Residents recall deadly April 1974 tornadoes

This is a photo of the Sayler Park tornado from April 3, 1974. Provided photo
This is a photo of the Sayler Park tornado from April 3, 1974. Provided photo

(FOX19) - Thursday marks the 40th anniversary of a series of tornadoes that cut a path of destruction from southeastern Indiana to Brandenburg, Ky. and into southwest Ohio.

We spoke with local people who witnessed those twisters and lived to tell the story.

The tornados which touched down across the Tri-State were part of a super outbreak of twisters which killed 315 people in 13 states.

It was an act of nature Rebecca Glass of Sayler Park says is hard to forget.

"The sirens started and they wouldn't stop," she said.

Glass says she took cover in a neighbor's bathroom.

"So we got down in the bathtub and put the mattress over us. We were lucky because it went over top of our house. (It) took our storage shed and our trees in the backyard but right in front is where it actually... I mean they were all tore up," she said.

In addition to the death toll there were countless injuries and hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed.

Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young was a Cincinnati police officer at the time and was sent out to guard what was left of people's property. Young says many people survived with their spirits intact.

"I will always be impressed with just the resilience of people and the attitude that they had especially the homes that were like just destroyed," he said. "A couple of those people, they seemed really grateful that they survived it. They're attitude seemed to be that they could replace physical things."

One of the keys to saving lives is early warning. The technology for that has vastly improved in 40 years.

Hamilton County Emergency Management Operations Manager Bary Lusby holds up one of the first cell phones from the late 1970s and says "cell phones like this one here had just been invented."

The agency still uses an emergency alert system but it's now digital and analog.

Dana Schratt, Hamilton County EMA's public information officer, says more sirens have been installed.

"We just spent the last three years installing brand new sirens," she said. "We installed sirens where there previously was no coverage."

Officials with the Hamilton County Emergency Management Agency say the speed of communication has vastly improved plus advances in weather radar has made predicting tornadoes a lot more accurate.

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