NOAA and 1974 Tornado Outbreak



At least 28 tornadoes lashed some 19 counties of Middle and Eastern Tennessee between the early afternoon of April 3 and 1:00 a.m. CDT the following morning-in the worst single outbreak of torna does in the State's history. The storms left 50 people dead, 635 injured, and caused approximately $30 million damage. Much of the business section of Etowah, a city of 5,800 people, was destroyed late Wednesday afternoon. There also was considerable damage in or near the communities of Cookeville, Estill Springs, Fayetteville, Cleveland, Maryville, Blair, and Erin.

Eastern Tennessee was the first to feel the outbreak, as a tornado (100) touched down at 2:00 p.m. CDT and moved across the southeast section of Cleveland and into rural Bradley County, resulting in property damage but no casualties. Two hours later, a second tornado (104) struck Cleveland, this time injuring 100 and killing the occupant of a mobile home. This storm moved on to Etowah, where it caused two deaths, 50 injuries, and left most of the town's business area in ruins. Meanwhile, a small tornado had touched down briefly about 3:00 P.M. CDT just northeast of Maryville (Blount County), injuring one person. At 5:00 p.m. CDT separate and brief tornado strikes were reported in Monroe County and Loudon County where two were injured.

At this time, the action shifted from eastern to middle Tennessee, as a tornado (65) moving across the southeast part of Nashville about 5:18 p.m. CDT heavily damaged the Edge o' Lakes subdivision. One heart attack victim was reported during this storm and property damage exceeded $500,000. About 6:00 p.m. CDT, two more tornadoes (66 and 81) occurred, one about 25 miles east-northeast and another about 35 miles south of Nashville, but only a few injuries and damage were caused by these storms. The major part of the outbreak, with its toll of lives and property, was yet to come to Tennessee.

After dark, from sunset to shortly after midnight, 18 tornadoes traveled through a narrow corridor, only 50 miles across at its widest, stretching from Franklin and Lincoln Counties on the Alabama border northeastward to Pickett and Scott Counties on the Kentucky line. Between 7:45 and 8:45 p.m. CDT a very destructive storm (90) moved from Alabama into Tennessee. This storm was accompanied along part of its path by a second tornado (92). Eleven people were killed and 121 in jured in Lincoln and Franklin Counties. Between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. CDT, 9 persons were killed and I died of a heart attack as a tornado (82) swept through Putnam County southeast of Cookeville; 7 died in Fentress County as a tornado (84) passed south of Jamestown; and 5 perished in Pickett County as two other tornadoes (72, 75) moved through Moodyville and the Caney Creek area to the Kentucky border.
Between 11:00 p.m. and midnight CDT, 3 people were killed in mobile homes and 120 others were injured by a storm in Overton County. Twenty more were injured as a tornado (79) struck Scott County.

The last tornadoes of the night occurred near 12:30 a.m. CDT on April 4. One of these, tornado 88, occurred in the main corridor of destruction. This storm moved across portions of White, Putnam, and Cumberland Counties, injuring 28 people and causing heavy property damage in Pleasant Hill, Mayland, and Woody. The other, the last killer storm in Tennessee, was an isolated tornado (101) about 10 miles northeast of Knoxville. This tornado struck a mobile home park, killing two children and injuring 21 people in Knox County.

For more information contact Curtis Carey at (817) 978-4613 ext. 140.