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.

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER

Download the FOX 55 Severe Weather Center App on Apple

Download the FOX 55 Severe Weather Center App on Android 

“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.

Cases: 947918

Reported Deaths: 15377
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1291181990
Lake635721103
Allen53899761
Hamilton44082449
St. Joseph42122590
Elkhart33803491
Vanderburgh30574449
Tippecanoe26915251
Johnson23727418
Hendricks22410342
Porter21832347
Clark17562231
Madison17492385
Vigo16302285
Monroe14545191
LaPorte14389239
Delaware14183222
Howard13971273
Kosciusko11498135
Hancock10935166
Warrick10737178
Bartholomew10635170
Floyd10514208
Wayne10077226
Grant9213204
Morgan8928160
Boone8463111
Dubois7791123
Dearborn769490
Henry7691133
Noble7466101
Marshall7409128
Cass7219118
Lawrence7026153
Shelby6647111
Jackson661386
Gibson6190107
Harrison609386
Huntington604495
Montgomery5853105
DeKalb581091
Knox5535104
Miami548888
Putnam543268
Clinton537465
Whitley529354
Steuben501768
Wabash488692
Jasper483861
Jefferson474492
Ripley457777
Adams446068
Daviess4231108
Scott409165
Clay394957
White393858
Greene393392
Wells389884
Decatur388797
Fayette378578
Posey362341
Jennings356056
Washington334747
LaGrange325175
Spencer321136
Fountain318455
Randolph317190
Sullivan309449
Owen287064
Starke282864
Fulton280454
Orange277859
Jay257038
Perry254152
Carroll245229
Franklin242838
Rush237030
Vermillion235050
Parke221420
Tipton212055
Pike211740
Blackford170534
Pulaski168551
Crawford147318
Newton145845
Benton143916
Brown135846
Martin130217
Switzerland126910
Warren115616
Union98511
Ohio80511
Unassigned0482

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1390015

Reported Deaths: 21820
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1541781574
Cuyahoga1361632341
Hamilton989691326
Montgomery681371161
Summit569981051
Lucas51769869
Butler48139663
Stark42350983
Lorain32165539
Warren30497338
Mahoning27564643
Clermont26081297
Lake24873422
Delaware22600147
Licking20818246
Fairfield20789223
Greene20667275
Trumbull20378516
Medina20178290
Clark18235332
Richland16749236
Portage16442231
Wood15973209
Allen14405261
Miami14063261
Muskingum12976155
Wayne12234244
Columbiana12046242
Tuscarawas11248271
Marion10935150
Pickaway10642129
Scioto10585127
Erie9888171
Ross9648177
Lawrence8967125
Hancock8637143
Ashtabula8509187
Geauga8272156
Belmont8262188
Jefferson7736175
Huron7566131
Union743951
Washington7396126
Athens712065
Sandusky6984135
Darke6884137
Knox6839122
Seneca6533137
Ashland6078115
Auglaize596888
Shelby5845104
Brown578272
Mercer565890
Crawford5591117
Defiance5579101
Madison552171
Highland550982
Fulton543583
Clinton535781
Logan520587
Preble5123111
Putnam4909107
Guernsey487664
Williams469982
Perry464454
Champaign454964
Ottawa443584
Jackson436663
Pike400745
Morrow398251
Coshocton393669
Fayette385053
Adams371575
Hardin367570
Gallia356658
Holmes3326111
Henry331869
Van Wert321471
Hocking312370
Wyandot286058
Carroll267052
Paulding247443
Meigs223042
Monroe193149
Noble174442
Morgan170329
Harrison161741
Vinton141919
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 70°
Angola
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 68°
Huntington
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 70°
Decatur
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 70°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 70°
Monday is another nice and breezy day with warmer temperatures.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events