Anxiety in Lexington
April 3, 1974 at 357 Glendover Road, Lexington, Ky.,
30 p.m. TV news had just reported wind damage at the Fairgrounds in
Louisville and that the storm was coming toward the east and would be in the
vicinity of Lexington in a matter of minutes. Louisville is 90 miles away
and thinking the storm would never reach Lexington, I went on to Bluegrass
Field to meet my husband, Carl, arriving from Atlanta.
sun was shining, the weather seemed normal and the radio was not turned on
as we returned to our home. Two anxious children, Don and Carla, and a
neighbor, met us at the door, telling of the tornado that had touched down
at Brandenburg as just reported on the news.
Immediately, we began to dial my mother, Mrs. James R. Miller, and nephew,
Jimmie Miller, who resided at 905 and 904 High Street in Brandenburg. Both
telephones rang normal, but no answer. After repeated tries, Carla dialed
the C. K. Miller home on Old State Road and got an answer. Virginia told us
that the storm was as terrible as the news had reported. When I asked about
my mother, Virginia told me she assumed that she was alright because she
remembered looking from the high school grounds, seeing that my mother’s
house was standing, but damaged. I then asked about Jimmie, Mona and family
and she told me that those houses across the street were leveled but that
there were no serious personal injuries that she knew of. By this time our
concern deepened for my mother and Mrs. Ula Board from Miami, who was
visiting. Virginia could sense my distress and told me that she and Martha
would walk over to check on them for me and for me to call back later.
hearing from Brandenburg again, my telephone was ringing constantly with
people inquiring as to what we had heard of the Brandenburg storm, including
Randall Board of Miami who was desperate to have news of his mother, Mrs.
Getting through to any telephone in Area 502 was a major problem, the storm
having devastated neighborhoods in Louisville, Frankfort, Stamping Ground
and across the country. In my second telephone conversation with Virginia,
she assured me that my mother and Mrs. Board were alright and planned to
stay in the badly damaged house that night. Virginia told of the deaths of
friends that she knew of at this time, including Alta, Eleanor, Mrs. Mercer
and others, and told of some of the destruction to the town, saying it was
Windows All Out
- All the windows in the Roy Powell home and rental unit were blown out
in the tornado.
later phone call came from Sally Ann Allen, Frankfort, who had not been able
to get through to Brandenburg to inquire of her family. I hesitated to tell
her that her Grandmother Mercer had died in the storm, but did after
learning that she was with friends and not alone. This was a hard thing for
me to do-the telephone seemed so impersonal.
blackout that hit the Lexington area in early evening and the storm watch
added to our bad feelings of frustration and anxiety. We resorted to a
Coleman lantern for light and the car radio for news, naturally, none of our
transistor radios were in working order.
telephone kept us busy for several days with calls from all over-Alaska,
California, Texas, South Carolina, from many Brandenburg students attending
the University of Kentucky, local friends-Lillian Baxter, Mildred Brown
Carter, Dr. James Stith, Janice Heavrin Simmons, Eleanor Bondurant Newman,
Sammy Pollock of Georgetown and from many other friends who knew of our
connections with Brandenburg.
Ironically, every time there were news pictures on TV of Brandenburg, I was
on the telephone and did not see any of them.
Hopefully, this article will convey the anxiety, frustration and concern
that we felt for our relatives and friends in the storm area, which I am
sure was experienced by many others. As someone once said, "anyone who has
ever had a drink from the old watering trough at the foot of Main Street in
Brandenburg will have deep love and affection for, and a sense of belonging,
to this dear little river town and will want to return".
By Mrs. Ruby Miller Lamar
Anxiety In Brandenburg
April 3, 1974 at 905 High Street, Brandenburg, Ky.
sky darkened and the wind grew stronger on the afternoon of April 3, 1974
indicating a storm, I began closing doors and lowering windows. When the
roar of the approaching storm could be heard, my visitor, Ula Board of
Miami, Florida, asked if the noise was from a passing truck. When I told her
I didn’t think it was the noise of a passing truck, she immediately said,
“It’s a storm”, and suggested that we go to the basement.
never before taken refuge in a basement from a storm and hesitated a moment
before following Ula to the basement. The storm hit before we reached the
foot of the stairs. Broken glass from the basement windows flew across the
room along with other miscellaneous articles and the double garage doors
blew open. We huddled in a safe corner for the few stormy minutes. The storm
was followed by a strange, quiet calm.
