1942 Goshen Tornado proves severe weather can happen at any time
It's referred to as a killer, a million-dollar twister, and Goshen's first tornado.
Because of bigger outbreaks and the passage of time, however, memories of the 1942 Goshen Tornado are being lost in the breeze.
“It’s been mostly forgotten,” Ron Hoke, a curator of the Goshen Historical Museum explained. “The survivors of that tornado are few and far between.”
The tornado on March 16, 1942 first touched down on Hoke’s family farm almost 80 years ago.
“It took out a grove of trees that my aunt Tilly was fond of,” Hoke said. “It was called Tilly’s woods. I remember as a boy, going up there in the grove, and the trees were all laid down, I had no idea it was because of a tornado.”
The powerful twister wiped out at least 10 blocks of residential area in Goshen. The south and southeast parts of town were the hardest hit, including the Penn electric plant.
All told, the tornado damaged or destroyed 87 homes and injured 53 people. Near the end of the ten-mile path, the Goshen tornado narrowed and intensified, reaching wind speeds of more than 200 miles per hour and killing two people.
Despite all the damage, Hoke said Goshen was fortunate on that fateful March evening.
“In 1942 they would have had no weather warnings that a storm was coming,” Hoke explained, “so these people who were in bed at 9:30 or 10 at night had no chance, and we’re lucky that only two people were killed.”
The twister also lifted at a crucial moment, sparing the Western Rubber Factory, which had large night crews on duty.
79 years ago, Mother Nature proved the fury of spring storms is a tale as old as time.
“Tornadoes are kind of strange beasts, and an EF4/EF5 level, they’re nasty storms, no matter when they occur,” Hoke said.
Back in 1942, FEMA didn't exist yet, so members of the Civilian Public Service (CPS) were sent by the U.S. government to Goshen for three weeks to clean up after the storm.
This storm proves that severe weather can strike Michiana at any time.
Remember to have multiple ways to get warnings, have a severe weather plan, and map out your tornado safe spots at work and at home before the bad weather arrives.