40 years ago today, an F5 tornado hit the city of Xenia and surrounding areas in an event that forever changed the local community. The tornado was part of a super outbreak that killed 315 people over a 2 day period when 148 tornadoes were reported across 13 states. Locally, 35 people lost their lives, 300 homes were lost, and seven schools destroyed. Wilberforce and in particular Central State University were hard hit as well, where the campus was nearly destroyed when the tornado touched down again after passing through Xenia.
In the tornado’s aftermath, the entire region responded to aid the devastated communities, and a huge relief effort was undertaken by the WSU community. Wright State served as a central drop off point for community donations. Food, money, and clothing were collected and delivered in a long line of vans to the affected areas. The Student Caucus served as a clearinghouse agency to coordinate the relief efforts. Relief fund tables were set up all across campus, and students went door to door in every building to collect donations. A student workforce was maintained to help clear debris and provide security. WSU dorms were provided as shelters for displaced victims. University buses were provided for transportation for Central State students, while library, laboratory and other facilities were provided to students as CSU worked towards recovery.
All told over $1 billion in damage was caused by the disaster. A memorial service will be held at 4:15 p.m. on Thursday at the Greene County courthouse in Xenia. In commemoration we have posted a small sample of photographs from the university’s relief effort.
The above photographs are from the University Archive. You may also be interested in reading about Wright State University’s relief efforts for the tornado victims in that week’s issue of The Guardian, April 8, 1974, on CORE Scholar.
You can see additional Xenia tornado photos on this blog post from our Dayton Daily News Archive blog, as well as in an exhibit of original Xenia tornado photographs from the DDN Archive in our reading room.