1967 Oak Lawn tornado outbreak

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The 1967 Oak Lawn tornado outbreak was a destructive tornado outbreak and severe weather event that occurred on April 21, 1967, across the Upper Midwestern United States, in particular the Chicago area including the towns of Belvidere and Oak Lawn, Illinois. It was the most notable tornado outbreak of 1967 and one of the most notable to occur in the Chicago area. The outbreak produced numerous significant (F2+) tornadoes, among them eight alone in the U.S. state of Illinois, including one of just six[1] documented violent (F4–F5) tornadoes in the Chicago metropolitan area since the area was first settled.[2] The F4 tornado that struck Belvidere caused one of the highest tornado-related death tolls in a single school building and was featured in an episode of The Weather Channel's Storm Stories.


Meteorological synopsis

Outbreak death toll
All deaths were tornado-related

April 21, 1967, was a warm Friday afternoon in northern Illinois. Following a foggy morning with temperatures in the middle 50s°F, temperatures rose rapidly in the afternoon as low geopotential heights approached from the southwest.[3] A warm front—part of a very deep shortwave trough—passed through Illinois all day and by afternoon moved north of the state. As a low pressure area within an extratropical cyclone approached the area, temperatures rose into the low to mid 70s°F with dew points rising into the 60s°F, an upper-level jet reaching 120-knot (220 km/h), and increasing low-level vertical shear. Meanwhile, a persistent mesolow feature near Joliet, Illinois,[3] helped to maintain backed low-level winds from the south.[4] As conditions became more favorable for tornadoes and supercells began developing in the Chicago area, the regional U.S. Weather Bureau office issued a tornado watch at 1:50 p.m. CDT covering the northern half of Illinois plus southern Wisconsin, eastern Iowa, and western Indiana.[3] By 3 p.m. CDT/2100 UTC, more than 12 tornadoes had already been spawned from the storm system.[4]

