STORIES FROM 74: Super Outbreak kills dozens in Brandenburg
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- During the Super Outbreak of 1974, an unprecedented number of violent tornados moved through the region.
None of the tornadoes were stronger than one that hit Brandenburg.
Rod Dodson with the Meade County Emergency Management Agency, described the day this way: "It was kind of like swimming in maple syrup. The humidity and conditions just had a very tight feeling that day."
Carol Wood also remembers a thickness in the air.
"I do really remember it being really muggy," Wood recalled. "It was uncomfortable."
Little did Brandenburg residents know that what was to come would be part of the most violent tornado outbreak ever seen.
Brandenburg resident Bill Smith said, "Someone called me and said the tornado is headed right for you all, right for Brandenburg!"
For many, a phone call was the only warning they received.
"Of course, tornadoes didn't happen in Meade County," Dodson said.
"When you've never experienced anything like that, it's not really in your realm of thinking I don't think," Wood said.
But the danger was real. Approximately a half-hour before reaching Brandenburg, the tornado touched down across western portions of Breckenridge County. From there, it quickly moved to the Northeast while rapidly strengthening into a 500 yard wide F-5 monster.
"It was a wall as black as I'd ever seen, coming right down High St., said Brandenburg Mayor David Pace.
"I don't really think it sounded like a train, you know. A lot of people say that, but it was just such a loud roar," Wood said.
And that was just the beginning.
"I saw cows in the air," said Martel Duncan-Payne, a Brandenburg resident. "They were on their backs with their legs up. They were flying in the sky, in the air."
Dan Dresel's parents and grandparents took cover in an office in downtown Brandenburg.
"As soon as they got in the door, and as soon as dad got through the second room, everything on top of the hill came down on top of them."
Dresel was referring to West Hill, located directly above Main St., which suffered the most extreme damage from the tornado.
"Everything on top of the hill, there was the Jenkins Funeral Home and everything up on that part of town, ended up down here," Dresel recalled.
Dresel didn't know the fate of his family until later, when he met up with a friend who broke the bad news.
"He said, 'So your dad got killed in that tornado,'" Dresel recalled. "And it floor boarded me, and that was how I found out my father was killed -- and I didn't believe him. I could not believe him."
"You just see total destruction. Trees are everywhere, wires are everywhere," Wood said.
"And you could see people trapped in their cars. They were hollering for help. And you could see dead bodies lying in the roads," Duncan-Payne said.
Tragically, 31 people were killed in Meade County that day. More than half of them in a single block on West Hill. Nearly 300 other people were injured.
It's a day Brandenburg residents who were there will never forget.
"To this day, when they talk tornadoes and bad weather, I'm as tense today as in 1974 when it comes on. You never forget something like that."
Sunday, March 30 2014 4:01 PM EDT2014-03-30 20:01:57 GMT
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