Hallowed Ground in Indiana

On Palm Sunday, 11 April 1965, a devastating tornado outbreak raked across the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley region. One of these was the famous “double tornado” photographed by Paul Huffman of the Elkhart Truth, looking NW from a spot along US-33, about two miles SE of Dunlap IN. The photo, one of the most recognized tornado pictures ever, is copyrighted, so I can’t reproduce it here. You can find it in numerous severe weather related publications, including Page 1068 of Significant Tornadoes by Tom Grazulis.

Here is what the place looks like these days, from a digital image I shot two days ago at that hallowed ground. This is within feet of where Huffman stood to capture his classic photo, and also looking NW.

Steve Eddy (WCM at NWS North Webster) was driving me from the WFO to my lodging in northern Elkhart and was kind enough to stop at the photo site and point out the various features. He told me that the exterminator billboard was there up until just a few years ago.

Despite the increasing snow and wind, I had to take advantage of a very wide traffic gap to shoot a digital pic. How strangely ironic it was that I experienced my first lake effect snow-squall right at that spot!

The double-funnel tornado crossed the road (and decimated the Midway Trailer Court) just beyond where that Lowe’s outlet is now. The squat billboard at right has steel piers and replaced the famous Arab Pest Control sign. During the 40 years (minus a month) since that photo, some trees died and others grew tall, the road widened, railroad utilities were replaced and buildings were razed and built, but still the spot was easily recognizable for me.

Having had the Goshen double-tornado picture on my bedroom wall as a kid, I had the strong sense — within less than a hundred feet before we stopped — that I suddenly had arrived in a very, very familiar place. Indeed, I have been there in spirit, traveling that time machine of the mind right back to that April two years before I was born, and that amazing site and time of one of the most spectacularly freakish tornado photos ever taken.

Even after all the great storm intercept pictures of the last 20-30 years, and the hundreds of tornado photos that I photocopied as a kid from every possible Dallas Public Library source, the double-funnel tornado near Goshen still stands among my favorite four or five. [Maybe I'll rank my top all time tornado pics on the blog soon, just for fun.]



Comments

15 Responses to “Hallowed Ground in Indiana”

  1. Bob Hartig on April 12th, 2005 7:15 pm

    Unbelievable! I did the very same thing you did: hunted up the location of the Midway Trailer Park and did my best to piece together where Paul Huffman stood and took his famous six-photo sequence. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a resident of the area to guide me, and the look of the land along US 33 has obviously changed a great deal. The most obvious landmark–the white farmhouse on the west side of the road–is gone. (Interesting to learn that the Arab Pest Control sign remained all those years.) I was left to my own educated guesswork. Most of the old trailer park is now buried beneath road construction for a new overpass. But I did find the north end of Midway, and you’re right: it’s a haunting feeling. You can still see old electric hookups poking up amid a grove of trees where the trailers once stood. I had the odd sense of the past superimposed on the present, like an old B&W photo overlaid on a recent digital color image.

    Yesterday, I attended the 40 year commemorative service at the tornado memorial park in Dunlap’s Sunnyside division. It was a moving event, with a very unusual personal moment for me. I’ve posted my impressions in Storm Track online under the “Weather and chasing” category, in case you’re interested.

  2. Jenni Siri on August 28th, 2005 10:34 pm

    Hi,

    I was living in Goshen Indiana at the time of the Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreaks. I remember spending many hours in the basement. I was 4 years old, almost 5. Because of that days events I’ve always been fascinated (bordering on obsessed LOL…) with tornadoes.I was happy to see that someone else was as interested in the ‘double tornadoes’ as I am. I live in this area again now so I thank you for your recent photo of the spot where the tornadoes hit.

    Jenni

  3. Lee Kal on November 6th, 2005 5:17 pm

    I was living in Van Wert, Ohio area on that Palm Sunday. I remember seeing the swath of bare dirt where a tornado had swept thru a small woods. It was probably 500-600 ft wide. Some houses in the area were reduced to splinters and a house across the street didn’t even have a shingle loosened. The most severe damage seemed to be in the rural area east of town about 20 miles. My parents heard a noise like a roaring train, but simply went on with there evening until I drove out to check on them. The country side was almost lit up with flashing red lights in the overwhelming darkness. My parents home was on the edge of the power grid that came out of Dayton Ohio and they never lost power. (Part of the reason they weren’t aware of the damage.) Every thing west of them was dark except for the emergeny lights.

