Witnesses describe living through the ’74 tornadoes


by Chelsea Rabideau


Posted on April 2, 2014 at 6:34 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 2 at 6:40 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Thursday marks the 40th anniversary of the nation’s second deadliest tornado outbreak, the 1974 tornadoes. The F4 that cut through Louisville created a 22-mile path of destruction. One of the hardest hit areas was Crescent Hill.

“We were just looking out the window and we just saw, saw everything turning and spinning and then they just raced us down to the basement,” David Gittings said.

He was 14-years-old in 1974, working on an after school project in the Crescent Hills neighborhood. To him, 40 years ago feels like yesterday.

“I’ve seen a lot, but I’ve never seen anything, and it’s encased in my mind to this day. I’m 55-years-old, I can almost remember it as it happened yesterday,” he said.

On April 3, 1974, a super outbreak of tornadoes tore through 13 states, including Kentucky and Indiana.

“My dad, he wasn’t afraid of anything. I knew when he said, ‘Come on, it’s time to get in there now, move now!’ I knew something was up,” Duane Anderson recalled.

He was five at the time. His parents put him in the bathtub with his sister and the family dog.

“She said that once she got us in the bathtub, she was spraying us down with holy water. And we’re not even Catholic!”

They listened, like thousands of others, to WHAS Radio traffic reporter Dick Gilbert who was following the storm in a helicopter.

“He was describing it play-by-play,” Anderson remembered, “I mean they were freaking out at the TV station because it was literally downtown.”

When the danger passed, the devastation set in. Twenty-four hours after the storm started, more than 300 people were dead and thousands of homes destroyed. During the peak of the outbreak, 16 tornadoes were on the ground at the same time.