1967 Geneva Tornado Revisted

In 1967, Geneva has the scare of its life. Here's what you need to know during tornado season.

Thursday marked the 34th anniversary of the worst-ever tornado event to strike Geneva.

On April 21, 1967, 18 tornadoes struck Illinois. Other tornadoes roared through Belvedere, Oak Lawn and Lake Zurich, killing more than 60 people.

The tornado touched down in the southwest part of Geneva, causing minor damage to homes. The tornado then sped northeast, crossing the Fox River, and slammed into the Illinois State Training School for Girls. The storm overturned a trailer and damaged the roof of a dormitory.

The twister’s next target was the Ridgewood Subdivision. Twenty-four homes were damaged and two were destroyed. There was a total of half a million dollars’ worth of damage in Ridgewood. An electrical substation was severely damaged near the subdivision.

The tornado continued northeast, and eventually dissipated near the intersection of Kirk and Averill roads. Luckily, only minor injuries occurred from the Geneva tornado. But this significant weather event from the past is a reminder that we are in tornado season now.

It is a good idea to review some of the basic tornado safety procedures. Follow these rules if there is a tornado warning issued for your area or a tornado has been sightednearby.

In a home or building, move to a pre-designated shelter, such as a basement. If an underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture. Stay away from windows.

If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter, immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If flying debris hits your vehicle while you are driving, pull over and park.

Now you have the following options as a last resort: Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket, if possible. If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances.

Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned.

Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that advance warning is not possible. Remain alert for signs of an approaching tornado. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most deaths and injuries.

Purchasing a NOAA Weather Radio is the most efficient and quickest way to receive severe weather watches and warnings. It is the smoke detector for severe weather and can wake you up with a siren when a warning is issued. The new weather radios equipped with SAME technology will allow you to select the counties you only wish to hear warnings for.

Do not always wait for the outdoor warning sirens. Sirens are controlled by the local cities. You may not be able to hear the siren inside your home or local business.

To hear more about tornadoes, severe storms, safety rules and information about this past year’s blizzard, come to the 31st annual Tornado and Severe Storm Seminar hosted byWGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling at Fermilab’s Ramsey Auditorium on Saturday, April 30.

There will be two sessions, at noon and 6 p.m. This is a program that Tom and I started in 1981. I will be there making a presentation, as well. Admission is free and seating is first come, first served. When traveling to the lab, use the Pine Street entrance off of Kirk Road.

For more information, go to www.asktom.org.

Kurt Wehrmeister April 26, 2011 at 05:39 PM
Both the photos Brian has submitted here were taken in the Ridgewood subdivision in the aftermath of that storm on 4/21/67. The shot that includes the City of Geneva stationwagon (and that's a '67 Chevy; good heavens, did Civil Defense/ESDA actually get NEW vehicles then?!) was taken, I believe, on Ridge Lane looking northeast; the eastern edge of the Ridgewood neighborhood. The exact location of the other shot, I'm not sure.
Christine Donovan April 26, 2011 at 07:59 PM
Remember this day very clearly. Mom & I were out in the neighbor canvasing for the American Heart Association. When all of a suddent the skies turned pitch black, and the wind kicked up fiercely, followed by rain. We were able to take shelter in a neighbors house on Kansas St., which is just north of the railroad tracks. Un beknown to us, did we realize how close that tornado was to us, and in the Ridgewood subdivision until after we got home. It was definitely a scary day for the residents of Ridgewood, and how fortunate that no one was killed.
Jim Nelson April 28, 2011 at 03:33 PM
Kurt: Ironically, the city had just gotten the station wagon through federal civil defense funds hence the designation. However, Geneva's ESDA (then GCD) had just five or six members at the time; Jim Welander, Jerry Bleck, Jim Emma, Jim Frazier and Paul Rhodes are names that come to mind. Most of the damage was in my Dad's ward (5) as he was alderman at the time. Lots of damage, but luckily nobody killed. For me, I was at St. Peter's with my scout troop (37) getting ready to leave on a camp-out. That got cancelled fast...
Kurt Wehrmeister April 28, 2011 at 08:27 PM
I had forgotten that it was a Friday afternoon. Not sure as to where my older brother was, but I do recall my mother trundling me (a fourth-grader) and my kindergarten-age sister next door to Jim and Mary Mayer's basement, to join their kids, Tom and Linda, in watching Garfield Goose, while she got in our '62 Chevy wagon and drove from the East Side, through the storm, to go pick up our dad at the train. Now THAT is devotion.
Steve Allen August 06, 2011 at 07:32 PM
West of the river it was not at full strength. My brother was tricycling around the driveway when Mom saw debris in the air to the southwest. She shooed us in to the basement, but by the time she tried to enter the wind pushed too hard for her to open the door. From the basement my brother and I heard the phone ring, and my brother and I looked each other in the eye. My 6-year-old priorities (formed by survival of the 1965 tornado outbreak) drove me to run up the stairs and answer. The caller asked for Mom. I replied "She can't come to the phone right now. She's outside in the tornado." Our street lost a large tree. Our house suffered a bent TV antenna. Our mom got a story to tell.


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