Tornado table


Confirmed tornadoes

F#LocationCountyTime (UTC)Path lengthDamage
F0NE of AzenScotland14001 miles (1.6 km)Tornado was observed on the ground but apparently caused no damage.[5]
F1NE of GowerClinton18300.2 miles (0.32 km)Dust-laden tornado was seen but caused no damage.[5]
F1Cameron areaClinton19000.1 miles (0.16 km)Tornado caused some damage in south Cameron. Condensation funnel was reportedly absent.[5]
F2E of PattonsburgDaviess19008.4 miles (13.4 km)Tornado completely leveled all buildings except the house at one farm site and destroyed one wall of the house.[2] Tornado may have formed from the same thunderstorm that struck Cameron, but the time does not suggest this.[5]
F0NE of GallatinDaviess19150.1 miles (0.16 km)Brief touchdown failed to produce evidence of damage.[5]
F3N of MandevilleRay, Carroll192014.6 miles (23.4 km)Tornado extensively damaged or leveled homes, barns, and other outbuildings. It also injured livestock.[5][2]
F2S of HumphreysGrundy, Sullivan20006.3 miles (10.1 km)Tornado destroyed eight homes, severely damaged seven others, and shattered glass windows[5] as it hit Humphreys.[2] Two children and a woman were injured in their trailer, as were four men sheltering inside a barn.[5] Tornado was F3 according to an unofficial publication.[2]
F2NE of CunninghamChariton20103 miles (4.8 km)Neither Grazulis (1991) nor Storm Data lists this tornado, suggesting that it was either weaker than F2 in intensity or never existed.[5][2]
F4NE of Sumner to W of NewarkLinn, Macon, Knox202059 miles (94.4 km)Four homes and several barns were completely leveled while two people received minor injuries.[2] Three or more funnels and erratic shifts in the damage path were reported to have occurred,[5] suggesting that the long-tracked tornado was in fact a tornado family.[2]
F2W of Marshall to SE of SlaterSaline202020.4 miles (32.6 km)This tornado may have actually included two or more touchdowns, implying that the single event was two or more tornadoes. It caused minor damage to a porch and to farm buildings along its skipping path.[5] One source indicates that this was probably less than F2 in intensity.[2]
F0W of CorderLafayette21030.1 miles (0.16 km)Tornado did not cause any noticeable damage.[5]
F1NE of AdrianBates21100.1 miles (0.16 km)Tornado produced minor damage to buildings and farm equipment.[5]
F1Rushville areaRush18330.1 miles (0.16 km)
F2NE of CommiskeyJennings, Jefferson23106.3 miles (10.1 km)Tornado unroofed and destroyed two homes, injuring two people, and then leveled a trailer and farm buildings.[2]
F0NE of MonticelloWhite02270.1 miles (0.16 km)Tornado produced very minimal damage.[5]
F3E of FairfieldJefferson20000.1 miles (0.16 km)Tornado never hit any structures and only briefly made contact with the ground.[5]
F2E of Birmingham to NE of Mount UnionVan Buren, Hancock210032.8 miles (52.5 km)Tornado damaged 12 or more farms with only minimal F2 intensity at most.[2] The damage path was very discontinuous, with only isolated patches of "extensive damage."[5]
F1SW of Spring HillWhiteside21300.3 miles (0.5 km)
F2E of Coal Valley to S of HooppoleHenry213525.1 miles (40.2 km)Numerous funnel clouds occurred with multiple reports of tornadoes. First tornado touched down north of Orion with isolated touchdowns to beyond Hooppole, with significant non-tornado-related wind damage.[5] Tornado killed livestock,[5] destroyed farm buildings, and uprooted trees.[2]
F2N of HooppoleHenry21504.5 miles (7.2 km)Second Hooppole tornado leveled farm buildings and blew down large trees in rural areas.[5]
F4SW of Belvidere to N of WoodstockBoone, McHenry215025.5 miles (40.8 km)25 deathsSee section on this tornado
F1S of DaysvilleOgle22001 miles (1.6 km)Tornado caused damage to many homes and downed trees while moving north, unlike other tornadoes this day which moved east-northeast.[5]
F2W of MaytownLee22025.6 miles (9 km)Tornado severely damaged trees[5] and farms and flipped a truck on Illinois State Highway 76 (now an Illinois route).[2]
F1SE of AmboyLee22155.6 miles (9 km)Tornado destroyed barns[2] and blew down trees. Two distinct damage paths and funnel clouds observed, suggesting that a family of two tornadoes was involved.[5]
F1W of KasbeerBureau22300.5 miles (0.8 km)Tornado destroyed buildings on farms and scattered debris about. Almost went undetected but was observed by mushroom-gatherers.[5]
F2SE of HennepinPutnam22300.3 miles (0.5 km)Tornado injured a man as it flipped two trailers and caused minimal tree damage.[5] Not listed as F2 or greater by Grazulis (1993).
F1SE of DeKalbDeKalb22402 miles (3.2 km)Two tornadoes touched down 2 miles (3.2 km) apart from each other but are listed as one tornado. One tornado damaged structures and broke glass and trees at Northern Illinois University while uplifting a roof 1 mile (1.6 km) to the south with $50,000 (1967 USD) roof damage. Second tornado damaged farms simultaneously about 8 miles (13 km) to the south, but with discontinuous damage.[5] Probably a tornado family.
F4NW of Middlebury to Lake Zurich to W of Hawthorn WoodsMcHenry, Lake23008.8 miles (14.1 km)1 deathSee section on this tornado
F2La Fox areaKane23100.3 miles (0.5 km)Tornado destroyed one barn[2] and caused roof and wall damage to Elgin State Hospital.[5] Also badly damaged a factory. The state hospital sustained $100,000 in damages.
F1NW of BloomingdaleDuPage23100.5 miles (0.8 km)Tornado briefly hit Keeneyville with little damage.[5]
F1Addison to Schiller ParkDuPage, Cook23106.8 miles (10.9 km)Tornado skipped through several communities, including Franklin Park, with minimal damage.[5]
F4Palos Hills/Oak Lawn to Chicago South Side (entered Lake Michigan at 79th Street beach[4])Cook232415 miles (24 km)33 deathsSee section on this tornado
F1Lincoln Park area[5]Cook23400.3 miles (0.5 km)Tornado damaged an amusement park before moving over Lake Michigan.[4]
F1Champaign areaChampaign02500.1 miles (0.16 km)Brief touchdown on a farm.[5]
F2Casco to Dunningville area[5]Allegan235518.6 miles (29.8 km)Trailer and warehouse destroyed with many homes damaged. Minor injuries reported.[5] Not rated F2 or greater by Grazulis.[2]
F3SW of Grandville to E of Ada[5]Kent235813.6 miles (21.8 km)Struck the south side of Grand Rapids. 65 buildings were destroyed, and 60 others were badly damaged. 375 buildings sustained minor damage. A church and a K-Mart store were completely destroyed.[2]
F2NE of Middleville to NW of Lake OdessaBarry000014.5 miles (23.2 km)A house had its roof and kitchen ripped off.[2]
F2Derby areaBerrien00251 miles (1.6 km)School under construction leveled, pieces carried 12 miles (0.80 km) away. Several barns and outbuildings leveled as well.[5] Not rated F2 or greater by Grazulis.[2]
F0S of HoltonMuskegon01100.1 miles (0.16 km)Brief touchdown in a rural area with other funnels also witnessed to have touched down.[5]
F2Portland areaIonia01150.1 miles (0.16 km)Homes lost their roofs in Portland. Four barns were destroyed and 40 cattle were killed.[2]
F4NE of WestphaliaClinton011512 miles (19.2 km)Three homes were destroyed and 18 others were damaged. Tornado destroyed buildings on 10 farms. 34 sheep were killed in 2 barns. Tornado may have been F3 rather than F4 at peak intensity.[2]
F2N of CascadeKent01300.3 miles (0.5 km)Destroyed rural outbuildings along its path.[5] May have been weaker than F2 in intensity.[2]
F1N of SunfieldEaton01480.1 miles (0.16 km)Destroyed some farm buildings.[5]
F2Potterville to LansingEaton, Ingham021010.9 miles (17.4 km)A barn was destroyed and the side of a house was torn off.[2]

