A Look Back at Severe Outbreak April 7, 1948

April 8th, 2013 at 1:06 pm by under Chad's WLFI Weather Blog

Late March through early April 1948 was incredibly active in the Midwest with tornado outbreaks & multiple episodes of violent weather.

On April 7, 1948, severe outbreak hit our area.


Tornado tracked from near Rob Roy to Odell, a total of 10 miles.  4 people were injured with numerous buildings damaged or destroyed in the two communities & in-between.  A trooper explained that it looked like “a lazy column of smoke rising from the center of the field.”

A violent tornado of F4 strength took a 40-mile path through Kankakee County, Illinois, Lake, Jasper & eventually Porter counties.  4 people were killed with one killed when their farmhouse was destroyed near Hebron.  20 people were injured.

An F3 occurred just northwest of this storm, while an F2 tore a 30-mile path from Cook County, Illinois to LaPorte County, Indiana.

Damaging straight-line winds & hail also accompanied the storms as they moved through our viewing area.

67 people were killed total on this day in Illinois & Indiana from the storms.

The next day (on April 8) an F2 200-yard wide tornado spawned by the same system killed 1 person & injured 4 others near Lexington, Kentucky.

According to National Weather Service Louisville: “A ‘bounding-type’ tornado destroyed barns and stables at the Keeneland Race Track.  A groom was killed.


From Lowell Tribune:



One of the worst cyclones ever recorded in this region, tore through the southern part of the county at about 6 p.m. yesterday, just missing Lowell, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage to farm homes and other buildings.

Fred Engelking, of Sollitt, Ill., was reported killed when his home was destroyed, and John Bricker, who lived in a small house along the Kankakee, just west of August Johnson’s on highway 53, was also killed in the same manner.

Charles Amey of Shelby and Theo. Matusek, west of Lowell, were in the most serious condition of the several local people receiving injuries. Amey, riding in a car on the Range Lone road, suffered head and back injuries when the car was blown out into a field. Matusek, who was badly hurt when his home was scattered by the gale, was also taken to a Gary hospital in a serious condition.

Walter Meyers, of Goodland, who had been to the Fred Homfeld farm east of town, suffered the same fate as Amey when his car was also tossed off the road, seriously injuring him.

Among those only slightly hurt were the four Burger children south of Lowell, who were bruised and scratched by debris when their home was struck.

Roaring in from across the Illinois state line, the twister completely wrecked the west Harold Mussman farm, and tore down everything but the home on their other farm; every building on the Neil Spry farm, just west of U.S. 41, was completely swept away and at the junction of 2 and 41 west of town, the Ike Schreiber garage building was badly damaged. The north wall of the cement block building was blown in and the roof torn off. A truckload of farm machinery in the building was badly smashed by falling blocks. At Fisher’s service station a few blocks south, two new house trailers were tossed several hundred feet away and smashed, but no other damage of any consequence was caused there.

The twister continued slightly southeast damaging every building in its path. The brick house on the Purdy farm, occupied by the Kenneth Burgers, was partially wrecked and turned on its foundation; the Jhn Harper farm home and all other buildings were wrecked and blown away, as were the buildings on the Matt Theis farm and the old Maxwell place. Hundreds of trees in the path of the cyclone were sheared off and strewn over the highways and some roads were blocked by remains of farm houses and barns. Most of the area hit has had neither phone nor electric service since the storm and several days will be required to repair the damage to installations.

Other places damaged are:

Barn and shed on Mrs. Lovisa (Love) Jones’ farm occupied by Neil Love.

House and barn down on former M.A. Brannon farm, owned by Chicago parties.

Barn roof on the Don Skinner farm.

Barn on Joe Abraham farm, house damaged.

Barns on Joe Shone farm occupied by the Carl Turners, Jasper Surprise farm, occupied by the Lester Phillips, and the Nolan farm.

Porch and shed on the Boyd Wason farm.

Machine shed on the Emil Harding farm.

Barn and shed on Charles Dickinson farm, occupied by Harold Lappie.

Barn roof and shed on Cass Scritchfield farm.

