"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.

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.


President Johnson Came to Town






Submitted by Tuff Kidder

April 11th 1965 , I was 11 years old, I remember we were all in our basement listening to the radio and moms police scanner- (she had the crystals for just about all departments) several neighbors that did not have basements were also there. My Dad and neighbor Bud Gilbert were watching a tornado from our back door, I was half way up the basement stairs to see to -- Dad hollers' " Ok everyone back in the basement there is a tornado just to the west " This tornado did not hit our house. But there was damage all over town. Mom and Dad had a new 1964 Blue and White Chevy 2 station wagon. We rode around the next day looking at some damage. Bad , bad , damage lots of people were dead and missing. Scary stuff.

President Johnson UPI Telephoto
Some friends Grandpa Lowe Spaugh and family, Paul and Myrna Rink, were hit hard on In. 19 near Jimtown, their whole farm house and out buildings were pretty much destroyed. they were all in the cellar, They were very lucky to survive and get out of the rubble. we drove to thier farm and looked around the next day. Some things I remember seeing, a 2 x 12 , 12 foot long stuck in a ditch bank about 1/2 way. Lots of grass straw stuck in telephone poles, dead chickens stuck in broken trees with no feathers left, lumber and cloths everywhere. A dead cow way up in a broken tree, Mud, Mud and More Mud. In the bare field behind where the huge barn used to be a refrigerator standing upright in the middle of the field with an old spice cologne bottle sitting right on top. No mud on the refrigerator, I know that seems impossible but there it was.

President Johnson came to town, Mom took us to the corner of County Road 6 and Cassopolis street and we watched the President and all the limos and Cars drive south on Cassopolis street. I remember the president looked right at us.

Funny what you remember sometimes. VIEW Tuff's Blog

Still from the documentary "Death out of Darkness" Click to Enlarge
Produced in 1966 by the Indiana State Police and WISH-TV in Indianapolis

Double Funneled Monster






Submitted by Bill Smee

I grew up in the Northern Indiana town of Elkhart. Like most of my contemporaries, I had heard all the horror stories about tornadoes, but had never taken them seriously, because thus far they had all amounted to nothing. That all changed on April 11, 1965, when I was fourteen. I was on the can at the time--naturally--but not for long, for as soon as the old man yelled “Get yer pants up and get in the basement!”, I knew what was going on. I could scarcely believe it was finally happening after all those false alarms, but I guess the drills at school had prepared me on some unconscious level at least, because within seconds I was stumbling down the stairs, trying to hold up my britches with one hand, fumbling for the various doors with the other. Even our dog must have been spooked: he was already downstairs.

So I got into the southwest corner, just like I was supposed to, and cowered there with the folks and the pooch, while outside the wind howled like a freight train was running directly over our heads. That's not just a hackneyed phrase; that is indeed the best way to describe the sound. Curiosity got the better of me, then. Having heard about twisters for all my life, there was now actually one to be seen; thus, I had to peek out the little window. There were dust and pebbles and tree limbs blowing all over the place, but while the vision was poor, there was no mistaking what I saw to the south: a dark, swirling, double-funneled monster marching across the fields, unstoppable, and more terrifying to me than any creature depicted in horror flicks up to then, or since. Even a couple miles off, it loomed and threatened; if there's a hell, then this must be its roaring black arch-demon. I was never so afraid in my life; even a tour of duty in Vietnam didn't fill me with as much terror as Nature did that day, when she lashed out mindlessly at us insects.

Later, I was to learn of the deaths and devastation. I even volunteered to help with some of the clean-up, so I got a fairly good look at damage done around the area. I recall thinking, this must be what it would look like after an atomic war. It shook me to my bones. The world would never be a stable, safe place again.

I've since moved to Western Oregon, where what few tornadoes do occur are so weak and transient that they're little more than a curiosity. Still, when I hear of a funnel cloud being sighted somewhere in the Willamette Valley, I feel a twist in my gut--yet also feel disinclined to visit the “little room”. That's where it all began, you know.



Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak 1965






Tornadoes and their paths on April 11-12, 1965
Double tornado that hit the Midway Trailer park killing 33. Paul Huffman
SOURCE The second Palm Sunday tornado outbreak occurred on April 11, 1965 and involved 47 tornadoes (15 significant, 17 violent, 21 killers) hitting the Midwest. It was the second biggest outbreak on record. In the Midwest, 271 people were killed and 1,500 injured (1,200 in Indiana). It was the deadliest tornado outbreak in Indiana history with 137 people killed. The outbreak also made that week the second most active week in history with 51 significant and 21 violent tornadoes. The tornado which hit Midway trailer park is disputed to be an F5, as 25 homes were literally wiped off the face of the earth, with no signs of them ever found.

The tornadoes occurred in a 450 miles (720 km) swath west-to-east from Clinton County, Iowa, to Cuyahoga County, Ohio, and a 200 miles (320 km) swath north-to-south from Kent County, Michigan, to Montgomery County, Indiana. The outbreak lasted 11 hours and is among the most intense outbreaks — in terms of number, strength, width, path, and length of tornadoes — ever recorded, including 4 "double/twin funnel" tornadoes.
Photo from NOAA Northern Indiana Click to Enlarge
This is the third deadliest day for tornadoes on record, trailing the Super Outbreak of April 3, 1974, which killed 315, and the outbreak that included the Tri-State Tornado which killed 747. It occurred on Palm Sunday, an important day in the Christian religion, and many people were attending services at church, one possible reason why some warnings were not received. There had been a short winter that year, and as the day progressed, the temperature rose to 83 °F (28 °C) in some areas of Midwestern United States.

At around 12:55 P.M.[2], the first tornado touched down in Clinton County, Iowa. It was rated F4 on the Fujita scale and spawned from a thunderstorm cell first detected near Tipton in Cedar County, Iowa, around 12:45 P.M. by radio news reporter Martin Jensen. He was stationed at the WMT Station in Cedar Rapids located some 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Tipton. The station was equipped with a Collins Radio aviation radar mounted on the roof of the station building and was used to support severe weather reports on local and regional newscasts. After detecting the severe thunderstorm, the reporter called National Weather Service offices in Waterloo (which had no radar) and Des Moines to alert them about the storm. The phone call became the first hard evidence for the Weather Service regarding the growing threat of severe storms which spawned dozens of tornadoes over the next 12 hours.

The U.S. Weather Bureau investigated the large number of deaths. Although Radar stations were few and far between in 1965, the severe nature of this storm was identified with adequate time to disseminate warnings. But the warning system failed as the public never received them. Additionally, the public did not know the difference between a Forecast and an Alert. Thus the Tornado watchand Tornado warning programs were implemented. Pivotal to those clarifications was a meeting in the WMT Stations studio in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Officials of the severe storms forecast center in Kansas City met with WMT meteorologist Conrad Johnson and News Director Grant Price. Their discussion led to establishment of the official "watch" and "warning" procedures in use since 1965.

As technology has advanced since 1965; warnings can be spread via cable and satellite television, PCs and the Internet, solid-state electronics, cell phones, and NOAA Weatheradio. Dr. Ted Fujita discovered suction vortices during the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak. It had previously thought that the reason why tornadoes could hit one house and leave another across the street completely unscathed was because the tornado would "jump" from one house to another. However, Dr. Fujita discovered that the actual reason is most destruction is caused by suction vortices: small, intense mini-tornadoes within the main tornado. READ MORE


 1. Meteorological synopsis SOURCE

The tornadoes occurred in a 450 miles (720 km) swath west-to-east from Clinton County, Iowa, to Cuyahoga County, Ohio, and a 200 miles (320 km) swath north-to-south from Kent County, Michigan, to Montgomery County, Indiana. The outbreak lasted 11 hours and is among the most intense outbreaks — in terms of number, strength, width, path, and length of tornadoes — ever recorded, including 4 "double/twin funnel" tornadoes.
This is the third deadliest day for tornadoes on record, trailing the Super Outbreak of April 3, 1974, which killed 315, and the outbreak that included the Tri-State Tornado which killed 747. It occurred on Palm Sunday, an important day in the Christian religion, and many people were attending services at church, one possible reason why some warnings were not received. There had been a short winter that year, and as the day progressed, the temperature rose to 83 °F (28 °C) in some areas of Midwestern United States.

2. Confirmed tornadoes

Confirmed
Total
Confirmed
F0
Confirmed
F1
Confirmed
F2
Confirmed
F3
Confirmed
F4
Confirmed
F5
47015105170
List of reported tornadoes - Sunday, April 11, 1965
F# Location County Time (UTC) Path length Damage
F4 NE of Tipton CedarClintonJackson 18:55 91.5 miles
(146.4 km) 1 death - One person died one month later from their injuries. 25 farms were affected.
F1 SE of New Hampton ChickasawFayetteAllamakee 19:15 49.9 miles
(79.8 km)
F1 SE of Monroe GreenRockDane 20:00 27.1 miles
(43.3 km) 50 homes and 65 businesses destroyed or damaged and 40 were injured.
F2 S of Watertown Jefferson 20:30 14.5 miles
(23.2 km) 3 deaths - 28 others were injured.
F1 S of Soldiers Grove Crawford 20:45 13.3 miles
(21.2 km) One barn was destroyed
F1 W of Lake Geneva Walworth 21:50 1.9 miles
(3 km)
F1 NW of Elkhorn Walworth 21:55 1 mile
(1.6 km) One barn was destroyed
F1 W of Tomah Monroe 22:14 2 miles
(3.2 km) Several farm buildings were destroyed
F4 Crystal Lake McHenryLake 21:20 9.1 miles
(14.6 km) 6 deaths - Destroyed large sections of the town including a shopping mall. Damage estimates were at about $1.5 million.
F2 N of Gurnee Lake 21:50 4.5 miles
(7.2 km) Some homes were damaged and two planes flipped at Waukegan Memorial Airport.
F1 Geneva Kane 22:00 0.3 mile
(0.5 km) About a dozen homes were heavily damaged
F1 Zion Lake 22:04 0.5 mile
(0.8 km)
F3 NE of Knox to S of South Bend StarkeMarshallSt. JosephElkhart 22:45 35.6 miles
(57 km) 10 deaths - 30 cottages were destroyed and 70 others were damaged. 26 homes, one church and one high school were also destroyed. There were 82 people injured.
F3 S of Crown Point to SE of Laporte PorterLaporte 23:10 33.1 miles
(53 km) Several homes and barns were destroyed and 4 people were injured.
F4 W of Wakarusa to NW of Middlebury Elkhart 23:15 21.2 miles
(34 km) 14 deaths - Destroyed Midway Trailer Park in Dunlap and numerous other homes. Was photographed as a double funnel. 1st of 2 tornadoes hitting the town of Dunlap and the Elkhart region.
F4 NE of Goshen to W of Orland ElkhartLaGrange 23:40 21.6 miles
(34.6 km) 5 deaths - A dozen homes were demolished
(144.5 km) 23 deaths - Starting just south of the Indiana-Michigan state line, the massive tornado caused extensive damage to the Manitou Beach region and southwestern suburbs of Detroit. First of two violent tornadoes to affect the same large portion of Lower Michigan.
F4 SE of Lafayette to W of Russiaville TippecanoeClinton 00:07 21.8 miles
(34.9 km) Several homes and other buildings were destroyed or damaged.
F4 SE of South Bend to NE of Shipshewana St. JosephElkhartLaGrange 00:10 37 miles
(59.2 km) 36 deaths - Second violent tornado struck the Dunlap/Elkhart region in just over an hour. Destroyed an entire subdivision of the town of Dunlap. Affected rescue efforts after the first tornado. Also was witnessed as a double funnel tornado. Was rated an F5 but downgraded to a F4.
F4 Russiaville to SE of Marion, Indiana and Greentown, Indiana ClintonHowardGrant 00:20 48 miles
(76.8 km) 25 deaths - Large sections of Russiaville, southern Kokomo and Alto were destroyed. Over 800 people were injured.
F4 SE of Crawfordsville to Arcadia MontgomeryBooneHamilton 00:50 45.7 miles
(73.1 km) 28 deaths - 80 homes were destroyed and over 100 people were injured.
F4 W of Montpellier, IN to N of Spencerville, OH Blackford, INWellsAdamsMercer, OHVan Wert 01:10 52.5 miles
(84 km) 4 deaths - F4 damage was observed in Keystone in Wells County. Crossed into Ohio where it destroyed five homes and damaged five others.
F4 N of Grand Rapids OttawaKent 22:54 20.6 miles
(33 km) 5 deaths - 34 homes were destroyed and nearly 200 others damaged. Nearly 150 were injured and damage amounts were estimated at almost $15 million.
F1 N of Middleville AlleganBarry 00:05 19.5 miles
(31.2 km) 1 death - A trailer and 5 homes were destroyed while 25 others were damaged.
F3 NE of Kalamazoo Kalamazoo 00:30 14.2 miles
(22.7 km) 4 homes were destroyed and 22 others damaged. 17 people were injured.
F3 Hastings Barry 00:40 14.1 miles
(22.6 km) 15 homes were damaged.
F4 Manitou Beach-Devils Lake, Michigan (2nd tornado) BranchHillsdaleLenaweeMonroeWashtenaw 00:40 80.5 miles
(128.8 km) 21 deaths - Second tornado to hit the same areas 30 minutes after being affected by the first tornado. Total damage estimates from the two tornadoes were $32 million. Over 550 homes and 100 cottages were destroyed in total.
F4 N of Lansing ClintonShiawassee 01:15 21 miles
(33.6 km) 1 death - Several homes were severely damaged or destroyed.
F2 W of Ithaca MontcalmGratiot 01:25 15.1 miles
(24.1 km) Several farm buildings and livestocks were destroyed.
F2 Alma (1st tornado) Gratiot 01:30 0.1 mile
(0.16 km) One of three tornadoes to struck the area where it caused damage to several buildings including the library.
F2 Alma (2nd tornado) Gratiot 01:30 0.5 mile
(0.8 km)
F2 E of Alma Gratiot 01:30 1 mile
(1.6 km)
F2 SE of Bay City Bay 01:50 9.9 miles
(15.8 km)
F2 SW of Unionville Tuscola 02:00 9 miles
(14.4 km) Damage to a firehall and lumberyard.
F4 Toledo (northern sections) Lucas, OHMonroe, MI 02:30 5.6 miles
(9 km) 18 deaths - Numerous homes in the northern suburbs of Toledo were completely destroyed. There were reports of twin tornadoes during the event. Damage amounts were estimated at $25 million.
F4 N of Lima AllenHancock 02:30 32.5 miles
(52 km) 13 deaths
F4 N of Sidney Shelby 03:00 18.4 miles
(29.4 km) 3 deaths - Affected AnnaSwanders and Maplewood where 25 homes were destroyed and 20 others heavily damaged. Several train cars were derailed.
F3 SE of Tiffin Seneca 03:15 15 miles
(24 km) 4 deaths - Affecting Rockaway, 4 homes were destroyed and three others were damaged.
F4 S of Oberlin, Ohio to Strongsville LorainCuyahoga 04:05 22 miles
(35.2 km) 18 deaths - Extensive damage to Pittsfield and Strongsville. Damage amounts were estimated at $5 million. Also witnessed as a double tornado.
F1 S of Eaton Preble 04:15 0.1 mile
(0.16 km)
F1 Brunswick Medina 04:30 8.2 miles
(13 km) One home was destroyed and another one was damaged.
F2 N of Delaware UnionDelawareMorrow 04:30 22.2 miles
(35.5 km) 4 deaths
F1 S of Cedarville Greene 04:50 0.1 mile
(0.16 km)
F1 Ashville to Somerset PickawayFairfieldPerry 05:30 38.4 miles
(61.4 km) Several farm buildings were destroyed.
F1 SW of Grassdale Bartow 09:50 (04/12) 2 miles
(3.2 km)
F2 N of Princeton Mercer 11:30 (04/12) 0.1 mile
(0.16 km)