    A neighbor lady took shelter in a closet with her 5 children while her husband went to get the car. She was killed and one of the children seriously injured. Their car was upended against a tree and the husband not injured. There was very little left of the house. It was a mircale that they weren’t all killed. A house across the road looked untouched. Some houses suffered little damage except being moved off their foundations a foot or so. Other building were leveled. The random effects of the storm was almost mind boggling. No rhime or reason.

    That day was burned into the memory as none other.

    Lee

  4. Bob on January 3rd, 2006 7:52 pm

    I was living in Eau Claire, Michigan (about 40 miles from Dunlap) and heard about the storm the following morning in the newspaper. I had loved ones who lived near Elkart and Dunlap and went there shortly after to check on them. After getting a report that they were fine, I proceeded into Dunlap and was shocked at all the damage that was afficted on that area. I still remember seeing people walking in the rubble, lost in their thoughts knowing they had lost everything they owned. I remember seeing mattress springs stuck in the trees with clothes etc. I hope I never have to see a somber sight like that, as long as I live. I now live in Arizona and when I come back to Michigan again, I would like to visit the Dunlap Tornado Memorial Site and pay my respects. I also hope the survivors have been able to see past the events of that day in 1965, and may God bless each and everyone of them……

    Bob

  5. tornado on January 5th, 2006 3:29 am

    Thanks to Bob, Jenni and Lee for their thoughtful comments. Anybody else who lived through any part of the Goshen tornado event or the broader Palm Sunday tornado outbreak, and who wants to share their experiences, is welcome to do so here! Bear in mind that BLOG posts to Weather or Not require moderator (my) approval, and therefore, probably won’t be acknowledged right away.

  6. Tony Bean on January 20th, 2006 9:02 pm

    At the time of the 1965 Palm Sunday tornadoes I was only 1 year a 1 month old, however my my mom was 17 and my dad 24. We lived 2 miles northwest of Russiaville, IN. At around 7:00pm more or less on that evening my folks and I had left Kempton, IN. (a few miles south of Russiaville) after visiting my grandparents. About 2 miles or so before reaching Russiaville, my mom noticed a strange sight off to the northwest in the dark clouds and said she told dad that it looked like a tornado. My Dad said he slowed down and looked for a moment and said “oh my god-it is,” at which point he quickly turned around and drove back away from town a couple miles and then stopped. They watched in fear as the huge twister wiped the town off of the map. As the funnel faded away to the northeast they headed back to Russiaville finding the streets completely littered with debris and the homes and stores only scattered pile of wreckage. They have both told me since that it was like having a nightmare while being wide awake. My dad had spent all of his life there and said that when he pulled up next to Ralph and Virginia Ratliff’s home that he commented to mom that Ralph’s truck looked as if it had not been touched not realizing that the couple and their home were all gone. There was no way to get through town to go home so we went back to Kempton for the night. Just a few minutes after the twister left Russiaville, it came to West Middleton, IN. where my Grandma and Grandpa was attending church for the evening service. My grandma told me that they were listening to the sermon when the wind seem to really pick up and there was growing noise outside. The preacher and most of the men went outside the front door as the weather grew worse fast. At that point she as well as several other ladies went outside only to see what she described as a large bunch of black clouds touching the ground just a few hundred yards to the west at the edge of the small town. She said it was very loud with high pitched hisses mix with it. She said that the preacher began praying very loudly and strongly holding his hands in front of him as if he were trying to push against the quickly oncoming monster. She said that his prayer was “Lord, protect your people”! Believe as you wish, but for whatever reason the funnel did vere off of its path and went to the south of the small town by only a few hundred yards. After traveling about a half mile or so, it vered back to the north on its regular track after completely missing the town as the congregation watched. Only moments later the twister hit Alto leaving basically nothing. From there on to south Kokomo and then Greentown destroying so many homes and lives. I have been amazed by the many pictures and stories of that day that I have seen and heard and have had a big tornado obsession most all of my life. If my folks and I had been just 3 or 4 minutes sooner on that day, we would have been right in the middle of Russiaville when it hit instead of watching at a safe distance. And if the funnel would not have veered at West Middleton, my grand folks would have been right in the middle of the fury too! Out of the hundreds of tornadoes that I have researched and studied through the years, the 1965 Palm Sunday outbreak is the most gripping for me. I do very vividly remember the April 3, 1974 outbreak as I was 10 years old then and had several friends lose homes on that day. I witnessed that day first hand and much of the damage over several weeks after.

  7. Jim Stewart on March 2nd, 2006 6:21 pm

    EDITORS NOTE: Corrected for minor spelling errors.

