"Death Out Of Darkness" is a public safety documentary about the deadly tornadoes of the 11-April-1965 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak, which affected portions of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The film primarily focuses on the devastation across Northern and Central Indiana. Produced in 1966 by the Indiana State Police and WISH-TV in Indianapolis, narrated by Lt. Dave Levendoski. Video from visualarchivist on YouTube. There were 47 tornadoes in less than 12 hours. This was the 3rd deadliest tornado swarm in U.S. history. See Also: Ted Fujita

Stories

Below are personal recounts of the event. They have been submitted to us by our readers. If you would like to submit your story or photos please click the link in the upper right side of this blog.

Did the Wooden Leg Belong to Bob the Barber?






Submitted by Sue Wilden

Modified from Photo by premasagar
I was just less than a month from my third birthday when the Palm Sunday tornadoes came. My memories are sketchy at best, but they are lasting ones. My family lived on the corner of Clinton Street and Green Road, AKA County Road 30 and it was very rural at the time. No Greenfield Addition, no Roxbury Trailer Park, no water tower, just corn fields. And if anyone can tell me who Harry Green, Green Road’s namesake, was, I would appreciate it.

My brother and I were taken to the basement but my parents stood on the front porch facing the west, to watch the storms. They clearly could see the storm which was devastating Dunlap and the Midway Trailer Park. I am sure this was the same storm my Grandparents and Uncle watched in their dining room window, too afraid to move. We spent many an evening in the basement during 1965, choosing to take cover even for a garden variety summer thunderstorm.

My father helped in the cleanup efforts at Sunnyside and his stories were not pleasant. The most horrific story was the recovery of the eviscerated body of a young boy, which was found in a tree, with his intestines draping out like spaghetti. A wooden leg was found and it was initially feared Bob Voorhees, the local barber, was killed. Fortunately, Bob the Barber was fine and he would remember the tornadoes with a simple 4-11-65 sign on the front of his shop.

The Glad farm belonged to the grandparents of a friend of mine from kindergarten through graduation at Ball State. She in fact lived in the house before it became Peddler’s Village.
To this day, I just “know” bad weather is forthcoming and I am positive this came from Palm Sunday. My grandmother still likes to tell people I could sense a storm when I was little and with the watch and warning systems not being as sophisticated back then as they are today, I usually gave a good half hour lead time before the first bulletins came over the TV. I am still fascinated with tornadoes; I followed the Storm Chasers the past two seasons and I am anticipating seeing the IMAX movie Sean Casey worked so hard in filming. I would also like to see Reed Timmer get a dose of hubris by being tossed to OZ by an F5.

Other storms have come and will come, but none will be as, for the lack of a better word, special, as the Palm Sunday Tornadoes.

Just Another Weekend






Submitted by Jim Stewart

Just Another Weekend
(C) 2009, Jim Stewart

When you are young, time passes slowly, and sometimes it’s a monotonous routine. Monday moves into Tuesday, the week passes, and another ordinary weekend comes and goes. But then there are the times and events that bring change, shaping our lives, our thinking, and our emotions. Such was the Palm Sunday weekend of April 1965.

I grew up as an only child in and near Lima in Allen County, Ohio. Thunderstorms, wind, blizzards, droughts, and the like were commonplace in the Midwest. But what was brewing on that fateful weekend was different.

Shawnee Elementary School and High School
At nine years of age I was in the fourth grade at Shawnee Elementary School, a rather shy kid without many friends. On Friday of that fateful weekend I became progressively ill in class. I stayed for the full day, but was immediately ushered to bed as soon as I got home when my mother found I had a high fever. Our home at the time was located on Ft. Amanda Road near the intersection with Shawnee Road in the Shawnee Township area, about four miles southwest of Lima.

On Saturday morning, I was taken to the doctor to be checked out. The weather was partly sunny, and cool enough that a jacket was necessary. After being treated for the virus, apparently contracted at school, I spent the rest of the day convalescing on the living room couch. That afternoon my father and I watched a Reds game live from Cincinnati that was played under mostly sunny skies. Everyone in the Great Lakes area was totally oblivious to the terror that would move though the region in just over twenty-four hours.

Sunday dawned in a very strange way, at least to me as a young child, as a heavy thunderstorm raged outside with all the ingredients you would expect in the afternoon or evening of a spring day. It was actually a strong warm front pushing its way northward, ushering in very warm, moist, and unstable air to the region along with an unusually strong jet stream high above, a harbinger of the main event now just a few hours away.

The remainder of that morning is rather sketchy. My parents went to church, and I was left at home with my Great, Great Aunt May, who was living with us at the time. I remember that the weather cleared, and by afternoon the sun was shining. My father and I again watched television, the Master’s Golf Tournament from Augusta, Georgia, with bright sunlight streaming through the western windows of the living room. I never ventured outside that afternoon due to my illness, but I do know it had warmed considerably from the previous day.

In the early evening I was feeling better. My parents went to evening church services and my Aunt May looked after me as we continued to watch television. At the time there were no severe weather watches or warnings broadcast, although tornadoes were already occurring to our far west and northwest.

We were watching local channel 35 WIMA-TV as the Wonderful World of Disney came on at 7:30 P.M. and darkness fell. As the program continued, I noticed a strobe-like flashing in the southwestern sky. The flashing was nearly constant and becoming brighter as time passed. Aunt May, who was setting next to a window, became very nervous as she moved to another chair in the interior of the room for fear that the lightning was going to strike her. Strangely, the thunder had yet to be heard, indicating that we were observing a very strong electrical storm still a distance away but moving our way.

By 8:30 P.M. the storm was more to the west-northwest still putting out a large lightning display, but not quite as intense as earlier. There were still no severe weather statements on local television.

Just before 9:00 P.M. my parents returned home from church in time to watch Bonanza. They did not say much about the approaching storm other than that there was a lot of lightning going on in the northwest. Soon after Bonanza began WIMA-TV finally broadcast a vague weather alert from the weather service in Toledo that called for “…severe thunderstorms with a tornado or two till 10:00 P.M.” No references were given to any specific counties as tornadoes raged in several locations at that moment; unfortunately this lack of warning likely caused many fatalities.

Around 9:15 P.M. the storm suddenly seemed to explode just to our north in a way I had never seen before nor have seen since as vivid lightning of green, pink, white, orange, and blue lit the sky. I did not realize that the blue flashes were likely not lightning, but rather, power line flashes and transformer explosions as the tornado bisected Allen County just eight miles north of our home. Even the reception from WIMA-TV, located about five miles north-northeast of us, became so bad that it was unwatchable as the storm passed by. We had to switch to another station from Dayton, some sixty-five miles to the south, using our VHF roof antenna. During the time we watched this station, it came in unusually strong, as if it was local. There were some very strange atmospheric phenomenons transpiring for these few moments as the storm traversed the area.

The storm began to move out to the northeast as strong west southwest winds began to buffet our home. The cold front that generated the storm had arrived ending the severe storm threat. I went to bed having no idea of the destruction that had been and was still taking place all around our region. What is now rated as the third largest tornado outbreak in history had left in its wake over 250 dead, thousands injured, and an untold number of homes, businesses, and churches reduced to rubble. The wind howled most of the night as I lay in my comfortable bed, but we didn’t even lose power. We were blessed.

