Thursday, April 21, 2016

April 21, 1967 -- Oak Lawn Tornado Kills 33, Injures 1,000


April 21, 1967 -- The third and final tornado to strike Illinois on this day begins northwest of Joliet at about 4:45 p.m. It moves east-northeast, building power and momentum as it goes. It takes six minutes for the monster funnel to carve a path of damage 16 miles long through the suburbs of Oak Lawn, Hometown, and Evergreen Park. At the intersection of Ninety-Fifth Street and Southwest Highway it throws several dozen cars stopped in traffic off the road, and sixteen people are killed at just this one location. The south end and east wall of Oak Lawn High School are destroyed at 5:26 p.m., when the school clocks stopped. With winds of over 100 m.p.h., the tornado finally blows itself out over the lake off Rainbow Beach. Even though it is no longer on the ground, it still has enough power to pop windshields out of cars parked at the Filtration Plant at Seventy-Eighth Street and the lake. The disaster is immense -- 33 people lose their lives, and over 1,000 suffer injuries. 152 homes are totally demolished, and another 900 or more are damaged. In its analysis of the tornado the National Weather Service concludes, "Most of those killed were people who were not in a position to hear the warning because they were away from home. Actually, the tornado could hardly have come at a worst [sic] time of day or week to catch the greatest number of people out in the open."