Friday, August 9, 2013

AUGUST 9 = Tornado Hits Cincinnati

"The weather had been disagree- able. About  noon that day, I had sniffed the air:  hot, heavy, humid, with angry winds that fretted the trees along the driveway, and I had remarked 'This feels like tornado weather...' no one, including me, listened to my warning.  The afternoon was harried by thunder, lightening, wind and rain, but toward nightfall, calm seemed to descend upon the city."

This was the written recollection of Rosiland Schwab of an early point in what would become a harrowing evening for her and a great many other Cincinnatians - this date of August 9, in 1969. A tornado ripped through northern and eastern sections of the city that Saturday night causing 5 deaths, over 300 injured, and more than 14 million dollars in damage. This subject is of some interest to me personally, as it was one of two major tornadoes to pass through my native town of Cincinnati during my lifetime (the other being in April of 1974). I have a personal recollection of the event, and my father who was a Cincinnati Fireman at the time participated in some of the cleanup and rescue operations, so he happened to save a copy of the Cincinnati Enquirer from the next morning.  Also, I managed with the help of the staff of the Main Library in downtown Cincinnati to unearth a hidden little gem in the fascinating and engaging account of Mrs. Rosiland Schwab.  With these resources, I've been able to work out a rough narrative of events that evening.

The Tornado Touches Down Suddenly Near Reading & Galbraith Rd.

Rosiland, by then an 80 year old great-grandmother, had gone out to dinner with three friends of hers at MacIntosh's, a Scottish themed restaurant near the Hyde Park section of (eastern) Cincinnati. At about 7:20 p.m. that evening a funnel cloud touched down near Reading and Galbraith Roads.  This was the area which was the hardest hit by the storm.  The storm then moved on an eastward path, beating down on Golf Manor, Deer Park, Madiera and Indian Hill.  By 10:30 p.m., Madiera had been declared a disaster area by that suburb's mayor, Dan McDonald.  Rosiland had noticed nothing in her booth at MacIntosh's except some flickering of the lights....

"When suddenly it struck;  a crash of thunder, a roar, the screech of a roof torn away, walls collapsing, a giant hand pushing relentlessly against me, a blast of missiles, a brown darkness, crash and again crash.  I remember the cry 'Open the doors, open the doors!'... saw men struggling with the doors, saw the doors explode inward, brushing the men aside... felt my breath sucked from my lungs; I tried to think 'What do you DO in a tornado? Lie down on the floor,' so I gasped and threw myself on the welter of glass and broken shards.  I felt the rain, pitiless, torrential, pelting my body like a rain of bullets."  

The Storm Cuts a Wide Path of Destruction

The destruction which struck at MacIntosh's also struck at several other retaurants nearby, "The Upper Krust", a restaurant at 172 Reading Rd. which had just recently re-opened from fire damage caught the full force of the funnel having it's entire front section pulled off (pictured above).  The yardmaster at the Penn Central Railroad said that at the Sharonville Yards the caboose was blown clear off of the tracks and into a nearby field.  All of the mobile homes in the Arlington Trailer Park at
Elliot Ave. in Arlington Heights were toppled, and some 15 homes in that area were severely damaged.  St. Gertrude Church at at Shawnee Run and Miami Rd.s in Madeira was having an outdoor festival when the tornado hit, collapsing the festival tent, causing numerous injuries.  All of the residents of the "Lake Shore Estates" Apartment Complex on Galbraith Rd. were obliged to evacuate their homes due to extensive tornado damage.  And grimmest of all, the bodies of three, a mother and her two children were recovered from an Apartment Complex in Hartwell.  My father was among the firemen who made this sad discovery. Damage was done to property and trees also in the nearby village of Deer Park (pictured above). And I can remember my friend Stacey Woolleys' grandmother, Sophia driving us through much of this area several days later, and seeing the large sign from a "Burger Chef" restaurant on Galbraith Rd. bent over and folded like a piece of paper.

Rosiland Makes it Home....

 As for our Octogenarian heroine Rosiland, well she made it out of MacIntosh's, and to a nearby shelter.  From there, wearing a hospital smock and a leather jacket given to her by an anonymous "angel" (her description) she caught a ride home and after bathing to get all of the dust out of her hair, being treated by her doctor for minor cuts and bruises, and given a stiff drink, concluded her account as follows:

"About midnight... clean, fed, warmed by liquor, prettily (and modestly) nightgowned, I decided that I must try once more to report to my children.  I dialed my son's number and, making sure that my voice did not tremble, 'Son', I said 'I guess I'm indestructible...'"

READERS!! If you would like to comment on this, or any "Today in History" posting, I would love to hear from you!!  You can either sign up to be a member of this blog and post a comment in the space provided below, or you can simply e-mail me directly at:  I seem to be getting hits on this site from all over the world, so please do write and let me know how you like what I'm writing (or not!)!!


The Cincinnati Enquirer, August 10, 1969

"The Cincinnati Tornado of Aug. 9, 1969: A Personal Narrative"  by Rosiland Schwab

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  1. Comments previously posted:

    Nancy Susanna Breen May 21, 2013 at 4:09 PM:

    Hi, hope you don't mind if I link to your story on my blog, I was 15 when this tornado hit, although I didn't know there'd been a tornado until afterward. I was exhibiting needlework at Carthage Fair (now Hamilton County Fair) for the first time that year. I'd been there with family just that afternoon, and I couldn't believe that a tornado hit just blocks away on Vine Street. I still have the scrapbook clippings that show the funnel originally touched down near the Williamsburg apartments. I think one livestock tent blew down at the fair. I always wondered what would have happened if the funnel had slammed just farther over.