Monday morning dawned bright and sunny. My mother was listening to a local radio station as it ran continuous reports about the tornado that ripped Allen County in half the previous evening. The radio station even had a news correspondent in an airplane reporting live on the damage as he flew over the storm’s path, a rather innovative feat for the time. Feeling better as far as my illness was concerned, I stayed home from school just to be sure I was totally over the virus, but I was feeling rather strange about this unexpected event that was unknowingly affecting my life.

Many stories began to surface after the tornado blew through. My father, a pipe fitter and welder, was working in Toledo at the time and made an early Monday morning drive to work each week. On the morning of April 12 he saw damage from the storm as he drove up Interstate 75 between Beaverdam and Bluffton, with overturned trucks and cars as well as other debris on the highway for nearly a mile. The husband of some relatives who lived just east of Lima observed the storm’s passage from a patio door as the rest of the family huddled in their basement. He said as soon as the storm passed to his northeast the stars came out and he knew it was all over, everything would be fine.

Photos courtesy of Toledo Lucas County
Public Library http://www.ohiohistory.org

It appears this particular supercell of the 1965 Palm Sunday Outbreak, which generated the Allen County tornado, originated more than two hours earlier southeast of Lafayette, Indiana, and moved, under the influence of unusually strong upper level jet stream wind, east-northeast at speeds of over sixty miles per hour. It appeared to be what is now termed a cyclical supercell that generated many separate, strong, multi-vortex tornadoes. Its nearly 275-mile path ended near Cleveland, Ohio. Across Indiana it leveled the towns of Russiaville, Alto, southern sections of Kokomo, Greentown, southern sections of Marion, and areas near Berne before crossing into Ohio. Once Ohio was the target, the twister passed just north of Rockford, south of Van Wert, and just south of Delphos as it entered Allen County. At that point the storm reorganized, producing a new F-4 vortex just northwest of Elida. This corresponded to the explosive increase in lightning intensity we observed as the storm was passing to our north. Moving along at nearly sixty miles per hour, the tornado destroyed everything in its path, with the little village of Cairo its next pending victim. Mercifully, the tornado lifted just west of the town and set down again just to the northeast, sparing the community major damage.

Relentlessly, the funnel pressed on toward Interstate 75. A railroad parallels the highway between Beaverdam and Bluffton with a deep ditch between the road and tracks. It appears this ditch caught or disrupted the tornado’s circulation enough to divert it to the northeast, where it wreaked havoc with any vehicle on the highway for about a mile. Finally it jumped the road and, reassuming its east-northeast path, moved out of the county.

I observed firsthand the damage two weeks later, when the public was finally allowed into the storm track area. Our family took a Sunday drive following the damage path from west to east. I saw things that were both frightening and fascinating. Many homes were totally destroyed; some still had walls but no roof; vehicles of all types lay scattered across fields, along with bits and pieces of people’s lives. High-voltage transmission towers lay twisted flat on the ground, and an electrical substation was totally wiped out; these were likely the sources of the blue flashes I saw to our north the night of the tornadoes.

I was most impressed with the foundation of an old farm house, wiped clean by the wind, with an upright piano still standing in the open air. Once part of a family fixture in a living room, now the piano was the only a remnant of the home that had once stood there.

It is interesting how a single event can be pivotal in our lives even at a young age. So it was for me with the Palm Sunday Outbreak of 1965. At first my fear of thunderstorms increased. Every year I felt a dread of April and springtime; I imagined that each storm that came up could be like that evening, except this time the funnel would get us. Time passed, and my fear evolved into a great respect for weather in general and deep interest in severe thunderstorms and hurricanes in particular—how and why they form. Still, after nearly forty-six years, there are times when I think back to that weekend and recall the feelings and emotions, remembering those who were adversely affected by the events of that weekend in April, 1965.

(C) 2009, Jim Stewart

The Sound of a Freight Train and the Twin Tornadoes






Submited by Ron Lantz Sr.

My palm Sunday story starts on at cloudy Sunday early evening I was 16 and sitting with my parents watching Disney's Wonderful World of Color, when all of a sudden a car storms in to our driveway on the corner of Hively and Southdale Dr. A couple jumps out, runs up to our front door, practicably beating It down and hollering, "A tornado coming, tornadoes coming can we get in your basement?" Well of course my parents let them in and we ran to the basement.

Within a short time we heard the sound everyone talks about, the sound that makes you think a freight train is running beside your house. We looked out the basement windows and could see the twin tornadoes in the air eastbound looking as they were following Mishawaka Road, probably just seconds before the famous picture was taken. Well they passed and after a little while the couple that burst in our door headed home to check on their family, they told us how much they appreciated our basement as they left.

About an hour or less after they went through, my dad, Delbert Lantz, got an emerency phone call that sent him to Sunnyside subdivision to turn off gas lines, as he was a construction foreman for NIPSCO. When he had arrived and began to work, he received word that his stepbrother's house and garage were gone, his stepbrother was found deceased in his neighbors basement, believed to have been blown there from out of his own home. His wife was not found for 3 days, farther away as she was caught by the storm between her house and her son Fritz Griffins house. She was on the way to warn them. My uncle had just built a new 24x24 garage and all that was left were the bolts sticking up from the concrete. He also had a fishing boat and motor that was never found.





The Truth about “The Twins”






Submitted by Robert Hartig

The Truth about “The Twins”
© 2011 by Robert Hartig

Photo by Paul Huffman - Source 
Click To Enlarge
Arguably the most famous tornado photograph ever taken is one shot on April 11, 1965, by Elkhart Truth photographer Paul “Pic” Huffman, depicting twin funnels straddling US 33 between Elkhart and Goshen, Indiana. Paul’s award-winning photo became the icon of the 20th century’s second worst tornado outbreak, the notorious Palm Sunday Outbreak. It has also been the subject of a longstanding controversy, no doubt as old as the newspaper accounts which first attended that photo.

Did “The Twins” (as the dual funnels in Huffman’s photo have been called) strike the Midway Trailer Court, or did they destroy the Sunnyside Division in Dunlap? According to Huffman, his remarkable series of photos—there are actually seven images in all, six of which I’ve seen—was taken at close range as the freakish-looking double tornado approached, demolished, and then exited the trailer court. Yet other eyewitnesses from that day insist that Paul’s and other newspaper accounts were wrong, and that The Twins actually struck Sunnyside, not the trailer court. Who is right?

I’m convinced that both sides of the issue are factual. One eyewitness story doesn’t have to be wrong in order for another to be right, and I’m going to furnish a credible explanation why.

What People Didn’t Know Back in 1965

Photos by Paul Huffman - Source
Click to Enlarge
The double funnel in Paul’s famous photo portrays in striking detail a phenomenon called multiple vortices. Simply put, the term means that a tornado can consist of more than one funnel. Today multiple vortices are an established fact, understood by tornado scientists and regularly observed by storm chasers. In 1965, however, no one knew about them. The spotty damage paths created by multiple vortices were attributed to tornadoes “skipping.” In reality, though, smaller funnels frequently form within larger funnels, generating complex wind motions, a broad variety of appearances, and erratic damage patterns. Multiple vortices are part of a dynamic, rapidly changing process. Some tornadoes change their shapes relatively slowly; others morph with amazing rapidity; but all tornadoes are constantly altering in appearance and intensity throughout their life cycle, and multiple vortices are an integral part of how tornadoes look and behave.

