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The Super Outbreak is the largest tornado outbreak on record for a single 24-hour period. From April 3 to April 4, 1974, there were 148 tornadoes confirmed in 13 USmarker states, including Illinoismarker, Indianamarker, Michiganmarker, Ohiomarker, Kentuckymarker, Tennesseemarker, Alabamamarker, Mississippimarker, Georgiamarker, North Carolinamarker, Virginiamarker, West Virginiamarker, and New Yorkmarker; and the Canadian provincemarker of Ontariomarker. It extensively damaged approximately 900 square miles (1,440 square kilometers) along a total combined path length of 2,600 miles (4,160 km).

The Super Outbreak of tornadoes of 3-4 April 1974remains the most outstanding severe convectiveweather episode of record in the continental UnitedStates. By nearly every metric imaginable,the outbreak far surpassed previous and succeedingevents in severity, longevity and extent.

Meteorological synopsis

Surface map at around 6:00 pm CST on April 3, 1974
A powerful spring-time low pressure system developed across the North American Interior Plains on April 1. While moving into the Mississippi and Ohio Valley areas, a surge of very moist air intensified the storm further while there were sharp temperature contrasts between both sides of the system. NOAA officials were expecting a severe weather outbreak on April 3, but not of the extent which ultimately occurred. Several F2 and F3 tornadoes had struck portions of the Ohio Valley and the South in a separate, earlier outbreak on April 1 and 2, and this earlier storm system included three killer tornadoes in Kentuckymarker, Alabamamarker, and Tennesseemarker. The town of Campbellsburgmarker, northeast of Louisville, was hard-hit in this earlier outbreak, with a large portion of the town destroyed by an F3. Between the two outbreaks, an additional tornado was reported in Indiana in the early morning hours of April 3, several hours before the official start of the outbreak.

On April 3, severe weather watches already were issued from the morning from south of the Great Lakesmarker, while in portions of the Upper Midwest, snow was reported, with heavy rain falling across central Michigan and much of Ontario. St. Louis, Missourimarker was pounded by a very severe thunderstorm early in the afternoon which, while it did not produce a tornado, did include damaging baseball-sized hailstones.

By the early afternoon, numerous supercells and clusters of thunderstorms developed and the outbreak began quickly, with storms developing in central Illinois and a secondary zone developing near the Appalachiansmarker across eastern Tennessee, central Alabama, and northern Georgia. The worst of the outbreak shifted towards the Ohio Valley between 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm EDT where it produced four of the six F5s over a span of just two hours when three powerful supercells traveled across the area—one in central and southern Ohio, a second one across southern Indiana and Ohio, and a third one in northern Kentucky.

Upper-level winds during the Super Outbreak
the evening hours, activity again began to escalate farther to the south, with several violent tornadoes crossing the northern third of Alabama. Activity also spread to central Tennessee and eastern Kentucky, with numerous tornadoes, most of which were concentrated in the Cumberland Plateau region. Additional supercells developed across northern Indiana and southern Michigan producing additional violent and/or killer tornadoes between 6:00 PM and 10:00 PM EDT including the Windsor, Ontariomarker tornado. Michigan was not hit as hard as neighboring states or Windsor, with only one twister which hit near Coldwatermarker and Hillsdalemarker causing any fatalities, all in mobile homes; however, thunderstorm downpours caused flash floods, and north of the warm front in the Upper Peninsulamarker, heavy snowfall was reported.

Activity in the south moved towards the Appalachians during the overnight hours and produced the final tornadoes across the southeast during the morning of April 4.

A 2004 survey for Risk Management Solutions, citing an earlier Dr. Ted Fujita study, found that three-quarters of all tornadoes in the Super Outbreak were produced by 30 'families' of tornadoes; i.e., multiple tornadoes spawned in succession by a single thunderstorm cell. Note that most of these tornadoes were not associated with squall lines. These were long lived and long track supercells.

