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44 years ago, tornado ravaged Harrison County

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Wednesday, April 3, 1974, 55 homes, 100 barns destroyed

Becky Barnes,
Editor
bbarnes@cynthianademocrat.com

While severe weather was in the forecast for Tuesday, April 3, many people were remembering another fateful spring day, April 3, 1974.
Forty-four may seem an odd number for an anniversary awareness. However, Tuesday’s forecast added irony to the remembrance.
Cynthiana Democrat staff member and Harrison County High School student, John LaBore, captured the iconic tornado photograph from the Hilltop as it ripped through the western area of the county.
As daylight dawned, families and friends began searching through rubble that was once their homes or barns.
In Harrison County, 55 homes and 150 barns were destroyed.
The late Claude Hixon, who was the Extension agent for Harrison County, said the tornado started at the Scott County/Harrison County border about 6:20 p.m. on that Wednesday and left the county on the northeastern side of Little Harrison about 6:40 p.m.
It struck an area 18 miles long and from one-half to one and one-half miles wide.
This outbreak across the eastern half of the United States, including Kentucky and Ohio, there were 148 tornadoes over an 18-hour period. Twenty-three were deemed F4s and seven were F5s. Harrison County’s was an F3. At one point there were 15 tornadoes touching down at the same time.
The tornadoes resulted in 335 deaths and more than 6,000 injuries across the 13 states involved in what was termed a Super Cell Tornado Outbreak.
As daylight dawned on April 4, the destruction could be seen far and wide --  from Connersville Pike to U.S. 27 North -- buildings were flattened or damaged with the one beside it untouched.
Numerous stories emerged in the hours that followed the landmark storm. One such story appeared in The Cynthiana Democrat on April 11, 1974, which would have been the first edition following the April 3 weather event was that of the Democrat’s own advertising manager Ed Horn, and his family’s survival.
The following was written by Thelma Taylor.
Mrs. Horn and baby
trapped under table,
oven and trailer wall
A tornado watch was heard in this area on April 3. At supper time, with feeding chores completed, many farm families were watching television as a “roar louder than 25 trains” could be heard.
Mrs. Ed (Nena) Horn with her 8-month-old daughter, Heather, were in a trailer-home on Connersville Pike. Heather’s daddy, Ed, was working at The Cynthiana Democrat where he is advertising manager.
“I looked out the window and saw the funnel forming toward Sadieville,” the young mother relates the nightmarish experience. “I heard it hitting all around.
“Even before I saw it coming, I had put a table against a wall away from the approaching storm and placed a lounge chair cushion and other padded things around it to protect the baby from flying glass.”
She flipped the fuse box and opened two windows to the north of the trailer. She put the baby in a heavy-duty GM car seat, called a love seat, and placed her body on the baby’s to shield her from whatever was evidently going to happen quick.
“The wall came in on us. Her little head was bending over. I was afraid her neck would break.”
High tension wires ran over the house. Fire flew as they were twisted from the poles and flung to the ground. Mrs. Horn and the baby were embedded beneath a table, a trailer, hot wire and a fence. A full gas tank beside them leaked out its contents in the direction of the tornado.
Mrs. Horn had gotten moved away from the baby. Her legs were wedged so that she could not move but she could feel the baby.
“I kept looking for blood. She was screaming her head off. She looked up and saw grass sticking through a crack. She stopped instantly and pulled the grass through.
“I thought, ‘Honey, you’re alright if you can do that.’”
Mrs. Horn had her first chance to listen to the world around her and to think a few thoughts of her own.
“There was dead silence. And then a calf mooed.”
A neighbor was reported to have come to the trailer site. Everything was flat to the ground. There was no car and no sound of life. He left and then returned with some other neighbors.
It was reported that Jerry Jenkins heard the baby crying and lifted the wall. An oven was on top of the table. Men freed the mother whose legs were numb. They made her lie on the ground for a while. As she gradually got her bearing, they decided she could walk.
Gas was spewing and hot wires were flashing. They left quickly to go to the Zelma McBee home in Connersville. Warnings were out again. They were taken to the craft shop and then to Lowell Clifford’s.
When things seemed to be relatively safe for travel, they started in three or four different directions in an effort to get to town to take Mrs. Horn to the hospital and to notify Ed that they were alright.
The Horn’s chased each other over town up until midnight. After the emergency room OK at the hospital, the couple and their baby were taken to the home of Clarence Horn in Woodland Terrace.
When asked if they slept that night, Ed said, “I slept about four hours. Nena was up all night long to see about the baby, probably to convince herself that she was still breathing.”
• • • • • •
On The Cynthiana Democrat Facebook page, a post was made Monday about the 44th anniversary of the tornado, by Wednesday morning, the post had reached over 700,000 people. There were over 8,500 shares of the post. Comments were made from people all around the United States.
The post also features the award-winning photo by LaBore.