SPC Stats

Path length: 34 miles

Width:  400 yards

Fatalities:  7

Injuries:  93

Rating:  F5

County:  Sciota, Lawrence, Gallia

14 tornadoes occurred on April 23, 1968.  Per the SPC, 2 hold a rating of F4 and one was rated F5.  That twister is the topic of our summary.

The Storm Prediction Center only has this tornado crossing through Scioto, Lawrence and Gallia Counties in Ohio.  Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes begins the tornado path in Greenup County, KY.  Storm Data also mentions the tornado in KY.  Here is their entry in the April 1968 Storm Data Narrative:

“The storm struck in northern Greenup County.  20 to 25 houses were reported destroyed and 100 or more damaged in the communities of Sunshine, South Shore, Flatt Hollow, Little White Oak, Siloam, and Schultz.  It was described by residents as “a huge upside-down funnel…a yellow swirling mass…a giant cone from top to bottom”.  The storm moved down a hillside into a valley and up the slow of another hill.”

A greater amount of damage and all loss of life occurred in the state of Ohio.  Here are the details from Storm Data:

“A tornado moving in an east-northeast direction at a speed of 45 mph crossed the Ohio River from Kentucky and first hit a train leaving several cars overturned.  The storm then crossed Route 52 into the northwestern portion of Wheelersburg.  In the Wheelersburg area, 7 persons were killed and 75 injured while about 550 homes were destroyed or sustained damage.  Golf ball and baseball size hail and heavy rain were reported in this area.  

The majority of injuries and personal property damage occurred in a residential area on Dogwood Ridge Road (about 4 miles ENE of Wheelersburg).  After leaving this community the storm skipped its way through a sparsely populated rural area to Gallipolis.  Damage was reported near Lyra, about 2.2 miles north of the junction of State Routes 141 and 233.  On 233, the width of the funnel was nearly 0.4 mile wide.  

In this area, 1 home was completely demolished while another lost its roof.  Baseball size hail was reported about 6 miles south of Rio Grande on route 325.  At this point, trees to the north along the storm’s path lay generally toward the west while those to the south were laying mostly toward east and those in the middle were twisted in all directions.

In the Gallipolis area, damage was heaviest along Chillicothe and McCormich Roads where 6 house trailers, 8 homes, and 4 farm buildings were demolished or damaged.”

Tornado Path

Click Map To Enlarge

SPC coordinates:  Start: 38.70 / -82.80   End:  38.82 / -82.20      

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

Photos Courtesy of the Portsmouth Public Library

An unidentified resident searches through the rubble after a tornado leveled his house late 4/23. Five persons are believed dead from the tornado in this rural southern Ohio community.
Ohio National Guardsmen stand guard over a house that had been leveled by a tornado late 4/23 which killed 5 people in the rural Southern Ohio community.

Videos

Newspaper Clippings

Discrepancies:

We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the April 1968 Storm Data Publication and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:

Counties:

  • Grazulis has this tornado beginning in Greenup County, KY.  Because of that his path length and injury count is different.
  • Storm Data mentions the tornado started in KY.  They have an entry for Greenup County and for the Ohio Counties as well.  I have included both in this summary.

Path Length:

  • Grazulis has a 42 mile path.
  • Storm Data has no path length listed for Greenup County (KY) and has a path length of 38 miles for the Ohio Counties.
  • SPC/NCDC have a 34 mile path.

Max Width:

  • Storm data lists a range of widths (for OH only) from 200 to 600 yards.
  • Remaining sources have a 400 yard width.

Injury Count:

  • Storm Data and Grazulis lists 107 injuries.  15 in KY, 92 in OH.
  • SPC/NCDC have 93 injuries.

Rating:

  • Grazulis has an F4 rating while SPC/NCDC have an F5 rating.

Coordinates:

When you plot the official lat/lon from SPC, it seems too far south.  The tornado moved into Wheelersburg. You would not know that by the coordinates given.  The map plots the official coordinates.  I have also added markers for areas mentioned by Grazulis that had damage.  This includes near South Portsmouth, KY.

      Sources:

      The Storm Prediction Center

      NCDC Storm Events Database

      April 1968 Storm Data Publication

      COMMEMORATIVE ANNIVERSARY ISSUE APRIL 23, 1968-APRIL 23, 2018 – Portsmouth Daily Times

      Portsmouth Public Library Local History Digital Collection 

      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 1096-1097.

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