Tornado hits Xenia… again

XENIA, Ohio — April 3, 1974, is engraved in the memories of nearly all residents of the city of Xenia in Greene County. Now, they will add Sept. 20, 2000, to that cache of fateful memories.

      In 1974, an intense tornado formed near the town of Bellbook, then moved through Xenia, destroying half the city and killing 36 people and injuring another 1,150 people.

      Last Wednesday, a second tornado, packing winds of 207 to 260 miles per hour, swept through Xenia, killing at least one person and injuring nearly 100 others.

      James Mullins Jr., 63, was killed when a tree fell on his car at the Greene County Fairgrounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His wife, Anita, was injured and remains in serious condition.

      The storm was rated F-4 on the Fujita scale and was 500 yards wide and left a trail of destruction eight to nine miles long.

      According to reports, only one of Xenia’s five tornado sirens sounded as the storm touched down.

      The National Weather Service confirms tornadoes touched down in Delaware, Licking, Huron, Erie, Knox and Greene counties. Storm damage was also reported in Ashland, Ashtabula, Union, Morrow, Knox, Warren, Scioto, Jackson and Vinton counties, according to the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

      In Xenia, numerous homes, businesses and the buildings at the county fairgrounds were leveled, including Faith Community United Methodist Church, which had just celebrated the completion of $2.1 million addition. The tornado flattened a grocery store but no one inside the store was killed.

      After the tornado, U.S. Routes 68, 42, 35 and State Route 380 leading into Xenia were closed with the assistance of the Ohio Department of Transportation; only local residents were permitted in the area.

An estimated 100 state transportation department workers from seven southwestern Ohio counties have begun debris removal. More than two dozen transportation and natural resource department emergency responders arrived in the Xenia area Wednesday evening to assist highway patrol officers in security, road closure and traffic redirection.

      The state Emergency Management Agency deployed Ohio’s Urban Search and Rescue Task Force based at Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton. The task force, one of 27 in the United States, is a mobile, self-contained unit of volunteers trained and equipped with sophisticated equipment to aid in the search for victims in collapsed buildings and structures.

      The deployment of the task force, led by City of Kettering Fire Department Capt. Jim Gruenberg, was the first since the unit was activated and certified as deployable in early April.

      Approximately 50 Ohio Army National Guard personnel continue to provide traffic control and security and will remain on call, if needed.

Volunteer activities are being handled locally. Volunteer groups should contact the Miami Valley Emergency Management Authority at 937-854-4822.

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