The 1974 Tornado Super Outbreak


Tornadoes Are a Global Phenomena But Happen Most Often in the USA...These are From Albania!

Tornadoes Are a Global Phenomena But Happen Most Often in the USA...These are From Albania!

Map of All the Tornadoes on April 4, 1974

Map of All the Tornadoes on April 4, 1974

Car Around Tree in Northfield

Car Around Tree in Northfield

Xenia Ohio...One of the Most Destructive

Xenia Ohio...One of the Most Destructive

On This Date in History: Any Louisvillian who was here on this date in 1974 does not need to hear anything more. They know what happened on that day in history. That is true for much of the Ohio Valley. In one of the largest, if not the largest, outbreaks of tornadoes in US history, 330 people died that afternoon and evening. Some sources say that at one time during the event, 15 tornadoes were on the ground at once. Given the size of the US, that doesnt seem too remarkable to me. I’ve seen photos of 3 tornadoes in one area of one Texas county simultaneously. What is remarkable is that there were 148 tornadoes in 16 hours over 13 states and that nearly 19% were big boppers. Twenty two were reported to be F4 and six were F5. That means that if a tornado came to your town that afternoon, there was about a one in five chance you were getting smacked by a tornado that represented the most powerful concentration of force on the face of

9 yr old's story pg 2

9 yr old's story pg 2

9 yr old's story pg 1

9 yr old's story pg 1

the earth.  In total energy, a hurricane far outpaces a tornado.  But for a brief period in such a relatively small area, an F-5 tornado can have winds pushing toward 300 mph and creates total destruction.  They don’t happen often but to have 22 on one day is quite rare. Of course, the twister that hit Breckenridge county and Louisville was one of those. Folks have told me about the one in Madison, IN. I guess given the destructive power of the storms, perhaps it is also rather unbelievable that only 330 died given that about 50,000 were directly affected. If you scroll back a few days to March 27, you will see that the 1890 tornado in Louisville took 120 lives and it wiped out much of the business district during the night when people weren’t there. No doubt the Louisville total in 1890 would have reached or even surpassed the 1974 national toll had it happened in the day time.

 
Why the Outbreak Occurred
 
Louisville NWS Is Not Certain But Think This Mysterious Monster May be the 1974 Louisville Twister

Louisville NWS Is Not Certain But Think This Mysterious Monster May be the 1974 Louisville Twister

This link has historical radio broadcasts from Louisville.  If you scroll down you will find WHAS radio coverage of the 1974 tornado.  Within those reports you may find those broadcast (or at least a reference) by the radio station’s helicopter pilot who was the eyes and ears of the city.  He is credited with saving lives.  A transcript of the conversations as well as a brief bio of pilot Dick Gilbert can be found here.   Remember, this was prior to all of the intricate warning systems of today and the fancy superduper skywarn doppler tracking 3000 radars on TV.  

 
 
Monster From Main Street Madison IN

Monster From Main Street Madison IN

Here’s a cool link with more details and photographs broken down by state as well as eyewitness accounts:

http://www.april31974.com/

 
Here’s an official version from NOAA and its 25th annivesary in 1999:
 
Technology has brought us many advancements, though often there is some downside to technological breakthroughs. Take the computer for instance…some say that kids are getting fat because they don’t go outside and play any more, preferring to stay indoors and play computer games. But thats a topic for someone elses blog. In this case, technology has greatly enhanced warnings to the point that a big ole outbreak like 1974 resulted in far fewer fatalities than would have happened in the past. You’re never going to eliminate them because of the sheer power involved in the storms. But, you can do the best you can. Thing is, in recent years, fatalities have increased so some work needs to be done. Perhaps its the Paris Hilton syndrome: Over Exposure.
 
 
SPC Severe Outlook For Sunday

SPC Severe Outlook For Sunday

Weather Bottom Line:  The day went pretty much as I expected with a few warnings but really not much action.  By the time the storms got to Louisville, it was the evening hours and so we just got some thunderstorms and rain.  Now, we will be mild on Friday and after perhaps some early rain, the afternoon will be improving though it will be windy.  Saturday looks great with a fair amount of  sunshine and the mercury pushing toward 70.  Though the SPC still is not including the area in an area of speculation, the indecies continue to indicate that we may get whacked on Sunday afternoon.  After that, the GFS wants to throw out about 2-3 inches of snow on Monday.  Even if that does happen, I don’t think that the ground will be warm enough to accomodate that type of accumulation, but it should be interesting to see how it shakes out.  We may not get out of the 30’s though on Monday.  We begin to warm back up on Wednesday.
 
