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Xenia tornado devastation experienced in gritty black-and-white photos 43 years later

Published: Friday, March 31, 2017 @ 10:37 AM
By: Lisa Powell - Staff Writer

A collection of dramatic photographs from the Dayton Daily News archive documents - in gritty black and white - the devastation a tornado left in Xenia on April 3, 1974.

A series of violent tornadoes wreaked havoc in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. The system was part of “Super Outbreak,” according to the National Weather Service, which documented 148 tornadoes in 13 states in the eastern United States. 

The deadliest twister in the outbreak, an F-5, descended on Greene County, bulldozing a path a half-mile wide. When it was over, 33 people were dead and more than 1,300 were injured.

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The images, taken 43 years ago, are a legacy of the tornado’s wrath. 

A black sky looms over homes in a residential neighborhood in a dramatic photograph taken shortly before the tornado touched down. That image, taken moments before the annihilation began, is in sharp contrast to an aerial photo of homes and businesses smashed to the ground the next day.

Expressions, some alarmed and some dazed, are captured on the faces of Xenia residents trying to escape the destruction, giving aid to others, and exploring their ruined town that no longer seemed familiar. 

» RELATED: A look back at 5 tornadoes that struck the Miami Valley in 2016

» INTERACTIVE: Path of destruction of 17 tornadoes in 1974

Train cars were tossed on their sides, schools and grocery stores were destroyed and limbs were ripped from trees leaving bare and broken trunks. 

A photograph of a quaint home, curtains fluttering in the windows, reveals an everyday living room with a couch in front of a television set topped by rabbit ears and books neatly placed on shelves in a second floor bedroom. 

The only thing missing from this mundane scene is the exterior wall of the home, ripped off to expose everyday life.

» RELATED: ‘Xenia Lives’ decades after the tornado

» RELATED: ‘The sky was a color I could not remember seeing before’: Community shares stories of 1974 Xenia tornado

A hand-painted sign, photographed in front of a gutted Warner Junior High School, summed up the resilience of the community, “With the help of the Lord, good friends and hard work, we shall return.”

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