Often multiple vortices are obscured by dust and debris. In the case of Paul Huffman’s series of photographs, however, the transition from a single, narrow funnel to two large funnels is graphically portrayed—so clearly, in fact, that famed tornado scientist Dr. Theodore Fujita used Huffman’s photos as his basis for a groundbreaking analysis that corroborated his theory of what he called “suction spots.”

Multiple vortices are fairly common. As a storm chaser who has to date witnessed around 25 tornadoes, I have observed the phenomenon often. My belief is that every tornado displays multiple vortices to some degree, but even chasers who might take issue with me will agree that Ted Fujita’s suction spots are by no means a rare occurrence. Today you can find all kinds of video and photographic documentation of multiple vortices in myriad shapes and behaviors.

But not in 1965. No one knew about multiple vortices in those days. Moreover, very few photos of tornadoes existed compared to the abundance of images available today. So when Paul’s photograph appeared in the papers, people naturally concluded that he had captured an utterly one-of-a-kind occurrence.

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Here’s what I believe happened: Paul Huffman photographed twin funnels demolishing the Midway Trailer Court, exactly as he described in his firsthand writeup in The Elkhart Truth. Then 45 minutes later, other equally credible eyewitnesses watched a similar double funnel sweep through Dunlap two-and-a-half miles up the road.

Because observers of the second tornado knew what they saw, and because they were unaware how frequently multiple vortices occur, they were certain that reports based on Paul’s account had gotten it wrong. But that wasn’t the case. There were simply two different “Twins”–the one that Paul photographed, and another one that hit Sunnyside afterwards. Anyone who is familiar with multiple vortices—and who isn’t biased by a personal, proprietary stake in Paul’s photo—will agree that this explanation makes a lot of sense. The alternative is to insist that either one party or the other was misinformed or else flat-out lying, and to me that conclusion does not make sense. It is neither realistic nor necessary.

Click to Enlarge
Paul Huffman and his wife, Elizabeth, were not misinformed and they certainly didn’t fabricate their experience. They are highly credible witnesses. Paul, after all, is the guy who took the photo. He knew what he saw and had no motive to lie about it. As a news photographer and local resident—his home was very near Dunlap—he was intimately acquainted with the area and with Elkhart County in general. He knew exactly where he was when he pulled his car over just southeast of Kundred’s farm, stepped out into that millrace of wind, and photographed the tornado passing at close range. At least one landmark from a couple of his photos, still extant today, bears out his location. The details in Paul’s photographs and the apparent proximity of the tornado indicate that the tornado crossed US 33 within a half-mile of Paul, not two-and-ahalf to three miles up the road in Dunlap. The Dunlap tornado would have appeared much smaller through Paul’s 50 mm lens, and the debris would have not have been distinguishable with the clarity and definition seen in the photographs. There are several other very good reasons to believe that Paul’s account is trustworthy, not the least being his penchant as a journalist for sound reporting.

That being said, the fact that a number of people have insisted, some vehemently, that The Twins hit Dunlap suggests to me that a twin funnel did hit Dunlap. It’s no problem for me to believe this. A tornado as large and powerful as the Dunlap tornado almost certainly had multiple vortices. Frankly, I’d be surprised if it didn’t. Such vortices are often associated with exactly the kind of intense damage that occurred in the Sunnyside neighborhood.

I have seen only one halfway decent photograph of the Dunlap tornado, shot from the ruined trailer park. Taken roughly 45 minutes after Paul took his photo series, right around sundown, the photo is dimmer and the tornado is not nearly as distinct. In that image, you can see just one large funnel. Given how constantly and swiftly tornadoes morph, my guess is that the tornado became visibly multi-vortex as it moved into Dunlap, similar to the way that the Midway tornado went multi-vortex as it approached the trailer park.

In Conclusion

So there you have it: what I believe is the truth about The Twins. Both sides of the issue know what they saw and both have told the truth about it, and the only person who’s wrong is the person who insists the other guy is wrong.

Of course, there’s no way I can prove my theory conclusively, and with nearly 50 years gone by, I doubt anyone ever can. So if, having read this article, you’re of the opinion that what I’ve written is hogwash, have it your way. But I doubt there’s a more commonsense answer to the controversy over The Twins than the one I’ve provided. Hopefully, some of you who for years have felt frustrated over this issue can now let it go. You saw what you saw, and there’s no reason for anyone to doubt you. Paul also saw what he saw, and there’s no reason to doubt him either. It’s not an either/or thing; it’s a both/and.

Multiple vortices. They occur often, but no one knew about them back in 1965. Today they’re common knowledge. Multiple vortices are what hit Midway, and they’re what hit Dunlap, and they’re what no doubt hit quite a few other places that day. That’s my theory, anyway, and I think it’s a good one. So for heaven’s sake, people, give it a rest. It’s a non-issue. Put it away now and get some sleep.

Postlude

I wrote this article after exchanging a few emails with Jenni. I had planned to save my thoughts on The Twins controversy for a book I’m writing on the Palm Sunday Tornadoes. But when Jenni invited me to share my ideas here, I decided to do so. There’s no telling how long it will take me to complete the book, and meanwhile, why not address this longstanding issue now and maybe help a few people find closure in a matter that has, for some, remained a point of frustration. I don’t know how widespread the issue is that I’ve addressed. I’ve simply encountered it enough that I know it exists, and I don’t think it needs to. The answer isn’t a matter of insisting that one viewpoint is right and another one is wrong, but of introducing a different viewpoint altogether, based on knowledge that didn’t exist in 1965.

My perspectives are those of a storm chaser who has a pretty good grasp on what makes tornadoes tick. I’ve been fascinated by tornadoes since I was a boy, and over the last 15 years that fascination has grown, slowly but steadily, into an active interest that has taken me all across the American heartland. My avocation as a storm chaser has taught me much and rewarded me with some unforgettable experiences.

The 1965 Palm Sunday Outbreak influenced me profoundly as a boy living in Niles, Michigan. Although I didn’t experience the tornadoes firsthand, the event has been a shaping force in my life. That’s one reason I’ve decided to write a book about it. It is a story that needs to be told, while there are still people left to tell it, in the light of both yesterday and today.

I applaud Jenni for developing this site. Her passion for the Palm Sunday event is one I relate to completely. She has had the vision to do what I probably should have done but didn’t! I look forward to seeing this site grow and develop as you share your personal experiences of the 20th century’s second worst tornado disaster.

If you enjoyed this article, then I hope youl’ll visit my own blog on storm chasing and jazz saxophone, Stormhorn, at http://stormhorn.com.

Blessings,
Bob Hartig

Twin Tornadoes Examined by Fujita









Figure 46 Click to Enlarge
Shows the development
When an aerial photogrammetric survey of the damage by tornado 5-2, which devastated the Midway Trailer Court (figs. 22 and 23) was taken, extremely severe damage could be traced along two paths that seemed to represent those of the twin funnels photographed by Huffman (fig. 2 4 ) . Standing at the same spot between US-33 and the New York Central Railroad tracks about 0.7 mi from the Midway Trailer Court, Huffman took a series of six pictures, which, gridded with azimuths and elevation angles for every l 0°, are shown in figure 46. The grid lines were computed after a visit to the photographed site by Fujita.

