Xenia forever changed by tornado

This still frame from WDTN's coverage of the Xenia tornado shows the extreme devastation that hit the community.
This still frame from WDTN's coverage of the Xenia tornado shows the extreme devastation that hit the community.

XENIA, Ohio (WDTN) – Memories are still fresh four decades after a deadly tornado demolished the city of Xenia, April 3rd, 1974.

We searched our archives for some of the most dramatic video of those hit hardest 40 years ago.

For some, the anniversary means reliving painful memories. For others, this is a look back to understand the loss.

There were no sirens or warnings as a black funnel of fury came through like a bulldozer, leveling everything in its path.

Everything was over in four or five minutes; and those few minutes were all it took for Xenia to become a pile of rubble.

An F-5 tornado tore through the town, with winds exceeding 300 miles an hour, just before 4:30 that afternoon.

More than 30 were killed and 1100 were injured.

Neighborhoods were unrecognizable. More than 1,000 homes shredded to pieces. They became nothing more than splintered wood and slabs of concrete.

The Arrowhead neighborhood was hit especially hard.

“It even took the sheets off of my basement line. The windows went out in the basement of course. My garage left and you couldn’t even see where it ever went to. The whole garage. Didn’t even leave a board,” a resident told WDTN’s news crew just after the storm.

The twister also left its mark on Xenia education, pummeling schools.  Central State University was heavily damaged.

“Just looking over, you never really realized until that time that’s how much I really loved this school,” a student remarked as he surveyed what was left of the campus.

Classrooms were demolished, windows blown out and ceilings ripped off. But, amid the devastation, desks were still nearly lined up in a lecture hall.

“The whole campus was devastated,” explained another student, “It was hard for me to believe and it was hard for me to really understand what they were going to do about it.”

The tornado and subsequent damage put dozens of stores out of business. 1,200 workers were laid off while the city sifted through more than $100 million worth of damage.

The loss of life could have been much greater had it not been for Daylight Saving Time. In 1974, clocks were turned ahead one hour on Jan. 6. Daylight Saving Time did not take effect until late April during the previous year. Because of the time change occurring earlier, the tornado hit at 4:30 p.m. and not 3:30 p.m. If the time change didn’t occur there could have been kids still at school or walking home from the bus.

The deadly tornado was one of 148 that touched down in 13 states that day. More than 330 people were killed and about 6000 were injured during the 16-hour Super Outbreak.

The damage path covered more than 2,500 miles.  Two F5 tornadoes touched down in Ohio.  One in Xenia and the other in Sayler Park just outside of Cincinnati.

Ninety-five tornadoes were rated EF2 or higher on the Fujita Scale.  Thirty were F4 or F5.

That tornado left lives forever twisted, and even 40-years later, the memories of that fateful day are still vivid.

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