This is a re-print of the April 3 entry from last year:
On April 3, 1974 I was just a few days short of my 8th birthday, a second grader at Hardinsburg Elementary School, in Breckinridge County, Kentucky. I have only one really clear memory of that day, and that was when our school bus stopped about a quarter of a mile from our house, in front of what had been the house of a great-aunt.
This was not a scheduled bus stop, so when our driver slowed to a stop it brought my attention out of the book I was reading. I looked out the right side of the bus and was greatly surprised to see my mother standing there. I called to my sister, Barbara, six years my senior, "What's Mom doing there?" She looked at me like I was an idiot, and that is when I realized that Dad was there too, holding a chain saw, along with other men, neighbors, cousins and uncles, also with chain saws, and they were engaged in cutting up the huge oak that had once stood at the end of my great-aunt's drive. The tree had been pulled up out of the ground by the roots, and as my horrified gaze drifted past that sight I realized that the old house that had stood a bit back from the road was gone!
Our driver, after talking to some of the adults outside, continued on the route; ours was actually the next stop. I was thoroughly upset. My sister was still irritated with me -- "Didn't you know we had a tornado come through today? What did you think that tornado drill was all about?"
Well, I swear I have no recollection of any tornado drill. I don't think I even had any memory of it at the time she said that. Either the fact that a tornado had come through that close to home and had destroyed a house that was familiar to me had wiped all other recollections of the day out of my mind, or the drill had been conducted as a regular drill and had been so innocuous that it had meant nothing to me, I don't know. I'm sure the older kids, like my sister, had either been told by their teachers that it hadn't been a drill, but the real thing, or they'd figured it out, but I'm sure we younger ones were just led to believe that it was only a drill.
I found out later that at our house, my father, who had been outside working in his shed when the weather took a horrible turn, had watched from about a half-acre to the back of the house as the tornado had headed straight for our home and then had seemed to just "jump" over it. He said it literally picked itself up right before it got to our house, stepped over the house, and then lowered itself back down. This would have been right after it had taken out my great-aunt's house.
Inside the house, my mother, two of my sisters, a four-year-old niece and a family friend, had all crawled under my parent's iron bed as soon as they saw the tornado approaching. We didn't have a basement, and that was deemed the safest place to be on such short notice. A lot of praying was going on under that bed, I can tell you!
That tornado, an F5 by the time it hit Brandenburg, to our East, was one of at least 26 deadly tornadoes that hit Kentucky that day. The one that jumped over our house was considered the most severe and one of only 7 F5 tornadoes recorded. In Breckinridge and Meade Counties I believe 31 people died. The most damage in our county was done to the town of Irvington, to our East. The city of Brandenburg, in Meade County, was almost completely wiped out, and many of the deaths were of children playing outside. The city of Louisville, Kentucky, in Jefferson County, was hit by a different tornado and also saw a lot of damage and deaths. The April 3, 1974 tornado outbreak is considered one of the worst, if not the worst, in U.S. history.
The following is a quote from this site:
Path width: 500 ft.
Path length: 32 miles
Grazulis narrative: Touching down five miles southwest of Hardinsburg, Breckinridge County, the tornado passed along the northern edge of that town, with F3 damage to homes. Thirteen people were injured and 35 homes were destroyed as the funnel moved to the northeast across Breckinridge County and into Meade County. The tornado gradually enlarged and intensified as it approached Brandenburg. The funnel devastated that town and crossed the Ohio River into Harrison County, Indiana. At Brandenburg 128 homes were completely destroyed, many of them leveled and swept away. Thirty businesses were destroyed and damage totaled over ten million dollars. There were 28 deaths in the Brandenburg area. The F4 damage occurred from north of Irvington, into Indiana.
Noted discrepancies: SPC and NCDC give a time of 2:20pm, Grazulis gives 3:25pm, Storm Data 3:30pm. SPC and NCDC give a path length of 32 miles, Grazulis gives 34. SPC and NCDC give a path width of 430 yards, Grazulis give 800 yards.