1974 - 80 KENTUCKIANS KILLED.
Louisville, Ky. (AP) - The death toll soared to 80 today as Kentucky began digging out from the worst tornado disaster in its history.
Hundreds were injured and property damage was expected to run into millions of dollars.
Gov. WENDELL FORD declared the state a disaster area and called upon President Nixon to do likewise.
"This is probably the most tragic day in Kentucky history," the governor said late Wednesday after reports of the death and destruction began filtering into his office in Frankfort.
The previous most devastating tornado in the state's history touched down in Louisville on March 27, 1880, when 76 persons died. An undetermined number of others lost their lives in that same storm in other portions of the state.
Wednesday's tornado was the first reported in Brandenburg, a community of 1,600 about 50 miles from here, since 1950.
Soldiers from nearby Ft. Knox used giant searchlights through the early morning hours, looking for more bodies in the rubble.
An overnight curfew was clamped on Brandenburg and on Frankfort, the state capital, and the Louisville area.
At Brandenburg, Meade County Judge James Greer said the 10 p.m. curfew was set to "keep people off the street."
A temporary shelter was opened in the Methodist Church and at the elementary school. About 300 persons were believed to be left homeless, Greer said.
Five persons were killed at Louisville, where hospitals were crowded with injured and large sections of neighborhoods were leveled.
The disaster threatened to create a water shortage, and the Louisville Water Co. appealed to residents to halt consumption until pressure could be built up again.
The twister caused multimillion dollar damage to the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center, where six persons were injured when cars were flipped upsidedown and the roofs on the coliseum and exhibition center partly ripped off.
"I've been through the Korean Conflict but I have never been scared like that," said C. B. GRISSOM of Lexington, who was sitting in his car at the fairgrounds, waiting for a professional basketball game to start. "There was a loud roaring sound like a train and I saw a car jump 20 feet in the air." Meanwhile, about 30 Central Kentucky counties remained under a blackout early today, as all power was lost. Kentucky Utilities Co. worked to restore the power.
At State Police posts, dispatchers manned telephones in the dark.
Telephone service was disrupted in most heavily damaged areas.
At Brandenburg, GREER said he and several secretaries were in the courthouse when the tornado came through.
"We were in the hall with the ceiling falling through and there was litter everywhere," he said.
The National Guard was ordered into stricken areas across the state.
Efforts were continuing today to determine the extent of damage and injuries in the state's capital.
The tornado in Franklin County traveled parallel to Interstate 64 and crossed Versailles Road in the eastern section of the county. Numerous homes were damaged in a subdivision known as Tierra Linta, and there reportedly was heavy damage in the Franklin Square shopping center.
The roof was ripped off Capital City Christian Church.
At the Breckenridge Memorial Hospital at Hardinsburg, a spokesman said, "We're just running over with patients from the storm."
A spokesman at an area fire station said a bus carrying Irvington schoolchildren overturned and some of the occupants were taken to Breckenridge Memorial.
THOMAS PRESTON, press secretary to FORD, said the governor's office received reports of damage from almost every section of the state.
At Louisville, at least 200 homes lost their second floors in the Crescent Hill area. At one point the twister crossed the North-South Expressway, dumping about eight cars on their tops and trapping some of the occupants.
April 4, 1974
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