An outbreak of tornadoes occurred on April 21, 1967 across parts of the Midwest states.  Per The Storm Prediction Center, there were 46 tornadoes.  5 were given a rating of F4:  1 in MO, 1 in MI and 3 in IL.  This summary will focus on the 3 Illinois F4s.  It is considered Northern Illinois’ Worst Tornado Disaster. 

Many thanks to Nick Wilkes for helping to gather information for this summary.

Image via NWS Chicago

Belvidere, IL

SPC Stats

Path length: 25.5 miles

Width:  800 yards

Fatalities:  24

Injuries:  450

Rating:  F4

County:  Boone, McHenry

This tornado began 2 mile SE of Cherry Valley.  It moved generally to the ENE passing across the south and SE side of Belvidere, south of Harvard and ending 2 mile N of Woodstock.  Per Storm Data, “numerous reports of multiple funnel sightings were largely substantiated by damage.  Path separation at times as much as 400 yards.”  Thomas Grazulis lists this event as a tornado family in his book Significant Tornadoes.

Here are the damage details per Grazulis:

  • Farms were leveled along the entire path.
  • All deaths occurred in Belvidere.
  • 7 were killed at a shopping center.
  • 13 were killed at Belvidere High School.  The tornado moved into the bus loading areas as the students were being dismissed.  12 buses were overturned or thrown.  A bus driver was killed.  Most of the dead were students who were “tossed like leaves” into adjacent fields.
  • Students and teachers used school doors and plywood from nearby homes as stretchers for the injured, carrying them into the school.
  • According to Grazulis, this was the nation’s sixth worst school death toll from a tornado. (Numbers one and two were also in Illinois – from the great Tri-State Tornado of 1925.)
  • There was near-F4 damage to homes adjacent to the school.
  • ~300 new cars and 100 employee cars at the Chrysler Plant were destroyed.
  • 130 homes were destroyed, 370 damaged.
  • A marriage certificate from Belvidere was found south of Milwaukee, WI.
  • South of Harvard, a school bus was ripped in half and thrown into power lines as the driver and 20 students hid in a ditch.

To the best of my ability, I try to find the names of those who are killed during a tornado event.  I do it to honor their memory.  I found an special section from the Boone County Journal on the 50th anniversary of the event that lists the names of all 24 victims of the Belvidere Tornado.  I will list the names and ages here.  The Boone County Journal provides more details including information on the Belvidere Tornado Memorial.

Michael Bates, 6
Cindy Day, 9
Lawrence Decker, 17
Cecelia Eakin, 83
Kent Ferguson, 12
Harold Gustafson, 72
Pamela Haines, 14
Mary Jean Hamre, 65
Craig Hyser, 8
Barbara Johnson, 10
Gilbert Julin, 63
Bruce Lindley, 13
Cristine Lutzow, 9
Sandra McLain, 21
Theodore Nelson, 15
David Wayne Poe, 13
Dwight David Shaw, 11
Timothy Smith, 17
Vicky Jo Smith, 9
Jack Stoll, 23
Johnnie Tate, 6
Phyllis Van Brocklin, 13
Rebecca Vogelslang, 8
Norine Wych, 81

Tornado Path

Click map to enlarge

SPC coordinates:  Start: 42.22 / -88.82   End:  42.35 / -88.43     

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

Path of the Belvidere tornado via NWS Chicago

Images via NWS Chicago

Photo from Dr. T. Fujita, University of Chicago, courtesy of Brian Smith, NWS Omaha
Photo from Dr. T. Fujita, University of Chicago, courtesy of Brian Smith, NWS Omaha
Photo from Dr. T. Fujita, University of Chicago, courtesy of Brian Smith, NWS Omaha
Damaged school bus
Cars thrown by tornado
Aerial damage survey of Belvidere, IL
Belvidere Tornado Memorial via Boone County Journal

Newspaper Clippings - Belvidere

Lake Zurich, IL

SPC Stats

Path length: 8.8 miles

Width:  150 yards

Fatalities:  1

Injuries:  100

Rating:  F4

County: McHenry, Lake

There are discrepancies in the record on the Lake Zurich tornado path.  The path lengths vary from 4 miles noted in the NWS Summary to 17 miles as a family of tornadoes by Thomas Grazulis.  There are several tornadoes listed in the Storm Data Narrative in the vicintiy of Lake Zurich with “brief touchdowns”.  It looks like Grazulis includes some of these brief tornadoes in this overall event.  He has the counties of Kane, Cook and Lake included in the path while the NWS Summary only includes Lake County.  The SPC and Storm Data Narrative have the event in McHenry and Lake Counties.