Tornado History Project Storm Data - April 21, 1967

Notable tornadoes

Belvidere, Illinois

At 3:50 P.M., a violent multiple vortex tornado,[3] posthumously rated F4, moved through Belvidere, Illinois, damaging the high school and overturning buses.[2] 24 people were killed and another 410 injured with 127 homes were destroyed and 379 damaged.[3] 13 of the 24 people killed in Belvidere were killed at Belvidere High School,[4] making this tornado the sixth deadliest ever to hit a school.[2] Seven people were also killed at a shopping center. The Belvidere tornado was especially devastating because it hit the school just as students were getting on the buses to go home.[3] Just before 4 p.m. CST, the tornado reached the school. 12 buses, already filled with elementary- and middle-school students, were tossed about. Several of the students were tossed into adjacent fields and killed.[3] A bus driver was killed as well. Shortly after the passing of the tornado, faculty and some of the stronger students used the fireproof doors of the high school as stretchers to carry the injured into the cafeteria, the severely injured into the library, and the dead into the gymnasium. 300 new cars and 100 employee cars were destroyed at the Chrysler Plant in town. A school bus driving south of Harvard was thrown into power lines and torn in half. The driver and students survived by hiding in a ditch.

Lake Zurich, Illinois

The second violent tornado of the day in Illinois may have developed as far southwest as Elgin, but was first observed at about 5:00 p.m. CDT near Fox River Grove,[4][5] though its path is officially believed to have begun near Middlebury. It then produced a discontinuous[5] damage path through Fox River Grove, North Barrington, and Lake Zurich.[4] The most intense damage, posthumously rated F4, occurred at Lake Zurich Manor, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) northwest of downtown Lake Zurich; there, roughly 75 homes were leveled and 200 severely damaged.[4] The Acorn Acres subdivision, northeast of and adjourning Lake Zurich Manor, reported scattered damage and debris with about 12 homes severely damaged.[4] According to official plots from Storm Data, the tornado lifted after hitting Acorn Acres, though non-tornadic damages to trees and buildings occurred as far as the intersection of Illinois Route 63 and Gilmer Road. There, severe winds, possibly downbursts, destroyed four homes, one brewery, and a plastic-manufacturing site, though at least one source indicates that the tornado was likely still present at that place.[4] In all, the tornado damaged 400[5]–500[2] homes and destroyed about 100.[5] An air-conditioning unit weighing 1,000 lb (16,000 oz) was thrown .5 mi (0.80 km). Cars were picked up and tossed as well.[2]

