Many thanks to everyone who sent us their personal stories about one of the most significant weather events in this region's history!
Boone County, Kentucky
Russell County, Kentucky
Jefferson County, Indiana
New Albany, Indiana
Madison County, Kentucky
Daisy Hill, Indiana
Jeffersonville, Indiana (Daisy Hill in 1974)
I was almost 5 when this happened and I went thru the Daisy Hill storm. I have vivid memories of the destruction I witnessed that day. I remember gigantic hail like I’ve never seen destroying our trailer, barn and my dad's prized SS Nova. I remember seeing the livestock impaled with boards and pieces of straw stuck into what was left of the barn. It carried my grandpaw's horse trailer 4 miles and wadded it up into a tree. I remember Daisy Hill looking like a bomb had went off. It leveled everything. It picked up my grandparents' house and shifted it a bout 18” on the foundation. Those were all aftermath memories. The memories that haunt me the most were during the storm. I still remember the smell and the clipping noise. I remember how the tornado was black as night, blacker than anything I’ve ever seen. I remember my mom holding me and trying to stay calm, she was praying and holding me. I will never forget that day as long as I live and to this day I get edgy when the skies get dark. I have been in bad storms since then but nothing like what I went thru that day. It was the pinnacle of memories for my childhood. That tornado was the only thing I remember from that time.
Madison County, Kentucky
I remember this day well. The worst tornado in Madison County went through the area of Cottonburg and headed on towards Richmond. Near Cottonburg, we heard reports of people hurt and help was needed to open the roads, so we headed there from our home near Kirksville. When we finally got there one family had spotted the tornado and left their house to get in their car to escape the storm. They never made it. They had managed to reach the car and get the doors open but the tornado got them before they could get inside. The dome light was still on. That memory has stuck with me all these years. The parents were killed and their daughter was left alive but brain damaged, she died about a year or so later. Also recall that it demolished Whitehall School just outside of Richmond and that they later found papers from this area in Xenia, Ohio! I have been a SkyWarn spotter since 1980. This storm had a lot to do with that. Stay safe and keep an eye on the sky!
Boone County, Kentucky
Russell County, Kentucky
April 3, 1974 is a day I shall never forget. I was 9 years old living with my parents in the Gosser Ridge Community of eastern Russell County, about 30 yards from the Pulaski County line.
I don't recall much about the main part of the day, but I do remember well the green color of the sky and constant lightning later that evening. My mother rushed my brother and me in taking a bath and I could tell by her actions something was wrong. My dad was working at Rusell County Vocational School and returned home just before the worst part of the weather hit.
As we entered the early evening hours, I vividly recount our FM radio tuned to WJRS-FM, in Jamestown, KY. Respected broadcaster, the late Welby C. Hoover, relayed weather information, taking short breaks while playing "The Entertainer" to have time to compile information to relay to his massive listening audience. Because of interference from the storm, we often struggled to hear what he was saying
Hoover and his wife Mae were later credited for helping raise thousands of dollars of relief money for tornado victims and was recognized several times for his efforts of community service.
The static popped on the airwaves and coincided with lightning activity. Thunder was constant and the elements were in major unrest as the night and early morning hours went on. The storm never came close to our home, but "the way the bird flies" you could hear the raging sounds of twisters across the terrain.
I remember my dad looking out our front door at the sky and commenting on how things looked....the whole cloud structure seemed to be only a few feet above the ground and now, what I know were scud clouds, showed movement in the distance as severe weather ripped through the area.
Neighbors and family members came to our basement to seek shelter and we lay on a mattress most of the night listening to the radio and wondering what would be next. The rain and hail pelted our house and thunder and lightning so intense it sounded as if it was right on top of us. Foolishly some decided to go back to their own home in the peak of the storm. As for tornadoes, we were fortunate that none struck our community.
Jefferson County, Indiana
I had never seen a tornado before. Not in person, anyway. Not many people at the time had really seen or been close to one...not on purpose, at any rate. That's why I wasn't so sure what I saw that afternoon. I suppose, like many of us at the time, a tornado looked just like the one in "The Wizard of Oz". That's what I looked for when I encountered my first twister on 4/3/74. Instead, I saw a black cloud...all alone and very distinctive...moving in its own direction. It had three extensions. There was a huge vortex in the middle and smaller ones on either side. The small funnels never seemed to hit the ground, while the middle funnel seemed to almost bounce. It would land, then rise in the air a bit, then land again. I watched this tornado travel behind my house at a distance of what I thought was only a few hundred yards, but later discovered it was several miles back. I saw it cross the highway beside my house four miles away (hitting my grandparents' barn in the process), then make its way to Hanover and Madison, IN.
