Anniversary of the Xenia, Ohio F5 Tornado
April 3, 1974 - 34 People Perished in One of the Worst F5 Tornadoes in History
April 3 is the anniversary of one of the worst F5 tornadoes in history. At 4:42 p.m.on April 3, 1974, this cataclysmic tornado ripped straight through the town of Xenia, Ohio. Of the 148 tornadoes that were produced by this super storm cell, the one that hit Xenia was the worst.
While many stories of this tornado exist, I want to tell the story of my father, who saw the tornado and the impact it had upon our family and the countless families in Ohio from that year on.
A tornado can strike anywhere and it is advisable that you are prepared for anything that can occur. It is too late to wait until afterwards. Don't think that it cannot happen to you.
Follow the story of the Xenia tornado below in photos, videos and stories of survivors.
My Father, Charles C. Villars and the Xenia Tornado
April 3, 1974
I was 13 at the time. I was an outdoor kid and loved walking fields and looking up at the sky. While I knew of the existence of tornadoes, I never really thought about them. Heck, who cares unless it affects you, right?
I lived in Wilmington, Ohio and my father worked in Fairborn, Ohio at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. He got up early every day to drive to work and usually arrived home between 5-5:30pm. Because of the distance to work, my Father had a carpool and he always drove and had "riders" with him. I remember one in particular. He was a friend of my Father's named John Bright. John was the co-pilot in the car and was always in the front on the passenger side of the car.
My Father's drive to and from work, took him into the corporation of Xenia and then he would take a detour around the center of town because it saved time on the drive.
On his way home on April 3, 1974, he and his riders encountered the Xenia Tornado. I can remember him telling us that he saw it getting ready to cross the road directly in front of their path and heading straight into into Xenia. He and his riders were unsure what direction that it was going to turn or continue the way it looked like it was heading. My Father, always owned American Motors cars and at the time, he had a 6 cylinder AMC Sportabout. That particular model wasn't known for speed and my Father told us that he had the pedal to the floor.
They took a chance and continued to drive towards our hometown of Wilmington and played their cards right. When you see a tornado, you probably don't know which direction it is coming unless you stop and watch it and that may not be a good idea. By the time you try to get away, you could be taken up into it. The path of the tornado was crossing the road directly in front of them and my Father accelerated until he got past it, hoping he could beat it before it crossed the road. The Xenia tornado then crossed the road behind them and directly into the town of Xenia. My Father said that John was on the passenger's side of the car pushing on the gas pedal to the floor and yelling "GO GO GO!", even though he wasn't driving and my Father thought he would push a hole through the floorboard. My father said that he saw it hit a greenhouse and the purple flower petals went up into it and the color of the tornado briefly turned purple.
When my Father arrived home, the television went on and we all went out in the yard to look up into the sky. My father had developed a fear that another one would hit our hometown.
From that point on in my life, I remember my Father going into the yard every time the conditions were right for a tornado. If there was a tornado watch or warning, we would all go into the basement of our home. Living on a hill, we would probably be a victim before lower elevation homes.
That day, there were 148 tornadoes across the tri-State area. We had heard, although I have never seen this anywhere else, that the tornado actually picked up the Xenia courthouse and tilted it from it's foundation. I have never confirmed this.
We were not victims that day but many were. After the Xenia, Tornado, many cities built alarms and ways to help save lives.
I will never forget that day and it was a bigger part of my Father's memories before he passed away.
Tornado Forming Before it Strikes Xenia - April 3, 1974
The Super Outbreak of April 3, 1974
Have you ever seen the movie "The Perfect Storm?" This would be the best term to define what happened on April 3, 1974.
The tornado outbreak of April 3rd and April 4th 1974 resulted in a culmination of 148 tornadoes in thirteen states. I am relating the story of Xenia in this website but across the USA, there were 315 fatalities and over 6,000 were injured. More than 27,000 families lost property during this outbreak.
Other than the largest in Xenia, there were 12 other tornadoes in Ohio killing two other than the 34 that were killed in Xenia. The photo progression that you see in this website shows the touchdown of the tornado at approximately nine miles outside of Xenia. From the touchdown, it only took 10 minutes to reach Xenia. Of the 27,000 who had property damage, there were 300 homes demolished, nine churches and the majority of schools in the town, 7 of 12. Obviously, school had already let out or the casualty rate would've been higher.
The tornado was so powerful, it picked up a freight train that was traveling through town and scattered it throughout downtown, blocking the main streets. In the audio file below, you can hear the train horn blowing. The train tracks were never rebuilt after the tornado.
Other than the fatalities, over 1,300 were treated for injuries and countless others were affected by the damage and power outages.
The tornado was an F5, the most powerful possible tornado with 300 mile per hour winds. It is one of the largest ever recorded before or since.
Xenia was struck again in 1989 and 2000. I don't think I'll be moving there anytime soon.
"I've never seen anything like it and never want to see it again."
The Xenia, Ohio Tornado from a Distance - The darkness of the tornado is debris that the tornado picked up.
Video of the Xenia, Ohio Tornado
What Are Tornadoes? - National Geographic - A wonderful book for a child to learn about this force of nature
This book is an excellent gift for a child that needs to learn about tornadoes and the danger that they can cause. If not to understand beforehand, they will definitely be interested if they hear about one that actually occurred on the news.
Actual Audio Recording of the Xenia, Ohio Tornado - This is really creepy, especially if you listen with headphones on.
- An Actual Audio Recording of the Xenia, Ohio Tornado - April 3, 1974
If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of the train blowing it's horn before it is struck.
The Tornado Strikes Xenia, Ohio - April 3, 1974
"That was a wild, sad, day, one of my former students from Loveland was killed in Xenia as the tornado threw her against a wall."
Xenia, Tornado - April 3, 1974 - This housing area was wiped out
Tornado Preparation Kits and Information - Be prepared and safe during tornado season
More Xenia, Ohio Tornado Video - This video gives you chills. I don't think I would be standing this close.
Actual 1974 Tornado Warnings from the Radio in Xenia, Ohio
"At least one freight car was tossed into or onto a nearby furniture factory. One account says the engineer was sounding warning blasts on the air horns as he watched the approaching storm."
"It's the worst disaster I've ever seen."
Preparing for a Natural Disaster - The time is now!
Natural disasters can occur in most any region in the United States. You should be prepared during these times and prevention should be the focus, instead of reaction. This is a good book to help you prepare for most types of natural disasters. You don't need to go to the extreme as the Doomsday people and this book will help you prepare.
Aftermath of the Xenia Tornado
The Xenia Tornado on Radio, WHIO Television, Channel 7
F5 Tornadoes in the United States 1950-2012
"In the heavens, a storm of an overwhelming magnitude was forming. Children went to school, people went to work and lives went on as normal until the second worst storm of the 1900's struck."
Xenia Tornado Survivors React to Tornadoes
32 Who Lost Their Lives During the Xenia, Tornado, April 3, 1974 and 2 Who Lost Their Life in the Aftermath - The Xenia, Ohio Tornado Memorial
Photo by Author of Website