The Palm Sunday Tornado of 1965
Steve Gottschalk (Typed by Eunice Boedeker)
This tornado was Cedar County’s most destructive since May 18, 1898. A Clarence farmer, Richard J. Dircks, would die three weeks later from the serious injuries he received when his house was destroyed. His wife and son survived the storm as they made it to the basement just seconds before the storm hit.
The day had been unusually warm and sultry on Palm Sunday, April 11, 1965. A brief thundershower had visited the area around noon with heavy rain and some hail.
The tornado first touched down 3 miles east of Tipton around 12:30 pm and proceeded on a northeasterly track. It first struck the Raymond Hasenbank farm south of Clarence. A barn, brooder house, garage and machine shed were a complete loss. Next in its path was the Richard Dirck’s farm south of Clarence where eleven buildings were demolished.
From there it hit the Hugo Shroeder farm where it destroyed two barns and a hog house. Traveling northeastward it struck the Lowden area. The Fred Kahl farm and Lester Rowold farm had barns destroyed and other buildings damaged. Harlan Pruess lost a machine shed at his farm.
The storm struck the Myron Conrad farm next, destroying two barns. Up the road at the Arnold Wenndt farm, all sixteen of the farm buildings and the house were heavily damaged or destroyed.
The Larry Stolte farm had a barn flattened and trees uprooted. The William Pasold farm had a portion of the barn ripped away, two other buildings damaged and extensive damage done to the house. The Albert Nieting farm received heavy damage to the house and several buildings were destroyed.
At the Kruckenberg farm, Hugo, his sister, Dorothea, and his mother, Marie, were sleeping when the storm hit their house and threw all of three of them to the floor. All of their buildings were damaged or destroyed. They lost 500 chickens. Some of the carcasses were found in the timber over a mile away.
Harry Hamdorf’s vacant farm had the house and other buildings either damaged or destroyed. The home of Bert and Charlie McDermott, east of Massillon, was also damaged. Two cabins along the Wapsipinicon River were destroyed.
The tornado, later rated as an F4 intensity, swept a 20-mile long path through Fairfield, Springfield, and Massillon townships. The width of that path varied from 200 to 300 yards. At the onset of the tornado, as many as five funnels were seen and when I first saw it west of town (Lowden), there were three funnels.
Before I saw the tornado, our family had just finished eating dinner. My mom was standing by the sink doing the dishes when she looked out of the west window and noticed the dark, strange-looking clouds. She said that it looked like a tornado. My two brothers and I ran upstairs to look out of the west window in his hallway and I saw the tornado with its large main funnel touching the ground with smaller funnels on either side of it. Debris flew around the tornado as it moved off to the north and east and then out of view. There was no warning for the storm.
Henry Pasold described the clouds as flat looking at first and then taking on a shape as if a bubble formed under it. He said the bubble exploded, then touched the ground and bounced back up again as the cloud mass grew larger. Lowden attorney, Bill Norton said the tornado appeared to be white at times and Delbert Lenschow described its coloration as that of a large fire and smoke.
This storm had a major influence on my weather watching and I was particularly interested in severe storms and tornados after that.
The official monetary estimate of damage was over $500,000. The cost to the Dircks family especially and to the other farm families who lost animals and livelihood was not countable in dollars alone.