1965-04-11: Palm Sunday Outbreak

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RWilbanks

EF0
Mar 17, 2010
20
0
0
Ann Arbor, Michigan
I do know from William Ezell, the former meteorologist in charge at the Toledo Express Airport, that someone shot an 8mm home movie in color, of supercell "J" as it moved through southern Branch and Hillsdale Counties. This person was located near Pioneer, Ohio and although it doesn't show any tornadic activity, it was really impressive to watch the storm move along at 70 MPH, with continuous lightning. Likewise, the entire storm was rotating, which made it all the more impressive.

The Indiana State Police, produced a public education film on the events of April 11, 1965 called, "Death Out Of Darkness." This can be seen on YouTube:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

WTOL TV-11 in Toledo, Ohio, made a documentary the day after the Palm Sunday storms, called "Thirty Seconds To Eternity." This film can also be viewed on YouTube:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Last but not least, here is the audio tape that was recorded at a church in Alto, Indiana, as the tornado took a direct hit on the building.

Alto Recording

Yours truly,

Ron
 
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Dennis Dennison

Yours truly,
Posted links
Ron

I actually have these downloaded-added a few in today-and I was going to post what you posted by had to go do something--thanks for those links--the sound recording was something I found to be very creepy, and sad.
 

Derek Heide

Thanks for posting that audio, Ron. The sound of the tornado impacting the church is chilling. Perhaps the part that strikes me the most is when the pastor stops preaching and gets word of the tornado. That is as real as it gets.
 

RWilbanks

EF0
Mar 17, 2010
20
0
0
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Here is some additional YouTube video from the aftermath of April 11, 1965. This is from the Crystal Lake area.

Crystal Lake, Illinois

This is a video interview from an eyewitness of the tornado that struck Sheridan, Indiana on Palm Sunday. This was from what I believe is from Supercell "M" that moved to the north of Indianapolis.

Sheridan, Indiana

Yours truly,

Ron
 

RWilbanks

EF0
Mar 17, 2010
20
0
0
Ann Arbor, Michigan
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?
It's rather interesting that you should bring that up. There were some key equipment failures at the Lansing, and Muskegon offices of the U.S. Weather Bureau, on Palm Sunday 1965. Both of these instances would drastically affect the people in the path of the storms, and the neighboring weather offices downstream from their areas.

The teletype machines had failed on Saturday at the weather office at Capitol City Airport in Lansing. This meant that they did not receive any warnings from the neighboring U.S. Weather Bureau offices in Fort Wayne and South Bend, Indiana. Likewise, the office in Grand Rapids, did not issue any warnings in their county warning area, as they were caught completely off guard. However, since the teletype machines had failed due to a circuit problem, the Lansing office would never have received them anyways.

Over in Muskegon, a vacuum tube had burned out in their obsolete WSR-3 radar console, which rendered it inoperable. They were not aware of the severe thunderstorms moving into their area off Lake Michigan. Moreover, the Grand Rapids office was totally dependent on the radar reports from Muskegon, which never came. Therefore, when the storms came ashore and were moving east-northeast at speeds up to 70 MPH, by the time they had received a report of a tornado 20-30 minutes later, that information was too old to be any value to nearby communities.

The only warning issued in South Central Lower Michigan on Palm Sunday 1965, was from the Lansing office, which used a telephone fanout list to notify key media and public safety contacts in Jackson County. They firmly believed the first tornado was heading towards Jackson, and for everyone there to take cover. Sadly, in the chaos that evening, they never thought to call the U.S. Weather Bureau at Detroit Metro Airport to let them know that a confirmed report of a tornado had been received near the community of Hillsdale. That information would have been priceless to the radar operator, who could have actually tracked the progress of that storm. Subsequently, Detroit could have issued a tornado warning for Lenawee and Monroe Counties.

In the days and months that followed, there was a lot of finger pointing between local officials and the U.S. Weather Bureau. While politicians at the city and county levels, blamed the weather forecasters for being woefully unprepared with outdated equipment and policies. Conversely, the U.S. Weather Bureau said that it was up to local communities to bolster their preparedness plans, and if they would have done so, the death toll would have been much lower.

