April 3, 2009

April 3rd, 1974

I was in a Kroger picking something up, I can’t remember what. There had been tornado watches issued by the weather service earlier in the day. Coming out the skies had a leaden background with rags of clouds in the foreground moving rapidly westward. My eye followed the clouds west and that’s when I saw the top of the tornado, about five miles away, and the occasional electrical flash close to it. It was a very scary sight and I’ll never forget it. I never had dreams of tornados before that day and now I still have the occasional tornado dream.

The F4 tornado formed over Louisville’s airport and touched down at The Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center, and destroyed the horse barns at the center and part of Freedom Hall arena before it crossed I-65, scattering several vehicles. The tornado continued its 22-mile journey northeast destroying over 900 homes, and damaging thousands of others. Cherokee Park, a historic 409-acre municipal park designed by Frederic Law Olmstead had thousands of mature trees destroyed.

Today is the 35th anniversary of the “Super Outbreak” It is the largest tornado outbreak on record for a single 24-hour period. From April 3 to April 4, 1974, there were 148 tornados confirmed in 13 states, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and New York; and the Canadian province of Ontario. It extensively damaged approximately 900 square miles along a total combined path length of 2,600 miles.


  1. That was an amazing event ... reminds me other natural super events. People joke about California's earthquake but one of the largest earthquakes in US history (excluding Alaska) centered in Missouri in the early 1800s.

  2. Hey BB--

    Wow -- very well described -- doing something ordinary and that moment when you see something so frightening and powerful change in an instant, making us feel very small...

  3. Great description - fascinating event - Love tornados as long as they're not near me

  4. I was living in Murray at the time and I remember the sky was this eerie yellow color. I have friends who were drinking at Gerstles, as the tornado passed over,thinking that was the loudest damn longest train they had ever heard. My friend Cathy had a friend who was asleep in a upstairs bedroom as the tonado hit and tore the whole huse apart except for where he was. Scary. Am I wrong, or did not one person die in Louisville despite the destruction?

  5. alpha...There were only two deaths caused by the tornado in Louisville that day.