Huffman's site and the damage path are shown in the topographic map at the top of figure 47. His first photo- graph (fig. 46A) was taken looking almost due west. His second reveals a single funnel which in the third picture, when examined carefully, shows some evidence of splitting. The fourth one (fig. 46D) shows twin funnels on both sides of the highway, giving an impression that US-33 runs through a tunnel between the funnels. The fifth photograph very clearly indicates the patterns of stratified low clouds wrapping around the twin funnels, permitting us to determine the direction of both funnels to be identical and cyclonic. The patterns also give dimensions of circulation that are closely related to the tilt of the tornado axis. The best estimate of the tilt is 39' north-northeast. 

Figure 47 - Damage path and debris
marks near the Midway Trailer Court
indicated by letter M (top) Click to Enlarge
In figure 47, the middle chart represents photogram- metric positions of the funnels appearing in Huffman's six pictures (fig. 46). Black circles designate the initial funnel touching the ground; the small circles, the complemental funnel that appears in the third picture. The sequence reveals that the funnel near the ground increased rapidly in diameter between the first and second pictures, then began splitting in two. After the split, the two funnels rotated about each other around their common center. The bottom drawing in figure 47 illustrates the rotation and the photographic directions. The above offers a speculative explanation that the split in the funnel was caused by the rapid increase in the funnel diameter, while the tilt of the funnel axis was in excess of 30°. From the translational speed of the tornado, about 50 mi hr-', the estimated time intervals between successive pictures in seconds are : numbers 1-2, 17 sec; numbers 2-3, 27 sec; numbers 3-4, 13 sec; numbers 4-5, 8 sec; and numbers 5-6, 31 sec. Thus the increase in funnel diameter between the first and second pictures took place within no more than 17 sec. When a tilted column of rotating air increases its diameter very rapidly, the air parcels near the ground cannot move around the center. The motion beneath the tilted axis, especially, is restricted because of limited flow space and surface friction. As a result, the funnel may quickly take the shape of a shortcut circulation while the rest of the vortex starts forming another funnel. This began to occur at position 3, and when position 4 was reached, the initial vortex was dying out rapidly while the complemental vortex intensified. About 50 sec after the funnel had started to split, the twin funnels changed again into a n almost single one at position 6, the entire process having taken less than 1 min.



My Dad Was in the National Guard






Submitted by Beth Riches

I wasn't even three years old when it happened, so I have no direct memories of it.

Flickr Copyright All rights reserved by yzzordorex
However, my Dad was in the National Guard, and ran the armory in Elkhart. He was called out for the aftermath and took plenty of pictures. It wasn't uncommon to have a slideshow when family got together. Dad would set up the projector, and we'd watch slides of vacations, reunions, and so on. Dad would always show the pictures he took when he got called out for the tornadoes. I can still remember the images of destruction, and being terrified of what these terrible storms could do. Everyone would get very quiet when those pictures were shown, with an occasional hushed, "Oh, my goodness" or maybe a horrified, "Will you look at that?" I still have a deathly fear of tornadoes and often have nightmares about them. I know that Dad never intended for that to happen to me, but those were images that stuck with a young girl.

Dad occasionally talked about it, but it wasn't until just a few years ago that he told me something that made me realize how bad it was for him and his fellow Guardsmen. Because they weren't just helping the injured and assuring the safety of everyone; they were also recovering bodies. Dad gave no further details.

My sister is the archivist at the Elkhart County Historical Museum, and Dad donated all of his pictures to the museum a few years ago. They are still there, and my sister told me that someone came up from Indianapolis a while back to work on a video about the tornadoes and used some of their material. I believe that is the video you posted here a while back, "Death out of Darkness." I don't know if the museum has the photos online, but here is their website: http://elkhartcountyhistoricalmuseum.blogspot.com/

A Portrait of Disaster - Slide Show of Marion, Indiana






Submitted by Nancy Bishop



From the publication, A Portrait of Disaster by Campus Studios. J. Michael McCarty Photographer




A special thanks to Nancy Bishop for her generosity in allowing me to use her photograps. Please see correspondence below. I will publish her husband's mother's story as soon as she sends it to me.
Hi,
Thank you for the comment on my blog about the tornado that killed my
husband's mother when he was six years old. 
I would be happy to share the photos we have with you. I'm not sure
right off hand how many are on this website, but you are welcome to
whatever is there. When I have time tomorrow, I will try to sit down
and compose something to go along with the photos to tell Sue's story.
Again, I thank you so much, and look forward to following your site as it grows. 
Thank you,
Nancy Bishop
http://www.freewebs.com/nancye1962/thebullockdescendants.htm

Twin Tornadoes - Eyewitness Account






Submitted by James A. Faigh

When they announced that a tornado had touched down at the Midway Trailer Park my father and two of my siblings hopped in the car and drove to the site. My father was the sales director at WTRC and possessed a press pass. The deputy at the road block allowed us in. Sheriff Caton, who was a close friend of my father, quickly commandeered my father along with others to help the injured and retrieve the dead.

My brother and myself continued to watch the skies to the west. The clouds continued to form spirals, descending down but retracting. But soon a tunnel began to form and continued to descend. Both my brother and I alerted all that a tornado was approaching. Because there were no structures left ,alone the cinderblock utility building, the deputies ordered everyone to cross US 33 and lay in the ditch beside the railroad tracks. This was the lowest ground near. When it was apparent that the tornado was tracking south towards us we were ordered to take shelter behind the only structure still standing, a small utility cinder block building.

Photo taken by Paul Huffman
Source: NOAA Photo Library
I remember being one to take shelter first and that a group from a church bus, that been stopped and evacuated, had piled on to us. The sound was unforgettable, it was that of 10 locomotives, bearing down on us, the church patrons praying for God to save them and me, praying that several layers of people on top of me would save my fate. Moments later the deputies announced that the tornado was moving away from us. We emerged and watched the rare site of a tornado split into two and become a twin. That was the moment that Paul Huffman, Truth photographer, took his famous photograph. Incidentally, Paul misidentified the tornado as the one that destroyed Midway Trailer Court and that misinformation has been repeated over the years. To this day, Paul contends it to be true, but since I was there I can assure you that the Midway was destroyed by the earlier tornado We stood in awe, as we watched from a distance, the twins crossed US 33 into the Sunnyside addition and reapt destruction and death. Later we were able to return home to our mother who was visibly and verbally upset, but we soon discovered that it was her fear for our safety that invoked her emotions .

That week was a paramount in my life, as a student at Pierre Moran Jr High School, we were excused from classes because the gym was used as a morgue, as a boy scout, my troop volunteered to help clean up the destruction. I even have memories of a 2x4 board bisecting a VW Bug lengthwise.

When I was young I remember a "old indian saying" that Elkhart was safe because a tornado would never strike where two rivers met. Well I guess that remains true because the tornado struck in Dunlap. But I was foolish to jump into the back of my father's car that Palm Sunday afternoon.

Tornadoes continued to develop, and the only F5 tornado [later downgraded to F4] of the day occurred near Elkhart, Ind. Some accounts indicated the famous "double tornado" hit the Sunnyside subdivision killing 36 people, while other eyewitnesses said it actually hit the Midway trailer park.


