April 3, 1974


Please send us your photos, stories, and memories of April 3, 1974!  We'll be happy to post them here.

Listen to the WHAS-AM broadcast live as it happened in Louisville (mp3 file)

Read personal experiences from people who lived through it!

Map of the local outbreak with descriptions of each tornado

Map of the entire outbreak

Satellite pictures at 11:11am EDT, 1:54pm EDT, and 5pm EDT.

Surface weather map at 8am EDT, 2pm EDT, and 8pm EDT

Jet streams

Weather maps:  250mb winds, 500mb winds, 500mb heights, 700mb relative humidity, 850mb winds, surface temperatures, surface relative humidity, sea level pressure.

Tornado Watches issued for our area:

Tornado Watch 9:27am - 3pm EDT

9:27am - 3pm EDT

Tornado Watch 11:10am - 5pm EDT

11:10am - 5pm EDT

Tornado Watch 4pm - 9pm EDT

4pm - 9pm EDT

Tornado Watch 6pm - Midnight EDT

6pm - Midnight EDT

Tornado Watch 6pm - Midnight EDT

6pm - Midnight EDT

Tornado Watch 6:50pm - Midnight EDT

6:50pm - Midnight EDT

Tornado Watch Midnight - 6am EDT

Midnight - 6am EDT April 4

 

Louisville area

An F4 tornado was born right before the eyes of National Weather Service meteorologists when it touched down north of Standiford Field.  The first damage was just west of the fairgrounds.  The twister then gathered strength as it tore northeast across the fairgrounds, Cherokee Park, Northfield, and on into Oldham County. Damage was worst in Northfield, where it briefly attained F4 status.

Click on the image below for a map of the Louisville tornado path, as constructed by Dr. Ted Fujita:
Louisville Map, Fujita

This photo was taken in Northfield by meteorologist Russ Conger, who was on shift taking the official weather observations at the NWS weather office when the tornado formed.

Northfield, Kentucky

 

Brandenburg, Kentucky

The tornado that devastated Brandenburg began five miles southwest of Hardinsburg and inflicted F3 damage to homes before it was even ten minutes old.  The tornado grew in size and intensity, reaching F4 strength near Irvington where it damaged 60 homes, and then entered Meade County.  There are no known photos of this historic tornado, and one reason for that may be that it didn't look like a typical tornado by the time it reached Brandenburg.  The twister was probably extremely wide (a "wedge" tornado) beneath a very low cloud base, and may have looked more like a solid wall of cloud rather than a slender funnel that most people associate with tornadoes.  Fifteen minutes after the National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning for the Brandenburg area, the storm destroyed 128 homes and 30 businesses in the small town-- many of them swept completely away.  The 2400-foot-wide F5 took the lives of 31 people, 28 from Brandenburg alone.  The tornado crossed the Ohio River at F4 strength and then quickly dissipated over southern Harrison County.

Below are some photos of Brandenburg, from the archives at the NWS office in Louisville.  Click on an image for a larger version.  If you have any photos or stories you'd like to share, please let us know!

Brandenburg Brandenburg Brandenburg Brandenburg Brandenburg
Brandenburg Brandenburg Brandenburg Brandenburg Brandenburg
Brandenburg Brandenburg Brandenburg Brandenburg Brandenburg
Brandenburg Brandenburg Brandenburg Brandenburg Brandenburg
Brandenburg Brandenburg Brandenburg Brandenburg Brandenburg


Madison, Indiana

Witness Doug Duell shared many pictures with the NWS -- thank you, Doug!

Richmond, Kentucky

This F4 tornado touched down in Garrard County, tore across northwest Madison County, and finally lifted in Clark County.  Despite remaining in rural areas it still took seven lives and injured 28 people.  Thirty homes were destroyed.

These photos were taken from Commonwealth Hall on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University.  The tornado was about nine miles away from the photographer.  Photos donated by Mike Schwendeman

Richmond, KY Richmond, KY Richmond, KY

 

Elk Horn, Kentucky

A half-mile wide F4 tornado began in Green County roughly midway between Greensburg and Gresham, and proceeded to the northeast across almost the entire length of Taylor County.  The tornado hit Mannsville squarely, where 40 buildings were destroyed and seven were leveled flat to the ground.  Thankfully, no deaths occurred, but there were 56 injuries.

These photos were taken by Willard Wise about a mile west of of Elk Horn, Kentucky in Taylor County.

Elk Horn
Elk Horn, Kentucky
Elk Horn, Kentucky
Elk Horn, Kentucky
Facing southwest, with the tornado near Green River Lake State Park. Facing south, with the tornado near Atchison just north of Green River Lake, possibly crossing Smith Ridge Road about this time. Facing east, with the twister near the intersection of KY 76 and Speck Ridge Road. Facing east, with the vortices swirling through the Speck Ridge Road and Parker Road areas, in the vicinity of White's Ridge.

 

Cumberland County, Kentucky

 
article top pictures  bottom pictures  donations

Read the article published in the county newspaper (click on the image for a larger version).

Here's the top half of the full-page spread...

...and here's the bottom half.

The kind folks of Cumberland County donated money towards the tornado relief fund.


From the Kentucky Baptist Convention's newsletter Western Recorder (thanks to Mike Fint for sending these to us, and to Todd Deaton, Editor of the Western Recorder, for allowing us to post them):

Western Recorder cover Western Recorder Western Recorder Western Recorder Western Recorder Western Recorder

 

See the actual weather observation forms taken by the weather employees who witnessed that day's wild weather:

 

Fort Knox  Lexington, Kentucky  Louisville, Bowman Field  Louisville, Standiford Field
Fort Knox Lexington Louisville, Bowman Field Louisville, Standiford Field

 

Remarks from our volunteer weather observers.  Click on the images to see their original hand-written forms:

 

Anchorage

Anchorage

Bradfordsville

Bradfordsville

Burkesville

Burkesville

Campbellsville

Campbellsville

Cecilia

Cecilia

Cynthiana

Cynthiana

Danville

Danville

Frankfort

Frankfort

Grantsburg

Grantsburg

Greensburg

Greensburg

Hardinsburg

Hardinsburg

Jasper

Jasper

Keene

Keene

LaGrange

LaGrange

Richmond

Richmond

Salem

Salem

 

See an 11"x17" version of our commemorative poster (3.7Mb):
Super Outbreak Poster

 Geographical area covered by the Louisville and surrounding NWS offices in 1974:

 

Southern Indiana
Kentucky

Geographical area covered by the Louisville and surrounding NWS offices today:

 Today's CWAs

Stories

 

General Outbreak Information


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