One of the things that gave me doubt was the sound, or lack thereof. I never heard the trains. I was always told a tornado sounds like "a thousand freight trains", but when I watched this storm, it was dead silent. I asked my mother a number of times if that was a tornado...she told me to hold on and to hush...trying to get me to settle down.
As frightening as that vision was, the worst was yet to happen. My sister was attending a meeting at the school in Hanover. We drove the back roads to the school hoping to get through. About a mile from the school, the road was covered in downed trees, so we got out of the car and ran and stumbled our way there. As we came around the corner and got our first vision of what was left of the elementary building, it was astounding...and overwhelming to my mother who dropped to her knees on the roadway (she hates when I tell people about that) in shock. The neighborhood across from the school was ripped to shreds...many houses now nothing more than foundation. The high school and the gymnasium were destroyed and the elementary building had its roof ripped off, but the first thing you saw of the school was the enormous hole in the wall where the multi purpose room was. Having been in that room just 90 minutes prior, it amazed me that so much damage could happen so quickly. We found my sister along with the other girls in her troupe and her teacher at the side of the building. They were escorted to the music room, a small, windowless room next to the multi purpose room. Considering the damage to the rest of the building, that room most likely saved their lives.
The biggest effect that day had on me lasted years beyond. I had never feared storms before the tornado. Afterward, I would become frightened during severe weather outbreaks, flipping through the TV and radio channels trying to get the latest updates on current watches and warnings while keeping an eye outside. Even today, while I don't necessarily fear severe weather, I do surround myself with all the info I can get when we have bad weather around including online radars and connections to local meteorologists and the weather office.
New Albany, Indiana
I was 10 years old when the tornado outbreak happened. I remember the next day my dad took us for a ride to see the damage. We went through Borden, IN and looped around the Martinsburg and Palmyra areas. The hillside at Borden was unreal to see how the trees were laid over in the same direction along the hill side, rather than the usual twisted mangled mess. May have been the straight line wind that is usually running on the side of a tornado. Then we went through Martinsburg, it was just a mess. Small town in ruins. Then we proceeded to Palmyra where I remember a line of houses was just ripped off their foundations. I remember seeing the aluminum siding on houses with baseball size dents. We were lucky, since Floyd County didn't have any tornado damage that day. It was very scary for me to see the damage. I never looked at storms the same way again.
I would be happy to share what I remember of the F4 tornado that tore through the community of Jett in Franklin County. However my memories pale in comparison to the stories my parents have told me since I was only a small child. I will try my best to convey some of what they shared with me and my siblings about that fateful day.
We were living Mitchell’s Trailer Park in Frankfort, an area referred to as Jett. Our home backed up to a railroad embankment and we’d often get to see the trains coming and going. I remember it being warm enough outside to play in a t-shirt and pair of shorts. My sister and I were riding our tricycles on the patio. I remember seeing what looked like a huge wall of swirling black clouds coming towards us and wasn’t sure if the noise was a train coming or something else. I saw my dad open the front door and look to the sky. I remember hearing his voice say, “Oh my God…” He went back inside to get my mother and brother. They came running out of the trailer, but then my mom turned around and went back in to get her shoes and purse. She was so terrified, she only managed to get one shoe on and then came running out to grab my hand. We had no place to go, so my dad was trying to get us to the railroad embankment. There was a barbed wire fence at the base of the embankment and next to our Saint Bernard’s doghouse. The dog was chained to the doghouse. My parents tried to get us all over the fence, but unfortunately there was no time. The massive F4 tornado was mere seconds away. I have only flashes of the next few minutes. We were all laying down on the ground, next to a small elm tree. I saw the dog flying in the air, still chained to the dog house. I heard my sister screaming. I saw my dad, bleeding profusely from his head, trying to shield us from the debris. I felt myself being pulled into the wind and I grabbed the little elm tree, hanging on with my little hands. My brother was holding on to the same tree. I remember being lifted off the ground. I saw my mom. She looked like she was sleeping, her blonde hair covered in blood. Then it was total silence and total darkness. Apparently, the trailer had been lifted up into the air, spun around, collapsed like a deck of cards and dropped down on top of us. The initial reports to our family members searching for us was that we had not survived. National Guard Troops managed to find us buried under the rubble of our home. I think they heard my sister crying. We were taken to the hospital, which I remember being full of people injured by the tornado. I also remember that later that night, there were more storms and warnings of tornadoes.
