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The Lessons We Learnt from Xenia Tornado

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In the 21st century the world has been taken aback by the yearly natural and man-made disasters that have occurred everywhere. No matter how prepared we believe are there is always area of improvement or an area of learning after each and every disaster. Specifically some areas even in the United States aren’t as up to date on technology that could prevent or curtail some of the damage or losses from these disasters. Perhaps they don’t see enough issues to warrant the upgrade, or perhaps isn’t a budget issue for the city or county. I personally am from an area in Dayton called Clayton that don’t have tornado sirens, until I moved to the City of Kettering, in 2001, I had no idea of tornado sirens, and was taken aback the first Monday of the month that Kettering tests theirs. Most cities North of Dayton are without this type of warning technology, because until the last 10-15 years we didn’t see this type of activity in the area. All the Wizard of Oz tornado stories belonged to a town just about 20 mins outside of Dayton called Xenia.

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The City of Xenia Ohio has had its share of trauma and devastation when it comes to tornadoes. When severe weather hits in the area Xenia Ohio is not the area to be in or around. Xenia has a long history of severe weather. The Shawnee Indians referred to the area as the “Place of the devil wind” or “the land of the crazy winds”. The worst tornado to the area was April 3, 1974 an F5 category tornado. The Tornado touched down around 4:40pm just outside of downtown Xenia. It continued on a path of 32 miles through Xenia and Wilberforce. The Xenia Tornado killed 32 people from Xenia to Wilberforce. About 1400 of the buildings in the city of 27,000 were damaged and 300 homes destroyed, nine Xenia churches were destroyed, as were nine of the twelve schools in the city. Fortunately, this occurred an hour after classes had been dismissed. The roof and windows were blown from the Greene County Courthouse. A train passing through Xenia was struck by the tornado and 7 of the 47 cars were blown over, resulting in the blockage of Main Street. Over 1200 people were treated for injuries at Green Memorial Hospital. In 1974 Xenia had no tornado warning sirens, so there only alerts were the television and the radio at the time. The 1974 Xenia Tornado was part of an outbreak that contained 148 tornadoes in 13 states, the 1974 Xenia tornado was one of the largest ever recorded at about 1,000 yards wide, with wind speeds of 318 mph.

Xenia was again struck by another tornado in April 25th, 1989; this tornado was listed as an F2. While this event caused over 2 million in damages for the City of Xenia, thankfully no one was killed. Maybe the instillation of tornado sirens that were purchased after the 1974 tornado outbreak assisted in the fact there were no fatalities in the 1989.

September 20, 2000 Xenia strikes again this time with and F4 category tornado. While this storm hit at dusk around 7:15pm rather than in the day it weirdly took almost the exact same path as the storm in 1974. For the residence of Xenia and surrounding areas this was a scary reminder of 26 years past when the city was turned upside down. For others like myself that had never experienced this type of event it was eye opening and scary. I wish I could say that we learned a lot from the 1974 tornado in order to prevent devastation in the 2000 tornado, but same path and just as much devastation. Tornados aren’t like floods and earthquakes though. With Flooding dams and walls can be built, to prevent earthquake damage California has implemented building structures and materials that that sway and move with the flow of the movements. With tornados it doesn’t matter how strong you build a building it can be flattened by the destruction of the tornados. In the 2000 tornado the damaged area was mainly business area now, when the area was restructured after 1974 they didn’t return the homes to the area. Unlike the previous disaster there was only one fatality from the storm, and a little over 100 injuries. One is still too many, while the City of Xenia did install tornado sirens after the 1974 tornado that worked for the 1989 storm there was an issue during the September 2000 storm. During the Tornado not having a backup power supply silenced the warning system, after which the city purchased a new system that has a battery backup in case of power failure issues. In 2000 the outpouring of assistance and help from the local community was outstanding. Any one that could respond to assist people, clear debris, and help restore the city to what feels like normal did. Myself at the time I was 18 years old and lived 40 mins away from the area. I had friends from the area and assisted them with housing due to damage that was done to their house that made it inhabitable at the time. The city of Xenia and surrounding areas once again came together in order to restore itself. Neighbors helping neighbors in order to restore one another, and for the greater good for the time being.

You would think that after knowing and seeing the destruction and devastation that the City of Xenia has and attracts that most would steer clear especially when any time of severe weather is in the area. I’m not a fast learning or a scared person, I’ve been through two hurricanes and not thought twice about it, and I put my life on the line for a living every day. On May 23, 2017 I decided to go shopping in Xenia none the less our two stops were the Rural King and the Tractor Supply. The Rural king now sits in the area where both the 1974, and the 2000 tornadoes destroyed the building that was there before. While my daughter and I were shopping in the Rural King a severe thunderstorm popped up so we finished shopping and left the build to stop at the tractor supply on the way home 3 miles away. However on the way there were reports of funnel clouds in the area so we hurried to tractor supply and tucked into a back room to take shelter. The news reported touchdown between the three mile area between the two stores that we were at that day. While this incident didn’t amount to the tornadoes in 1979, and 2000 its one of the closest incidents I’ve ever had in regards to a tornado. Maybe it mattered more that my daughter was there and it was more than just me, or perhaps the history with Xenia bothered me.

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There are disasters in every part of the county this is just a little piece of what is going on in my little corner of the world. Compared to the fires every year out west, and in California, the hurricanes every year in the south that hit the Florida area and southern states, and the flooding that I’ve heard about in the New Jersey area we seem small time. At no point does that discount what the citizen of Xenia have gone through, but in hindsight I would say we are lucky in many aspects that we aren’t dealing and rebuilding our lives year after year for the same devastations.

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