48 years ago today occurred what many consider the most infamous severe weather outbreak in the US, if not the entire world. Between April 3rd and early on April 4th, a series of 148 tornadoes swept across the region. Thousands of people were injured from the Ohio Valley to the Southeast. A total of 335 people lost their lives to storms on this day.

Of the 148 tornadoes that occurred on April 3rd & 4th, 30 of them were classified as “violent.” A violent tornado is simply one that achieves a rating of EF4 or EF5 (formerly F4 or F5), which tops the chart. Less than 1% of all tornadoes ever reach this strength, yet over two dozen made it to this intensity during the outbreak

Map of Tornado Paths, courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center
Source: Storm Prediction Center

In Indiana, 3 tornadoes with a rating of F5 occurred during the outbreak. One of these tornadoes was on the ground for 68 miles in Southern Indiana where it ran through Perry, Crawford, Harrison, Washington, Clark, and Scott Counties. 6 people were killed and 86 were injured. To the north, an F4 tornado originating in Benton county traveled for 109 miles eventually lifting in LaGrange County. This storm took the lives of 18 and injured 285. When all said and done, 17 tornadoes of at least F2 strength (considered “strong”) and 21 overall impacted the Hoosier State. 47 people were killed while nearly 900 were injured total.

The most infamous tornado in the outbreak occurred not far to our east in Xenia, Ohio. This storm alone claimed the lives of nearly three dozen people. The following is an account from one of the survivors of the tornado: “I could hear the bricks crunching around us. You could feel the whole house moving in one direction backwards. Suddenly, it became still for a second, and I remember my dad telling us not to get up. Then it came back and the mattress began to go up. I looked up and could see the roof going, like Dorothy (in Wizard of Oz).” She continues, recalling the noise, “It was loud. I couldn’t quite describe the sound, but you could hear the bricks and the walls falling all around. Then it was really still. It was very quiet before anybody peaked out.”

Luckily, severe weather is expected to remain at a minimum across Indiana this week. However, this serves as a reminder that even high-end severe weather outbreaks can occur outside of traditional tornado alley. Not to mention, early April is still weeks outside of our typical peak season. Always stay weather aware and make sure you have a plan next time severe weather strikes. It may just save your life.