  2. Brian T. Bolten May 21, 2013 at 4:56 PM:

    No,Nancy, I don't mind at all. In fact I am honored to have a link on your Blog. And I am glad that I was able to provide you with some useful source material. Yeah, you certainly do remember it when a thing like a tornado hits town, even if it doesn't hit you. It is a pretty big trauma. Glad that my Blog helped you with your's!

    - Brian.

  3. Tim Haeussler August 8, 2013 at 6:54 PM:

    Great article, just had to link it to facebook after an old neighbor of mine just happened to be at St. Gertrude's tonight and had posted a picture of a rainbow over the church. My mom and brother had got trapped under the tent. Sure doesn't feel like 44 years ago. Thanks

  4. Brian T. Bolten August 9, 2013 at 5:43 AM:

    Tim, thanks so much for you comment, and for reading my Blog about 8/9/69. I'm sure that it seems like yesterday to you and your's! By all means do feel free to post a link to your FB page. Thanks again for your comment, and keep on reading!! - Brian.

  5. This is a wonderful article. Tornados are really very harmful that is why if we notice that it is coming it is best that we move out right away. There are also special doors that we can use as storm shelters. I have known about this from my friends who are leaving in tornado prone areas.

  6. Thank you very much, Rita. I'm very gratified that you found my posting to be interesting! And thank you for your info. about the shelter doors.
    Do you have any memories of this tornado??

  7. I'm using this information for a school project. How can I know that this really happened? I don't mean to harm anyone's feelings.

  8. Well, I can tell you Makenzie that the bulk of the information came from the web source quoted, as well as the Cincinnati Enquirer for August 10, plus some of my own memories. As to the story by Ms. Schwab, I guess I am taking it on faith... she had no reason to lie. I guess you'll just have to make up your own mind.

  9. This comment was sent to me by David Bird:
    I watched the funnel for several minutes from my house in Covedale. Andrew MacGregor was in my Boy Scout troop. I remember him sharing his series of tornado photos at one of our meetings. He was all of 13 or 14 years old when he did such a splendid job of recording this event.

  10. I remember that day well my mother, aunt, and I were returning from Tri County Mall heading south when it hit the Arlington area. My aunts car was being hit with golf ball size hail and it was raining so hard but she manage to get us under the over pass right at the Galbraith road exit. I was just 14 and terrified, I looked around to see a car trying to exit off the ramp and the wind rolled the car back down into other cars that were being pushed and tossed around on 75. I saw an elderly couple get out of the car and run up under the over pass where we were parked. They tried to get help from several other cars parked close to where we were. As they approached our car I turned to say something to my mother, and aunt, and my mother said to open the door and let them in...The elderly man was bleeding from his head and they both looked to be in shock...Once they were in the car we felt the car start to shake and move from the wind...It was on top of us I could not see anything in front of me and turn to look to the side and behind me and I saw mobile home and cars being tossed like toys, and then they were gone. The sound was loud, one I will never forget. I heard my mother talking to the older couple she was turn around and leaning over the front seat. My mother was a nurse and she new the older man was in need of a doctor. She told my aunt to go to the closest hospital and we drop them off to get the car they needed. I later heard my mother tell my aunt the older man had died on the way...I felt so bad for everyone that day and for weeks, months, years after, and can remember it like it was yesterday.To this day I am terrified of any storm and it takes me back to that day.

    1. Thank you so very much for that fascinating account, Mick. I'm glad that you and your Mom and your Aunt came out if it OK, But thank you so much for your fine contribution to this Blog. I do appreciate it!!

  11. My mom survived this tornado as well. She was at a church at a wedding just off Galbraith where it hit. She said everyone ducked between the pews. Said the windows blew in. Once it was over she said everyone went outside and the only building standing was the church they just came out of. She would have been 18 at the time.

  12. I was trying to find pics of the tornado after around the Galbraith Rd area. She can't remember the name of the church. Anyone think they might know it? She thinks it is the first street once u pass over Vine on the left (Drake hospital would be behind u on ur right)

  13. My father was caught in this tornado as he was coming back from Kentucky from helping his brother. He stopped at the gas station that was across the street from MacIntosh's. My father and the worker at the gas station went running into the car bay and as they got there a wall of tires fell, then the brick wall fell on top of them. They were trapped for hours. Thank goodness he only ended up with a broken foot as it could have been much worse. He said the rescuers stopped them from blowing themselves up as there was a gas leak and they didn't know it. I was 7 at the time and remember the tornado hitting. It was scary knowing my father was hurt by a tornado. I remember seeing pictures once of some of the damage where it showed my fathers' car had been picked up and moved from beside the pumps to the side of the building and a broken telephone pole was impaled on the drivers seat. I would like to see if anyone has that picture or any others so I can get a copy of them.

  14. I remember hiding in the oil room at my grandparents home, Julius and Marge Elias,on Morrison place. The tornado ran past our home and took out one of the big trees we had in the yard.