we returned to the main floor, we were overwhelmed by the damage done to my
home, but when I saw the total destruction of my neighbors’ homes directly
across the street, I counted my loss as nothing compared to theirs. The
homes of Melvin Lawson, Eugene Stith, Woody Melton, Jimmie Miller (my
grandson) and Elroy Bruington were totally destroyed and others were
and I were happy to receive the neighbors who miraculously survived and came
to our house immediately after the storm, and we helped them as best we
struggling through the debris of the storm, we found many bits and pieces of
destroyed furnishings, but not one piece of the cloth from the dining table,
the decorative plate that hung on the kitchen wall, the two six-foot
innerspring mattresses or a glider and a steel coffee table from my sunporch,
were never found. Two small, woven baskets from the sun porch were found
nearby in the yard. One would assume that the lightweight articles would
have been carried away instead of the heavier ones.
realize that my neighborhood will probably never be the same. My home, the
St. Clair house and Manfred Ripperdan’s home are all that is left on my side
of the street in my immediate vicinity. Most of the neighbors mentioned are
rebuilding on other locations. Chism’s grocery next door (formerly Pete’s
Market), the rental houses and home of Mrs. N. C. Hoskinson have all been
cleared away and the lots are vacant. Even so I’m thankful we were spared
and are able to make repairs, rebuild and relocate.
By Mrs. Pearl Miller
View Toward The River
- Work on clean-up begins early Thursday, as the view down Main Street
Not One Window Broken
By MRS. CHARLES CRON
We had the radio on in the car when we went to Irvington the afternoon of
the tornado. The announcer never mentioned a severe thunderstorm warning
much less the possibility of a tornado. We did our shopping and had been
home approximately thirty minutes and were sitting in the living room
reading. I heard the noise and called Charlie’s attention to it.
said, “That is a tornado, get where flying glass won’t hit you.” We don’t
have a basement so I went to the hall and Charlie rushed to the bedrooms and
raised a window in each. Soon after I entered the hall I heard what sounded
like a small muffled explosion in the attic. After things calmed down and we
had time to talk, Charlie said, “The instant I raised the windows, the
curtains sucked out each window.” So we decided what I heard in the attic
was the pressure in the house changing. Since we live in the side of
Brandenburg the tornado entered in, we heard it from the time it entered
until it passed on through. The core of it was about one-fourth of a mile
from us. It was very noisy-six freight trains running on tracks side by side
wouldn’t have made any more noise. It didn’t damage our house or break a
window. We give the credit to raising the windows.
didn’t let myself get so upset it would take me days to calm down, because
once before, I had a close brush with death-the morning I had the cerebral
hemorrhage and Brandenburg was very quiet that morning.
Charlie must have kept his cool because he thought of raising the windows
and that is one of the safety rules you are supposed to observe in case of a
Long Branch Destroyed
- A number of people where in the Long Branch when
the tornado struck. Many took cover under the bar and pool table. No one
there was seriously hurt.
Bless This House
big timber would not move from across the splintered desk drawer. It was
almost dark, and I knew I had to leave this place of shock and sadness while
I could still see to crawl among the network of fallen powerlines and broken
trees. But in that drawer was the sheet of music, “Bless This House,” the
song our family had always sung at gatherings in the old parlor-the birthday
times, summer visits, happy childhood Christmases. I could not move the
up the hill in the shadows, two men, a deputy sheriff and a man in a khaki
flashed a light toward me. I told them that this was my family’s home and
assured them that I would be leaving soon. It was hardly more than three
hours since the thing had happened and I tried to decide which of the
battered objects that I had dug out of the shattered ruin would fit into my
pocket and my arms for carrying away and keeping. And I knew then that you
don’t really ever have anything to keep.
Raggedy Ann doll lay among crumbled plaster bits, soggy from the rain, her
button eyes looking forever skyward; a photograph of my nephew, Richard
Bondurant, smiling in his Sunday clothes, was under a tree branch; a quilt
with its red and blue handsewn squares in the old Sunshine and Shadow
pattern lay muddy and torn. Just this morning the beds had been neatly made,
and the smell of coffee and warm bread had been in the kitchen. Two pairs of
doves had eaten by the side porch as they did every day, finishing after the
cardinals. And the sun had come in through the wavy glass of old window
panes as it had in all the Aprils since the house had been built by a Mr.