Grief, Relief, Miracles and Tragedies






Submitted by Shana Dines

I was fifteen years old the summer of the Palm Sunday tornado. We were not a religious family, so we didn't go to church that morning, although I did begrudgingly go with my grandmother for sometime, on a Sunday school bus. She was Old Order Mennonite, and feared for our souls, so out of guilt we did go with her. By this time in her life she was too sickly to go so I was spared going, although the experience was a positive one at that particular church, putting up with the animosity of my parents for going was not worth it. Anyway it was another boring Sunday, and my brother and I were both complaining about nothing ever exciting happening.

My brother is thirteen months younger than me, and was fourteen at the time and my little sister was thirteen years younger than I was, and going on two. We lived in the extreme of dysfunctional families, so this is not the typical disaster story, so bear with me. I was listening to the horror stories of the Tsumani, and the survival of families, and the loss of many and it brought it all back. I have always wanted to write this down, because unless you have experienced something like this you cannot imagine the extremes of emotions that you go through in these situations. Including the sick humor, in the middle of disasters.

I have to give you a little background of this, so you can understand the family dynamics, as it is important in understanding the story. First my mother and her sister were six years apart, and very competitive. My aunt and uncle had lots of money, where we were the lower middle class, relatives, and were looked down on, but surreptitiously. My grandparents whom I dearly loved raised them. I felt that they were the only safe people in my life. They lived three houses down from us until my grandfather died of cancer in 1960. This left my grandmother alone in the house and my brother and I took turns spending the night with her so she didn't have to be alone. She was a sweet loving, typical grandmother, but was very fearful. I don't know what happened to my mother and her sister, but they were extremely whacked out. One of their favorite things to do was to chase ambulances. A siren would scream, and their eyes would light up in delighted anticipation. One calling the other, and preparing to give chase. My aunt and mother with their families lived within a block of each other their entire lives. This made it extremely convenient for their habit.

Now at this time, my only living first cousin on my mothers' side was safely, well it appeared to me that way, in Chicago, which is ironic, and I snicker over that, as Chicago was the hotbed of sin in my family's eyes. She had been called by the Lord to go to Moody Bible Institute, which I even then was a bit suspicious that the Lord had actually called her there. I was more suspicious that it was her way of escaping the confines of her insanely strict religious parents that convinced her that the Lord was calling her away. Who could argue with the Lord, not my aunt and uncle!

So here we are, it is Sunday afternoon, as I remember, my brother and I are whining about being bored, we should have known better. Just look at what we were responsible for!

"Nothing ever exciting happens around here!" my brother Bill whined.

"There's nothing to do around here!" I added.

Not long after that there were storm warnings out, and we are gleeful over it. It wasn't long until the rain began pouring, and there were huge chunks of hail, that we picked up out of the yard. They were bigger than anything we had ever seen, in the hail department. We happily collected some and put them in the freezer, for future story telling and probably for pelting each other with.

Up until this time the only reference I had for tornadoes were "The Wizard of Oz." That is not saying there weren't any around here, but I was unaware of them. They only happened in Kansas. Maybe if my life wasn't so chaotic, I would have been more interested in the happenings around me, but my life was a tornado, so weather didn't play much of a part in it.

My aunt sometime during this came to our house, it was Sunday evening, and my uncle was in church on the north side of town, and my aunt had church skipped, which later was her downfall. She was going on about a tornado that had hit the Midway Trailer Court and she was going to chase it. The occurrence not the tornado. We heard sirens calling, and she wanted to know if we wanted to go along. My mother excitedly asked permission of my tyrannical father and he said we could go if we could catch her. I ran hastily to the front door, and I'll be damned her car was already zooming out of the driveway! We missed her!

Sometime later, she called my mother to tell her of the ghastly destruction. The radio was on warning of another tornado, and my mother was listening with bated breath to my aunt. I was holding my baby sister who was limp with fear; I feeling that someone should be a parent, kept holding her. My father and brother were outside gleefully watching the storm, and the radio was cutting off telling everyone to take cover. I remember my mother telling my aunt that when the storm was over that they should call each other. My mother is bitching and telling my brother and father to come to the basement.

They are running in the house, giggling over the excitement. The wind is sucking at their clothes. I am watching transfixed with disbelief. I saw the clouds, rolling, black and ominous and then I saw a cloud, it looked like it bounced out of the sky! Then the awful sound, a methodical locomotive like sound. We ran to the basement. I held on to my little sister. We knew by now that this was no laughing matter. Me being the little codependent that I was didn't want my little sister to be afraid, so I kept totally silent. My father and I were watching it come at us through the basement window. I have never been so sure that we were going to die as I was then. This was no little funnel like on "The Wizard of Oz," this was one big wall of black, swirling madness, and it was headed right for us.

All I could do was pray, "God please save us," to myself of course; we were not a family of prayers.

Now the scene that was playing out around me went like this. My little sister was as limp as death, totally silent. My brother was howling, like a little scared animal, and my father was laughing, maniacally.

"Oh my God, it is going to take my garage!" he laughed.

I am thinking to myself, we are going to die, and you are worried about your damn garage? I did not voice my disgust of course.

Looking back I believe that he thought we were safe, because our house was cement block, and his garage was a bit of wood and glamorized cardboard, and held all of his equipment.

I do give my lunatic mother credit for getting us to the basement. But beyond that she was totally useless. Not only useless, but also detrimental, scaring the crap out of us kids. She is dancing up and down on one foot, repetitiously bleating, "We're gonna die! We're gonna die! We're gonna die!" believe me if you were looking for parental reassurance, you weren't going to get it from them!

Back to the crisis at hand. The thing is coming at us, just like a locomotive, slowly, methodically, and then it looked like it stopped on it's axis, and thought, which way should I go? It was like a miracle; it took off to the left, like a bullet! I ran to the front basement room, thinking I never want to forget this! I looked up and out the window watching it pass over the house. It was black and swirling, gray, white, and ominous. There were sparks and little pieces of straw in it. When it went over, you couldn't see the neighbors' house, and it was only a driveway away. Later my Grandmother, who was three houses in the other direction, said that she couldn't see our house when it went over either.

The immediate crisis was over for us, and my father exclaimed!" I am going to go check on Ethel!"

"Not without us!" We all chimed in!

Now you have to picture this. We all hopped into my parent's old Cadillac. My father liked to glue plastic horse hood ornaments on them. Which wouldn't be so bad, if they weren't about a foot tall. We are flying on the stallion toward my aunt's house; which is only about a city block away. All humor is gone at this point. The rain is pouring down, and we see my aunt's house, what is left of it. It is like something out of a horror movie! Just sticks are standing, and everything is leveled. The gas station that was next to it is gone.

My mother starts screaming in the same monotone, repetitious sound, "She's dead, she's dead, she's dead!!!"

My father soothingly screams! "Shut the f- up woman!"

My brother is still howling, in a pathetic little animal way.

I am being the hero to my little limpid sister.

A cop stops us and tells us we can't go through there has been a tornado.

"Duh!!!!"

"The hell I can't! My father yells, My sister is in there!"

"Well just help anyone you can then," the cop responds sadly.

Just then we see a car with my aunt in it; someone has rescued her and is taking her to our house. We make a U turn and go to follow her. When she is dropped off in front of our house, the neighbor man gets in the car with her in the front seat. We have to go rescue Sherlock, her bloodhound who is still at the property.

