On April 3, 1974 an F-5 tornado tore through the heart of Xenia, killing 33 people and injuring more than 1,300 others. It bulldozed a path more than a half-mile wide, destroying or damaging more than 1,400 buildings, including 1,200 homes, dozens of businesses, 10 churches, and several schools. By the time it lifted into the sky near Cedarville, it left behind more than $100 million of damage in Greene County.
The Xenia tornado was part of a super outbreak, when 148 twisters swept across several states, killing 335 people in a 16-hour period on April 3-4, 1974. It still ranks as one of the largest natural disasters in American history, with Xenia the hardest hit community.
The Xenia subdivision of “Arrowhead” was especially hard-hit, the tornado leaving it in ruins. The 4-year-old subdivision on the city’s southwest side lost more than 300 homes, many on concrete slabs with no basements.
Greene Memorial Hospital in northeast Xenia narrowly escaped the tornado’s wrath, but lost its power and telephone service and its water quality was suspect. About 500 people were treated there in the first 24 hours, 34 of them being admitted with a number transferred to hospitals in nearby Dayton for treatment.
Twenty-six years later another tornado (an F-4) struck at an unusual time – early autumn and after dark – on September 20, 2000. The tornado would follow an eerily familiar path of destruction through Xenia, killing one man and destroying or damaging more than 300 homes and 30 businesses.
*Material from the Dayton Daily News Archive was used to compose this blog entry.