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On April 3rd, 1974 people in Xenia saw black smoke rising, like a wall, and then the wall started turning in.It was an F-5 tornado. There were twisters all through Ohio and in other states- 148 were confirmed that day throughout the United States and Canada.The tornado that struck Xenia killed 32 people and injured over 1000. Two National Guardsmen also died fighting a fire. Hundreds of homes were shredded into bits and downtown was demolished.As part of an oral history project, staffers from the Greene County Public Library interviewed people who were in Xenia that day. And those voices make up our series.

Xenia Tornado Destroys, Transforms City 45 Years Ago

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National Weather Service
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Xenia Tornado

It’s been 45 years since an outbreak of dangerous storms produced nearly 150 tornadoes across the U.S. and Canada over a 24 hour period.  Reports say during one short period more than a dozen tornadoes were on the ground simultaneously. The storms claimed the lives of hundreds of people and injured thousands more. It was a day in 1974 that Xenia residents never forgot. 

 

This audio from Xenia-tornado.com gives just a small taste of what Xenia residents heard on April 3, 1974, the day that saw more than 1,400 homes and buildings damaged, or completely destroyed.

The massive F5 tornado touched down in Xenia at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, destroying nearly everything in its 32-mile path.  

The twister destroyed roughly half of the city of Xenia, hitting nine churches, and most of the city’s schools, though classes had been dismissed an hour earlier. More than three dozen people lost their lives that day. 

Speaking in a 2013 interview, Greene County Public Library Director Karl Colon says the event was transformative for the city of Xenia.

"You had to rethink the whole idea of what the town was and what the town was to become, in order to even be able to get back on your feet," Colon said. "It took a lot of vision; it took a lot of commitment from the community. They never gave up on their belief in their hometown and they brought it back to life."

In 2014, Greene County libraries invterviewed Xenia residents about their memories of the 1974 tornado. You can find those here.

Jerry Kenney was introduced to WYSO by a friend and within a year of first tuning in became an avid listener and supporter. He began volunteering at the station in 1991 and began hosting Alpha Rhythms in February of 1992. Jerry joined the WYSO staff in 2007 as a host of All Things Considered and soon transitioned into hosting Morning Edition. In addition to now hosting All Things Considered, Jerry is the host and producer of WYSO Weekend, WYSO's weekly news and arts magazine. He has also produced several radio dramas for WYSO in collaboration with local theater companies. Jerry has won several Ohio AP awards as well as an award from PRINDI for his work with the WYSO news department. Jerry says that the best part of his job is being able to talk to people in the community and share their experiences with WYSO listeners.