1965-04-11: Palm Sunday Outbreak

Trade Stocks for Free with Robinhood
Leverage your knowledge of weather to beat the stock market with free trading on Robinhood! Sign up today, get free stock!
Apr 17, 2006
285
4
11
Owasso Oklahoma
Visit site
I was only 7 years old and living east of South Bend Ind. I can still recall the neighborhood out playing in the warm weather but all the parents looking at the sky. My mother was really wound up listening to the weather reports on TV. I am not sure how many times we hid in the basement but it was more than once that day.

The famous double vortex photo from Elkhart is still impressive every time I look at it. The 271 fatalities led to a overhaul of the Weather Bureau and the founding of Skywarn.

I was even more surprised to learn the 1920 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak in the south killed at least 380 persons. The fact our segregated society would not count blacks killed leaves that actual number of deaths much higher since many of the communities hit were a very large black population.....

http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2005/s2418.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_Sunday_tornado_outbreak_of_1920
 

Dennis Dennison

Yup, 930pm in Toledo, Oh, the first thing we knew it was going bad was the sound of the electrical connections being ripped from the back of our house, I still remember that is sounded a lot like a bullet ricochet. The F-4 was just a block and 1/2 behind our place.
 
Apr 23, 2006
184
12
11
Flower Mound, TX
How it all began

April 11, 1965 was sort of a beginning of my interest in severe weather. I was only 8 years old at the time. I remember standing in the living room with my mother watching a severe storm in the Chicago area. I asked her, how do you know if a tornado is coming? She replied: When you see lightning go around in a circle. I thought I saw a flash of lightning go in a circle and ran to the basement -petrified and I stayed there for quite some time. One of my favorite photos was the one in Indiana of the two large tornadoes next to each other. Later, I learned this tornado was a multi-vortex. Fujita's classic paper still stands as one of my all time favorites.
 
Jan 28, 2009
119
0
5
Conrad, Iowa
The Palm Sunday outbreak of 4/11/1965 was the event that sparked my interest in severe weather. I remember coming out of church and it being VERY windy and my Dad pointing out the thunderstorm just to our East. I had just turned six years old and I also remember Conrad Johnson reading tornado warnings for several Eastern Iowa counties on WMT television in Cedar Rapids.
 

Dennis Dennison

The twin funnel also happened in Toledo, this pic is pretty much what was behind my house.

 
Jul 2, 2004
1,775
91
11
Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
Yesterday, the 44th anniversary of the Palm Sunday Tornadoes, I did what I have done several times within the past few years and toured the old Midway Trailer Court grounds where the infamous twin funnels blew through, and visited my friend Debbie Watters' tornado memorial park in Dunlap. This time I was with Pat Murphy, a lead forecaster for the Northern Indiana WFO who has an interest in the Palm Sunday Outbreak akin to my own. This particular outbreak is an area of personal research; it had a far-reaching impact that can't be overstated. The more I dig into it, the more fascinated I am. Some of the statistics, such as the exact number of fatalities, are hard to pin down. What's clear is that the outbreak was an early season Great Lakes event driven by shear, with low CAPE but absolutely gonzo kinematics (500 mb winds over 140 mph!), and, believe it or not, with a dryline (which Fujita called a "dry cold front") providing convergence ahead of the cold front.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Apr 10, 2008
222
1
0
32
Quincy, IL
www.wiu.edu
I know this was well before we had any of the technologies we enjoy today. But does anyone have some sort of synoptic overview/rough outline of the atmosphere of the Palm Sunday Outbreak?

I imagine the only data will be a large scale synoptic map....
 

Melissa Jablonski

I was In Elkart county Indiana too. I was 9 years old. I'll never forget.
Melissa
 
Sep 29, 2006
61
0
6
64
Northern Indiana
I was ten years old and was in Knox, Ind. at relatives. I remember hanging on to the neighbors fence post as the wind was blowing the sand at us. Our parents came and got us and down into the basement we went.Later in the week we drove though some of the damaged areas and saw how bad it really was.
 