Events and aftermath

Super Outbreak storm system at 2100 GMT on April 3, 1974 (courtesy of NOAA)
Never before had so many violent (F5 and F4) tornadoes been observed in a single weather phenomenon. There were six F5 tornadoes and 24 F4 tornadoes. The outbreak began in Morris, Illinoismarker, at around 1 p.m. on April 3. As the storm system moved east where daytime heating had made the air more unstable, the tornadoes grew more intense. A tornado that struck near Monticello, Indianamarker was an F4 and had a path length of 121 miles (193.6 km), the longest path length of any tornado for this outbreak. Nineteen people were killed in this tornado. However, the first F5 tornado of the day struck the city of Xenia, Ohiomarker, at 4:40 pm EDT. It killed 34, injured 1,150, completely destroyed about one-fourth of the city, and caused serious damage in another fourth of the city.

Five more F5s were observed—one each in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky, and two in Alabama. Twenty-eight were killed in Brandenburg, Kentuckymarker, and 30 died in Guin, Alabamamarker. One tornado also occurred in Windsor, Ontariomarker, Canadamarker, killing nine and injuring 30 others there, most of them at the former Windsor Curling Club. During the peak of the outbreak, a staggering fifteen tornadoes were on the ground simultaneously. At one point forecasters in Indiana, frustrated because they could not keep up with all of the simultaneous tornado activity, put the entire state of Indiana under a blanket tornado warning. This was the first and only time in U.S. history that an entire state was under a tornado warning.

There were 18 hours of continuous tornadic activity. The outbreak finally ended in Caldwell County, NCmarker, at about 7:00 am on April 4. A total of 315 to 330 people were killed in 148 tornadoes and 5,484 were injured.

The Super Outbreak occurred at the end of a very strong, nearly record-setting La Niña event. The 1973–74 La Niña was just as strong as the 1998–99 La Niña. Another tornado outbreak, which may be linked to La Niña, was the March 12, 2006 tornado outbreak. Despite the apparent connection between La Niña and two of the largest tornado outbreaks in US history, no definitive linkage exists between La Niña and this outbreak or tornado activity in general.

Some tornado myths were soundly debunked (not necessarily for the first time) by tornado activity during the outbreak.

List of tornadoes

Xenia, Ohio

Ground zero for the Super Outbreak was the city of Xenia, Ohio. This tornado stands as the deadliest individual tornado of the Super Outbreak, resulting in 32 deaths and the complete destruction of a significant portion of the town. It was one of the most intense storms then known, stripping some trees bare of their branches, snapping large trees in half and depositing their crowns 50 feet away, and leveling nearly all structures in the damage path. Although this tornado was rated F5 on the (then) recently-introduced Fujita scale, Dr. Ted Fujita himself came close to rating the Xenia damage F6. Along with the 1999 Moore, Oklahoma tornado, the 1974 Xenia tornado is one of the strongest ever recorded.

The tornado formed near Bellbrook, Ohiomarker, southwest of Xeniamarker, at about 4:30 pm EDT. It began as a moderate-sized tornado, then intensified while moving northeast at about 50 mph (80 km/h). A passing motorist filmed the tornado at its early stages and noticed that at one point two tornadoes formed and merged into one larger tornado. Gil Whitney, the weather specialist for WHIO-TVmarker in Daytonmarker, alerted viewers in Montgomerymarker and Greene Countymarker (where Xenia is located) about the possible tornado, broadcasting the radar image of the supercell with a pronounced hook echo on the rear flank of the storm several minutes before it actually struck. The storm was visable on radar because of raindrops wrapping around the circulation.When the storm reached Xenia at 4:40 PM, numerous structures were completely destroyed, including apartment buildings, homes, businesses, churches, and schools including Xenia High School.. Several railroad cars were lifted and blown over as the tornado passed over a moving freight train in the center of town. The hardest hit area, and the first area struck, were the Arrowhead and Windsor Park subdivisions near U.S. Route 68, where many houses were completely swept away. It toppled gravestones in Cherry Grove Cemetery, then moved through the length of the downtown business district, passing west of the courthouse, and into the Pinecrest Garden district, which was extensively affected. This still photo shows the tornado as it passed Greene Memorial Hospital, destroying homes in Pinecrest Gardens northeast of downtown.
The tornado as it is hitting downtown Xenia moving toward the old Xenia high school.
It is now over a half mile wide and has aquired F-5 strength.
(photo by Kitty Marchant)
The tornado as it passes through Xenia moving toward Greene Memorial Hospital.

