Editor’s note: On April 3 and 4, 1974, a series of deadly tornadoes struck the Midwest, causing destruction and havoc and the loss of more than 300 lives. Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana were among the worst hit, suffering 167 deaths. An F5 tornado on the Fujita scale touched down in Xenia, Ohio, killing 32 and destroying more than 1,000 homes. Another F5 tornado hit Sayler Park, killing four people. This Super Outbreak was one of the worst in history.
We present the front page coverage from The Cincinnati Enquirer on April 4, 1974.
Tornadoes kill 5 in county; loss more than $15 million
Deadly tornadoes ripped a north-easterly course through Cincinnati and Hamilton County Wednesday afternoon and evening, killing at least five persons, injuring hundreds.
Edwin Fenstermacher of the city Building Department estimated damages in Cincinnati alone at $15-20 million.
The damage reports from some areas were almost incredible, with trees uprooted, homes and buildings smashed and literally blown away, power lines down, telephone service out – and hundreds upon hundreds of people left homeless.
At Longview State Hospital, a tornado sucked a wall away from the fourth floor of building and sent it crashing down atop Jerry Teague, 30, a patient, killing him.
The other four known fatalities:
Marjorie Sams, 17, 674 Glenwood, a student at Withrow High School who was killed by a falling tree limb outside the school.
Albert McMurray, 84, 2204 South Rd., who was in a house that was hit by a tornado.
James Boyle, 39, 6291 Rocknoll Lane, whose van was hit by a tornado at Harrison Avenue and Valley Ridge Road.
George John Matt, 80, 10941 Colerain Ave., who was in a storm-caused auto accident on Colerain just south of Bank Rd. He stepped from his car, apparently uninjured, then dropped dead while talking to bystanders.
Near midnight, area hospitals reported 200 injured, and the number continued to climb. Of the total, 43 were admitted and 157 treated and released.
The last major tornado to hit the area was on August 9, 1969, when 264 persons were injured. The total from Wednesday’s twisters almost certainly will surpass that.
Everyone was affected.
National Guard troops were called out in the communities of Blue Ash, Elmwood Place and Sharonville – at the request of County Sheriff Paul J. Fricker – “for security purposes.”
Looting was reported in Sayler Park, which is part of the city of Cincinnati and which apparently was the hardest hit area locally.
The National Weather Service, located at the Greater Cincinnati Airport, was virtually out of business. Power was knocked out at 5:40 p.m., and there was no telephone service there. Also knocked out was the radar at the airport.
At 9 p.m., Fricker declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew until 6 a.m. today, meaning no unauthorized persons of the streets.
In Sayler Park, a two-block area was virtually devastated. Up and down Holmes City Avenue, cars were upside down, trees were felled and in one area – apparently a subdivision – it was impossible to tell what debris belonged to which house.
Fire Chief Bert Lugananni asked that Sayler Park be declared a disaster area. Remarkably, there were relatively few injuries there – perhaps because of early warningns.
Area residents were warned of the impending tornados at 4:10 p.m. by the Hamilton County Civil Defense air raid siren – the first time in recent memory that the siren has been used for anything but testing.
Within an hour, they started to hit.
At 4:30 p.m., hospitals went on a “full disaster alert,” with all personnel kept on duty. By 8:30 p.m., at least one hospital – Bethesda North – reported it could handle no more emergency cases.
The Cincinnati Police Division called in its third shift about three hours early – at around 8:30 – to handle the problems.
The Red Cross set up emergency headquarters.
The winds ripped through the Valley Shopping Center in the 7600 block of Reading Road. The front window of a supermarket blew out, signs from several stores fell on cars, power lines were down and at the Roselawn Pharmacy there, the owner, Irv Amrein, said, “Our roof is off, water is seeping in, and the damages will run in the thousands and thousands of dollars.”
In the Dent-Mack area in Green Township, damage was extensive and there was one fatality – Boyle.
Roofs were ripped off homes, and a police officer estimated at least 200 people in the area were homeless. All power in Green Township was out.
In Avondale, where a tornado touched down, electricity was off to the District Four police station.
The Western Hills shopping center was blacked out at 8:40 p.m.
About 20-30 trailers in the Yorktown Trailer Park off Fields-Ertel Road overturned.
In the same general area, dozens of people were reported injured, and countless homes were damaged.
In Elmwood Place, Vine Street was reported “all torn up,” and homes and businesses were damaged. A number of residents were injured, including Elmwood Place Councilman Melvin Griffin, 6319 Vine St., whose arm, face and legs were cut by glass from a window that shattered in his home.
Electricity to the Cheviot Police Station was knocked out at 5:45 p.m.
In Blue Ash, police reported 20 to 25% of the homes in the city were damaged. Other hard-hit areas were Sharonville, White Oak and Bridgetown.
Through it all there was the human drama.
A girl about eight years old was brought into Jewish Hospital. She gave a name, but didn’t know her address, her school – anything.
“She said her house went down and crushed her dolly,” a spokesman at the hospital said.
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