Another problem back in 1965, was that public safety agencies used disparate two-way radio systems, which often used different frequency bands. Likewise, in Michigan there was no specific frequencies set aside for intersystem (interoperable) communications between various first responders. While such systems existed in neighboring states, Michigan was behind the rest of the nation at that time. Sadly, it took the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak to get the ball rolling in that area.

In 1965, the telephone was the primary means of point-to-point contact, between public safety agencies in Southern Lower Michigan and neighboring Indiana and Ohio. While Indiana, was making vast changes and moving to VHF-High band radios, for their police and fire communications. Michigan on the other hand, was still on VHF-Low band in the 33, 37, 39 and 46 MHz bands. Likewise, it was very hard for fire and police departments in one county to talk with their own units, let alone with a neighboring county or state.

Yours truly,

Ron
 
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Jul 2, 2004
1,775
91
11
Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
Ron, those are some fascinating insights. Thank you for sharing them! Breakdown of the warning infrastructure seems to have made a huge contribution to the death toll that day. The Weather Bureau's survey team report, released just three weeks after the event, indicates that in several places--Grand Rapids being one of them and Crystal Lake, IL, another--warnings didn't come until the tornado was either right on top of a community or had already passed through it. Just off the top of my head, I believe that the warning for the Crystal Lake tornado came something like 10 minutes after the fact, and by then, the town was already in splinters.

The southeastern Michigan storms were a continuation of the northern Indiana storms, and those had taken down phone lines, preventing downstream communication and leaving thousands in the paths of the storms unaware. Another warning breakdown may have been that the storms moved through Amish country, and many households didn't have telephones, TVs, or radios in the first place.
 

RWilbanks

EF0
Mar 17, 2010
20
0
0
Ann Arbor, Michigan
The southeastern Michigan storms were a continuation of the northern Indiana storms, and those had taken down phone lines, preventing downstream communication and leaving thousands in the paths of the storms unaware. Another warning breakdown may have been that the storms moved through Amish country, and many households didn't have telephones, TVs, or radios in the first place.
This is very true. The Amish community in northern Indiana, and Branch County, Michigan were caught totally by surprise by the Palm Sunday storms on April 11, 1965. Likewise, when the tornadoes passed through these areas, they did not have modern telecommunications devices (Ham Radio or Telephone) to pass along these reports to the local law enforcement community, informing them of what they had just unfortunately experienced.

The Shore community and the area around Shipshewana, in LaGrange County, were fortunate that the Indiana State Police from District 21 in Ligonier, were able to intercept tornado J-3, as it was bearing down on that area. Trooper Charles Wainscott, saw the tornado on the far horizon while heading westbound on State Route 120, while heading for Elkhart. He turned south on State Route 5, with the accelerator to the floor trying to intercept the tornado heading for the Shore community, to warn the people there with his PA system about the approaching twister. However, he arrived about two minutes too late. Wainscott, like a lot of other people had grossly underestimated the forward speed of that tornado.

Thankfully, the Indiana State Police, along with the Sheriff's Departments in Elkhart, LaGrange, and St. Joseph, and Steuben Counties, were coordinating the exact location of the tornadoes at any given minute with each other over their two-way radios. This made it possible to accurately record where each storm was at any given minute. Sadly, none of the law enforcement agencies across the border in Michigan, had any idea what was transpiring just a few miles south of the State Line. This is the sad reality of being isolated on a different radio band.

Yours truly,

Ron
 
I was sure glad someone mentioned the NWS Storm Survey Team report... It was as comprehensive a report on the societal impact and response to the event I've seen. Aside from Fujita's paper that is, even though, obviously, his paper is purely research.

Also, "The Mighty Whirlwind" by David Wagler was indeed published by Pathway Publishing Corp., located in Ontario, Canada.

I bought a copy of the book, myself, a few years ago, after searching for a copy for years. I finally found a copy in a used book store, in Angola, IN for a measly $12.00. That was a steal, for as great a book it is.

My interest in the event stemmed from my parents, who, like me, grew up in Northeastern Indiana. Both my mother and father lived very close to Keystone, IN, where Tornado L-3 struck. It ended up killing two in Keystone and went on to earn, I believe, an F3 rating.