The Xenia tornado was caught on film by one resident, and it's sound was recorded on tape by another. There is a relationship between the footage and the recording. A resident recorded the sound of the tornado from inside an apartment complex. Before the tornado hit the building, the resident left the tape recorder on, so it continued recording. The recorder was found after the storm, and the recording was made public.. At the same time and a few blocks away, Xenia resident Bruce Boyd (who was 16 years old at the time), was able to capture 1 minute and 42 seconds of footage of the tornado with a "Super-8" 8mm movie camera, a pre-1973 model without sound recording capability. The footage from this film was later paired with the nearby tape recording made at the same time. The film clearly shows multiple vortices within the larger circulation as the storm swept into and through Xenia.

A few pictures were taken of the tornado before it entered Xenia and many when it was going through the city. The early pictures of the tornado, which were taken far away by Homer G. Ramby, show the whole tornado, and clearly show what the tornado looked like before entering Xenia. The photos taken inside the city and from downtown and Greene memorial hospital, suggest that the tornado turned into an F-5 monster inside the city.

Upon exiting Xenia, the tornado passed through Wilberforcemarker, heavily damaging several campus and residential buildings of Wilberforce Universitymarker. Central State University also sustained considerable damage. Afterwards, the tornado weakened before dissipating in Clark Countymarker near South Viennamarker, traveling a little over 30 miles (48 km). Its maximum width was a half mile (0.8 km) in Xenia. The same parent storm later spawned a weaker tornado northeast of Columbusmarker in Franklin Countymarker.
Some of the structural damage to a building in Xenia, Ohio
32 people were killed in the disaster, and about 1,150 were injured in Xenia alone. In addition, two Ohio Air National Guardsmen deployed for disaster assistance died when a fire swept through their temporary barracks in a furniture store on April 17. About 1,400 buildings (roughly half of the town) were heavily damaged or destroyed. Damage was estimated at US$100 million. President Nixon visited Xenia personally, and declared the area a federal disaster area. It took several months for the city to recover from the tornado, with the help of the Red Crossmarker and the Ohio National Guard assisting the recovery efforts. Most of the town was quickly re-built afterward.

The Xenia tornado was one of two rated F5 that affected Ohio during the outbreak, the other striking the Cincinnatimarker area (see Cincinnati/Sayler Park area tornado, below). Xenia was again struck by a tornado in September 2000, an F4 twister that killed one and injured about 100 in an area just north of the 1974 path.

Before the 1974 storm, the city had no tornado sirens. After the F5 tornado hit on April 3, 1974, ten sirens were installed across the area.

Fujita himself studied the film and the damage and discovered much about tornadoes that was not known before. Because of this fact plus the fact that it was the worst of the 148 tornados of the super outbreak, and the fact it was almost rated an F-6, the Xenia tornado has become one of the most notorious tornados of the 20th century.

A memorial was installed near Xenia City Hall to commemorate the tornado victims.