Some odd things my mother told me:
When she regained consciousness, under the piles of debris, next to her head was the toilet. Next to the toilet were her shoes, the one she had put on her foot and the one she couldn’t get in time. They were placed neatly side by side, as if someone put them there. Beside her shoes was the purse she also wasn’t able to get. Her angel had watched over her that day. She was knocked unconscious by the force of a steel rod that went through my dad’s arm while his arm was covering her head. Had his arm not been there, she would have been killed.
My dad had been nearly scalped by a furnace. Had the furnace hit him an inch lower, he would have been killed.
The little elm tree saved us from being crushed by the tons of debris from our trailer….it was the only thing supporting the weight. We were pulled from a gap of about 1 ½ feet in depth.
The three of us children, ages 6, 4 ½ and 3 ½ had only suffered a few minor scratches, but were left with a lifelong fear of storms.
Our car had 4 flat tires.
The Saint Bernard was found about 4 miles away, down Old Frankfort Pike….alive and well.
We lost nearly everything. The next day or so, they allowed us to go in to try and retrieve any belongings we could salvage. My mom found pictures, clothes, jackets and some toys and put them in the garbage bags provided to us by the National Guard Troops. I believe when it was discovered there were still live power lines, my mom was made to leave. They told her to leave the bags and they would make sure we were able to get them later. The next day, the garbage trucks had picked up the bags before my mom could get them. That was all we had left and it was taken away as well.
We were left homeless. The nice family who found our Saint Bernard was kind enough to keep him since we had no place for him.
Ironically, I now live in the exact same area where the tornado first touched down in the northern Anderson County area of Alton. You can still see the scars on the gigantic trees that line the back of my property.
Thanks for letting me share.
Christina (Wise) Redmon
On April 3, 1974 in Louisville, KY I was looking out of bathroom window at the rear of my house and I commented “that looks like a tornado.” It went over the hills behind my house. I asked my neighbors if they saw the tornado and they said they were on their front porch and missed the whole thing. I thought this was so funny.
As I was leaving my first grade classroom to ride the bus home, I noticed that the air looked greenish. You could actually see the moisture in the air. I've always wondered why that was, because I've only seen it look that way a couple of times in 46 years. My mom made me wear tights that day, and I hated tights. As we were coming out of school, I realized how warm it was, which made the tights even worse. I couldn't wait to get home and take those things off! The next thing I remember, I was home, shoes and tights off, when my dad came in. He was going to the store and wanted to know if I wanted to go with him. I told him no, I would stay home and watch Presto the Clown if he would bring me some chocolate milk. He left and I was alone with our poodle, Fifi. Our TV had a loose tube, or something, because sometimes it would lose picture, but still have sound. When this would happen, I would get on the top of the back of a chair and jump off onto the floor, the resultant jarring would sometimes make the picture come back. I remember I kept jumping and jumping, but no picture, then the power went out. What followed was the loudest sound I've ever heard. Once, about 10 years ago, I got stuck in a barn with a metal roof during a storm. I don't know if it was hail or just really hard rain, but the noise on that roof was so loud, that I literally couldn't hear myself talk. That is the only thing I've ever heard that came close to this. The racket was terrifying, and everything in the house, as well as the house itself was shaking, violently. At one point, I swear, the roof lifted up, and you could see outside between the top of the wall, and the ceiling. We had a picture window, and our couch was backed up to this window, so I could sit on my knees facing backward and look out the front of the house. I had done this for a while, until the noise got really bad, then I turned around, sat down, and put Fifi on my lap. I rocked her back and forth and said, "We're gonna die, Fifi, we're gonna die."* I wonder sometimes if I missed my moment. In that moment, I was ready to go, wherever we go from here. I'm not sure I'll ever be that ready again. The house settled back down, the noise left, and it began to rain. I remember looking up at the ceiling and wondering how what I saw could be true, and if it was true, how it could have gone back together the way it had. Lightning struck a good size maple tree between us and our neighbor, it fell into another tree, which fell into another tree, which all fell on our neighbor's garage. This was the last straw, I ran into my parent's room and pulled the covers over my head. A few minutes later, my dad came in the back door, yelling for me. It was weird that he came in the back door, because we always used the front. I guess he could see the front of the house was still standing when he pulled into the driveway, and he wanted to see the back before he came in the door. I ran out to him, and the first thing I asked was, "Did you get my chocolate milk?" He did not. Then I asked, "What was that thing?" He said, "That was a tornado." I said, "Is it gone?," and he said, "I hope so." This was the first time I'd ever heard of a tornado.
*It should be noted that Fifi hated my guts and this is the only time in my memory that she allowed me to actually hold her without complaint, and without biting me.