You know I always forget about the spring winds and storms, that is until they suddenly appear after a wonderful warm spell of sunshine and calm breezes. Today is one such day. It gives everyone in our area a little bit of an uneasy feeling. Back in 1974 on April 4th at 4:30 in the afternoon, the winds were very destructive. Xenia had a big tornado go through town. Many were killed and much of Xenia was destroyed. To this day the people that were witness to this storm are still effected in some way. The worst is that we have had two others since then, that traveled nearly the same path. The last two weren't as severe as the '74 toronado. It is too close for comfort, we live only a quarter of a mile from where these storms have passed each time.
I remember that day well, we lived in a little rented house with our son who was two at the time. I was also babysitting another little boy, he was maybe four and both boys were taking a nap that afternoon. I had never had any experience with tornado's, don't recall even hearing much about them. That particular day was strange, it was kind of warm as I recall. For some reason I kept watching out the windows, things just weren't right. The color was off, the air was heavy and there was a quiet calm. It has been a long time now, but I do remember thinking it very strange.
We live on slightly rolling to flat land here in Greene County. Trees obstruct views, you can't see as far as you'd like sometimes. I kept watching the west window, I could see the darkness from far off, it didn't feel normal. It was dark and wide and yet didn't look like any storm cloud I'd ever seen. (this tornado was a quarter of a mile wide)
I decided to wake up the boys and go to the basement. Richard hadn't come home from teaching yet, it wasn't uncommon for him not to be home yet and I wasn't really worried. I just felt going to the basement was a good idea. We didn't have alarms and radio and TV bulletins back in 1974. I don't remember watching the windows after we went to the basement. The little four year old I was watching was afraid and I assured him that we were fine, we were in the house, nothing was going to happen. Little did I know that his home was being destroyed in Xenia as I tried to comfort him.
Richard came home, finally. We came out of the basement and everything seemed to be fine outside. The color of the late afternoon sky was normal and the heaviness seemed to be gone. That is also when I found out about the Tornado. We of course had no idea how bad it really was.
I know that the tornado left Xenia in a eastward direction. It came right down Conley Road, which is only a quarter mile from where we live now and it is also the road which my Dad's farm is located. The tornado totally destroyed a home and dairy barn and a small house on this road. From that farm the toronado made a slight south shift, which saved the historical Whitelaw Reid homestead and my father's farm. All of our farms fences were smashed flat to the ground. There was wavy tin from farm roofs hanging in trees, there were dead farm animals and homes were gone that stood only moments before.
I don't remember when I first drove the streets of Xenia......... it was weeks later. I'd never seen anything like it, all the normal landmarks were gone. The newspaper posted pictures of tumbled over homes and places of business that were destroyed. The stories from personal experiences were shocking. It was amazing more weren't killed.
We had to walk the farm fields in a row with a tractor and wagon between us, picking up debris. My Dad found a $100. bill. Boy did we all start looking a little harder for things on the ground after that! Today I can still see tin roofing in the trees between our house and Xenia.
The native people used to call this area "Devil Winds", no reason to believe that has changed. Now you know why people in Xenia, Ohio get a little nervous when the winds pick up this time of year. I keep a good watch out the windows and say some prayers.