Dennis Dennison

I have to say-what really get me it there is VERY little info or pictures ANYWHERE on the F-4 That went thru Toledo , Ohio. Considering it was an F-4 and a Twin set of tubes, and killed a bunch of folks,etc--I just cannot find much at all-despite hours and hours of searching

Anyone with knowledge of any info-please send me a PM so I can get the stuff--Thanks
 
Jul 2, 2004
1,775
91
11
Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
Yeah, there is a real paucity of photos of the actual Palm Sunday tornadoes, particularly compared to today, when a gnat can't fart without half a dozen chasers capturing the event on film. And there is nothing at all in the way of home movies.

I think a large part of the problem was, people in many cases didn't receive warnings and were caught with their pants down by storms that were moving at sixty to seventy miles an hour, and no one was about to go hunting for their cameras with a violent tornado bearing down on them at space shuttle speed.
 

Dennis Dennison

True, no warnings--But I am amazed I cant find anything at all POST storm-the day after stuff-I mean an F4 in Toledo-killed a bunch of people-and major damage-and all I can find is about 6 pics
 

Melissa Jablonski

Dennis, are you familiar with the book, The Night of the Wicked Winds? It focuses on the Ohio part of the Palm Sunday Outbreak. Here's some information:

The Night of the Wicked Winds: the 1965 Palm Sunday tornadoes in Ohio, by Roger Pickenpaugh. Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, 2003. ISBN 0-9709059-3-9 (paperback).
Bob have you read " Those Whirling,,Swirling Winds"? I don'tknow the author.
I know it is out of print. It focused on the Starke, St.Joe and Elkhart county tornadoes . The Starke County Indiana Library system had a copy a few years ago. It was published by a Canadian publisher. It had a lot of descriptions of the tornadoes given by people who saw them.
Melissa
 
Jul 2, 2004
1,775
91
11
Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
Bob have you read " Those Whirling,,Swirling Winds"? I don'tknow the author.
I know it is out of print. It focused on the Starke, St.Joe and Elkhart county tornadoes . The Starke County Indiana Library system had a copy a few years ago. It was published by a Canadian publisher. It had a lot of descriptions of the tornadoes given by people who saw them.
Melissa
I wonder whether you mean The Mighty Whirlwind by David Wagler, published by Pathway? I have a copy of that book here in my library. It is well written and quite interesting in that it predates knowledge about tornadoes that we take for granted today (much of which arose out of the Palm Sunday disaster). I understand that some of Wagler's journalistic methods were questionable, but the book is nevertheless the only one ever published on the northern Indiana storms.
 

Dennis Dennison

The Night of the Wicked Winds: the 1965 Palm Sunday tornadoes in Ohio, by Roger Pickenpaugh. Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, 2003. ISBN 0-9709059-3-9 (paperback).


No--but I am now looking to find and buy a copy--thanks
 

Melissa Jablonski

I wonder whether you mean The Mighty Whirlwind by David Wagler, published by Pathway? I have a copy of that book here in my library. It is well written and quite interesting in that it predates knowledge about tornadoes that we take for granted today (much of which arose out of the Palm Sunday disaster). I understand that some of Wagler's journalistic methods were questionable, but the book is nevertheless the only one ever published on the northern Indiana storms.
It could be. I read it several years ago. If it was published in Canada it is probably the one. We were staying with friends in Elkhart county but Mom and Dad owned a house that was 2 miles from the Koontz lake damage.
Mom and Dad tried to keep us calm while driving in a zigzag home that evening. It seemed we'd driven forever and hadn't reached hiway 31. My dad was so rattled he kept repeating "they've moved the highway" over and over again. We were all scared. Melissa
 
Jan 28, 2009
119
0
5
Conrad, Iowa
Yeah, there is a real paucity of photos of the actual Palm Sunday tornadoes, particularly compared to today, when a gnat can't fart without half a dozen chasers capturing the event on film. And there is nothing at all in the way of home movies.

I think a large part of the problem was, people in many cases didn't receive warnings and were caught with their pants down by storms that were moving at sixty to seventy miles an hour, and no one was about to go hunting for their cameras with a violent tornado bearing down on them at space shuttle speed.
I agree with Bob, the fact the storms were cranking along at 50-60 mph would have made it difficult to take photos even if you were aware they were tornadic. There is a story about an Indiana state trooper that shot some 8mm film of one of the tornadoes. If true, it would be very interesting to see it.
 
