Tornado Bounces off Ridge into Town; Deals Death, Debris

The Coshocton Tribune, April 24, 1968

Editors: A tornado ripped up the Ohio Valley through the rural town of Wheelersburg, damaging homes, destroying buildings and killing helpless persons. This is a first hand report on what happened in one town in less than five minutes.

Three photos below were taken on Dogwood Ridge Road.



Photo below taken on Dogwood Ridge Road near the intersection of Dogwood & Hammerstein Roads.


WHEELERSBURG, Ohio (UPI) -- It's 3 a.m. today. There is no electricity in town. I'm typing in the principal's office of the elementary school by flashlight.
It's been about six hours since I arrived here. The weather is chilly. Skies are clear. There is a gloom in this city of 2,600.

Eleven hours ago a killer tornado swept up the Ohio River.

A woman sat on her porch and watched it come up the sheriff's department, what she saw.

"I SAW IT coming up the river. It looked like it was going to go over the ridge into Kentucky. Then it bounced off the ridge and headed toward me," Burns said, repeating her description.

The tornado did come toward her. It hit a converted night club, smashing the brick building to bits, turned a tractor-trailer onto its side in the middle of U.S. 52, then hit the woman's home.

"She was lucky, she found protection, Burns said as he and several other sheriff's deputies, civil defense workers and National Guardsmen sat in the dimly lighted school gymnasium. The lights were supplied by a portable power plant.

ABOUT TWO hours ago, I rode up Shela Boulevard and a house lost most of its roof, but his family escaped injury.

"The thing touched down right near here and we only got the winds,"Moore said as he flashed his spotlight toward the home."

"The tornado came over the ridge from the feed store where two men were killed and was just beginning to touch down when it got here," he added.
Up the road a few hundred yards, there were trees, three-foot in diameter, uprooted, and some were skinned of limbs, standing like permanent utility poles."

"DID YOU EVER see anything like that?" asked Deputy Onda Cartee. "You wouldn't think that a wind could do so much damage."

Where homes stood only hours before, there now was nothing but rubble.

"We took a man off the hill."

Deputy Elwood Wooten was at the wheel of a private automobile hurriedly equipped with a flashing red light so he could get into the areas sealed off by National Guard troops and Civil Defense workers.

He pointed off to the right into the pitch dark.

"It'll take two or three days for us to find all the victims," he said. "There has to be some back in there that we don't know about yet."

At 3 a.m. officials said there were at least five confirmed dead, the possibility of a sixth person dead, 43 injured including 14 in hospitals in Portsmouth, 10 miles southwest of here.

Earlier in the evening Gov. James A. Rhodes flew here to take a first-hand look at the damage.

"I expressed all my sympathy to the elected officials and they will relay it to the families," Rhodes said before departure for Columbus.
What he had seen in the hour and a half  he spent riding through this business community shocked him.

BRICK HOMES, two-story structures, power lines and automobiles were lying about like a set of child's toys dumped from a box.
Rhodes stopped at the corner of Dogwood Ridge and Charlevoix Roads.

A foundation sat on the corner. About 60 yards away, a man and a woman were picking up items from a pile of rubble.

Donald Creeger, asteel worker who lives nearby, told of the house being lifted from its foundation, with its single occupant inside and smashed into a vacant house.

"They found Mrs. Mary Atkins right over there." Cregger said pointing to a pile of broken boards and masonry.

Mrs. Atkins, 63, widow of the Rev. John Atkins, lived in the home alone for six years. She was just one of the victims.
Authorities began today searching the area to determine how much damage was done, whether there were still more victims, who couldn't get to safety.

Last updated:

Monday, April 3, 2006 2:20 PM