40th Anniversary of the Super Outbreak

Posted: April 3, 2014, 1:39 pm by mmurphy

(Above) Aerial damage photo of the Xenia and Wilberforce, OH area courtesy of the National Weather Service Wilmington, OH and Attila Kilinc

The April 3-4th, 1974 Super Outbreak affected 13 states across the eastern US, from the Great Lakes region down into the Deep South. 148 tornadoes were documented from this event, of which 95 were rated F2 or stronger on the Fujita scale and 30 achieved F4 or F5 ratings. Since, this outbreak took place the United States & Canada now measure tornado strength/damage using a new scale, called the Enhance Fujita or EF-scale which better accounts for the quality of construction and standardizes different types of structures.  This outbreak was the second largest tornado outbreak on record for a single 24 hour period, just behind the April 2011 tornado outbreak when 358 tornadoes were confirmed in a three day period. Click here for a detailed map showing the path length, and strength off all 148 tornadoes reported during this outbreak, created by Dr. Fujita.

(Above) F5 tornado approaches Xenia, OH courtesy of the National Weather Service Wilmington, OH and Fred Stewart

During the 1974 Super Outbreak the 148 tornadoes caused over 3.5 billion dollars (2005) in damage and unfortunately 335 fatalities, along with more than 6,000 injuries. Some of the strongest tornadoes from this outbreak occurred in the Ohio Valley. Two violent F5 tornadoes destroyed much of Xenia, OH and Sayler Park, OH. Resulting in 34 deaths, the Xenia tornado was the deadliest in this outbreak; compare this with the 64 deaths caused by the Tuscaloosa/Birmingham, AL tornado in April 2011. The Xenia, OH tornado touched down around 4:33PM just outside of town, and moved into central Xenia by 4:40PM on April 3rd, 1974. The number of fatalities were likely reduced by the fact that the National Weather Service in Dayton, OH had issued a tornado warning for the area at 4:10PM, which was in effect through 5:00PM, giving the residents a reasonable amount of time to seek shelter. For an up-close photo of the powerful tornado click this link & for a photo of the severe damage inflicted by this tornado click here.

(Above) Severe tornado damage in Xenia, OH during the 1974 outbreak. Courtesy of the National Weather Service in Wilmington, OH

Another powerful, F5 tornado took aim at the western suburbs of Cincinnati about an hour later. This was the only Tri-State tornado of the Super Outbreak. This tornado touched down near Rising Sun, Indiana around 5:30PM on April 3rd, 1974, passed through northern Kentucky, then crossed the Ohio River inflicting severe damage in Saylor Park and other neighborhoods west of Cincinnati. This tornado knocked out power to the Cincinnati weather service office, resulting in the loss of radar, teletype, and most other forms of communication. Fortunately, most of the worst tornadoes had already occurred before the loss of power, but this event helped the National Weather Service to recognize the need for emergency power backup. Here is a link to an incredible photo of this powerful tornado!

(Above) F5 tornado approaches Sayler Park and Bridgetown, OH courtesy of the National Weather Service in Wilmington, OH and Frank Altenau

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