100th Anniversary of the Destructive Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak

In a time of darkness and uncertainty, communities in northeastern Indiana came together to pick up the pieces. Exactly 100 years ago Saturday, lives were forever changed.

Posted: Mar 27, 2020 10:20 PM
Updated: Mar 29, 2020 9:48 AM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - “It got darker and darker. Everything went dark, it was totally destroyed,” said Sandra Gordon.

Palm Sunday, March 28, 1920.

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“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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 46915

Reported Deaths: 2681
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11499683
Lake5053242
Elkhart316443
Allen2717128
St. Joseph186366
Cass16369
Hamilton1518100
Hendricks1386100
Johnson1254118
Porter71237
Tippecanoe6778
Madison64864
Clark63844
Bartholomew58244
Howard56057
LaPorte55326
Kosciusko5124
Vanderburgh4806
Jackson4653
LaGrange4657
Noble45728
Hancock43735
Boone43443
Delaware42949
Marshall4273
Shelby42025
Floyd37144
Morgan32531
Montgomery29320
Grant29026
Clinton2852
Monroe26628
Dubois2646
White26010
Decatur24832
Henry24315
Lawrence23624
Vigo2288
Dearborn22723
Harrison21022
Warrick21029
Greene18432
Miami1812
Jennings17111
Putnam1688
Scott1607
DeKalb1594
Daviess14116
Orange13523
Wayne1346
Perry1279
Steuben1262
Franklin1248
Jasper1142
Ripley1147
Carroll1102
Wabash1102
Fayette987
Newton9710
Whitley884
Starke853
Randolph784
Huntington712
Wells711
Jefferson701
Fulton681
Jay680
Washington661
Knox630
Pulaski621
Clay604
Gibson592
Rush563
Adams481
Benton480
Owen471
Sullivan441
Brown381
Blackford372
Posey360
Spencer351
Fountain302
Tipton301
Crawford290
Switzerland260
Martin220
Parke220
Ohio140
Warren141
Union130
Vermillion130
Pike90
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 55257

Reported Deaths: 2903
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin9825417
Cuyahoga7392372
Hamilton5605197
Marion273038
Lucas2669302
Pickaway218441
Summit2079206
Montgomery191826
Mahoning1805231
Butler151144
Columbiana128860
Stark1079112
Lorain98367
Trumbull91665
Warren81421
Clark7619
Belmont54322
Delaware54115
Fairfield52916
Tuscarawas52910
Medina50632
Lake48018
Miami45531
Licking44212
Portage42858
Ashtabula42544
Wood40451
Geauga39942
Clermont3906
Wayne35951
Richland3255
Allen30540
Mercer2788
Darke24525
Greene2449
Erie23422
Holmes2203
Huron1992
Madison1928
Ottawa13923
Crawford1345
Washington13020
Putnam12615
Sandusky12614
Hardin12012
Morrow1161
Ross1133
Auglaize1044
Coshocton902
Monroe8817
Jefferson832
Union801
Hancock781
Hocking788
Muskingum761
Preble701
Williams682
Guernsey673
Lawrence670
Clinton660
Shelby644
Fulton610
Ashland581
Carroll583
Logan581
Wyandot585
Brown541
Defiance493
Fayette460
Knox451
Highland441
Athens431
Champaign391
Scioto380
Seneca332
Perry321
Van Wert320
Henry290
Paulding230
Adams221
Pike220
Vinton222
Jackson180
Gallia141
Harrison121
Meigs110
Morgan110
Noble110
Unassigned00
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