Brandenburg, Kentucky tornado

+Outbreak death toll
State/Province Total County County

Alabamamarker 77 Cullmanmarker 1
Fayettemarker 2
Lawrencemarker 14
Limestonemarker 16
Madisonmarker 16
Marionmarker 23
Winstonmarker 5
Georgiamarker 16 Dawsonmarker 5
Gordonmarker 6
Haralsonmarker 1
Murraymarker 1
Pickensmarker 1
Whitfieldmarker 2
Illinoismarker 2 Champaignmarker 1
Maconmarker 1
Indianamarker 47 Clarkmarker 1
Decaturmarker 2
Franklinmarker 2
Fultonmarker 6
Hancockmarker 1
Harrisonmarker 2
Jacksonmarker 1
Jeffersonmarker 10
Kosciuskomarker 1
Noblemarker 4
Perrymarker 2
Randolphmarker 1
Scottmarker 1
Steubenmarker 2
Washingtonmarker 1
Whitemarker 10
Kentuckymarker 71 Boylemarker 1
Clintonmarker 8
Franklinmarker 4
Hardinmarker 2
Jeffersonmarker 3
Madisonmarker 7
Meademarker 31
Nelsonmarker 1
Pulaski 6
Rockcastlemarker 1
Simpsonmarker 1
Warrenmarker 2
Waynemarker 4
Michiganmarker 2 Hillsdalemarker 2
North Carolinamarker 6 Cherokeemarker 4
Grahammarker 2
Ohiomarker 42 Adamsmarker 1
Greenemarker 36
Hamiltonmarker 5
Ontariomarker 9 Essex 9
Tennesseemarker 45 Bradleymarker 3
Cannonmarker 1
Fentressmarker 7
Franklinmarker 5
Knoxmarker 2
Lincolnmarker 6
McMinnmarker 1
Overtonmarker 3
Pickettmarker 5
Polkmarker 1
Putnammarker 10
Warrenmarker 1
Virginiamarker 1 Washingtonmarker 1
West Virginiamarker 1 Fayettemarker 1
Totals 319
All deaths were tornado-related

The Brandenburg tornado, also producing F5 damage, touched down in Breckinridge Countymarker at 4:25 pm CDT and followed a 34-mile (54 km) path. First producing F3 damage at the north edge of Hardinsburgmarker , the storm intensified as it moved into Meade Countymarker, producing F5 damage as it swept through Brandenburg, along the Ohio River before dissipating in Indianamarker. 31 were killed in the storm including 18 at a single block of Green Street in Brandenburg. The vast majority of homes and businesses including the High School, the Baptist Church, the old bank building and the Meade Hotel were either damaged or destroyed. The radio station WMMG marker was also destroyed. Sadly, the citizens of Brandenburg had received very little warning, which may account in part for the tragically high death toll; it has been reported that the only warning received by listeners to WMMG was when the disc jockey on duty looked out the window, saw the twister coming, and shouted at his listeners to take cover, shortly before the twister destroyed the radio station.

Several tombstones in the Cap Anderson cemetery were toppled, broken and even some were displaced a small distance. Most of the trees vanished as well.

A complete description of homes and other structures destroyed in order by the tornado in Brandenburg can be found here.

When the twister struck on April 3, 1974, many of the Brandenburg residents at that time had also experienced a major flood of the Ohio River that affected the area in 1937 as well as numerous other communities along the river, including Louisville and Paducahmarker.

The same storm would later produce tornadoes in the Louisvillemarker metro area.

Louisville tornado

About an hour after the Brandendurg tornado, an F4 tornado formed in the southwest part of Jefferson Countymarker near Kosmosdalemarker. Another funnel cloud formed over Standiford Field Airportmarker, touched down at The Kentucky Fair and Exposition Centermarker, and destroyed the majority of the horse barns at the center and part of Freedom Hallmarker (a multipurpose arena) before it crossed Interstate 65, scattering several vehicles on that busy expressway. The tornado continued its 22-mile (35 km) journey northeast where it demolished most of Audubon Elementary School and affected the neighborhoods of Audubon, Cherokee Triangle, Cherokee-Seneca, Crescent Hillmarker, Indian Hillsmarker, Northfieldmarker, Rolling Hillsmarker, and Tyler Parkmarker. The tornado ended near the junction of Interstates 264 and 71 after killing two people, injuring 207 people, destroying over 900 homes, and damaging thousands of others. Cherokee Parkmarker, a historic municipal park located at Eastern Parkway and Cherokee Road, had thousands of mature trees destroyed. A massive re-planting effort was undertaken by the community in the aftermath of the tornado.