We rush back to her house, what is left of it, and my dad and John jump out of the car to find Sherlock, they walk over debris and wires, and the rain is pelting everything. I look out the window, and see a young guy walking aimlessly back and forth in the gas station driveway. The station is gone, and he looks like a zombie. He is in shock and holding his side.

My mother looks dramatically back at us. My father and John are carrying Sherlock, feet first to the car.

"Sherlock is dead!" my mother sobs.

I watch Sherlock, valiantly trying to escape the clutches of John and my father. His whole body is writhing and shaking back and forth.

I disgustedly reply, "That is the most alive looking dead dog I have ever seen!"

They toss Sherlock unceremoniously into the back seat.

I say, "Don't you think someone should ask that guy if he is okay?"

"Oh, yeah, hey are you okay?" My mother asks the young guy.

"No, I think my ribs are broken." He woodenly replies.

We pile him in the car with us. Now there are four adults in the front seat, and four people in the back, including my baby sister that is. The young guy has broken ribs, and we have a full size, traumatized bloodhound in the back seat with us!

The young guy said that he got under the desk when the tornado hit, he, the desk and the cement wall behind him were all that survived. It was one of the miracles. My aunt decided to go to the basement for sanctuary instead of the bathroom. The next day we saw the neighbor's brick chimney had fallen in the bathroom. She was spared, my aunt, but had canned goods falling on her in the basement. There was no one in the brick house behind her, thank God, because it was completely gone. The neighbor lady across the street was in a wheelchair. They were having a birthday party for her, not thinking the storm was that bad, they didn't have time to get her and the wheelchair in the basement, she said she would be fine. She wasn't she was killed in the tornado.

My brothers' best friend gave him a ring for good luck. He was only thirteen years old, he was the last victim found. My brother was haunted by it, asking if his friend would have had the ring would he still be alive?

Cousins of the little guy, who were friends of ours, were praying in a closet, when a two by four crashed between them, but they were spared.

Amish relatives were heading down into the basement, the ones at the bottom watched as the ones further up the stairs disappeared into the tornado. Many horrific stories came out of this tragedy, and yet there was bonding love and a coming together of the survivors.

Our basement was a place to come and get clothing and things that were donated to victims of the tornado. It was a time of gratitude, and yet fear, waiting to see who survived and who didn't. Each morning there was a black border around the front page of the newspaper, with victims' names in it. One poor girl, who was tormented for her wildness and poor dress, was missing and later found, alive, after being picked up by the tornado, and dumped off miles from home, unharmed.

The Herald family went to find their daughter, who was in church, okay, and they were all killed, except for the one brother who later was unrecognizable as his old self, because of having had so much plastic surgery. He survived with one sister. The rest of their family was all wiped out.

President Lyndon Johnson came to our little town of Elkhart, Indiana, and I was the only one brave enough to reach out to shake his hand before he stepped in the limousine. Although my big headed pushy brother jumped in between the President and me! He got his picture taken shaking hands with the President. I did get to shake the tips of the fingers on both of his hands though. I remember them being the size of two bunches of bananas. It was a big moment in my life. He had a beautiful Texas sized smile.

The other climactic moment was when my uncle saw my aunt for the first time after she survived the tornado. He came into my grandma's house, and looked at her, she still had black dirt in her eyes, and ears, and was covered with debris. Her hair was a mat of black, filthy curls. The first thing out of his mouth was, "Ethel! What did that tornado do to your hair?" We all cracked up laughing!

The humor in that is that he had never seen her anyway but helmet hair, welded to her head. She would go to the beauty shop every week, and have her hair teased into a helmet of black hair, then sprayed into embalmed stiffness that was completely immobile. At night of course she would have it robed in a roll of toilet paper, so as not to mess it up. Poor Uncle Dan had never seen his blushing bride in such a fashion.

There were moments of horrible grief, and moments of great relief. There were miracles and tragedies. Our school was turned into a morgue, and so was our church, where I attended kindergarten. I hope I never experience anything like that again. But I wouldn't give up the experience that I had for anything in the world, but I still grieve for those who died and didn't survive the handicaps and losses of loved ones. I don't think I ever complained of being bored, or wished for something exciting to happen again in my life.

In remembrance of all whom perished in the Tsunami the Palm Sunday Tornado and all other natural or unnatural disasters.


Shana is an award winning artist. Her specialty is pastel portraits and watercolors. She has illustrated a children's book and has written and illustrated one now in publishing.   View profile



We Traveled Between the Two Tornadoes






Submitted by Vyv Dunlap

I was 11 years old. My family (my parents, my younger sister and myself) had been visiting family for the weekend near Muncie. I remember that it had been a warm, sunny and very humid day for April.
Our trip home was uneventful until we were almost to Goshen. The skies to the west were very dark and it had begun to rain.

At one point while still downtown in Goshen we had to pull over because it was raining so hard. (no FM radio so the static on our AM radio made it impossible for my father to understand the reports.) We continued and all the while, I had my eyes glued to the sky. I had been studying basic weather in my 5th grade science class at school and was fascinated with Meteorology. The different cloud formations were fresh in my mind and these were not the nice ones.

Detail of Paul Huffman's infamous photo
As we were leaving Goshen the rains suddenly stopped. Something about the look of the sky caught my father's eye. So we pulled over once again so he could get out to see better. I got out too. I remember seeing a swirling mass of clouds slowly silently moving across the sky right over our heads. (Today I would describe it as looking like a satellite view of a black hurricane.) No funnel cloud...this was right above us. We got us back in the car and continued down US 33 heading toward Elkhart. It was late in the afternoon maybe even getting near dusk but straight ahead the sky seemed bright against the dark clouds overhead. With my eyes still glued to the windows and focused on the sky, off to the left, I noticed what looked like a bunch of wispy clouds extending down from the edge of the retreating cloud mass. Now my eyes were fixed on it. I kept watching it and as the wisps increased and seemed to be moving on their own I pointed to it and from the back seat said to my dad..."that looks like tiny tornadoes". Just as my dad turned to see what I was referring to, the wisps touched the ground and the whole thing transformed into a skinny tornado. But it grew so fast and seemed to be moving right toward us! Immediately my father slammed on the brakes and pulled off the road to the right along US 33 just before the old Gladiolus farm.

The next events all come together in my mind. It all happened so fast. As we are sitting there along the road, I could see the flash of transformers when the tornado crossed over the tracks although, I didn't see when it split into the twins. It just looked horrible and large, so much larger than the pictures of tornadoes in our science books. I will never forget seeing a small car pass us super fast heading right toward the storm when it was just forming! I remember thinking…Where were they going? How could they not see what was happening? And later thinking…Did they get caught in it? Were they okay?

We were only off the road for what seemed like a second before my father and other people that had pulled off all seemed to turn cutting right across the road all at the same time driving right up to a house on the other side. I could hear my mother frantically telling my sister and me to get down on the floor of the backseat but dad was saying we need to get out of the car. I was terrified. I could feel the wind right at first because it shook our car, but I don't remember hearing anything...it seemed so surreal. From the floor of the back seat, I remember looking up toward the sky and seeing "stuff" (debris) floating up into the sky as high as I could see. We were about to get out of the car to run to the house when I think he said...no, it's okay, it’s going the other way.