Fontaine on this green hill overlooking the river in the early 1800’s. But
that was this morning.
picked up the doll and put her down again; I took a small gold object, a
piece of Mother’s jewelry, from the mud and put it in my pocket. Books were
scattered about among the foundation stones: horse books, Little Golden
Books, “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” an old geography, books of meditation.
The library table where Daddy had sat to read was gone. But nearby in the
wet debris, his Bible was open, open to a Psalm of David. I looked away.
the street, the ruin of the Baptist Church echoed in the tragic twilight its
final evensong-and just for that instant I could hear the choir once more
singing’ ‘I Am Thine, 0 Lord, I Have Heard Thy Voice And It Told Thy Love
For Me.” Sirens were sounding loudly now and small groups gathered to carry
away the injured and the dead in the neighborhood.
we had lived, known the proverbial joys and sorrows, picked brilliant yellow
jonquils in the front yard, made fragrant clover chains, asked daisy petals
about our childish loves. And in my stunned fantasy, time did not exist. A
fiddle played lilting music for the revelry of an infare held here in the
year following the Civil War; how often we had heard the story. Again
tonight crinoline and taffeta and satin and lace graced the old halls;
winter winds blew cold and vapors of camphor brought healing to ailing
bodies. In timeless springtimes purple iris bloomed; wartime soldiers said
sad farewells. Winter bobsleds with laughing riders flew down snowy
hillsides, and always in the kaleidoscopic pattern, the ferry, a squared-off
craft, angled to the current as it crossed the river forever.
is more than a house; a house is shelter. A town is more than buildings; it
is a gathering of human beings for the common good. Our home, yes, our house
is still standing. Not in walls of brick and wood, but it is standing in a
more real form than 1t ever had before. It now stands in the ancient context
of a house-an extension of the lives of all of us into the greater world,
albeit into the lives of our fellow man.
darkness falls, I can see the evening star. I cannot move this heavy timber.
But it really doesn’t matter. We all know the words and any of us can play
the chords to “Bless This House.” Minnie Alice Bondurant Scott
Everything Was In Shambles
By MISS LOUISE COLEMAN
4 o’clock in the afternoon of April3rd, I was sitting at a window in our
den, watching for a niece to stop by from school. I noticed the sky was very
dark and it was beginning to sprinkle. I saw the family who lived opposite
the church race out of their house, jump in the car, turn around in the
middle of the street, and drive off madly. As the radio was nearby, I tuned
in WMM G. Almost immediately, I heard, “A tornado is rapidly approaching
Irvington. “ At once I got up, closed the back door and started for the
bathroom. Since it was near the middle of the house, I thought that would be
a safe place. I could hear the frightening roar. As I walked the length of
the den (approximately 20 feet) and turned into the kitchen, just
about everything in the den came right behind me. I was unable to get in the
bathroom, however I did manage to get in an arm and a leg. Then I thought I
would never get out. Finally I was freed. Then I just stood in that spot,
hoping that it was a safe place. A coat blew by, I
grabbed it and put it over my head.
everything around me was in shambles. Soon my glasses were so covered with
insulation that I couldn’t see. When the calm finally came, I just stood
there numb I think. After a while I cleaned my glasses on my dress, so I
could see to walk. Then I saw a wall which contained a closet was still
standing. I got a coat and scarf and started out where our back door had
been. There across the back walk was a huge steel beam from the destroyed
church. As I came out, I could hear crying, groaning, and calls for help. As
I was there alone, I hardly knew what to do. I walked to the front of the
house, it looked even worse than the back. The funeral home was gone, the
Hardin House had folded like an accordion.
thought I was the only one alive on High Street. The first person I saw was
Jimmy Humphrey coming down the street with blood streaming down his face.
Soon Thomas Tichenor came running to his house. I went back in to look at
the wreckage again. When I came out again, Henry was running across the back
lot and Shab was running down High Street.
Shab saw I was all right, he went home to see about his family. Henry and I
tried to find Lois Groves but we were unable to hear a sound. Soon Leslie
and Mary Lou came up the street. Henry moved debris from the opening to Mrs.
Sturgeon’s basement and she was able to come
out. It was not long until a body on stretchers was carried through our
brought me to my niece’s and her husband’s home (Emmalou and Bill Troutman).
There I stayed for two weeks.
- Louise Coleman.
Tornado! April 3, 1974
By MRS. CAROL BROWN, Payneville, Ky.
The day was sunny, the day was bright
Life looked good and life looked right
The day was good with the same old things,
Dirty dishes and telephone rings. Men at work and kids at play
Just a sunny, happy, ordinary day.
