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Five tornadoes confirmed in Ohio on 44th anniversary of Xenia disaster

XENIA (WCMH)--The National Weather Service offices in Wilmington and Charleston, West, Virginia, confirmed five tornadoes touched down late Tuesday afternoon, Apr. 3, 2018, beginning with a supercell thunderstorm that spawned a tornado (EF1) north of Xenia at 4:45 p.m.

Coincidentally, at 4:40 p.m. on April 3, 1974, a massive tornado touched down west of Xenia, leaving a trail of death and destruction more than a half-mile wide in places.

The storms Tuesday evening, which caused additional damage between Selma and South Charleston, in Clark County, south of London, in Grove City, and south of Thornville, in Perry County, were much weaker in intensity, compared to the April 3,-4, 1974 Super Outbreak in the eastern United States.

The Apr. 3, 1974, Xenia tornado--one of a 14 to recorded in Ohio that day--leveled about a quarter of the city, striking the city with deadly precision on a warm and humid early spring day.

The physical scars are mostly gone after 44 years, but the emotional ones linger for residents who either lived through the storm, or who grew up in the Greene County community, 60 miles southwest of Columbus. Deadly tornadoes also struck Xenia in 1933, 1989 and 2000.

In 1974, there was no Doppler weather radar or countywide siren and digital alert systems. The Cincinnati Weather Service advised Dayton personnel of a dangerous cell with a strong "hook echo" developing, indicative of strong rotation southwest of Xenia.

The widening funnel cloud, which merged from two funnels, according to eyewitnesses, slammed into the southwest side of Xenia. The storm destroyed more than 300 homes and damaged 2,100 more, affecting nearly half of the homes and businesses in the city.

The violent tornado continued northeast and struck the campus of Central State College, in nearby Wilberforce, causing tens of millions of dollars in damage.

Eight millimeter film, taken by a 16-year-old high school student, revealed multiple vortices swirling menacingly around the parent funnel cloud before it plowed through Xenia with deadly precision.

The F5 tornado, with winds approaching 300 mph, tore through the heart of Xenia, leaving 33 dead directly in the path of the tornado, and 1,300 injured. A memorial was later constructed downtown with the names of the storm victims.

The killer tornado ended its 32-mile path in southwestern Clark County, five miles west of South Charleston--very close to the end point of EF1 tornado on Tuesday. The same rotating supercellular thunderstorm on Apr. 3, 1974, spawned tornadoes in Clark/Madison and Franklin counties, though considerably weaker in strength.

Total storm damages in modern dollars incurred during the 1974 tornadoes would be near $1.2 billion today--the costliest tornado outbreak in Ohio history. 

Another deadly F5 tornado on Apr. 3, 1974, took several lives and injured 200 others in the Cincinnati area, tracking from Rising Sun, Indiana, to Sayler Park, Mack and near Dent, along a 21-mile path. 

A powerful F4 storm killed one person and hurt 30 people that struck Elmood Place, and traveled 20 miles to north of Mason--the fifth consecutive violent tornado (F4/F5) late that day. An additional tornado death occurred at West Union, in Adams County.

The Super Outbreak on Apr. 3-4, 1974, claimed 316 lives in the United States and Canada, with total storm-related deaths around 330 persons. The 148 confirmed tornadoes was the greatest 24-hour outbreak in the nation's history until April 27, 2011, when 199 tornadoes occurred in the South.


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