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1965-04-11: Palm Sunday Outbreak

Discussion in '1960s and earlier' started by Robert Rohloff, Apr 12, 2009.

  1. Shawn Schuman

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    Dr. Fujita examined the "double funnel" in his paper on the Palm Sunday outbreak if you'd like to read it.

    http://docs.lib.noaa.gov/rescue/mwr/098/mwr-098-01-0029.pdf

    The short answer is that it's a multivortex tornado, wherein the main vortex of the tornado essentially breaks into two or more subvortices. It's quite common, especially for large, strong tornadoes, but it's not very often that you see such a striking example. Actually several of the tornadoes during the Palm Sunday outbreak were said to have displayed "double funnels" at least briefly, including the tornado that struck the Sunnyside subdivision just to the north in Dunlap, and the same thing has been reported with a number of other historical tornadoes. The Tushka, OK tornado on April 14, 2011 immediately comes to mind as well.

    I have larger versions of four of the six Huffman photos on my blog.

    http://stormstalker.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/1965-palm-sunday/

    Bob Hartig has written about the "twins" as well (including here) and he's very familiar with the event and with Paul Huffman and his photos.

    And I believe you mean LBJ visited the damage; it'd be quite miraculous indeed if FDR had come to see for himself. :p
     
  2. Shawn Schuman

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    As I'm sure most of you know, today is the 50th anniversary of the devastating Palm Sunday outbreak. NWS Northern Indiana (@NWSIWX) is live-tweeting much of the event as it would have unfolded, which is very interesting and engaging. I've also updated my blog with a bunch of new photos and information from this event if anyone is interested.

    http://stormstalker.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/1965-palm-sunday/

    There are many things that were exceptional about this outbreak, but I think the thing that stands out most to be is the extraordinarily intense kinematics. I'm not sure I've ever seen such an exceptionally intense 500mb jet (large 120-140kt core with an absolute maximum of 159kts(!) observed at DDC) with such an event, especially not associated with the sort of broad, moderately unstable warm sector and excellent veering with height that was in place on 4/11/65.
     
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  3. Bob Hartig

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    Thanks for posting, Shawn. Your observation about the H5 jet core is spot-on; it was absolutely insane. But the 159 knots is new to me. Wow! But even apart from that, the shear in that system was staggering, and consequently, the storms that day were rocketships. Moreoever, reports of hydra-like "tendrils" or "fingers" (as described in David Wagler's book, The Mighty Whirlwind), characteristic of violent tornadoes, were numerous with that event.

    On the personal side, I posted the following on Facebook and thought I would share here as well:

    Today is the 50-year anniversary of the April 11, 1965, Palm Sunday tornadoes. On that dark, violent evening five decades ago, 47 tornadoes raked across the Great Lakes region from Iowa to Ohio, taking 272 lives (including an Iowa man who died of his injuries a month later, after the official stats were finalized).

    Hardest hit were the states of Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, with the highest death toll occurring in Dunlap, Indiana, just south of Elkhart. There, a massive multi-vortex tornado swept through the Sunnyside and Kingston Heights neighborhoods, killing 28. My friend Debbie Watters now owns and oversees a memorial park on the property where her childhood home was swept away by the tornado, which claimed her brother Stevie. The park, and the commemorative events Debbie has held there over the years, have provided a point of contact and healing for those who survived the northern Indiana tornadoes. Today's half-century commemoration was somber, moving, faith-filled, bittersweet, and powerful, and I was honored that Debbie asked me to be a part of it by playing "Amazing Grace" on the saxophone.

    Much missed was my other "Tornado Lady," Pat Bowman (McIntosh), whose story from that day and my own story cross in a remarkable way. Wish you'd been there, Pat! I was delighted to see Betty Huffman, wife of Paul Huffman, the Elkhart Truth photographer who took the Pulitzer Award-winning photograph of twin funnels straddling US 33 just two miles down the road, where the Midway Trailer Court got demolished. That iconic photo is one of the most famous tornado photographs ever taken, and it remains the most chilling I've ever seen. Paul passed away several months ago. He was one of the nicest guys--sharp as a tack, funny, peppery, with plenty of stories to tell, and Betty is a warm, sweet lady. She told me that "Amazing Grace" was Paul's favorite hymn.