Per Thomas Grazulis: 

  • The tornado’s coordinates show it moving NE from the NW side of Elgin, passing through Barrington Hills and Lake Zurich.
  • He notes it may have begun more SW to the service station on Hwy-47 near Elburn.
  • 3 people were injured at a factory at Elgin.  The factory was “unroofed and torn apart”.
  • Homes were leveled at Barrington Hills.
  • A 1000 pound heating unit was carried a half mile from a home.
  • A dozen cars were “thrown like toys” near the Hwy-22 and 59 intersection.

Tornado Path

SPC coordinates:  Start: 35.20 / -92.45   End:  35.33 / -92.08      

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

Newspaper Clippings - Lake Zurich

Oak Lawn, IL

SPC Stats

Path length: 15 miles

Width:  200 yards

Fatalities:  33

Injuries:  500

Rating:  F4

County:  Cook

The deadliest tornado of the day developed at 524pm CT during Friday evening rush hour.  The NWS Chicago has a detailed summary on the path of the Oak Lawn tornado.  Here is the breakdown:

  • It touched down just east of 88th Avenue between 105th and 106th Streets. (Current site of Morraine Valley Community College.)
  • A tornado warning had been issued at 5pm CT, 24 minutes before the tornado formed.
  • Initially, damage was to trees and power poles.
  • The first homes to be hit were around 83rd Avenue and 103rd Street.
  • It crossed the Tri-State Tollway and hit an area of homes near Harlem Avenue and 98th-99th Streets.
  • A drive in movie theater was hit near Chicago Ridge an hour before it was to open.  The screen’s steel support were bent.  Speaker and speaker stands were pulled from the ground.
  • The tornado then moved into Oak Lawn.  The most severe damage occurred here.
  • The width of the tornado when it hit Oak Lawn was estimated at a block wide.
  • Many homes were leveled.
  • The intersection of 95th Street and Southwest Highway was full of Friday evening traffic.  25-40 cars were thrown in all directions.  This is where the greatest death toll occurred.
  • The high school and a bus garage were smashed.  Buses were “thrown like toys”.  One landed on a house.
  • The tornado weakened a bit but only briefly.  It strengthened near Cicero Avenue and 92nd Street.  A mobile home park and roller skating rink in this area were leveled. 
  • The tornado moved into Hometown. 
  • St. Mary’s Cemetary was hit.  200 monuments were downed.
  • The tornado weakened a bit over Evergreen Park.  It moved over Beverly Hills Country Club and Dan Ryan Woods. 
  • At 87th and Damen Ave damage occurred mainly to trees, roofs, windows and garages.
  • At Halstead near Vincennes Avenue, there was damage to apartments and a few factories. 
  • At 535pm, a semi was flipped on the Dan Ryan Expressway.
  • It was noted that there was so much debris on the highway that it had to be closed for hours.
  • The tornado continued a trek toward Lake Michigan, weakening as it did so. 
  • The final report came in at the water filtration plant at 78th and the lakefront.  A 100 mph wind gust was recorded.
  • Officially, a 16.2 mile path in 15 minutes. 

I found an article in the Oak Lawn Patch that lists the names of all 33 victims of the Oak Lawn Tornado.  I will list the names and ages on our summary.  The Oak Lawn Patch provides details about the lives of the individuals who lost their lives that day.

