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40th anniversary of the "super outbreak"

40th anniversary of the

(Wilmington, OH) -- 40 years ago today Ohio saw one of the worst tornado outbreaks in U.S. history. It was dubbed the "Super Outbreak of 1974." A total of 148 tornadoes touched down in 13 states, including 13 twisters in Ohio alone.

Among the 13 tornadoes to hit Ohio that day, two that were rated F-5 which are the most powerful. One hit Xenia around 4:30pm.

"Right as it entered Xenia it was at peak intensity," said Mike Kurz, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Wilmington. "It was on the ground for about 30 miles doing damage all the way through Central State and Wilberforce."

36 people died and a large portion of the city was either damaged or destroyed. It would be the worst of the tornadoes to hit that day.

About an hour later another F-5 tore into Sayler Park and the western suburbs of Cincinnati. That tornado would be the only one to move through three states. It originated near Rising Sun, Indiana around 5:30pm, passed through Kentucky, and then crossed the Ohio River.

The tornado took out power to the Cincinnati Weather Service Office and the area's radar site.

"There weren't emergency power backups," Kurz said.

Kurz was amazed the forecasters were able to keep up with all the storms given the technology of the day. The radar equipment was from the 1950s and wasn't very detailed. Most warnings were issued based on spotter reports and "hook echoes" that showed up on the radar scope.

"In terms of technological advancement it's remarkable how far things have come since 1974," he said.

Today, meteorologist are able to use Doppler radar to see the winds inside storms. There are thousands of trained weather spotters throughout the area and NOAA weather radio and the Emergency Alert System on radio and television help to get warnings out instantly.

(Photo courtesy Fred Stewart, NWS Wilmington)

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