Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Place of the Devil Wind

National Weather Service photo of the F5 tornado

I didn't live in Ohio when this tragedy happened but the very mention of this event strikes fear in many Southwestern Ohio residents. A super outbreak of 148 tornadoes occurred in 13 states beginning on April 3rd, 1974 and ending on April 4th. It still ranks as one of the largest natural disasters in American history. Xenia OH was the hardest hit community. Half of the city was removed from the map in a matter of minutes.

I remember when I first moved to Cincinnati Ohio in 1979, there was a tornado warning in effect one evening. I was at a friends house whose family was from Dayton OH, which is right next to Xenia. I'd been in tornado warnings before and it is scary but my friend's family was really freaking out. This is why.

What is interesting is that this area was well known by American Indians for severe weather events and warned settlers not to build permanent settlements here. The Shawnee called it  "the place of the devil wind". There have been twenty recorded tornadoes in this area since 1884.

Xenia Tornado
April 3, 1974

OHS marker in front of the 1799 Galloway Log Home
On April 3, 1974, at 4:40 p.m., a devastating tornado touched down here, destroying a large portion of the City of Xenia. The mile-wide tornado entered in the southwest quadrant of the city and did not leave the ground until it had demolished hundreds of homes, schools, and commercial buildings. A total of 34 lives were lost, including two National guardsmen who were in a building when it caught fire. Hundreds of people were injured with property losses exceeding more than $100 million. For weeks following the tornado, the sound of trucks was heard throughout the city carrying the remains of homes, schools, churches, and businesses. This marker stands directly in the path taken by the tornado and serves to remind us that-"Xenia Lives."

more info and photos

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