. The television is such an amazingly useful and versatile invention.
posted by substrate at 12:47 PM on April 3, 2003

mr_crash_davis: I guess that's what I get for hiding my jokes in the title tags...
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:48 PM on April 3, 2003

"I guess that's what I get for hiding my jokes in the title tags."

What's a title tag?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:51 PM on April 3, 2003

He means the title element, which in this case is "wind".
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:55 PM on April 3, 2003

I remember that day. My family had moved to Centerville, Ohio (not far from Xenia) about a year or so earlier. Being from New England, the tornado drills at school puzzled me. Until that day. We drove through Xenia sometime after the storm to gawk.
posted by Dick Paris at 12:59 PM on April 3, 2003

ah, xenia, we hardly knew ye.
posted by quonsar at 1:00 PM on April 3, 2003

Thanks for the info. My girlfriend's old house, when she was growing up, was hit by an unknown/no warning tornado in central Mississippi. To this day, any storm or lighting or thunder gives her the heebie-jeebies.
posted by fijiwriter at 1:03 PM on April 3, 2003

A few years ago, I met a lady who'd driven right into the funnel cloud pictured on the website in the process of destroyinig downtown Xenia. She said she was just drivin' home, mindin' her own business, when she saw a strange black cloud laying across the road. Her mind didn't process the fact that it was a tornado as until it was too late for her to turn back. When she finally realized what was coming at her, she had only time to put the car in park and dive under the dashboard. At that point, everything went dark, and she felt the whole car being lifted and tuned and shaken just like the house in "Wizard of Oz". Less than a minute later, the car was dropped hard, some twenty feet away from where it was picked up. The lady was battered, but not seriously injured.
There's another beautiful story somewhere on the web, about a little boy who was playing in his back yard that day in Xenia, and saw the sky magically fill with flying rectangles. It was only years later that he realized it was plywood boards, picked up and flung into the air like playing cards by the tornado which had passed, invisible to him, on the other side of his house.
posted by Faze at 1:17 PM on April 3, 2003

This tornado appeared suddenly that day about two miles away from where I was riding my bike. The whole sky turned as black as you could imagine in about three minutes. I've heard people talk about the sky turning green, but my experience was that the light itself was green, not the sky. I remember this light was so green that the green lights on lights at intersections were washed out to a weird grey color.

The part of the tornado that I saw was disorienting, because it was obviously too large to be moving at all, let alone that quickly. Like having a large mountain suddenly appear, inverted, and out for an angry stroll.

My mother was threatening to kill me because I wasn't home hiding in our hall closet when this happened, and my arguments about my being about a mile away from our house under a blue sky 10 minutes ago didn't seem to carry any weight, plus I don't think she could hear as she was attempting to apparently smother me with hugs. First time I ever remember seeing a parent scared witless.

About a month later the same sort of thing happened again, and it came up so fast we just rode our bikes into an open garage, and saw what appeared to be half a man waving us toward him. Soon realized he was standing in an entrance to the crawlspace, ordering us under his house with the rest of his family.

Met a cute girl in the crawlspace that day. ;)

I still live in the same town, but my house has a full basement, with an extremely sturdy and large closet in the south-west corner. Felt reassuring seven years ago when another tornado touched down about three blocks away.
posted by dglynn at 1:32 PM on April 3, 2003

Xenia, Ohio, always reminds me of our old penmanship books from grade school...."Xenia" was always the word we had to write to practice the cursive capital X.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:32 PM on April 3, 2003

I remember studying the Xenia tornado when I was in junior high school (mid 80's) in Fairborn, 15-20 minutes drive northwest of Xenia. It was in the Ohio Studies/Local History class. We saw dozens of pictures of destroyed buildings and a map of the city showing where it was hit the worst. I remember hearing about how it barely missed the hospital; I didn't remember how it veered into Wilberforce and destroyed several buildings at Central State (where I worked after graduating college).

Xenia was hit by a tornado again in the year 2000 but the damage was nowhere near as great, since it was a smaller tornado, and it didn't tear through the middle of town, hitting mostly the outskirts to the nortwest.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 1:40 PM on April 3, 2003

picked up and flung into the air like playing cards by the tornado which had passed, invisible to him, on the other side of his house.

must have been WAY on the other side of his house. an F5 sounds like roar of a thousand freight trains, and it's likely flying plywood boards would have decapitated him if he was actually anywhere near it. in 1964 a violent funnel passed within 1/2 mile of our home, one of my classmates had his basement-less house disappear leaving only the pipes in the bathroom walls. his clothing was torn from his body and every inch of his skin had been penetrated by dirt and dust propelled at incredible velocity. we called him old sandpaper the rest of the year. (we were 11 year olds).
posted by quonsar at 1:47 PM on April 3, 2003

I wasn't alive when this happened, but when the F-5 levelled a good part of Moore, OK back in '99, I remember freaking out as I sat watching the news in Waco watching the system move straight towards Tulsa (my original hometown). I'd seen funnel clouds pass over my head, seen a tornado way off in the distance (from a basement window) and been in many potentially tornadic storms myself, but I have never been so scared as when it was coming not towards me, but towards the fast majority of the people that I cared about.