My father lived only 2.5 miles from where the tornado tracked ENE out of Keystone, and my mother was only 1.5 miles north of where the tornado tracked north of Petroleum, IN (both towns are very small). So, they both have shared their stories over and over with me. They both remember a lot about it, especially my father since he was located closer to Keystone, where he helped in the recovery. The farmstead my mother lived in received damage to a barn on the southeast corner of their property and had several large trees down, but fortunately the farm my father was located at didn't receive any damage. He does recall seeing papers, sheet metal and a toilet in their front yard. Rumor has it, a great-aunt of mine has 8mm film of some of the more severe damage, but I haven't talked to her in years. That is something I'd definitely LOVE to get my hands on!

Thanks for bringing this up again, guys! I'm now inspired to read the Survey Report, Fujita's paper and Wagler's book once again...
 

RWilbanks

EF0
Mar 17, 2010
20
0
0
Ann Arbor, Michigan
On Monday, May 3, 2010, Fox 2 in Detroit, will show a segment on the Palm Sunday Tornadoes of 1965. It is scheduled to air at 5:45 p.m. and should be rather interesting. Rich Luterman, went out to the Devil's Lake area in Lenawee County, and interviewed Dan Cherry and several other eyewitnesses to the two tornadoes that struck the area on April 11, 1965.
 
One of the most eerie and fascinating things that I have read about those storms is that the famous twin tornadoes were illumined from within from continuous lightning, and that in general there was an unusual amount of electrical activity associated with the tornadoes.
It's been years since I read this, so I don't remember the specific articles that I read this in.
 
yeah as I've caught up to these posts, funny thing once I got interested in severe weather back in elementary school I used to read books about things that happened and tornadoes, and back in 7th grade I read a book on The Palm Sunday Tornadoes, and that really sparked my interest, and on another note, looked up the path of the tornadoes in Toledo, and its funny how the two tornadoes would have just missed my house, if it would have been built back then... I live in a neighborhood SW of Suder and Alexis off of I-75
 
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Jasson Dotts

This is very true. The Amish community in northern Indiana, and Branch County, Michigan were caught totally by surprise by the Palm Sunday storms on April 11, 1965. Likewise, when the tornadoes passed through these areas, they did not have modern telecommunications devices (Ham Radio or Telephone) to pass along these reports to the local law enforcement community, informing them of what they had just unfortunately experienced.

The Shore community and the area around Shipshewana, in LaGrange County, were fortunate that the Indiana State Police from District 21 in Ligonier, were able to intercept tornado J-3, as it was bearing down on that area. Trooper Charles Wainscott, saw the tornado on the far horizon while heading westbound on State Route 120, while heading for Elkhart. He turned south on State Route 5, with the accelerator to the floor trying to intercept the tornado heading for the Shore community, to warn the people there with his PA system about the approaching twister. However, he arrived about two minutes too late. Wainscott, like a lot of other people had grossly underestimated the forward speed of that tornado.

Thankfully, the Indiana State Police, along with the Sheriff's Departments in Elkhart, LaGrange, and St. Joseph, and Steuben Counties, were coordinating the exact location of the tornadoes at any given minute with each other over their two-way radios. This made it possible to accurately record where each storm was at any given minute. Sadly, none of the law enforcement agencies across the border in Michigan, had any idea what was transpiring just a few miles south of the State Line. This is the sad reality of being isolated on a different radio band.

Yours truly,

Ron
Being born in 71' I missed all of this. Growing up just east of Shipshewana and just south of Lagrange this event was talked about every time we had storms come through. I got to see some aftermath photos from a friend of the family. The devastation was unreal. Those pictures are still vivid in my mind after all these years. Thank you so much for the links. And thanks goes out to everyone for the information shared.
 
Jul 2, 2004
1,775
91
11
Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
Today is the 47th anniversary of the 1965 Palm Sunday Tornadoes. I was nine years old when the outbreak occurred. The northern Indiana storms struck just twenty miles south and southeast of where my family lived in Niles, Michigan. First Koontz Lake, Wyatt, and Lapaz got hit, and then the storms traveled northeast on a lethal path toward Dunlap, Midway, and the Shore Community south of Shipshewana. From there, the supercells crossed into Michigan east of Niles, where many more lives were lost, notably around Coldwater Lake and Devil's Lake.

