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Gallery: 1974 Super Tornado Outbreak
April 3, 1974
The morning of Wednesday, April 3, 1974, began with a
forecast of warm air with a chance of rain, maybe thunderstorms, for the eastern
half of the United States.
By noon, temperatures had reached the upper 70s, winds were
blowing at 30 mph, humidity was high, and an explosive mix was brewing as a jet
stream blowing about 100 mph out of Texas was meeting with a cold front from the
Rockies and warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico.
Hardly anyone realized that the United
States was beginning to experience what is still our country's worst natural disaster.
Over a 16-hour period, 148 tornados touched down in 13 states at a rate of one
every six minutes, a phenomenon so rare that most of us won't ever see this again in our
|About the photographer: John Hultgren
captured these images while assisting with rescue and relief operations
A student at Ohio University in Athens at the time, John has stayed in
the emergency services field and is working on the 30th anniversary of
the outbreak as a flight paramedic in
By the time it was all over, destruction
stretched over 2,500 miles, leaving 330 people dead and 5,484 others injured.
Six of the day's tornados (including one in
Xenia, Ohio) had an F5 Fujita rating,
meaning winds may have blown over 300 mph with enough force to debark trees and
turn cars into missiles.
The 13 states struck by twisters during the
16-hour super tornado outbreak includes Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana,
Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina,
Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
This is a collection of photos that were taken
in Xenia, Ohio, during rescue and cleanup operations over the days that
Xenia, population 25,000, was literally
devastated. 33 people were killed, over 1,600 were injured, and 1,600 buildings
were destroyed. Property damage was estimated at $80 - $100 million. The width
of the tornado was up to a mile wide and winds were 340 - 380 mph. A 52-car
train moving through Xenia was derailed and scattered by the tornado, dividing
the city literally in half and hampering rescue efforts. Two National Guard
members were killed when a fire broke out in a building where they were seeking
shelter during the rescue operations.