I drove through Moore probably three months or so after that tornado went through, and it was still levelled. Very sad. Thank God we have early warning systems nowadays. Who knows how many lives they saved on that day, and on an annual basis.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:04 PM on April 3, 2003

Um, yeah, vast majority, obviously. I really should read the previews.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:07 PM on April 3, 2003

When I was a child in Altus, OK we got hit, along with Wichita Falls, TX, with a huge tornado. I always loved those events.

Along the road out of town the wooden fence posts were pierced with needles of hay. It was very strange to stand along the fence and look down the row of fenceposts to see hundreds and hundreds of these hay stalks sticking out of the wood.

Also along this road there were two houses across from each other. One was brand new and was smashed into a simple concrete foundation surrounded by broken twigs of what was the house. Across the road was an old turn of the century farm house which was so old and unkept that the internal framing on the house had begun to give way and allowing the house to begin turning along its axis so that it looked like some kind of sagging accordian bellow. After the tornado came through the house had been jiggered so that the bellow flowed in the opposite direction and the window which had been pointing at the road was now pointing away from the road.

Across the border in Texas they showed pictures on the news of a Mustang which had been picked up by the tornado and balanced on top of a stop sign.

I never would have imagined such a sign could hold up a car, but it did.

I too will never forget the change in the light quality when a tornado comes through. Sometimes when I see that shade on something I can feel my body react as though there is a storm coming.
posted by filchyboy at 2:13 PM on April 3, 2003

My family was living in the Western Hills area of Cincinnati when this happened. I remember that before the F5 hit there had been a massive hailstorm. After it had let up the entire neighborhood was outside looking at the ice. I think it was golf-ball size for the most part -- but I was only six so it might have been smaller. A mist rose from the layer that lay in our front yard, and my sister and I proceeded to run around and play in it.

After a bit, one of the neighbors said "Wow, look at that big flock of birds." We all looked and saw what turned out to be debris from the houses of Saylor Park. Everyone bolted indoors except, it turned out, the couple that lived behind us who had gotten some lawn chairs, sat outside, and watched the whole thing from their patio.

Fortunately for us, the tornado jumped over Western Hills. My dad stayed up top to watch it and called us up after it had cleared us. It was an amazing site to see, and about the only thing from my childhood before age 10 that I can remember.
posted by moonbiter at 3:08 PM on April 3, 2003

I was just getting home from school. I lived at about the midpoint between one of the F5s (where 31 were killed) and one of the F4s. What I remember most was sitting on the floor of my room listening to radio traffic copter pilot Dick Gilbert as he tracked the F4. Gilbert was responsible for saving many lives that day.
posted by ?! at 3:46 PM on April 3, 2003

Metafilter: We meet cute girls in crawlspaces
posted by blue_beetle at 4:03 PM on April 3, 2003

She was a damn good distraction. She was real scared, and held my hand through the storm, all the way out of the crawlspace and for about two minutes as we just looked around at the now calm and fresh anew world after the storm. We looked around, and she looked at me, suddenly realized she was still clutching this creature's paw(in public, no less!) and ripped her hand away from mine.

I was, of course, heart-broken. But, I was 12, and got my heart broken about every 20 minutes, so I got over it.
posted by dglynn at 5:46 PM on April 3, 2003

Less than a minute later, the car was dropped hard, some twenty feet away from where it was picked up.

Recent research seems to indicate that contrary to past belief staying in your vehicle if you have no hard shelter (like a storm cellar) is one of the best things you can do.
posted by moonbiter at 5:57 PM on April 3, 2003

That advice to " lie in a ditch or depression with your hands over your head" is crap. The Moore, OK tornado sucked the grass right out of the ground along I 35.
posted by domino at 8:27 AM on April 4, 2003

This is why I'm glad the dorms i live in are made out of concrete blocks. We've been located in the middle of Tornado Alley for 50 years and all the buildings are still standing.
posted by brendoman at 6:32 PM on April 4, 2003

« Older He almost sounds sincere.   |   Mass Grave Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments