"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


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.

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

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)


  1. Wow, I've never heard about this until finding the web link in the SB Tribune. I would've thought that sometime during my 13 years of school, the havoc that swept our state would've at least been mentioned in passing. Sadly, it wasn't. This horror come to life should at least be taught sometime between 7-12 grades.

    It's a wonder why South Bend managed to escape direct destruction(I'm assuming debris made it's way into the city). And I'm extremely grateful that North Liberty wasn't in the path of Nature's fury. If it was, my four year old dad may not have survived.

    Next time I speak to my grandparents, I'll be picking their minds to see what they remember of the event. I'd be surprised if my great-grandfather didn't help rebuild neighboring towns, seeings as he build houses for a living.

  2. Hi Mysty_grrl,

    I'm really surprised to hear that they don't mention in it the Indiana history books at school. Did they teach about the 1974(?) tornado outbreak? It was even worse from what I understand although I haven't researched it as much.


  3. I teach Indiana history in 4th grade and have never seen anything about this in our history or science book. I first learned about the 1965 tornado from someone I dated from Koontz Lake. He told me an old neighbor told his family there was once an orphanage that was destroyed by the tornado (the children were ok), and that the water in the lake had nearly emptied from the tornado. I definitely make a point to talk to my class about this important date in history and will show them this website. I crave to hear more stories and see more pictures so that I can keep this history alive for future classes.

  4. I don't remember the storm but, I vividly remember my father driving us through the aftermath,,,I was 5 years old,,,,,and am still reminded of what I saw every time a new storm comes my way,,,

  5. I remember that storm all too well. My Mom, Dad, Brother and Family Friend were returning from Fort Recovery, Ohio and were caught along the highway by the tornado that hit Montpellier, IN. Dad initially tried to outrun it, but eventually we had to bail out of the vehicle and seek cover in the ditch along the highway. To this day, I can still hear the sound of it bearing down on us. As it came closer, Dad noticed another vehicle coming up behind our vehicle unaware of the tornado. He was able to get them stopped and jump back into the ditch. The poor couple inside the other car were unable to get out. The cars were less than 100 yards apart and the tornado passed between them. I still can visualize the debris cloud and funnel as it crossed the highway. The noise was intense. That is what I will never be able to forget. The noise. Someone was watching over us because we all survived. Shaken and scared out of our minds, but all of us were still alive. Neither vehicle was damaged. The barn, huge oak tree and fence that were behind us when we bailed into the ditch were gone. The tree was pulled out by the roots and was nowhere to be seen. Many prayers were said before we tried to leave the scene. On the way home we stopped near Bunker Hill Air Force Base for coffee and to calm our nerves. The people running the diner never charged us. Everyone of us looked like we had been through a ringer. Mom called home and we heard about the state wide outbreak and destruction. They were very worried about us, but were happy to hear we had survived. I was 9 years old that day. It was the first of 7 tornadoes I have seen way to close, but it is one I will carry the memory of to my grave.

  6. i wasn't born yet but I remember my great aunt and my grandma telling stories of it when I was growing up, my mom was a senior in high school at the time. Thanks to the stories I heard as a child, I'm a storm spotter with skywarn I chased tornado's when I was single and young. But I hope we don't ever have to go through that like they did back then. To the one's who lived through it, tell your stories so others can learn how to stay alive.

  7. Many stories can come out of the Palm Sunday tornados, My parents on the evening of the 11th were within 2 miles of the path of the tornado and the weather was so abnormal a horse we could drop the reins on and leave her just to stand still, had to be tied which was very unusual. the devastation in Greentown, Indiana was no worse than what we are seeing on the screen now and the high school was destroyed while the elementary school 100 to 300 feet away was not even touched. The Sunday paper from Kokomo, IN was a single sheet not it's normal 5 pages, we went to the elementary schools for our 6th grade instead of to middle school and then spent the 7th grade in trailers attached to the elementary school which was now the high school until the new high school could be built. To this day when the weather turns bad I look at what the animals are doing as an indicator how bad the storm may be much better predicator of tornados than our weather forecasters. Yes I have noticed no body talks much about the Palm Sunday tornados even though they were very devastating.

  8. Oh I was there, 26 people at our house, only by God's grace was no one killed in our family. Many miracles happened that day. I lived 3 miles out of Forest Indiana....