Wednesday, May 11, 2011


The recent multiple tornadoes in the southeast US and the visit there of President Obama rekindled memories of the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak on April 11, 1965.  A map of the tornado tracks in northern Indiana and Michigan can be found here and you will see the time, F-scale, length, fatalities and injuries.  Johnny Johns had come over to our place for the afternoon, and we were most likely working on car models or on the previously mentioned HO train.  We went outside for a bit and were quite taken by the sky.  We stood in our front yard and watched the gray-yellow-green clouds angrily swirling and heading northeast.  It was not too long before we began to hear sirens, and so we went inside to turn on the radio and TV.  The news was pretty bad.


This was probably the worst of the many tornados of the afternoon - a double funnel that at times was almost a mile wide.  And as so often seems to be the case, a trailer park was in the path.  Of the 271 people killed by these tornadoes, 137 were in Indiana.  One of the tornadoes tracked right over Goshen.  It touched down briefly at the Elkart River dam, lifted and passed right over Rhonda's home at 414 Westwood Road, then touched down again east of town near the Elkart County Fairgrounds, and proceeded NE as a killer tornado.  Elkhart County had the highest death toll amongst all of the counties affected - 62 perished.

Soon after the outbreak, emergency centers were set up and donations began to roll in - I believe that we sent some clothes.  Similar to Obama's trip to the southeast, President Lyndon Johnson paid a visit to the Dunlap trailer park that was actually hit twice.

If you google Palm Sunday Tornadoes and click on Images, you will see some incredible pictures.  Amongst all of the tragedy, there were a few odd events.  The home of my good friend and college roommate John Riegsecker was half gone - one half missing and strewn about, the other half with the clothes still in the closet.  Another house was intact but apparently had been lifted off the foundation, a cow deposited in the basement, and the house reset albeit off a bit.  In the days and weeks afterwards, there was plenty of cleanup work to do, and I spent time cleaning up a woods.  We "tree-aged" the trees, with some of them being carefully cut so that they could be sold for lumber [cherry] and others cut up for firewood [poplar].  Amazingly there were many trees still standing.


Steve Heller said...

Your aunt Ada talked about being in a tornado when she was a little girl. Your mom might have some memory of that one.

Dr S said...

Primo - had not heard that one. I will ask Mary if she has a recollection of the event. We also had our barn and some chicken houses blown away, and I need to get the year for that - sometime in the late 50's perhaps.