In addition to the two fatalities directly associated with the event, two other deaths were indirectly associated; a heart attack in the immediate aftermath and a construction worker who fell while repairing Freedom Hall two weeks later.

Dick Gilbert, a helicopter traffic reporter for radio station WHAS-AMmarker, followed the tornado through portions of its track including when it heavily damaged the Louisville Water Company's Crescent Hillmarker pumping station, and gave vivid descriptions of the damage as seen from the air. A WHAS-TVmarker cameraman also filmed the tornado when it passed just east of the Central Business District of Louisville.

WHAS-AM broke away from its regular programming shortly before the tornado struck Louisville and was on-air live with John Burke, the chief meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Louisville office at Standiford Field when the tornado first descended. The station remained on the air delivering weather bulletins and storm-related information until well into the early morning hours of April 4. As electrical power had been knocked out to a substantial portion of the city, the radio station became a clearinghouse for vital information and contact with emergency workers, not only in Louisville but across the state of Kentucky due to its 50,000-watt clear-channel signal and the fact that storms had knocked numerous broadcasting stations in smaller communities, such as Frankfortmarker, off the air. Then-Governor Wendell Ford commended the station's personnel for their service to the community in the time of crisis, and Dick Gilbert later received a special commendation from then-President Richard Nixon for his tracking of the tornado from his helicopter.

DePauw and Madison, Indiana tornadoes

Of the F5 tornadoes produced by the outbreak, the DePauw tornado was the first to form, touching down at 3:20 pm local time. It is probably the least-known of the F5 tornadoes in the outbreak as it traveled through rural areas in southern Indiana northwest of Louisvillemarker, traversing about 65 miles (104 km) through parts of Perrymarker and Harrisonmarker Counties. F5 damage was observed near the community of Depauwmarker, while areas near Palmyramarker, Martinsburgmarker and Bordenmarker were also heavily affected by the tornado. All but 10 homes in Martinsburg were destroyed; in the Daisy Hill community homes were completely swept away. Published photographs of this storm reveal a very wide debris cloud and wall cloud structure, with no visible condensation funnel at times.. Overall, six were killed by the storm and over 75 were injured. It was the only F5 that had a path width in excess of 1 mile (1.6 km).

Soon after the Depauw tornado lifted, the Hanover/Madison F4 twister formed and traveled through Jefferson Countymarker and leveled many structures in the small towns of Hanover and Madison. Eleven were killed in this storm while an additional 300 were injured. According to a WHAS-TVmarker Louisville reporter in a special report about the outbreak, 90% of Hanover was destroyed or severely damaged, including the Hanover Collegemarker campus. Despite the fact that no one was killed or seriously injured at the college, 32 of the College's 33 buildings were damaged, including two that were completely destroyed and six that sustained major structural damage. Hundreds of trees were down, completely blocking every campus road. All utilities were knocked out and communication with those off campus was nearly impossible. Damage to the campus alone was estimated at about US$10 million.

The same storm would later strike the Cincinnatimarker area, producing multiple tornadoes including another F5.

Cincinnati/Sayler Park area tornado

The tornado was only one of two F5 tornadoes in recorded history to have traveled through three states, the other being the Tri-State Tornado that pummeled Missourimarker, Illinoismarker, and Indianamarker on March 18, 1925. The Cincinnati/Sayler Park tornado traveled through portions of Indianamarker, Kentuckymarker and Ohiomarker.

The Cincinnati Area F5 tornado taken near Bridgetown

The Sayler Park tornado was among a series of tornadoes that earlier struck portions of southern Indianamarker from north of Brandenburg, Kentuckymarker, to the Ohio border. It began shortly before 4:30 pm CDT or 5:30 pm EDT in southeastern Indiana in Ohio Countymarker north of Rising Sunmarker near the Ohio River. It then traveled towards Boone County, Kentuckymarker, before reaching its maximum strength in the western suburbs of the Cincinnatimarker Metropolitan area. Most severely affected was Sayler Park at the western edge of the city where F5 damage occurred. Homes were swept away in a hilly area near a lake, and boats were thrown and destroyed. Other areas near Cincinnati also suffered extensive damage to structures. This tornado was witnessed on television by thousands of people, as WCPOmarker aired the tornado live during special news coverage of the tornadoes.