Oak Lawn–Evergreen Park–Chicago South Side, Illinois

Aerial view of tornado damage in Oak Lawn

The third and final F4 tornado to affect Illinois this day was also the deadliest tornado of the entire outbreak. An intense supercell with a hook echo on weather radar first appeared about 18 miles (29 km) west-northwest of Joliet at 4:45 p.m. CDT. Later, at 5:15 p.m., an employee of the U.S. Weather Bureau observed a rotating wall cloud about 10 miles (16 km) north of Joliet. Minutes later, severe thunderstorm winds blew out windows in a building, though no tornado or funnel cloud had yet occurred.[6] Near the Little Red Schoolhouse, in what is now the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, an observer first noted a funnel cloud to the south, moving east with hail up to .75 inches (19 mm) in diameter—but he was unable to report to the Weather Bureau as his telephone failed to give a dial tone.[6] At 5:24 p.m. CDT, a tornado touched down at the present-day campus of Moraine Valley Community College[4] and moved east-northeast, mainly at 70° heading.[5] As it touched down, the tornado bent power poles and blew down small trees and vegetation, tossing dirt as it went. It then grew in size to 450 feet (150 yd) wide and entered Palos Hills, destroying about five buildings—including two frame homes and a brick home—and snapping trees.[6] Subsequently, the intensifying funnel severely damaged homes and a drive-in theater[4] in a half-block-wide area of the Chicago Ridge.[6]

Over the next six minutes, the tornado attained its maximum intensity as it tore a 16.2-mile (26.1 km) (60-mile-per-hour (97 km/h) ground speed) swath of damage through Oak Lawn, Hometown, and Evergreen Park.[4] As it passed through the business district of Oak Lawn, the tornado leveled many homes that were built entirely of brick.[6] In Oak Lawn, the tornado threw 25–40 vehicles from the intersection of Southwest Highway and W. 95th St. (US-12/20),[4] killing 16 people who were stuck in traffic during the rush hour.[3] Partly for that reason, this tornado ended up being the deadliest in the outbreak.[6] As it moved beyond Oak Lawn, the tornado weakened and widened as it caused lighter damage to vegetation, roofs, and garages. It finally moved offshore as a waterspout at Rainbow Beach, producing a wind gust up to 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) at a water filtration plant on the lakefront shore.[6] In all, the tornado killed 33 people, including several children at a roller skating rink,[7] and injured 1,000. It destroyed 152 homes and damaged 900, causing $50 million in damage. The destroyed buildings included a high school, grocery store, tavern, market, motel, drive-in theater, restaurant, numerous apartments, and two gas stations. Additionally, the tornado caused numerous fires in Oak Lawn which were quickly extinguished.[7]

Other tornadoes

These tornadoes were a part of a tornado outbreak which also affected parts of Illinois, northern Missouri, southeast Iowa, and southern lower Michigan. There were a total of 20 tornadoes in Illinois, though other tornadoes may have occurred but were unrecorded. An F2 tornado, unlisted in Storm Data, may have struck three homes on the north side of Batavia before damaging 25 homes in Geneva. Some of the homes lost roofs and walls while 20 homes were also damaged in Streamwood.[2] The entire outbreak killed 58 people.


Two days later on Sunday, April 23, 1967, three inches (76 mm) of snow fell on Belvidere, which only exacerbated the cleanup from Friday's tornadoes. In fact, many cities and towns in the Midwest broke record overnight lows on April 24 and 25. A state of emergency was declared for Boone County, and the reserves came to assist in the cleanup effort. Senator Charles Percy and Illinois Governor Otto Kerner visited to speak with victims and thank the recovery volunteers.

See also


  1. ^ Tornado History Project. "Tornado Map". http://www.tornadohistoryproject.com/tornadomap.php. Retrieved 2013-02-02.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab Grazulis. p. 1088.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Marshall, Tim (January-February 1997). "The Oak Lawn, Illinois, Tornado: 30 years later". Stormtrack Magazine 20 (120).
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Allsopp, Jim (2007). "40th Anniversary of Northern Illinois’ Worst Tornado Disaster". Joliet, Illinois: National Weather Service forecast office. Archived from the original on 2012 March 24. http://www.crh.noaa.gov/Image/lot/severe/21Apr1967_tornado.pdf. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap "Storm Data and Unusual Weather Phenomena". Storm Data (Asheville, North Carolina: United States Department of Commerce) 9 (4): 24–39. April 1967.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Feris, Charles; James Vermoch, Henry Yario (1967). "The Oak Lawn Tornado: April 21, 1967". U.S. Weather Bureau forecast office. pp. 10. Archived from the original on 2012 September 13. http://www.crh.noaa.gov/Image/lot/severe/OakLawn_Tornado_survey.pdf. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Twisters Kill 49 and Injure 1,500 in Northern Illinois". New York Times. The Associated Press: pp. 1, 16. April 22, 1967.

External links