1974-04-03/04: IL, IN, MI, OH, TN, KY, etc Super Outbreak

Jul 2, 2004
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Hastings, Michigan
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Today marks the 41st anniversary of the infamous April 3-4, 1974, Super Outbreak. I'm surprised that no one has chimed in on this event. Since the 1970s historical section is new, I'll get the Super Outbreak thread started, because this is one outbreak that simply can't be overlooked and whose significance can't be overstated.

I was just a couple months shy of graduating from high school when 148 tornadoes swept across 13 states, from the deep South all the way up to my home state of Michigan. While the death toll of 335, give or take, was slightly surpassed in recent years by the April 2011 Super Outbreak, the 1974 outbreak still holds the record for the number of violent-class tornadoes (30). Its record of six F5 tornadoes (Wikipedia cites seven) also still stands.

Digging around a bit online has surprised me with new sources of information, including photos of the tornadoes that I haven't seen before. One noteworthy example is a Facebook group on the outbreak which includes what are, to the best of my knowledge, previously unpublished photos of the Xenia, OH, tornado. Here's one.


Here is the link to the FB group.

And here is the link to the Nashville NWS site which first steered me to the FB site, and which provides numerous other links I have yet to explore. It looks like a regular gold mine of resources on the 1974 Super Outbreak.

Interestingly, in his paper "Jumbo Tornado Outbreak of 3 April 1974," Theodore Fujita wrote, "There are reports of one F6 and five F5 tornadoes. The Xenia tornado is rated as F6 . . ." (p.2). I guess no one had informed the good doctor that there was no such thing as an F6, though I think he eventually figured that one out for himself. ;) You can read his paper here.

With so much to say about this event, from its synoptic and mesoscale features to its cultural impact to its contribution to our warning system and more, I'll leave off here and let others pick up the ball.
 
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Jul 2, 2004
1,775
91
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Hastings, Michigan
www.stormhorn.com
Since I can't edit my original post, I'll make this addendum here. I just found a YouTube clip of the Xenia tornado that appears to be the complete, unedited Bruce Boyd movie. Prior to this, I've seen just the usual all-too-brief footage. This is much longer, and it's quite amazing. You get a good feel for the violent multiple-vortex stage of the tornado as it began to enter Xenia. At one point, Bruce caught a neighbor on film, strolling quite casually across his driveway. Methinks I'd have been not quite so cavalier.

Here is the video.


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Feb 14, 2005
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Charleston, South Carolina
There is a pretty good scientific re-analysis of the event here:

http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/2009WAF2222297.1

This is by Steve Corfidi et al.

Inronically, the event was just one month before the first geostationary weather satellite was put up. Incredibly widespread and rapid development of the warm and moist sector with still some mystery associated with a possible undular bore or gravity wave.