We’re now into the Final Four round of this year’s Ohio Memory Madness competition, and it’s getting down to the wire! While this week’s featured item was actually knocked out in the second round of the tournament, it is nonetheless an important item to highlight, since yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of a devastating tornado outbreak that ravaged southwestern Ohio, and left a lasting impact that endures today.
On April 3, 1974, an F5 category tornado struck Xenia, Ohio. The tornado that struck Xenia was just one of at least 148 tornadoes that occurred across 13 states in the South and Midwest in a twenty-four period, in what was the worst outbreak of tornadoes recorded in the twentieth century. The Xenia tornado had registered wind speeds of three hundred miles per hour, which destroyed more than one thousand homes and businesses and left hardly any buildings standing in Xenia’s downtown. 32 people were killed in the area, and 36 Ohio residents died in the storm in total–around one tenth of the storm’s total deaths across the 13 states. Approximately another 1,150 people were injured in Xenia, and were treated at the city’s Greene Memorial Hospital. In the storm’s aftermath, the city and surrounding region banded together. Restaurants that were not destroyed handed out free meals by the thousands to residents and rescue workers, while convoys of generators, floodlights, bulldozers, and dump trucks arrived overnight from nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
President Richard Nixon visited Xenia in the week following the tornado, and described the scene as “the worst disaster I’ve ever seen.” But amazingly, the city rebounded and rebuilt quickly. Just one year later, on April 3, 1975, eighty percent of the destroyed homes and forty percent of the businesses had been rebuilt. It would ultimately take until 1984 for all affected structures to be repaired or rebuilt, but as we know from the message on these bumper stickers that appeared within days of the tornado, “Xenia Lives!”
Our thoughts are with those who were affected by the storm 40 years ago, and on this weekend of commemoration, we invite you to learn more about this significant moment in Ohio’s history through the materials available on Ohio Memory. Stay tuned in the coming week to find out which remaining Ohio Memory object is selected as this year’s Ohio Memory Madness champion!
Thanks to Lily Birkhimer, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!