April 11, 1965 – It was 54 years ago today the deadliest tornado outbreak in state history occurred. Sadly, 137 Hoosiers died as 10 tornadoes crossed 18 counties in only a matter of a few hours.
In all, 37 tornadoes touched down in six states, killing 258 and injuring 3,000.
The historical image of the twin F4 tornadoes that struck the Midway Trailer Park near Dunlap was photographed by Elkhart Truth photographer Paul Huffman.
An 800-yard-wide tornado would kill 25 near Kokomo. 84 people would die in Elkhart County alone.
Weather radar was sparse in 1965 and the then U.S. Weather Bureau relied on information from Chicago and its radar. The tornado reports were so numerous that for the first and only time in U.S. history, a blanket tornado warning was issued.
Following that deadly tornado outbreak, the National Weather Service underwent changes to improve severe weather forecasts and warnings, including establishing the Watch and Warning Program that exists today and the weather spotter program, SKYWARN.
I was honored to return to Elkhart, Dunlap and Goshen four years ago, marking the 50th anniversary of those dreadful tornadoes.
So many Hoosier families were affected and I had a chance to hear more of their stories and recount not only the night but the events after the storms. The healing, scarring and heroism that followed.
The Elkhart County Historical Museum has an exhibit of photos documenting the day – a must see.
It was a pleasure and honor meeting Betty Huffman – wife of over 65 years to now late photographer of the Elkhart Truth – Paul Huffman. He snapped the most infamous photo taken of the twin F4 tornadoes near Dunlap that now hangs in the Smithsonian.
So much work went into the dedication that Sunday – a huge THANK YOU to all especially Debbie Forsythe – Watters whose home was destroyed and where the location of the Palm Sunday memorial has been erected.
I’m posting some of the pictures from that weekend and encourage you to visit the Palm Sunday Facebook page for more 1965 Palm Sunday Tornado Memorial.