Retired fire fighter recalls deadly Xenia tornado

Damage left behind from the 1974 Xenia tornado. (Photo/NOAA/National Weather Service)
Damage left behind from the 1974 Xenia tornado. (Photo/NOAA/National Weather Service)

XENIA, Dayton (WDTN) – Exactly 41 years ago Friday an F-5 tornado levelled Xenia. More than 30 people were killed and 1,100 were hurt. A lot has changed since but for those who lived through it, the memories are still fresh.

Jim Langan was a firefighter in Xenia when the tornado hit. He says it started off like any other day, until the sky changed.

“Green, gray, yellowish looking clouds coming in,” said Langan. “If you want to call it ominous, that was it.”

The tornado lasted four to five mniutes and caused major damage.Langan says he instantly jumped into action.

“We first sort of go through house to house sort of brick to brick,” said Langan. “Checking every home business making sure that the structures were sound, after we made sure that there was no body in them.”

Crews came from all over to help, including Montgomery County and the national guard. Langan says four Xenia firefighters kept working despite losing their homes.

More than one thousand homes were lost, but the city rebuilt, and Langan says it’s been for the better. Many buildings were upgraded with sprinkler systems and fire alarms.

Langan said, “There are several homes out where I live built in the last 10-15 years and everyone of them has a tornado shelter in the basement or somewhere with in the structure. Which we never had before.”

That tornado was part of the The Super Outbreak of 1974. The second-largest tornado outbreak on record for a single 24-hour period.

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