Local Weather HIstory: Remembering the Deadly April 27, 1994 Tornadoes

Multiple nocturnal tornadoes struck the area after midnight on April 27, 1994 with golfball hail & damaging straight-line winds.

Posted: Apr. 25, 2019 5:12 PM
Updated: Apr. 25, 2019 11:27 PM

The violent F4 tornado that struck the area just after midnight, April 27, 1994 was the 85th tornado of this outbreak that began on the afternoon-evening of April 25 in Colorado & Nebraska.

This outbreak was known for one of the strongest tornadoes in the country that year occurring near West Lafayette; the solid F4 with winds of up to 210 mph. Today, on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, winds over 200 mph would be an EF5, the highest category for tornadoes.

11 homes were totally destroyed by this twister, when it roared through after midnight of the 27th, with 17 sustaining major damage & 7 having minor damage. 88 mobile homes were damaged or destroyed, in addition, 13 multi-family dwellings that sustained heavy damage. Lafayette Venetian Blind & two gas stations near U.S. 52, motel at I-65 & 43 & the State Police Post sustained moderate to heavy damage. This violent twister continued on a 14-mile track from southwest of Klondike to southeast of Springboro in Carroll County with material losses that amounted to at least 5 million dollars. Three people were killed & 70 people were injured.  Debri from this tornado was found as far northeast as Whitley County, Indiana.

This same storm produced damaging straight-line winds on its northside of up to 70 mph, at Pine Village (northern Warren County) & Templeton (southeastern Benton County), which felled numerous trees. At its end, it produced a 60 mph straight-line wind gust at Flora after making a slight right turn to the east after a continuous northeastward track.

Another long-track tornado, with winds of up to 157 mph blasted Pulaski & parts of Fulton County along its 20-mile path. The tornado that the storm produced was labeled an EF2 on the original Fujita Scale, but by today’s revised Enhanced Fujita Scale it would be an EF3. Beginning just southeast of Francesville, the twister continued through Pulaski & far northwest Fulton counties before lifting as it entered far southwest Marshall County. At the end of its track, the storm produced a damaging, very intense microburst, that downed numerous trees& destroyed a storage building (resulted in 50,000 dollars in damage). Although this twister traveled largely over open, rural farmland, it did level several farm buildings & grain bins & one farm house was damaged. Also, a mobile home was lifted up by the tornado & thrown onto a car, destroying both. No deaths or injuries were reported, but damage exceeded 1/2 million dollars. The development of this tornado coincided with an intense hail core in the storm that produced golfball-sized stones (1.75″) north of the tornado track.

Another tornado, an F0, with winds up to 72 mph damaged two barns, as well as irrigation equipment north of Medaryville, in Pulaski County. This particular tornadic t’storm produced numerous reports of 0.75-1″ hail in Newton & Jasper counties. Damaging straight-line winds of up to 72 mph destroyed a barn & broke, uprooted several trees near Rensselaer.

Lightning caused a major fire at Cooksey Sawmill in Williamsport, that amounted to 1/2 million dollars in damage. Numerous trees were felled by straight-line winds across northern Clinton County.

A 1/2 million dollars in damage was done to a Subway restaurant & adjacent store due intense straight-line winds of up to 100 mph at Crawfordsville. There was also heavy damage to trees & powerlines with many windows blown out of other businesses. As the roof was blown off the Subway, the flung roof damaged several other businesses nearby.

Interestingly, this same system caused 5 million dollars in damage to the Indianapolis Raceway Park by extreme straight-line winds that did much structural damage.

The first Tornado Warning of the night was issued for Jasper County at 10:44 p.m.

An official in the control tower at the Purdue Airport observed the tornado, looking northwest & a spotter saw it topple high tension power lines in the distance. 

Here are some of the watch & warning statements of that night from NWS:

This is the radar image at the time the tornado was hitting the Indiana State Police Post. 

Images courtesy of NOAA archives:

This is the primitive wind velocity image from the then new 1994 WSR-88 radar installed at Indianapolis at the time.

The line of severe storms is shown in the radar images below (courtesy of NOAA archive & WSI).  Intense storm headed for Tippecanoe County was in Vermilion County at the time of this image with a large hail marker on it.

Tornado Watch boxes are plotted on this image.

Here is the very impressive LEWP with the violent tornado in progress.  The top storm of the LEWP had supercell characteristics.

Original NWS storm survey of tornado track on 1994 Tippecanoe County map.

Map with April 2019 landmarks:

Radar image courtesy of UCAR.

Note some similarity in the 1994 intense LEWP in the line & the one November 17, 2013.  The 1994 one of course had the violent F4 (210 mph), while the 2013 one had the strong F3 (140 mph).

The 2013 LEWP in the line produced 4 confirmed tornadoes.

Also note how the line in 1994 bore similarity with respect to the LEWPs, bows & embedded supercells in the 2013 line.  2013 had a HIGH RISK of severe weather that day, while the night of April 26-27, 1994 had a MODERATE RISK for severe weather over the northern part of Indiana & SLIGHT RISK southward.

Radar image courtesy of Dr. Ryan Maue & Joerg Kachelmann of weatherok, inc.

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