Photo Source NOAA Archives
When things sort of calmed down we continued very slowly down the road. Nothing looked out of order until we were nearing Midway Trailer Park. It looked like a junk yard. My mother commented with those words.” I don't remember a junk yard along here." Suddenly realizing what we were looking at and instantly shocked my dad, who never cussed in front of us said OMG...it's the trailer park! The traffic was stopping because people were running, dazed and wandering, even crawling out into the road. It was too much for our young eyes and my mother, in shock herself, was now yelling at us "get down...don't look!" Someone came to our station wagon and asked my dad to please help. He got out...was gone for what seemed like forever, came back as white as a sheet and said we might have to help transport injured people. They had to turn off gas and electric before they could remove some of the injured. I was listening to all of this while I watched the terrible scene around us (even though my mother had said to say down). When someone who seemed to be in change came over to our car with my dad the second time he returned they noticed my sister and I and said, no, thank you, you have children, please go on, but there are more storms ahead...be careful.

Click to Enlarge

When we were just past Sunnyside in Dunlap, we ran into more torrential rain and now so much hail it looked like it was snowing! We stopped at a friend of our family's home off Oakland Avenue to get out of the storm, listen to the news and I think for my parents to collect themselves. From there we learned that there had been reports of several and there was another tornado right now on the ground south along CR 26 heading northeast. It was far enough away and moving away from us but, we were still able to see it from the kitchen window! We learned later that another family friend lost his home from this one but was uninjured.
By the time we got home that evening the news was coming in of all of the storms. So many lives lost or presently missing...so much destruction and sadness. So much...

We did not have a basement in our home. So for the next several years whenever the sirens were heard or the firetrucks came down our quiet street with their loud speakers warning us to "take cover" (no matter what time of the day or night) we would run across the street to our neighbors to get into their basement. Our life had been so sheltered and quiet before this, my sister and I were traumatized. Storms sent us into a panic. My parents were calmer but we could sense their panic as well. If we were affected I know others were even more so, especially if they had lost so much more... their home or loved ones!

Dunlap - Palm Sunday Tornado Memorial
We did not have a basement in our home. So for the next several years whenever the sirens were heard or the fire trucks came down our quiet street with their loud speakers warning us to "take cover" (no matter what time of the day or night) we would run across the street to our neighbors to get into their basement. Our life had been so sheltered and quiet before this...my sister and I were traumatized. Storms sent us into a panic. My parents were calmer but we could sense their panic as well. If we were affected I know others were even more so especially if they had lost so much more...their home or loved ones!

I was determined to learn as much as I could about weather after that. I have calmed over the years but when I hear of someone (not referring to the scientists) trying to "outrun" or challenge a bad storm...I think back to how powerful this storm was and I sadly shake my head at what seems to be stupidity.

We were fortunate because we were not caught directly in the path of any of the tornadoes. I thank God for His protection.

As a family, we have looked back and see how close we came to the one at Midway Trailer Park...and after missing that one almost running into in the second in Dunlap. Timing wise: Had we not stopped in Goshen to look at the one passing overhead (which we learned later touched down at St. Rd. 15 & U.S. 20) we might have been more directly involved with the one at Midway. Had we not left Midway when we did...we would have been involved with the one in Dunlap, which was happening less than two miles behind us when we drove through the hail storm. We literally traveled between the two tornadoes. I shutter, even today...thinking about it. It just helps me to remind myself to thank God.....In all things...great or small...wonderful or not.

We will forever be changed and reminded of that horrible day whenever there is a storm or warning issued...or we hear news of a tornado somewhere. Although, I gained a very keen curiosity and limited knowledge of our weather and how it works...I didn't become a Meteorologist but I will always respect the power and capable fury as much as the breathtaking beauty of nature that God created.

Big Ugly Unforgettable Birthday Surprise






Submitted by Doris Holik Kelly 

It was beautiful and hot the afternoon we left Niles to go Grandma's for my 16th birthday dinner. The sky was bright blue and filled with puffy clouds like little round balls. Grandpa and Grandma Hunsberger lived on Indiana Avenue, about a half mile from 19, between the US 20, the Central tracks, and the St. Joseph river.

The day went from gorgeous to overcast and we heard about storms coming but didn't think much about it. Later the sky turned green and it rained and blew so hard that the trees bent sideways.

My parents and grandparents sent us six kids to the basement but they stayed upstairs We sneaked out onto the porch when it turned so dark and blackish-green and looked southeast and saw the double tornado filling the sky not very far away.You could hear the roar, like all the trains on the tracks were moving . It was so scary.We watched until it rose up into the air and disappeared and the sky lightened back to pea green.

Grandpa left for his job at the Labour company, but had to come back home because he couldn't get through the traffic to the factory. We went home to Niles after 8:00 at night and we were stopped by police at least twice to make sure we were going where we were supposed to go. It was a birthday to remember. One I'm sure many people would like to forget.

I'll always remember how calm my parents and grandparents were. ( Except for my 3 brothers and 2 sisters that is. We were all running around like crazy people.) But maybe that was because they were huddled next to the radio and didn't say much. Maybe they were more nervous than I thought.



A Huge Black Mass Coming Our Way






Submitted by Arthur R. Tait

I lived two blocks north of the intersection of CR 17 and Cr 18 in Elkhart County, Indiana. We will never forget that afternoon and evening even though we sustained no property damage.

In the early afternoon, we were visiting with friends on the west edge of Elkhart. As the day wore on,the air became very warm and sultry. It was quite apparent that something was going to happen and we decided to return home.

We sat glued to the TV watching the track of the storms. When it became apparent that the track that went through Dunlap, was headed our way, we went to the basement. After sitting huddled under an old oak table, we just had to come up and see what was happening.

I was doing some chores when my wife called for me to 'come look at this' A huge black mass was coming our way. In a bare whisper, my wife said it is going to hit us! I replyed, I think you are right' Both of us along with our son, sure that we were going to be wiped out, just stood by the window too frozen to move.

Photo from NOAA Library
As the mass approached, it enveloped the house at the top of the hill and we were sure that it was gone. Afterwords, when talking to the people they had seen that mass cover our house and were sure that we were gone. The tornado's path was about 3/4 mile south of our house.

We and another neighbor, saw a kite hanging lazily along on the outer edge of that cloud of debris.

Ever since that fateful day, whenever we hear someone say they 'were too petrified to move' we know exactly how they feel.

At the time, I was a custodian at Concord High School. The first time that I was allowed to drive up CR 14 (Lewis St) I was overwhelmed by the utter devastation! As I approached the path of the tornado, things were so torn up that I had no idea just where I was at.

The only damage to the school building was cracked and badly scared glass

As an aside: When Johnson came to survey the area, he did go to the chow line set up in the Concord Fire station. One of the ladies working there was amazed at the press coverage. All the press core could ask is WHAT DID HE EAT??

Then the Second Tornado Came Through






Submitted by Pam Ogren

Elkhart Truth Staff Photo
I was 16 years old dating a guy who was 18. He had a convertible and we had the top down riding around it was a beautiful day, then It got dark and we headed to my house just north of Hively in Elkhart. We started hearing the sirens, being curious we drove south on Main Street. Police stopped us but wouldn't tell us what happened. They directed us over the tracks toward Sunnyside. Just as we got over the tracks the second tornado came through. It picked up the front of our car and actually turned us around. I remember laying on the floor of the car and seeing the power poles dancing in the air like a cartoon and then being slammed back into the ground at weird angles.