Other areas affected were Bridgetownmarker, Mackmarker, Dentmarker and Delhimarker. Damage in Delhi was rated as high as F4.

The second so-called F5 "Tri-State" tornado killed 3 and injured over 100 in Hamilton County, Ohiomarker. It was considered the most-photographed tornado of the outbreak.

This tornado dissipated west of White Oakmarker but the same thunderstorm activity was responsible for two other tornado touchdowns in the Montgomerymarker and Masonmarker areas. The Mason tornado, which started in the northern Cincinnati subdivisions of Arlington Heightsmarker and Elmwood Placemarker, was rated F4 and killed two, while the Warren Countymarker tornado was rated an F2 and injured 10.The storm that spawned this family of tornadoes weakened before moving through portions of the Miami Valley and the rest of southern Ohio.

Monticello, Indiana tornado

This half-mile (0.8 km) wide F4 tornado developed (as part of a tornado family that moved from Illinois to Michigan for 260 miles) during the late afternoon hours. This tornado produced the longest damage path recorded during the Super Outbreak, on a SW to NE path that nearly crossed the entire state of Indianamarker. According to most records, this tornado formed near Otterbeinmarker in Benton Countymarker in west central Indiana to Noble Countymarker just northwest of Fort Waynemarker - a total distance of about 121 miles (194 km).

Further analysis by Ted Fujita indicated that at the start of the tornado path near Otterbein, downburst winds (also called "twisting downburst") disrupted the tornado's inflow which caused it to briefly dissipate while a new tornado formed near Brookstonmarker in White County at around 4:50 pm EDT and then traveled for 109 miles (174 km). It also struck portions of six other counties, with the hardest hit being White Countymarker and its town of Monticellomarker. Much of the town was destroyed including the courthouse, some churches and cemeteries, 40 businesses and numerous homes as well as three schools. It also heavily damaged the Penn Central bridge over the Tippecanoe River. Overall damage according to the NOAA was estimated at about US$250 million with US$100 million damage in Monticello alone.

Other communities such as Rochestermarker and Ligoniermarker were hard hit.

Nineteen were killed during the storm including five from Fort Waynemarker when their mini-bus fell 50 feet (15 m) into the Tippecanoe River near Monticello. One passenger did survive the fall. Five others were killed in White County, six in Fulton Countymarker and one in Kosciusko Countymarker. The National Guard had assisted the residents in the relief and cleanup efforts and then-Governor Otis Bowen visited the area days after the storm.

One of the few consolations from the tornado was that a century-old bronze bell that belonged to the White County Courthouse and served as timekeeper was found intact despite being thrown a great distance.

The tornado itself had contradicted a long-time myth that a tornado would "not follow terrain into steep valleys" as while hitting Monticello, it descended a 60-foot (18 m) hill near the Tippecanoe River and damaged several homes afterwards.

Tanner, Alabama tornadoes

As the cluster of thunderstorms were crossing much of the Ohio Valley and northern Indiana, additional strong storms developed much further south just east of the Mississippi River into the Tennessee Valley and Mississippi. The first clusters would produced it first deadly tornadoes into Alabama during the early evening hours.

Most of the small town of Tannermarker - west of Huntsvillemarker in Limestone Countymarker was destroyed when two violent tornadoes struck the community 30 minutes apart. The first tornado formed at 6:30 pm CDT in Franklin County, Alabamamarker and ended just over 90 minutes later in Franklin County, Tennesseemarker. Serious damage from this first storm began in the Mt. Moriah community, with homes swept away near Moultonmarker. Crossing the Tennessee River as a large waterspout, the storm then slammed into Tanner before dissipating near Harvestmarker. Eyewitnesses reported that the tornado was quite large and demolished everything along its 51-mile long path.