    ——————–

    I grew up just Southwest of Lima, Ohio (in the Shawnee area) and still vividly remeber the night of Palm Sunday, April 11, 1965. I was nine years old and was home sick that weekend. We were watching Disney on NBC as darkness fell and lightening began flashing in the west, a lot of lightning, more than I had ever seen. It grew more and more intense as the supercall storm moved about 7 miles north of our home. The lightning was colored green, white, blue and orange. The TV station in Lima (Channel 35) was north of our home, thay were broadcasting warnings from the Toledo wether service about tornadoes in Northwest Ohio. As the storm passed just behind Channel 35’s transmission tower our TV picture became totally unwatchable because of interference from the storm, during Bonanza, so that we had to switch to a Dayton station (WHIO) to finish watching it (no cable in those days). The storm passed quickly and after the storm Channel 35 was coming in fine. Our immediate area did not lose power, but the wind blew incessantly hard all night and I had no idea what had happened till the next day. It definitely spurred my interest in weather, especially after we toured the devasted areas of Allen County two weeks later. I think some 30 people lost their lives.

  8. Eric Langdon on March 24th, 2006 8:01 pm

    Thanks for posting the picture of what the site looks like nowadays, Roger. Like you, I’ve been interested in tornadoes and severe weather since I was a kid (I’m your age), and the Elkhart twin tornado photo has been one of my favorites ever since I saw it in a book on tornadoes that I borrowed from the school library in the 8th grade. It was nice to see the site as it is today.

  9. David Manaker on October 4th, 2006 7:20 pm

    The twin tornado photo can be found at http://homepages.wmich.edu/%7Eb1naftel/Huffman_Goshen_4.gif .

    [Editor's note: Thanks for the link!]

  10. Ramona Carrillo on October 10th, 2006 8:00 am

    Does anyone know of any of the titles of books that are out on this outbreak? When I was younger, my brother found a book at the library that detailed this outbreak and I can’t remember the title of it. I did an internet search, but nothing is sparking a memory of the title. I remember it had the famous pic of the double funnel tornado and a telephone pole or tree with straw stuck through it. Anyone?

  11. Bob Hartig on March 20th, 2007 12:17 pm

    Just checking out this thread again after two years. Plenty more additions, I see. My post is obviously way behind the times, but I’ll submit it anyway in answer to Ramona’s question.

    A hardcover book titled “The Mighty Whirlwind” was written by David Wagler and published later in 1965, the same year as the storms. It covers the storms that swept through northern Indiana and southern Michigan. The book is long OP, but the local library ought to be able to obtain a copy. That’s how I first got hold of it. It’s well worth the effort to obtain it: excellent reportage, very readable, with an interesting point of view (the author was Amish) and some fascinating comments from back in the days when much of what is now common knowledge about tornadoes had yet to be discovered.

    I understand there is also a book on the Ohio storms, but I don’t know its title.

  12. jim beck on December 2nd, 2007 3:53 am

    [Editor's Note: The following comment contains a number of capitalization and punctuation errors, but was kept for the value of its content.]

    I was 5 yrs. old and my family was headed to goshen from south bend on bashor rd. we were close to the elkhart county line when dad noticed a tornado chasing us. we ran for awhile but dad knew that he could not outrun it so we stopped at a farmhouse.I still remember the location and i am 47 yrs old now. The families last name was beck also, we ran to their basement and the grandpa was hurt being the last one down the stairs.The window crashed in and cut his face really bad. My mom and dad owned the Twin pines trailer court on cr. 45 in goshen and they were worried that our park got hit. they took the farmers tractor all the way to s.r. 19 and got a ride home, our station wagon was totaled. Our park was not damaged but dad was friends with the owner at the midway trailer park. Dad went down there the next day or two and offered to help run the tractors to start clean up but the police took him away at gunpoint because the president was coming to view the scene. The gov. was afraid of germs because of the dead and they brought in dozers to scrape dirt 2-3 feet down away but they also tore up all the sewer and water lines etc. That was what my dad was trying to stop, it added to the amount of destruction and rebuild costs.
    I still hate bad storms to this day and have to be near a shelter if possible, i know it is probably because of what we went through. we did not suffer any injuries but my heart still goes out to the people that did in 1965.

  13. sleepycc on May 12th, 2008 5:52 pm

    I was 6 years old on that Palm Sunday and lived in Sturgis Michigan. My family had lived on a farm in branch county where a lot of there friends were totally wiped out by the tornado there. I was sitting here reading this and I could see that picture in my mind of the double tornado vividly. I haven’t seen it since I read that book in high school by David Wagler “The Mighty Whirlwind” .

  14. Rob Evans on July 23rd, 2008 5:47 am

    Russiaville Tornado 1965

    I don’t know who was living on the family’s land grant farm just south of town at the time, but the only family members in town that weekend were my Grandmother Evans (widowed 1955 from the town doctor), and her widowed mother who was 92.