Jul 2, 2004
1,775
91
11
Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
Sunday was the 45th anniversary of the Palm Sunday Tornadoes. I attended a commemorative event in Dunlap, Indiana, where the worst of the tornadoes wiped out the Sunnyside and Kingston Heights subdivisions. You can read a more complete writeup on my blog, but there's one point of interest I thought I'd share here.

Among the crowd were Paul Huffman and his wife, Elizabeth. Paul is the retired Elkhart Truth photographer who took what is probably the most famous tornado photograph of all time, depicting twin funnels hitting the Midway Trailer Court between Elkhart and Goshen. Today I look at that photograph and still marvel, and shudder. But when Paul snapped that shot, he wasn't even aware that the tornado had split in two. He told me that he only saw the rightmost of the two funnels in his viewfinder, and that's what he thought he was capturing. It wasn't until he developed the film that he realized what a startling image he had caught.

Another point: an automobile landed on the railroad tracks near the Huffmans. Ted Fujita, in an analysis of that particular tornado, determined that Paul was located .7 mile from the Midway Trailer Park. Having visited the old trailer court grounds a number of times and attempted to pinpoint Paul's location based on what may be the one old landmark still extant from that time, I'd say that Paul may have been even farther away, though not by much. In any event, while the present 28 damage indicators for the EF Scale don't include automobiles, the old F Scale states that one earmark of F5 damage would be automobiles thrown for 100 meters or more. Based on that criterion, it's natural to wonder whether "The Twins," rated officially at F4, weren't in fact in the F5 category.
 

RWilbanks

EF0
Mar 17, 2010
20
0
0
Ann Arbor, Michigan
The 1965 Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak, is one that has interested me since I was 13 years-old. I was only a few months old when it occurred, but I remember growing up in Monroe County, Michigan, and everyone there after April 11, 1965 took tornadoes very seriously from that day onward. However, this was one tornado outbreak the local TV stations in Detroit never mentioned in their annual spring tornado specials in the 1970s.

I never realized until I started researching this outbreak for a feature story in a local newspaper in 1995, just how devastating these storms really were. Many of the people that I interviewed in Lenawee and Monroe Counties that were eyewitnesses to the storms on that day, had no idea that this was part of a regional outbreak of tornadoes, but had thought this was a localized disaster just in their own back yard. Likewise, the death toll in Indiana was staggering, and when combined with all the other states made me wonder how so many people could have been killed in the 1960s, especially with all the advances in weather forecasting technology during the modern Space Age. Moreover, I was really stunned by the fact that all of the emergency management agencies in Lower Michigan that were affected by the Palm Sunday 1965 storms, had taken all of their files, information, photos and tossed into a dumpster. Nevermind, that they had saved most of their storm data from other events going back to the 1950s, April 11, 1965 was one day they seem to have wanted to erase forever.

In early May, Richard Luterman, the meteorologist on Fox 2 Detroit, will air a special that will cover the two F4 tornadoes that tore through Hillsdale and Lenawee Counties on Palm Sunday 1965. With that said, Rich and I were talking on the phone and he mentioned that it's so hard to believe that there is so little in the way of photographs and film that was shot on April 11, 1965. In addition, the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management Division, apparently no longer has any of the 16mm color movie film that was shot down in Branch, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe Counties. They used this for public education films in the 1960s and into the 1970s.
 

Dennis Dennison

I also have searched long and hard, and have found so very little in the way of pics, video(8mm) of the outbreak, I was in Toledo and we got whacked pretty good-but NOTHING. I wonder if for some reason they decided to dump as much as they could because they were afraid the public might have become upset if they discovered that the weather service had more or less failed to understand the event as it happened and notify them in time to give them time for cover?
 
Apr 1, 2005
162
0
0
48
Goodland, KS
Visit site
Dennis, or anyone else who might be interested in researching this event more deeply, have you thought about contacting the Ohio state historical society? If nothing else, they would likely have archived newspapers from that period and may even have a copy of the video alluded to earlier. Just a thought...