But as evening came, the sky got gray,
And suddenly it wasn’t an ordinary day.
It was terror filled with screams galore
With houses in the river and bodies on shore.
And babies crying and people screaming
Houses falling and horrible dreaming
Of what is happening to us all;
With cars overturning and seeing trees fall.
People crying, “Where is Dad?”
“I can’t find Mom, is she dead?”
“My baby, my baby! Where can he be?”
“Is that my baby, Oh, let me see!”
“My baby is in the house over there
“Help me find her! Don’t you care?
“She’s dead, I know, but help me please
“My baby’s dead under those trees.”
They were horror-filled at who they found
Someone from over at Frogtown.
The day is done, but it’s not quiet.
They scream in the evening, they scream at night.
What once was, it is no more
Some lost one, some lost four.
My heart is sad, my heart is blue.
We have much heartache for you.
But I pray that time will ease the pain
And help you learn to live again.
God will smile upon you all
And dry the tears that now fall.
Your loved ones love you and cry no more,
They wait for you on God’s Great Shore.
How The Clinic Functioned After The Tornado
By RONALD O. NASER, JR., M. D. & WALTER A. COLE, JR. M. D. Brandenburg,
is being written primarily to share our medical experiences during the
immediate aftermath period, which followed the tornado of April 3, 1974. The
tornado struck our community of Brandenburg and the surrounding areas of
Meade County, Kentucky at 4: 07 p. m. leaving in its path and wake, marked
property devastation and destruction, multiple severe personal injuries and
hope that our experiences and some of our thoughts may be of interest and
benefit to other physicians, located in small rural communities with limited
medical facilities, who may sometime be presented with similar mass casualty
situations. We shall not discuss the many anecdotes, sad, tragic or
humorous, but will leave them to professional journalists and others.
Brandenburg is located in Meade County, 42 miles west of Louisville, on the
Ohio River and approximately 15 miles southwest of Fort Knox. It has two
practicing physicians, Ronald O. Naser, Jr., M. D. and Walter A. Cole, Jr.,
M. D., and one medical clinic, which by 4:10 p. m., April 3, 1974, was
without electricity, phone communication, and inaccessible by motor vehicle
because of the fallen and uprooted trees and debris obstructing the streets.
At The Clinic
- Nurse opal Greer, Rev. Kenneth Lile, Sanara Hughes, and Dr. Gary
Klipple are assisted by a couple of Army medics in getting aid to Mrs.
Hughes' aunt, Mrs. Pearl Ethridge,
immediately after the storm, this one medical facility was swamped by
seriously injured persons, ranging in age from a three and one half month
old infant to octogenarians. They were transported by being carried in arms,
on make-shift blanket pole litters, old army cots, wooden doors, which had
been blown from buildings, boards, human-hand chairs, lawn patio chairs,
chaise lounges, and by foot. After the streets had been temporarily cleared.
The injuries were mainly multiple, the result of severe trauma, caused by
collapsing buildings and flying debris. They included open chest wounds,
multiple fractures, dislocations, deep face, head, and other soft tissue
lacerations, head injuries, spine injuries, abdomen and chest crushing
injuries, heart attacks, and emotional and psychological shock.
medical treatment was directed toward life-sustaining emergency measures
only, and no definitive treatment was attempted. Within one half hour the
two local physicians were supplemented by the arrival of an Army Medical
Officer, Captain Gary Klipple, M. D., Chief of Emergency Room Services,
Ireland Army Hospital, and his medics. They were flown in via helicopter
from Fort Knox, and they brought with them additional medical supplies and
intravenous solution. Later a dentist, Dr. R. B. Shacklette, Vine Grove,
arrived and assisted.
casualties were examined in the offices, examining rooms, the hallway, the
waiting room, outside The Clinic on truck beds, and on the parking lot
pavement. The vital status was evaluated and determined, blood pressures
checked; airways established, marked bleeding controlled, wounds dressed and
fractures splinted with regular or improvised splints, medication given, and
intravenous solution started as indicated. Most patients were labeled with
head or wrist tapes, covered with blankets and moved to the waiting room to
await the arrival of transportation.
dead were placed on the x-ray table and x-ray room floor and subsequently
transferred to the drugstore below and later moved to the temporary morgue
at the Brandenburg Elementary School.