    They lived in the big old Evans house which had a sleeping porch upstairs, and a rear door which faced the basement door right off the kitchen. They had enough warning of the storm that they were in the kitchen and at the basement door as it approached. My grandmother had to get on the stairs and help G. Grandmother Brubaker onto the top step and then pull her walker in, then close the door.

    While they were still at the top of the stairs, the storm hit and the glass of the exterior door shattered, spraying the door they had just closed behind them with glass. 90% of the town’s buildings were destroyed or damaged, and this big old square frame two story was no exception losing windows, roofing, and being shifted on its foundation several inches and slightly rotated. But the house was repaired and I recall being there the next year or so and watching football on Thanksgiving.

    The ladies made it down the stairs and were safe from injury in the basement. But the next day my father was preparing to leave West Lafayette to go see to them. There was no phone communication and he had no idea whether they were safe. He was frantic, and only owned a V.W. Beetle, hardly the auto for a rescue mission over downed trees or through fields.

    My uncle “Fred” Fouad Musleh (both men married sisters from Lafayette) called him from Indianapolis and didn’t even ask if he wanted help. He just asked, “Did you hear about the tornado?”, and “Where do you want to meet?”

    My dad had been through the army between wars, and my uncle had been a Christian Palestinian displaced to Jordan in the Palestinian Exodus of 1948. Both Purdue engineers, they had only known each other for about five years. Many good things have been said about my dad, but Fouad has always been where he thought he could do some good for our family and it’s about time he had something written about what he did that Monday.

    I am not even certain he had ever been to Russiaville, nor that my grandmothers would have known WHAT to make of him. My dad marrying a German’s girl was one thing, but the Sister in Law and her Arab husband? Are there Christian Arabs? Well, he was from near Bethlehem so evidently so. In other words, this was his family only because of what was in HIS heart, and his affection for my dad.

    I don’t know how he got past the National Guard. He was a civil engineer and maybe his licensure did it. MY dad was an electrical engineer and he got stopped by the Guard between Middle Fork and Russiaville. They told him nobody was being allowed in except emergency services. He told them he was a veteran, still no dice. He was a pretty big guy with a deep voice driving a V.W. Beetle.

    got a little bit angry then and told them that his mom and grandmother were in that town and there were no other relatives closer than him. They could shoot him, but he was going through.

    And then he drove through the checkpoint in his V.W. Beetle. I have to think it was less impressive than if he’d been driving an Imperial, but he got through.

    He and my uncle brought the ladies back to Lafayette. They were shaken but unharmed. They stayed with us while the town was cleaned up, and then went back home.

    To me, the parts of the story that are most compelling are the checkpoint and the idea of being on the second step, pulling a 92 year old onto the first step, and then reaching past to pull the walker onto the stairs, and THEN reaching up to get the door closed. I guess it was Great Grandmother who shut the door, she wasn’t paralyzed, just wobbly as could be. And then the glass implodes into the door before they have time to move a step, and the house is shifted around them as they proceed down the stairs.

    That and Fouad Musleh, a short brown stranger in a strange land asking his brother in law “Where do you want to meet?” in his wonderfully thick accent. No thought of danger or hardship or that he might not go – “Where do you want to meet?”

  15. tornado on November 7th, 2008 3:21 am

    Relaying a comment from Bob Hartig, via e-mail:
    —————————————–

    A few years ago, I read one of your posts in “Weather or Not” concerning the old Midway Trailer Park south of Dunlap. You in fact had snapped a photo from roughly the same location where /Elkhart Truth/ reporter Paul Huffman shot his iconic photograph of the twin funnels straddling US 33. I was amazed that someone else–a veteran storm chaser at that–has experienced the same emotional pull that this place exerts on me. I left a comment in your blog to that effect, and I’m pleased to see that your Palm Sunday Tornado post, now several years old, continues to receive comments.

    Regrettably, it appears that I can’t comment further in your blog without registering in TypePad, or whatever the name of the program is, and I just don’t want to sign on for a single application. Instead, I’m sending you a personal invitation to check out my latest post in my own blog. In it, you’ll find my personal reflections on my visit to the Dunlap tornado memorial and the old Midway site. I’ve included a number of photos of the memorial park. I will add that the owner of the memorial, Debbie Forsythe-Waters, is a friend of mine, as is Pat McIntosh, who lost her child in the Midway tornado and who guided me through the old trailer park site via cell phone.

    The link to my blog is http://www.stormhorn.com. You want the post dated 9/4/2008.
    All the best,
    Bob Hartig

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