    Wish I had pictures to share, but when I pulled out my camera, I discovered that the battery needs charging. Ditto my video camera. What a special day, though--sobering, heartwarming, one I will remember and treasure.

    To the above FB post I'll add this: After the event was over, I headed toward the area where Paul Huffman took his famous photo of the twin funnels razing the Midway Trailer Court. I always visit that spot when I'm down there. CR 17 now bridges US 33 where the south part of the court used to be, and it serves as an excellent indicator of the tornado's path. The northern quadrant of the court, where a few trailers escaped unscathed, had until recently retained all the haunting, telltale earmarks of an old, long vanished community, with rows of soldierly old trees lining lanes of crumbling asphalt. But that last remnant of the site disappeared under the bulldozers a few months ago, and a new business now occupies the grounds. Little is left of the landscape that existed half a century ago. But there is one landmark I know of that remains. And as I drive by, I picture a gutsy young newspaper photographer standing on the roadside, his leg hooked around the fender of his car to brace himself against the inflow winds, snapping the photograph of his life as death blows through half a mile up the highway and his wife screams at him from inside the car.
     
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    #53 Bob Hartig, Apr 11, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2015
  4. Shawn Schuman

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    That sounds wonderful and bittersweet, Bob. I wish I'd had an opportunity to meet Paul. I'd have loved to pick his brain a bit, and everyone I know who has had the opportunity to do so describes him just as you do. It's still amazing to me just how lucky that shot was; to be exactly at that spot, at exactly the right time, and taking photos at exactly those moments. Truly a once in a lifetime thing.

    Debbie was, I believe, recently featured in WSBT's short program on the event that they posted online tonight. The small memorial also makes an appearance.

    http://www.wsbt.com/news/local/speical-report-palm-sunday-tornadoes-50-years-later/32318184

    Anyhow, I'm happy to see that there are people working to keep the memory of this event (and others) alive. These events are important, and so are the personal stories, photos, videos and other memories that serve to keep the events alive. It's a shame that more effort doesn't go into preserving these things.
     
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  5. Andy Berrington

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  6. Bob Hartig

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    Great analysis, Andy!
     
  7. Andy Berrington

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  8. Bob Hartig

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    An actual photo of that tornado. Wow! That's an incredible find. Now if only a home movie from that day would emerge from someone's attic.
     
  9. Andy Berrington

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    I'm sure there are more photos like this of that day and others. Dare I guess that there might be a picture of the Tri-State Tornado lost in the murk somewhere?
     
  10. Blake W. Naftel

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    As a follow up, the National Weather Service in Northern Indiana (IWX) resurrected the long-since defunct historical PSO page, updating it with additional stories, meteorological background, and photos, many re-scans from the original page. That link, for those whom have not viewed it, can be accessed via: http://www.weather.gov/iwx/1965_palmsunday_50

    Blake


     
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  11. Andy Wehrle

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    This is probably tops on my wish-list after the 1974 Super Outbreak for a pre-Doppler era event that I would have liked to watch unfold on modern WSR-88D (and I'm sure the forecasters working it at the time would have loved a tool like that, too!). Guessing some of the imagery from the stations covering southern MI/northern IN and NW OH would probably have looked similar to what KBMX and KGWX looked like on the evening of April 27, 2011 - just a ridiculously concentrated cluster of classic tornadic supercells.
     
  12. Warren Faidley

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    Back in the day, the NWS drew pictures on maps from the WSR-57 units as there was no way to record the events in the non-digital age except taking a picture of the screen. It would be interesting to make modern radar simulations based on such records, damage reports, etc. (Hand-drawn image from the 1974 Super Outbreak below - NWS image).

    radar14.jpg
     
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