April 3 Tornado Claimed Many Lives

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April 3 Tornado Claimed Many Lives


This unsettled April weather reminds nearly anybody who lived here 20 years ago of the terrible tornado of April, 1974. Seven persons were killed here and millions of dollars of damage was done in Madison County in just a few minutes. It was during the afternoon of April 3. 1974, that weather reports were heard in Madison County which described several tornadoes moving eastward across Kentucky. Brandenburg, on the Ohio River, was the worst hit, with 32 deaths in that small town. Louisville had five killed, and there was extensive damage in several of its neighborhoods. Curfews were ordered in Louisville and Frankfurt. It was nearly suppertime when the warnings got really serious for Madison County. People sought their basements and other protected places and waited with their transistor radios. About 7 p.m. a tornado entered the northeast side of the county and struck the Cottonburg area, devastating it. Three members of the Dan Long family were killed, and Whitaker's General Store was reduced to a pile of broken timber and ruined merchandise. A number of homes were destroyed or extensively damaged. With its indescribable magnitude of wind force, the tornado roared like a hundred freight trains eastward across the northern portion of the county, next striking the Tates Creek Pike area between Richmond and Million. The roofs and in some cases the whole top story of about a dozen houses were "exploded" and caught up in the awesome giant column. Six barns were lost, and afterwards one could see dead livestock lying out in several fields. There were many uprooted and splintered trees marking the pathway of destruction. The White Hall School area, just north of the 1-75 exit 90, was especially hard-hit. Three homes, an unoccupied frame house, three barns, and Jim Fitzpatrick's White Hall Texaco Service Station were severely damaged or demolished. Several cars and trucks were flipped over and ruined, or crushed by falling trees. The White Hall School building, a modern structure only 11 years old, had its entire gymnasium roof torn off, as well as the roof over many of the classrooms. Nearly all of the windows were broken, and the Register reported that the classrooms all looked like heaps of rubble. Eddie Pullins of the superintendent's office went the next day to find the White Hall teachers' registers of enrollment and attendance. To his credit, he found all of them some were wet and battered, but he was able to save all of them. The tornado of 1974 moved on to the Three Forks, Hackett Pike, Peacock Pike, Stony Run area; but details of that destruction will have to wait until next week's column.


Dr. Robert Grise




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Dr. Robert Grise, “April 3 Tornado Claimed Many Lives,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed May 30, 2023, https://madisonsheritage.eku.edu/items/show/933.