Then it was completely still and silent except for the sound of cows mooing and a woman crying. She was running barefoot carrying a child. We tried to pick her up but she was in shock!!!! Eventually we made our way to another railroad crossing and the office there told us power lines were down everywhere. not to touch anything metal in the car and to coast over the tracks and go north. When I got home my mom was in the basement looking out the window well. She said she could tell by looking at me that I had been "in it". I wanted to go somewhere to volunteer but she insisted I stay home.

Swirling Children and Whirling Skies






Submitted by Deb (Schmucker) Carroll

I remember I was 7 yrs old when this happened. We were at a family gathering at my Amish relatives on SR 19 just north of Etna Green, IN.

All of us kids were outside playing and one of the older ones suggested we play "tornado." I had never heard of that game before and thought it would be interesting to play and asked how we played that "new" game. We stood with our arms outstretched and were supposed to twirl around in circles and make whirling noises and we "twisted" around and around in circles - we did this till we all were quite dizzy!!!

While we were playing I remember looking up at the sky and it was getting darker and darker - and the clouds were getting closer and closer. And the wind was picking up - it was getting hard to stand up in the wind. I remember my cousins from Ft. Wayne were getting knocked down by the huge gusts of wind.

It was a struggle for all of us to run back up to the main house - I remember having to hold hands to keep from falling down and all of us finally got up to the house.

When we got home that evening, one of my aunts and one of my uncles that had stayed home told us that a tornado had touched down in grandpa's field out there on CR 17, just outside of New Paris. I remember her saying that "it looked like a stock car race out there with all the dirt flying around in circles." They had been standing in the doorway watching.

When you're a child you really don't understand the full impact on a disaster like this. Seeing the pictures on the TV just made you stop and feel humble.

I think it was shortly after that that my dad signed up to become a volunteer fireman for New Paris. He later became the chief and served over 35 years in that position until he retired. He showed me how to read the clouds - to know what the signs were when a storm was approaching so that I could help take care of my mom and sisters when he had to leave to go on watch.

CB Radios, a Bicycle & Horrific Tornado Damage






Submitted by Dennis Laffin

I was 17 at the time and lived on the East end of Mishawaka. I remember walking home from our church service and noticing the sky to the South was very dark and had a strange looking greenish cast to it that I had never seen before or since.


I turned on my CB (citizens band) radio when I got home and started to call a friend. Those were the days when CB radios were popular and many people used them for communications. A neighbor came on the radio and told me to stay off the radio because a tornado went through South of town and it was being used for emergency communications. I listened to the CB radio all that evening and late into the night monitoring the communications. All phone communications were down in the area so many people were relying on their CB radios to request help and to check on their relatives and friends. They were also setting up shelters for people in the effected areas. I helped relay some emergency messages myself that night. CB and Amateur radios really proved their worth during the Palm Sunday tornado by coordinating efforts, getting help into the area, and providing health and welfare information. I did not have my amateur radio license at the time but I heard amateur radio operators also did a lot helping with communications. If a similar situation occurred today I would be better prepared to help since I now have an amateur radio license and radios. VHF and UHF amateur radios can provide more effective communication and amateur radio operators are better organized than CB radio.

The next morning I wanted to see what had happened so I got on my bicycle and rode South to Woodland and Wyatt. Then I peddled all the way to Dunlap before heading home. There were road blocks up on most of the roads but I just rode around them and nobody really paid any attention to a kid on a bicycle.

Tornado aftermath at Alto, Indiana
What I saw was unbelievable and I'll never forget the sights I saw that day. I saw many destroyed houses, barns and garages. I recall seeing brick houses with the bricks removed but most of the house still standing. I saw cars and trucks that looked like they had been tossed around like toys, some sticking out of what was left of the houses they had been blown into. I saw where asphalt had been lifted off the road surface. There was debris all over everywhere; broken boards, twisted pieces of metal, remnants of furniture and appliances and anything you could think of scattered all over. I saw pieces of straw sticking out of telephone polls that were broken off. There were huge I & M electric line towers twisted and laying on their sides. I saw a destroyed grain mill with grain spread all around. I went by a woods where you could clearly see a double tornado went through. There were two large paths of devastation through the woods with trees still standing in between the two paths although most of the standing trees also had many broken off limbs. There were electric and telephone lines down all over. I saw people starting to dig through what was left of their homes and I saw many fire, police, and emergency service personnel and their vehicles in the areas I rode through all trying to help those who's homes were destroyed.

1962 Volkswagen Against the Storm






Submitted by Penny Meyers Churchill

Photo Source
A girlfriend and I (we were 19 and 20 years old at the time) were on our way back to the apartment we shared on the northwest side of South Bend. We had just been to the Ready Theater in Niles, MI, and I was driving my 1962 Volkswagen Beetle. It was after 6:00 pm when we left Niles for South Bend. As we progressed south on 31 S., the wind picked up and became stronger and stronger, as rain and little pellets of hail began hitting the car. The sky became totally dark black and eerie. Suddenly, the wind began almost overpowering the car. I had to grip the steering wheel tightly and hold on for dear life while trying to steer and watch the road ahead of us, as the rain was coming down stronger than I had EVER experienced! I could only go 25 mph down the highway. All we wanted to do was reach our apartment safely! We had absolutely no idea that tornadoes were ripping through areas south of South Bend at the time. It wasn't until later that night on TV that we found out about the tornadoes, and we then thanked God for getting us back to our apartment unscathed!

There are some experiences in life that you never forget, and that was absolutely one of them!


Tornado Ravages Wyatt






Submitted by Cindi Fenimore
Click To Enlarge

I was 6 1/2 when it took place. I was with my family (mother, father and 3 siblings) attending my great grandparents 50th wedding anniversary in Mishawaka. I am a granddaughter of Mrs. Harold Kronewitter. We had to leave due to the tornado. We drove through Wyatt to get home and you could see the tornado in the West. It was very scary. When we got to our home, I was too afraid to get out of the car due to the extreme weather, my father had to come and get me to go in. The next day we drove through Wyatt and saw the grain elevator destroyed, and a car on a porch rooftop across the street. We found out later that same day, that one of my great uncles received a severe large 'knot' on his forehead due to getting hit by the large hail that accompanied the storm. That is a storm I will never forget!

Photo by Willis Haenes - Near Wyatt



Cottages Destroyed on Lake Pleasant






Submitted by Martha J Banks
Lake Pleasant, Indiana  Photo: Fujita, Monthly Weather Review
I was in high school in Fort Wayne then. We weren't hit, but electricity was out for a few days, as I recall. And most of the cottages on the east side of Lake Pleasant [between Fremont & Orland] were destroyed. Fortunately for us, our cottage was on the north side, right on the state line.

There was a tiny lake near Lake Pleasant, maybe called Giliad Lake, where some cows went missing & were presumed in the lake, so the lake was dredged. At Lake Pleasant, there was one old cottage still standing while the ones of either side were gone by the time I saw the area, about a month later. Unless that cottage has been torn down in the last 25 years, you can see it still, with newer ones on each side.

And a Facebook friend, a classmate from K-12, posted yesterday she was a fairly-new driver then & driving her parents back to Fort Wayne from Dayton OH. The dark clouds were to her north for many miles & she kept praying they would stay there, which they did.