   DAY 4-8 CONVECTIVE OUTLOOK 
   NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
   0345 AM CDT THU APR 02 2009
  
   VALID 051200Z – 101200Z
  
   …DISCUSSION…
   PACIFIC SYSTEM DISCUSSED IN DAYS 2-3 OUTLOOKS IS FCST TO MOVE FROM
   GREAT BASIN REGION ACROSS CENTRAL PLAINS DURING THOSE PERIODS…AND
   ENEWD OVER OH VALLEY DAY-4/5TH-6TH…TAKING MORE NRN TRACK THAN
   SYSTEM NOW MOVING ACROSS TX.  SFC CYCLONE SHOULD MOVE ACROSS OH
   VALLEY…CENTRAL APPALACHIANS AND MID-ATLANTIC REGIONS DAY-4 WHILE
   TRAILING COLD FRONT SWEEPS EWD OVER GULF COAST STATES AND SEWD DOWN
   FL PENINSULA.  OH VALLEY UPPER TROUGH THEN WILL MERGE WITH ANOTHER
   NRN STREAM SHORTWAVE TROUGH DAY-5/5TH-6TH…RESULTING IN LARGE
   CYCLONE ALOFT COVERING MUCH OF ERN CONUS.  SVR EVENT STILL APPEARS
   PLAUSIBLE DAY-4 ALONG/AHEAD OF COLD FRONT IMPINGING ON RETURNING
   GULF MOISTURE OVER DIXIE.  NEXT COLD FROPA WILL PENETRATE DEEPLY
   OVER NRN/CENTRAL GULF…LEAVING CONSIDERABLE UNCERTAINTY ABOUT LOW
   LEVEL MOISTURE AVAILABLE TO NEXT WRN/CENTRAL CONUS PERTURBATION DAYS
   7-8/8TH-10TH.
  
   ..EDWARDS.. 04/02/2009
 

10 Responses

  1. Having lived in Louisville all of my life I do remember that day. I was young (10) at the time and we had gone to visit my Grandparents that day–and they didn’t have a basement. They lived on South Park Road near Okolona so we didn’t get any tornadoes thankfully. I remember asking my Grandma what we would do if a tornado came our way and she replied, “We’ll gather together and pray.” A good thing to do without a doubt, but it didn’t comfort me much at that time. I remember being outside after the storm had blown through. It looked like the clouds were moving overhead at an unusually rapid pace.

  2. I’m older than you are! Cool albania pic, huh?

  3. You’re older than me? You must be old then, buddy! Yeah, when you begin to realize that you have more life behind than before then you know it’s finally happened: You’re old. I remember when I was a kid at the dinner table and would get annoyed at my mother for moving my drink to the far side of my plate to keep me from knocking it over with my elbow. I now understand that she did this to lessen the number of messes she had to clean up but it made it harder to reach my drink and so annoyed me as a child. When I caught myself moving my children’s drinks away from them in the same manner that’s when I first knew that I was officially a parent and on my way to old. Then later when my oldest son got his drivers license I considered that my official certification of oldness. Oh, well. The only way to get old is to live a long time, right? I guess I prefer that to the alternative, at least until my children are fully raised!

    I thought the picture looked re-touched frankly; are you sure it’s real? What are the chances of four tornadoes lining up so evenly spaced in a straight line like that? I honestly don’t know but I would imagine that the odds are quite low. At any rate, it is a pretty cool photo. Do you think that they are potent twisters or more of the “waterspout” variety?

  4. My hair doesn’t turn gray…it just falls out.

    I’ve seen video of six tornadoes within the range of one camera shot in West Texas. That photo was from a University website so I would think it’s legit. I wouldn’t have put it on there if it was from just some random source. They are probably more worthwhile than your run of the mill waterspout. What was interesting about the 74 outbreak was that there were so many twisters that were wedge type tornadoes…big blobs or big cylinders.

  5. Well, I’ll take partially impressed. Please come back and chime in as you please.

  6. hey there, i like tornaqdoes and maddy is cool

  7. all the states will have some watches and warnings

    tornados will hit in each states.

    nobody will get hurt or killed by a tornadoes

  8. Can’t be Haiku because there are too many syllables.

  9. goodness gracious.so so so…….realitic.

  10. I’ve been searching in google for some items and fortuitously found this symonsez.wordpress.com web site. What a cool blog! I admire how particular each of the entries are. They are well balanced, both informatory and funny, and the pictures are nice too.

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