95th Street and Southwest Highway
Patrick Golden, 39
John Mobley, 46
Edward Griffith, 45
Edward Lipski, 51
Patrick Calascibetta, 46
Albert Semaitis, 42 and Albert Kriscunas, 42
William Hunoway, 47
Edward Burman, 65
William Welser, 35
Bernard Brady, 43, and Bernadette Brady, 8
Bernice Andrews, 25
Annette Clark, 21

Sherwood Forest Restaurant
John Haggan, 51

Oak Lawn Roller Rink
David Nork, 14
Christine Hinds, 13
Charlotte Hanley, 50

Shoot’s Lynwood Tavern
William Jackson, 51
Catherine Zenner, 15

Suburban Bus Co.
Helen Atchley, 81, and Edward Nykeil, 54

Fairway Super Mart
Carole Jucius, 22
Joan Casey, 30, Christine Casey, 18 months
Charles McNeill, 65

Airway Trailer Court
Ernie Gunnarson, 59, and Karleen Gunnarson, 53

Elsewhere in Oak Lawn
Harold Cody, 70
Marjorie Swanson, 40

Other deaths
Walter Johnson, 60, Hometown
John Martin, 23, Chicago
Grant Miller, 32, Chicago

Tornado Path

Click map to enlarge

SPC coordinates:  Start: 35.20 / -92.45   End:  35.33 / -92.08      

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

Oak Lawn tornado path via NWS Chicago

Images via NWS Chicago Summary

Photo by Ron Bacon and courtesy of Oak Lawn Public Library
Photo of damaged bus near 94th St and Menard
Photo courtesy of Oak Lawn Public Library
Photo by David A. Johnston and courtesy of Oak Lawn Public Library
Aerial survey of storm damage. Photo by T. Lebaron.

Images via Oak Lawn Public Library

These images are embeds from their Flickr account.  Full set of photos found here

The 1967 Tornado
The 1967 Tornado
The 1967 Tornado
The 1967 Tornado
The 1967 Oak Lawn Tornado
The 1967 Tornado
The 1967 Tornado

Newspaper Clippings - Oak Lawn

Videos

Episode 33 of the Tornado Talk Podcast – Archived on our YouTube Channel

“Terror in Oak Lawn” – LolaProductions2012

WCFL Radio Segment – April 21, 1967

The Oak Lawn Tornadoes 50 Years Later – WGN News

The Belvidere Tornadoes 50 Years Later – WGN News

Discrepancies:

We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the April 1967 Storm Data Publication, a summary by the NWS Chicago and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:

Belvidere Tornado

Path Length:

– NWS Summary has 26.6 mile path.
– SPC has a 25.5 mile path.
– Grazulis/Storm Data list a 28 mile path and a possible family of tornadoes.

Width:

– NWS Summary/Grazulis have 800 yard width.
– SPC has 1200 yards
– Storm Data has range of width from 600-1200 yards

Injury Count

– NWS Summary/Grazulis have 500 injuries.
– SPC/Storm Data have 450 injuries.

Lake Zurich Tornado

Path Length:

– NWS Summary has 4 mile path.
– SPC has an 8.8 mile path.
– Grazulis lists a 17 mile path and a possible family of tornadoes.
– Storm Data has 9 mile path.

Counties in Path:

– NWS Summary has Lake County only.
– SPC/Storm Data has McHenry and Lake.
– Grazulis lists Kane, Cook and Lake Counties.

Injury Count

– NWS Summary/SPC/Storm Data have 100 injuries.
– Grazulis has 123 injuries.

Start time

– NWS Summary has a start time of 1703.
– SPC/Grazulis/Storm Data list the time as 1700.

Oak Lawn Tornado

Path Length:

– NWS Summary has 16.2 mile path.
– SPC has a 15 mile path.
– Grazulis/Storm Data list a 16 mile path.

Sources:

The Storm Prediction Center

NCDC Storm Events Database

April 1967 Storm Data Publication

NWS Chicago Summary

Oak Lawn Tornado Victims, These Are Their Stories – Oak Lawn Patch

A Look Back at the Belivdere Tornado via Boone County Journal

newspapers.com

Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. Page 1088-1089.

Did you enjoy reading about this event?  Help us create MORE summaries like this one by becoming a Supporter on Patreon!

 Become a Patron! 


 

Questions or comments about this summary?  Contact us here: http://tornadotalk.com/contact-us/

Join the tornado history discussion on our Discord Channel:  https://discordapp.com/invite/Xm43dQj

X