Remembering the Xenia Tornado

The recent devastation in the southern United States caused by severe weather brings to mind a local city devastated nearly 40 years ago by a tornado super outbreak still classified as one of the worst on record. Xenia, Ohio, is a small city that most people outside Ohio would never have heard of—had it not been the site of one of the worst tornado disasters in history. On April 3rd, 1974, the city recorded 33 deaths, over one thousand injured—and found it easier to count the few homes that were not destroyed than the ones damaged or completely leveled. Although the city of Xenia shows little sign today of the destructive path of the massive storm—images from recent storms in Alabama and North Carolina remind many of us just what Xenia looked like in the aftermath of that 1974 super outbreak  .

I was still too little in 1974 to remember “taking the drive” to Xenia in the days following the storm. I lived in southern Ohio at the time—and while we had faced severe weather, we were a rural county away from the nearest tornado and over an hour from the path of the worst storms. The majority of my grandfather’s family, however, lived in the Xenia/Dayton/Kettering area and many were directly involved in the Xenia tornado. Many suffered damaged homes and injuries and a few lost homes completely. The stories of survival—and the vivid memories were ones that I frequently heard retold during family gatherings and on the anniversary of the event for years to come.

One cousin, barely in his twenties at the time, shielded his family beneath a mattress in a bathtub while his home was nearly destroyed around them. An uncle would tell of seeing one tiny telephone stand holding a family Bible—the only item untouched after another home was completely destroyed in that same subdivision. Before and after photographs of some of the city’s landmarks tell more of the story than my written words could ever manage.

Our hearts and prayers go out to those suffering horrific losses recently in the storms damaging so much of the United States. The strength and community support that rebuilt Xenia so long ago is still alive and well in so many as is apparent by the outpouring of volunteer support. I haven’t been to Xenia in a few years—my grandpa’s passed away along with most of his brothers and sisters--but, most of his remaining family still lives there and never considered leaving.

Xenia takes a memorable spot on my Z to A in May blog challenge postings for the letter X.

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  1. Hello fellow Ohioan. I worked with a gal who lived in Xenia at the time this happened. So, like you heard the first story accounts. Awful.

  2. Me...again making blog rounds for z-a



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