Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

  • File photos Clifford A. Wirick, second from left, receives some help in picking through the remains of his New Haven barn after it and his home were struck by a tornado May 10, 1973.

  • File May 10, 1973: A barn belonging to Elmer Coonrod was also blown down about half a mile away from Clifford Wirick's property. Coonrod's home was damaged, but not destroyed.

  • Siding hangs in a tree next to the remains of Wirick’s barn. While Wirick’s property was leveled, there was no damage at his neighbor’s home 200 yards away.

  • This funnel cloud, one of four seen on the day, hung in the air near downtown Fort Wayne for several minutes before moving away. This photo was taken by Journal Gazette chief photographer John Sorensen from the newspaper building at Fulton and Main streets.

  • File May 10, 1973: Clifford A. Wirick looks for his dog, Peanuts, in the remains of his New Haven barn, which was destroyed by a tornado. The Beagle was found crushed by a fallen beam.

  • File May 10, 1973: Siding hangs in a tree next to the remains of a barn owned by Clifford A. Wirick in New Haven.

  • File May 10, 1973: A tornado knocked down a tower with power lines near New Haven, causing power outages in the area.

  • File May 10, 1973: A tornado destroyed the home and barn of Clifford A. Wirick in New Haven. He said the house and its contents were almost a total loss.

Thursday, November 29, 2018 1:00 am

Throwback Thursday May 10, 1973: Tornado destroys New Haven home

Four funnel clouds were seen in the skies over Fort Wayne on May 10, 1973, with at least one hanging stationary several minutes near downtown before it moved away.

At least two tornadoes touched down, and one New Haven family bore the brunt of the damage in the area about 3 p.m.

Clifford A. Wirick told The Journal Gazette that day that he had just come in from the fields and was standing on his front porch when he saw a tornado coming. He had just enough time to run into the basement and hide under a stack of insulation before his home was ripped apart and his barn was shattered into pieces.

His pickup, which had been in the garage, was blown into the backyard. Wirick was not injured and his wife was not home, but their 14-year-old Beagle, Peanuts, was crushed by a falling beam.

Debris was strewn about half a mile into a field behind the home and siding from the barn was stuck in the trees that were still standing. A neighbor's home about 200 yards away was undamaged, as was Wirick's mother's home on the other side of his house.

The same tornado blew down a nearby barn, snapped off trees and knocked over a tower with power lines that fell across railroad tracks. Police were able to stop an approaching freight train before it ran into the downed lines.

Power outages were reported east of New Haven, including at the B.F. Goodrich plant near Woodburn. Areas of Fort Wayne were also without power about an hour.

Northwestern Ohio was also hit by tornadoes where at least four touched down and uprooted trees, lifted rail cars off tracks and killed several people.

– Corey McMaken,The Journal Gazette

Throwback Thursday features items from The Journal Gazette's archive. To see more archive photos throughout the month, follow us on social media. To suggest a date or event to be featured, email Corey McMaken at cmcmaken@jg.net or call 461-8475.

--

 

--

The following story by Glenn Allen appeared in The Journal Gazette on May 11, 1973 under the headline “Storm Damage Heavy; 4 Funnel Clouds Seen”:

Funnel clouds churned through Fort Wayne area skies yesterday afternoon, at least two of them touching down and causing considerable damage. Within hours after the storm here, Northwestern Ohio was raked by at least four tornadoes, one of which killed several persons near Willard in (the) north central section of the state.

Trees were uprooted, rail cars lifted off the tracks and power lines felled in the Ohio storms.

Indiana State Police reported at least four funnel cloud sightings during the turbulent weather in Allen County and a total of seven in Northeastern Indiana. Heaviest damage was in the New Haven area, although some wind damage resulted in the city. Three major power outages resulted in Allen County.

In Northwestern Ohio, the Henry County sheriff's office said three tornadoes touched down southwest of Napoleon, near Malinta and Deshler. The Defiance County sheriff's office reported at least one tornado sighted there and one was reported over Van Wert County. Heavy rain and hail struck a wide area of Northwestern Ohio.

Although the sudden storm spawned numerous funnel clouds, one family in the New Haven area seemed to have been in “the eye” of one about 3 p.m.

“I had just come in from the fields and was standing on the front porch when I saw it (the funnel) coming,” said Clifford A. Wirick, who lives on Webster Road less than a mile north of Ind. 14 east of New Haven.

Wirick said he just had time to run to his basement and hide under a stack of insulation in the corner and then “crash.”

The crash was the sound of his home being ripped apart by the tornado and his barn being shattered into kindling. Wirick was not injured, nor his wife, Margaret, who was away from home at the time.

The same funnel which wiped out Wirick also felled a tower of an Indiana & Michigan power line about a mile west near Edgerton Road, causing the 138,000 volt wires to fall across the Norfolk & Western Railway tracks.

Allen County Police were able to halt an approaching freight train before it ran into the lines.

The same tornado also blew down the barn of Elmer Coonrod, who lives about a half mile west of Wirick on Edgerton Road, and tore off a part of the roof of his home.

But it was Wirick who was hardest hit.

The tornado blew the garage off his home and tore off the entire roof. The sides of the home, though still standing, were buffeted by windblown debris.

The barn was demolished and Wirick's 14-year-old beagle dog, “Peanuts,” was fatally crushed when a heavy beam fell on him.

Several trees were snapped off by the high winds near the Wirick home and many others damaged. Those still standing were festooned with twisted corrugated metal siding from the barn.

Wirick said that as the approaching tornado crossed over the lake on the Casad Army Depot grounds it drew water “as high as 30 or 40 feet into the air.” That is when the awed Wirick took cover in the basement.

He said the approaching funnel made a noise like a freight train.

Bernard Monnier, who lives barely 200 yards from Wirick across Edgerton Road, said it sounded to him like a big jet plane.

“I was sitting in my living room when I heard it, and looked out just in time to see the barn (Wirick's) go down,” he said. Monnier's home was not even damaged. Nor was the home of Wirick's mother, less than 200 yards to the other side of the Wirick house and barn.

In addition to his home and barn, the tornado also leveled a smaller shed, and blew Wirick's pickup truck, which had been in the garage, into the back yard, denting it badly.

Debris was strewn for about a half mile into a field behind the home.

If any other of the numerous funnels sighted touched down, they must have done so in areas sparsely populated, and were not noticed or reported.

State Police reported that at one time they had four funnels in sight. A spokesman for the weather bureau said that often such “families” of funnels tend to form.

Considerable damage was done to homes and trees in Fort Wayne, and in the suburbs.

Three major power outages resulted from high winds in the county, the most extensive east of New Haven as a result of the felling of the power line tower. Because of this, power was cut off at the B.F. Goodrich plant near Woodburn and the area.

In Fort Wayne, an area north of East State Boulevard near Reed Road was blacked out between 2:10 and 3:10 p.m., and power also was interrupted in an area south of State near Georgetown Shopping Center.

All of the service had been restored by late afternoon, however, I&M officials reported.

Police and fire communicators reported receiving several calls about wind damage, and said apparently one of the hardest hit areas was one in the vicinity of St. Joe Center Road and Trier Road. St. Joe Center was blocked for some time near Trier because of a fallen power line.

According to city, county and state police, no personal injuries were reported.