PBS Producers Looking For 1974 Tornado Stories

Feb 14, 2018

Producers of Ann Curry's "We'll Meet Again" series on PBS are looking for survivors of the tornadoes which ripped through southwestern Ohio, from Sayler Park to Xenia, on April 3, 1974.

Ann Curry, host and executive producer of PBS' "We'll Meet Again"
Credit David Tumley / PBS

Each one-hour "We'll Meet Again" show (8 p.m. Tuesday, Channels 48, 54, 16, PBS) recalls historic events "through the personal stories of those who experienced them," and ends with "reunions of people whose lives crossed at pivotal moments."  Curry, the former "Today" show co-anchor, is host and executive producer. 

In late January, Blink Films from London, England, distributed posters in the Xenia area saying the producer were "keen to hear from people who remember the Super Tornado Outbreak of 1974. After 44 years, is there someone you want to reconnect with from this time?"

They haven't found people who perfectly fit the show's reunion formula, says Rosie Pooley, associate producer.

"We have had an overwhelming response from the people of Xenia sharing their stories, unfortunately we are still yet to find stories of people wanting to reconnect with someone they have lost touch with," Pooley told me in an email.

Xenia tornado damage in 1974
Credit National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

"Each episode of the series introduces us to two people whose lives were impacted by history and we follow them on a detective journey as they look for a long-lost friend, family member or significant stranger…. We are in the process of researching for a potential second season and we are interested in exploring the events of the 1974 Super Tornado Outbreak.

"I wonder whether in your work in TV and media outlets, have you ever come across cases of people looking for someone they lost touch with from this time? Our examples have included friends and neighbors moving away after the devastation -- perhaps someone was rescued by a national guardsman or volunteer? Maybe someone showed an act of kindness when a survivor needed it most.

Credit Blink Films

"Examples of similar stories in our first season includes a gentleman called Patrick who was caught up in the hysteria after the September 11th attacks and was looking for the woman who gave him a hug when he really needed it (aired Tuesday Feb. 13). Or Sue who was rescued from Mount St Helens after the eruption and had always wanted to thank the helicopter pilot that rescued her (aired 01/30/18)."

On Feb. 20, Curry tells the story of 1960s civil rights volunteers in "Freedom Summer" (8 p.m., Channels 48, 54, 16, PBS).

The National Weather Service says 148 tornadoes ripped through 13 states during the "super outbreak" April 3-4 1974. Two violent F5 tornadoes destroyed much of Xenia and Sayler Park. "(With) 34 deaths, the Xenia tornado was the deadliest of all tornadoes from this outbreak, and remains among the top 10 costliest U.S. tornadoes on record (approximately $250 million in 1974)," the NWS says.

The tornado touched down about 4:33 p.m. near Lower Bellbrook Road, flattened much of the Windsor Park and Arrowhead subdivisions minutes later, and then roared into central Xenia around 4:40 p.m., the NWS says.

About an hour after the Xenia destruction, another violent F5 tornado originated near Rising Sun about 5:30 p.m., and hit Sayler Park and Bridgetown area.  NWS staffers working at the Greater Cincinnati International Airport witnessed the tornado after issuing a warning at 4:45 p.m., the NWS says.

Pooley says that anyone involved in the 1974 tornadoes looking to reunite with someone from the event or aftermath should contact Blink Films by email at meetagain@blinkfilmsuk.com or call toll-free, 1-888-558-6449.