While rescue efforts were underway to look for people under the destroyed structures, few were aware that another equally violent tornado would strike the area. The path of the second tornado, which formed at 7:35 pm CDT was 50 miles in length, and the storm formed along the Tennessee River less than a mile from the path of the earlier storm; the first half of its' path very closely paralleled its predecessor. Many of the structures that were missed by the first tornado in Tanner were demolished along with remaining portions of already damaged structures; the communities of Capshaw and Harvest were likewise struck twice.

Many other structures in Franklin, Limestone and Madisonmarker counties were completely demolished, including significant portions of the communities of Harvestmarker and Hazel Greenmarker just northeast of Tanner.The death toll from the two tornadoes was over 50 and over 400 were injured. Most of the fatalities occurred in and around the Tanner area. Over 1,000 houses, 200 mobile homes and numerous other outbuildings, automobiles, power lines and trees were completely demolished or heavily damaged.

At least the first of the Tanner tornadoes is rated as an F5 according to most sources. However, NWS record shows that both of them were rated the highest-scale. The rating of the second Tanner tornado is still disputed by scientists and some of the regional NWS offices; analysis in one publication estimates F3 damage along the majority of the second storm's path, with F4 damage in and around Tanner([48554]) ([48555]).

This was the second state to have been hit by more than two F5s during the Super Outbreak. The next occurrence of two F5s hitting the same state on the same day happened in March 1990 in Kansasmarker. Meanwhile, the next F5 to hit the state was on April 4, 1977 near Birminghammarker

Jasper, Guin & Huntsville, Alabama tornadoes

While tornadoes were causing devastation in the northwestern most corner of the state, another supercell crossing the Mississippi-Alabama state line produced another violent tornado that touched down in Pickens Countymarker before heading northeast for nearly 2 hours towards the Jaspermarker area causing major damage to its downtown as the F4 storm struck at about 8:00 pm CDT. Damage was also reported in Cullman Countymarker from the storm before it lifted. The storm killed at least 3 and injured over 150 while 500 buildings were destroyed and nearly 400 others severely damaged. At the same time, a third supercell was crossing the state line near the track of the previous two .

The Guin tornado was the longest-duration F5 tornado recorded in the outbreak. It formed at around 8:50 pm CDT near the Mississippimarker-Alabama border and traveled over 100 miles (160 km) to just west of Huntsvillemarker and lifted just after 10:30 pm CDT; the formation of this tornado was preceded by a number of reports of large hail and straight-line wind damage around Starkville, MSmarker. The path of the Guin tornado was just a few dozen miles south of where the Tanner tornadoes struck about two hours earlier.

The tornado killed 23 in Guin in Marion Countymarker and another five in the community of Delmarmarker in Winston Countymarker. Close to 300 people in total were injured, and Guin was left in ruins.

A large number of homes (over 500) were leveled and the Bankhead National Forestmarker lost a considerable number of trees when the tornado hit.

Huntsville was affected shortly later by a strong F3 tornado produced by the same thunderstorm; this tornado produced heavy damage in the south end of the city, destroying nearly 1,000 structures. The tornado then reached the Monte Sano Mountainmarker, which has an altitude of 1,640 feet (492 m).

Windsor, Ontario, Canada tornado

In addition to its numerous other records, this outbreak also spawned one of the deadliest tornadoes in Canadianmarker history. Affecting Windsor, Ontariomarker and surrounding areas in southwestern Essex County, the F3 twister killed nine people and injured over 20. All of the fatalities occurred inside a curling rink (the former Windsor Curling Club) just south of the downtown area that was heavily damaged. This tornado is likely the same one that had touched down in Flat Rockmarker, Michiganmarker about 7:50 pm (19:50) Eastern Time. Since the storm arrived after dark, it was all the more dangerous.

