STORIES FROM 74: Super Outbreak demolishes southern Ind. homes - WDRB 41 Louisville News

STORIES FROM 74: Super Outbreak demolishes southern Ind. homes

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PALMYRA, Ind. (WDRB) -- One of the F-5 tornadoes that spun through Kentuckiana on April 3, 1974 was eerily similar to the path of the Henryville tornado in March 2012.

The tornado was on the ground for more than 60 miles before lifting north of Henryville. But the storm went on to produce five more violent tornadoes as it ripped through parts of Hanover, Madison and Cincinnati.

WDRB meteorologist Jeremy Kappell and his sister once played in a tree, that is now twisted and mangled -- one of the few remnants left from the violent storm.

"For April, it was extremely warm -- it was like 84 degrees, 83 degrees. It was humid," said Jackie Armstrong, Jeremy Kappell's mother.

"It was sunny just like it is today, just as calm as could be," said Palmyra resident Eddy Hendricks.

But all that changed by the afternoon.

"It was very, very discernable, because it was the only cloud out. It was a day like today except for that one," said Palmyra resident Harvey Trowbridge.

"Just a big 'ol black cloud, real big," said Henry Armstrong, Jeremy's grandfather.

"This cloud was so low that I could almost touch it. I mean I felt like I could almost touch it," said Jackie Armstrong.

The ominous storm cloud was more than it appeared.

"Even at that time, I didn't realize that there was a tornado on the ground," Trowbridge said.

"I asked Dad, I said 'Have you ever seen anything like this before?', and he said no. And we just knew that we had to leave -- immediately," Jackie Armstrong said.

With Henry Armstrong driving, the family piled into the car.

"Immediately, as soon as we got to that highway, the wind coming across the road started shaking the back of the car. And I was sitting in the back seat and said 'Dad, you've got to go faster. It's coming, it's coming, you got to go faster.' He said,' I've got it all the way to the floor, this is all it's going to do.' But the wind was just taking it from side to side like that for about a mile and we out run it," Jackie Armstrong said.

But not before the family watched the storm destroy the body shop down the street.

"All of a sudden the roof started coming down. The walls came in," Hendricks said.

"It flattened the building all the way down. The only thing that was left was the bathroom."

Fortunately for Hendricks, that is where he had taken shelter.

Meanwhile, Palmyra resident Alice Rall was home cooking dinner when the storm arrived.

"All of a sudden the house started shaking," she recalled. "My china was started to fall out of the china cabinet."

"When I felt the house starting to fall apart. I ran outside," she said. "The first thing I saw was my car sitting there and I thought, there's safety."

As soon as she got in, the car started tumbling across the property. A two by four crashed through the back window.

"I count my blessings daily because that two by four, had I not been laying down on that seat at the time, would have hit me."

Her family was next door when the storm picked up their home and ripped it apart.

It was like someone put a bomb on it and all of a sudden it just shattered," she said.

When Kappell's family returned, they were shocked at what they saw.

"There was five houses up on the highway right in front of our property. And I remember there was nothing left but the concrete slabs.  Not a stick of wood anywhere," Jackie Armstrong said.

"They were all gone. Nothing left but the foundation. It looked like a giant broom had descended from heaven and swept them all clean," Henry Armstrong said.

Unfortunately, the storms destroyed their homes as well. However, it could have been much worse.

"If we had been 30 seconds later, we may not be here at all," Jackie Armstrong said.

Rall lost a horse and one of her cows ended up under her house.

"But I had three horses left and five calves left, and we were alive," she said.

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