Another burst of storms farther north took lives where I now live in the Grand Rapids area, primarily due to a long-track F4 tornado that tore across Alpine Avenue northwest of town. Several other weaker tornadoes struck the area as well, including one that hit just a couple miles south of where I live, and yet another that struck across the river from where my family moved into Cascade a few years later. There appears to be no record for that tornado, but I've encountered lots of anecdotal evidence.

Blake Naftel maintained a great website on the Palm Sunday Tornadoes, but it's long gone, and that's too bad, because among its photos was a color photo of a tornado near Rossville, Indiana--where a third band of deadly storms moved through--that I've never seen elsewhere. My own blog contains a couple of photos you're unlikely to encounter elsewhere of the Lapaz tornado. You can check them out here.

Later, after sundown, more tornadoes struck in Ohio from Toledo southward, claiming still more lives.

My friend Debbie Forsythe-Watters maintains a tornado memorial park at the site of her childhood home, which got swept away when the deadliest tornado of the outbreak hit the Sunnyside neighborhood in Dunlap. I've talked with a number of survivors in recent year, including Paul Huffman, the retired newspaper photographer who took the famous photograph of twin funnels hitting the Midway Trailer Park along US 33 between Dunlap and Goshen. I've walked those trailer park grounds, or what's left of them, and visited some of the other sites that got hit. For some reason, that event has always had a grip on me.

I've read the book by Dan Cherry on the Manitou Beach tornadoes. Dan did an outstanding job of unearthing the events and the aftermath of that day in one hard-hit community that was visited by not just one, but two violent tornadoes.
 
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Jun 28, 2009
112
1
5
Galesburg, MI
I recently learned that the famous Paul Huffman picture was obtained when Mr. Huffman was send outside at the insistence of his editor (previously I always through he was there by chance). Having just recently received a report from the nearby South Bend weather office, he positioned himself in that part of Goshen expecting the tornado to head that way. In a way, the would make him one of the earliest storm chasers.
 
Jul 2, 2004
1,775
91
11
Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
I've read that same report. It's completely fictitious, and I don't know how it originated. Paul was not on assignment. He and Elizabeth were on their way home from church in Goshen, heading northwest up US 33. Elizabeth was the first to spot the tornado, but she thought it was smoke from a fire. Paul, who was expecting bad weather, realized what it was, pulled over onto the shoulder about a half-mile from the storm's path, braced himself against the car in the face of the strong inflow, and started snapping pictures. Here's a short account of my conversation with Paul.
 
Jul 2, 2004
1,775
91
11
Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
What I thought too, John. I actually contacted the guy who wrote the erroneous report a couple years ago. My recollection, which is dim at this point, is that he couldn't account for where he got his information but didn't seem too concerned about the loosey-goosey writeup. No surprise--this event is marked by conflicting reports. For instance, an odd controversy has existed for years over whether Paul Huffman's "Twins" hit Midway or were in fact the second tornado that hit Dunlap 45 minutes later. Talk to people who hold the latter view and you'll encounter anger over how the reports "got it wrong." They didn't; Paul knew what he saw and where it happened. But multiple-vortex tornadoes were unheard of back then, and the notion that there could have been two "Twins" never crossed anyone's mind. I'm sure that such a repeat phenomenon would have seemed unthinkable to people back then.
 
Bob:

Interesting that you bring up the Rossville, Indiana tornado. During my time as a news photojournalist in Lafayette, Indiana several years ago, I did quite a bit of digging, research, and multiple interviews about that particular tornadic supercell, which initiated southwest of Colfax. During which, the then Howard County, Indiana sheriff, Marty Talbert introduced me to Donald Cox, former Rossville, Indiana sheriff, and the individual who shot the b&w photo series of the Rossville, Indiana tornado. There were two shots of the golfball to baseball size hail which preceeded the tornado, and four photographs of the large, and very significant tornado which passed south of town. Don gave me all of the originals, of which I really need to scan and get online, at least for a historical perspective. These photos are very comparable to the Paul Huffman photo set from Dunlap in Elkhart County.

