Today marks the 45th anniversary of the April 3, 1974, F5 tornado that moved through Xenia, OH. The tornado was apart of the Super Tornado Outbreak of ’74 that lasted 2 days, April 3rd through April 4th. This tornado outbreak produced 148 tornadoes that touched down across 13 different states.
Back then NWS forecast offices were known as the Weather Service Office (WSO). In 1974 there were two offices in this area. One in Cincinnati and one in Dayton. On that day, the NWS in Wilmington, OH says “At one point, the CVG radar screen displayed five distinct hook echoes –more than meteorologists there had ever seen before. Shortly after 4:30 PM, a call was made by WSO Cincinnati to WSO Dayton to ensure they had seen the hook echoes, of which one was quickly approching Xenia.” It is then said that the NWS in Dayton “had already issued a tornado warning for Montgomery and Greene counties around 4:10 PM (in effect until 5:00 PM), based on radar indication of a possible tornado 25 miles northeast of Cincinnati moving northeastward.”
Below is a look at the radar from April 3, 1974.
A tornado touched down near Lower Bellbrook Rd. around 4:33 PM, it is said it destroyed almost all of Windsor Park and much of the Arrowhead subdivisions. The tornado continued into the City of Xenia, OH around 4:40 PM. Once the tornado outbreak was over, after careful analysis of the damage created from the tornado in Xenia, OH. Dr. Ted Fujita, the creator of the tornado scale, and other experts determined that the Xenia, OH tornado was the worst tornado out of all the tornadoes in the entire outbreak. It is said out of the 148 tornadoes that touched down, 95 of them were rated F2 or stronger. That includes 30 tornadoes that were F4 and F5 ratings.
Unfortunately, people did lose their lives in the Xenia, OH tornado.
6000 plus people were injured from the entire outbreak and
300 plus people lost their lives. In Xenia, 34 people lost their lives.
After the outbreak, President Nixon had toured the damage in Xenia, OH. It is said the outbreak caused hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage. The NWS in Wilmington, OH says “the Xenia tornado was the deadliest of all tornadoes from this outbreak and remains among the top 10 costliest U.S. tornadoes on record (approximately $250 million in 1974).”
Following the tornado outbreak, better technology was created, that helped to create better warning times and more accurate forecasts, there was better emergency preparedness, communications were improved, and the NWS in Wilmington, OH says “In the aftermath of this horrific event, many lessons were learned that has since been applied by various government agencies to mitigate hazards in subsequent severe weather outbreaks.”
The Fujita scale, created by Dr. Ted Fujita after the 1974 outbreak was updated to the Enhanced Fujita scale in the 2000s with changes to how we measure the strength of tornadoes.
You can see a comparison of the F scale with the EF scale from the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) here: Enhanced Fujita Tornado Damage Scale.
Also, see more on the 1974 tornado outbreak from the NWS here: The Super Outbreak of April 3-4, 1974.