The storm that brought it in was accompanied by blinding lightning, and torrential rains as it first touched down on southeastern edge of the Devonshire Mallmarker, which was undergoing a large addition. It severely damaged the steel structure for a new department store, but thankfully no one was on the site at the time. The tornado lifted as it crossed the E.C. Row Expressway, then touched down again tearing the roof off the vehicle painting facility at Chrysler Canada's Windsor Assembly Plantmarker. Once again, the facility was vacant, except for two security guards, due to re-tooling that was taking place. The guards took shelter in a secure room on the ground floor just moments before the tornado struck.

The tornado continued across a vacant field, directly behind the Windsor Curling Club. It struck the Club at exactly 8:09 pm, sending the large roof of the structure into the air, sending pieces of it into the surrounding neighborhood, and causing the back wall to collapse on the people inside. Those inside were unaware of the severe weather that had been bearing down on them, as they had been playing in a curling bonspiel, and had no way of knowing about the tornado warnings that had been issued just twenty minutes earlier. Ironically, this curling bonspiel was being sponsored by Chrysler Canada, which was also a victim of the tornado itself, when it tore the roof off the nearby paint facility.

One woman who narrowly escaped death happened to be entering the curling club from the east at the exact moment that the tornado struck. The winds caught her as she opened the door, and she screamed for help and hung onto the large door handles for dear life. An unidentified man ran to her help, and grabbed her arms, as she was horizontal, and on the verge of being sucked away. Her shoes were sucked right off her feet and were never found. She was one of the lucky ones that night.

Much of the city was briefly flooded with around 15 centimeters (6 inches) of water from the rain the storm brought, and trees in Cherokee Park being defoliated with nearby houses damaged, in a path roughly 300-400 meters wide having the most damage. Most of the media in the Windsor and Essex County area had been following the weather situation closely in the United States via radio and TV stations from Detroit, and had issued public alerts and warnings in concert with their American counterparts. Ironically and unfortunately, the Canadian Weather Service (now Environment Canada) did not issue a tornado warning until 8:15 pm (20:15), more than 5 minutes after the tornado had struck the Windsor Curling Club. In the aftermath of the tornado, the City of Windsor merged the Windsor Curling Club and Windsor Ladies' Curling Club with its Roseland Golf Course (now the Roseland Golf and Curling Club) in the south end of Windsor, moving from their location on Central Avenue, near Tecumseh Road.

While it was the only tornado reported in Canada from the outbreak, it was the country's deadliest since the 1946 one that killed 17—coincidentally, less than one hundred yards from the path of this tornado.

See also


  1. Data from the Storm Prediction Center archives, which are accessible through [1], free software created and maintained by John Hart, lead forecaster for the SPC.

Further reading

  • Tornado! the 1974 super outbreak, by Jacqueline A. Ball; consultant, Daniel H. Franck. New York: Bearport Pub., 2005. 32 pages. ISBN 1-59716-009-1 (lib. bdg), 1597160326 (paperback).
  • Tornado at Xenia, April 3, 1974, by Barbara Lynn Riedel; photography by Peter Wayne Kyryl. Cleveland, OH, 1974. 95 pages. No ISBN is available. Library of Congress Control Number: 75314665.
  • Tornado, by Polk Laffoon IV. New York: Harper & Row, 1975. 244 pages. ISBN 0-06-012489-X.
  • Tornado alley: monster storms of the Great Plains, by Howard B. Bluestein. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. 180 pages. ISBN 0-19-510552-4 (acid-free paper).
  • Delivery of mental health services in disasters: the Xenia tornado and some implications, by Verta A. Taylor, with G. Alexander Ross and E. L. Quarantelli. Columbus, OH: Disaster Research Center, Ohio State University, 1976. 328 pages. There is no ISBN available. Library of Congress Control Number: 76380740.
  • The widespread tornado outbreak of April 3-4, 1974: a report to the Administrator. Rockville, Md: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 1974. 42 pages. There is no ISBN available. Library of Congress Control Number: 75601597.
  • The tornado, by John Edward Weems. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1977. 180 pages. ISBN 0-385-07178-7.

  • Mark Levine, American Tornado: Devastation, Survival and the Most Violent Tornado Outbreak of the Twentieth Century (Ebury Press, London, August 2007)

External links

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