shortage of nursing personnel was experienced, as apparently all nursing
personnel in the immediate locale came to The Clinic and offered their
assistance. Later in the evening some nurses were thanked and sent to other
aid stations. As indicated a nurse or aide was assigned to patients to
assist in cleaning wounds, applying dressings and starting intravenous
solution. When necessary, nurses would accompany the patients to the
ambulances and to hospitals or to the helicopter pad for air evacuation.
first ambulances arrived about one hour after the tornado had struck. The
most seriously injured were transported to the helicopter pad located about
one-half mile away, from which they were air evacuated to Ireland Army
Hospital, Fort Knox. The less seriously injured were transported by
ambulance to the hospital at Fort Knox and Elizabethtown, Kentucky. The
walking injured were moved by van and ambulance as were several of the
injured elderly, who might have been adversely affected by a helicopter
Emergency lighting was provided by the use of a camper-bus with an auxiliary
gasoline generator using an extension cord. Battery-operated emergency
lights also were borrowed from the local chemical plant.
Ambulance loading and directing of traffic-were done by a friend who was an
employee of the chemical plant. He also assisted the local Methodist
minister in directing the casualty flow within the building and in the
surrounding parking lot area.
30 p. m., all the initially injured had been processed and transported to
Fort Knox Ireland Army Hospital, Elizabethtown Hardin Memorial Hospital, or
to a Louisville hospital for definitive treatment, surgery, and for further
care. By midnight the Army had guards stationed around The Clinic and other
disaster struck areas. Emergency medical services were transferred to the
James R. Allen School, where the Army maintained emergency facilities with
lights, communications, adequate staff, and supplies. The acute traumatic
medical emergency was over.
Sixty-eight seriously injured patients had been treated at The Clinic by
three physicians, one dentist, nurses, and aides. Forty-eight were evacuated
and subsequently hospitalized; two deaths occurred and three were DOA.
people were killed and 180 were injured of whom 60 were hospitalized as the
direct result of the tornado of April 3, 1974. One injured person died at
Ireland Army Hospital, Fort Knox on April 9, from injuries sustained in the
tornado bringing the death toll to 31.
reviewing those hours from 4: 10 p. m., to midnight, we have drawn some
conclusions and offer some suggestions for your consideration, which
1. A good transistor radio should be available and on during known possible
2. The treatment of mass multiple injuries necessitated giving only
life-sustaining treatment, excluding any attempt at definite treatment at
the local level.
3. Outside physician assistance was of great benefit because it was oriented
to the emergency casualty treatment concept.
4. The outside assistance, the Army medical personnel, MO’s, Medics,
ambulance crews, helicopter pilots were needed, arrived and were promptly
utilized. This assistance was greatly appreciated.
5. The concept of helicopter air evacuation was tried, tested, and proved
6. Volunteer nurses and nurses-aides are available in small communities and
are willing and ‘efficient help.
7. Phone and electrical service cannot be counted on during severe
catastrophic emergencies and planning should be directed toward having
standby two-way radio communication available and standby battery-operated
portable electrical lighting available and in working order.
8. Most small medical facilities do not have sufficient emergency supplies
set aside especially blankets, intravenous solution, and splints. We were
fortunate in being supplemented with Army supplies.
9. Have emergency mass casualty plans with interval practice drills (we did
not) and pray that you never need to initiate them.
(The above article appeared in the Kentucky Medical Association Journal, and
while it is of primary interest to other doctors, it is also of interest to
those in Brandenburg who either used or saw the medical services’ efficient
utilization after the tornado.)
Lost Home and Barns
April 3rd, around 3: 50 p.m., I heard on WHIC that there was a tornado two
miles out of Hardinsburg headed toward Irvington. My husband and I ran to
the bedroom to see if we could see anything, and there it was-just over
Harold B. Norton’s house.
Mary Ann Rhoades came in our house on her way from Brandenburg, and we had
no more than let her in before our house exploded. We were all three hurt.
Miss Rhoades was taken to the Hardinsburg Hospital and we were taken to St.
Joseph Infirmary in Louisville. We were in the hospital 16 days. We weren’t
able to come home until May 1, and even then some of our family had to stay
our farm buildings, machinery and our home were completely destroyed. This
was our first experience of a tornado. We thank the Lord every day for
sparing our lives in such a frightening experience, in losing all material
things and leaving us on a bare floor alive. I pray that no one will ever
have this tragic experience again, and that everyone can rebuild and live
normal lives again. For everyone in our country, our state and so many other
state, who were so kind to us, we thank you.
Mr. And Mrs. Russell V. Lockard