This tornado (at Rossville), according to eyewitnesses, was seperate from the devestating, multi-vortex tornado that struck, and nearly obliterated the entire town of Russiaville shortly there after. Of which, I managed to track down 70 professional b&w stills of the damage from that town, and interview the wife of the photographer.

Also.. since returning to Michigan in 2009, I've come across quite a bit of material from the Michigan side of the outbreak, including Comstock Park, and Hillsdale County. Yet the majority of newspapers, still images, movie film, and audio tape I have from the outbreak is predominately from Indiana.

Eventually I plan to combine the masses of multimedia once again, and have a independent site dedicated to the 11-April-1965 Palm Sunday tornado event. The original HTML files from the former site still exist, but I feel a fresh slate, and new design would be appropreiate since the days of the 'wmich.edu/~outbreak65.html' page.
 
Jul 2, 2004
1,775
91
11
Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
Blake, it is great to hear from you! You were one of the first people I encountered on this forum, and I frequently visited your long-defunct Mammatus.com site and its wmich.edu successor. They were by far the best resources going on the Palm Sunday Tornadoes. I'm pleased to hear that you're contemplating a new multimedia project on that event.

For me, that outbreak was a defining event. I can't tell you what a thrill it was to sit down and talk with Paul Huffman a few years ago and hear straight from the source how he took his famous twin-tornadoes photo. You're well aware that it was one in a series that Paul shot just southeast of Kundred's farmhouse. I had always thought there were six photos in that sequence; I was surprised to learn that there were in fact seven photos, one of which I suppose no one but Paul and Elizabeth have ever seen. I need to go back and listen to my recorded interview with Paul just to make sure I understood him correctly.

I need to get with you and talk about the Palm Sunday Tornadoes in greater depth, if you're up for that. I'll shoot you a PM.
 
Bob:

I oddly have never had the pleasure of interviewing, or speaking with Mr. Huffman, but know several who have and find his ability to recall the day of 11-Apr-1965 with such vivid detail. I do have third-party copies of the seven piece photo set, but no original glossies as I do for the Rossville (Central Indiana) portion of the outbreak. Did you record Paul on video while you interviewed him? A former collegue of mine interviewed him for WSBT-TV 22 a couple of years ago, but I never did get to see the full video (of the interview).

I'll shoot you a direct e-mail soon, and would love to get together and converse at length about this, and the many other historical events within the Great Lakes region.

Blake

Blake, it is great to hear from you! You were one of the first people I encountered on this forum, and I frequently visited your long-defunct Mammatus.com site and its wmich.edu successor. They were by far the best resources going on the Palm Sunday Tornadoes. I'm pleased to hear that you're contemplating a new multimedia project on that event.

For me, that outbreak was a defining event. I can't tell you what a thrill it was to sit down and talk with Paul Huffman a few years ago and hear straight from the source how he took his famous twin-tornadoes photo. You're well aware that it was one in a series that Paul shot just southeast of Kundred's farmhouse. I had always thought there were six photos in that sequence; I was surprised to learn that there were in fact seven photos, one of which I suppose no one but Paul and Elizabeth have ever seen. I need to go back and listen to my recorded interview with Paul just to make sure I understood him correctly.

I need to get with you and talk about the Palm Sunday Tornadoes in greater depth, if you're up for that. I'll shoot you a PM.
 

Kristin78

I don't know if this is the correct thread, but does look like the correct forum. Please see and read below. Any information is greatly appreciated.

http://www.crh.noaa.gov/iwx/program_areas/events/historical/palmsunday1965/

I grew up in the legend of this storm and even had the chance to interview the photographer. I would like to know how a tornado like this happens and if it has happened since. The small image on the article can be clicked on and enlarged.

I don't remember much from my high school interview with Mr. Huffman, and the only reason I got to talk to him was because I was friends with his granddaughter. There are many a accounts and theories of how the tornado after traveling for some time, the/they split even further into two completely separate tornadoes. One of which leveled a neighborhood and fire station. I remember hearing how the damage was so severe, LBJ came to see for himself.

As if everything that was told over the years wasn't enough, my father and mom's brother were caught in this storm. They were lucky to find refuge in a farmhouse. They survived, the truck they were driving did not.
 
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