FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - “It got darker and darker. Everything went dark, it was totally destroyed,” said Sandra Gordon.
Palm Sunday, March 28, 1920.
“There wasn’t any radio broadcast at all. Nobody had radios at that time,” said Michael Skipper.
Farms in ruins, towns leveled to their foundations, lives forever changed.
“It was a beautiful Sunday, Palm Sunday day and everybody seemed to enjoy being out in it. They saw the big black cloud and they were in the barn. Grandma kept calling ‘Thema, Sam, get in the house,” said Sandra Gordon.
An F4 tornado demolished anything in its 100-mile path from Wells County, Indiana to Lucas County, Ohio.
“It was actually three tornadoes in one. One dissipated while the next one developed,” Skipper said.
The National Weather Service says around two dozen people died in its path, nearly half of those deaths occurred in Allen County.
The hardest towns hit were Edgerton and Townley.
“At the actual time they were dazed, just totally dazed and in so much shock,” Sandra Gordon
Edgerton was leveled. Splintered trees, foundations that once held houses, people’s livelihoods were gone in a matter of seconds. But off in the distance stood the town’s grain elevator. It was coined, ‘cyclone proof.’”
“Because of the weight at the bottom, it stayed, But the crown or the top of it, was totally destroyed,” said Sandra Gordon.
There was debris as far as the eye could see.
It looked like a war zone and the town needed help.
“There was communication. They had a difficult time bringing anyone out because the roads were so filled with timbers and telephone lines and all different kinds of things like that,” Gordon said.
News of the destruction spread quickly.
People flocked to the devastated area. Some gazed at the mess but many lent a helping hand.
“Fort Wayne had sent a group of firemen down of approximately fifty and then they began to clean things up,” Gordon added.
Edgerton began to pick up the pieces.
But not all communities would be as fortunate. Townley, Indiana is still on the map today, but its residents abandoned it.
“They did not bother to rebuild anything because they had no railroad. Therefore, they had no way of getting the grain out,” said Sandra Gordon.
These tornadoes caused widespread devastation across parts of the Midwest.
Palm Sunday 1920 was locally known as the worst storm in history at the time.
This was due to the lack of warning residents received.
“The Weather Service of that time was really prohibited from actually issuing a tornado warning. Completely different as it is right now,” said Michael Skipper.
Tornado warnings that we know today were not officially adopted until 1965.
This was in response to the great amount of confusion during another deadly Palm Sunday tornado outbreak that same year.
Now, there are many ways to gain access to life-saving weather information.
This, in turn, has saved countless lives across the United States.