Although Lowell was by-passed, it did suffer some damage from a severe hail storm a short time before the cyclone was reported, causing many broken windows and other damage. The hail, over an inch in diameter, created a thunderous roar for about 15 minutes as it beat on roofs of houses, cars and streets.

Eye witnesses to the disaster are still recounting tales of the freak storm, but it will be several days before an estimate can be made of total damage.

Of the several accidents reported yesterday, two were a direct result of the cyclone. Two sheriff’s deputies, returning to Crown Point after a checkup of the region hit by the storm, collided with a car driven by two Cedar Lake boys, about a mile north of town. One of the boys was seriously hurt and rushed to a hospital but none of the other three involved were injured. The other smashup occurred on Grant St., in Gary, a car colliding with the Sheets ambulance which was taking Mr. Matusek to the hospital.

Another article appeared on page 2, column 1, of the same issue of the paper:


    The Southern Lake County Chapter of the American Red Cross has initiated steps today (Thursday) for the organization of an advisory board to meet the immediate needs of individuals and families affected by yesterday’s tornado. Principal awards will be made for the following purposes: food,


    , and other maintenances; building and repairing homes, barns and the like; household goods, meeting medical and nursing expenses, farm supplies, livestock and equipment. Any family or individual who has suffered a disaster loss and needs assistance because of this loss may telephone Harry Clark, chairman, phone Lowell 5541 or headquarters at the Lowell National Bank, Lowell 4261.

The following April 15, 1948, Lowell Tribune article was found on page 1, column 1:



    A steady stream of traffic flowed through southern Lake county and eastern Illinois, with curiosity seeker viewing the ruins of the many farm homes following last Wednesday night’s baby tornadoes.

Lowell and Hebron areas had thousands of visitors, who never before had seen the devastation of a tornado in this region. The last storm that anywhere near equaled the one of last week, was nearly 40 years ago, when the storm came in from the west, wrecking the places now occupied by the Edw. Frahms and Myron Keeneys, then hitting the places now owned by John McGinley and Charles Carroll at the north edge of Lowell. At that time many chimneys were down and windows were broken, but no other damage was done in Lowell from the storm.

Neighbors of those hit by the storm, as well as many others, have pitched in and helped their unfortunate friends. The big job of cleaning up the wreckage of homes, barns, tool sheds, granaries, garages, and other buildings will continued until the work is completed. Many persons have nothing but kindling piles on the sites where their homes were located before the storm

The damage, while not possible to estimate fully in this area, is expected to run into nearly one million dollars, but farmers are happy that the losses to live stock was very low but poultry losses are expected to run into high figures.

Losses that have been reported to us, that we missed last week, are at the Echterling farm, occupied by Ray Ferris, and family, southeast of town, where the house was moved 50 feet from the foundation, while Ferris, his wife and two children lay flat on the ground in the yard. Other narrow escapes are reported. At the Matt Theis farm, Mr. and Mrs. Theis and three children went to the basement, and were huddled in one corner when the house was hit by the wind. Luckily they were in the corner least damaged and all came out, no one knows how, unhurt. The Harold Mussmans, Neil Sprys, John Harpers and Harold Lappies saw the storm was headed their way and left for safer places. At the Kenneth Burger home, the parents were in town, and while the house was wrecked their children came through the storm safely except for a few bruises.

At the Mrs. Eleanor Little farm, east of the Range Line, the damage is also heavy, three machine sheds, hog house, windmill, silo, two chicken houses, being storm casualties, as well as a one-fourth mile strip through the timber near the farm home.

Sheriff’s deputies have been paroling the storm areas to stop any looters that might take it upon themselves to take things that did not belong to them.

All power service has again been restored to the area and phone service is being restored by workmen as fast as the work can be done.

Another article on page 1, columns 3-4 of the same issue of the peper follows:


    Red Cross rehabilitation assistance is underway in the tornado swept area of Southern Lake County. Initial Red Cross surveys indicate that seven families suffered complete loss of all buildings, stock and machinery, and six families with an average approximate 50 per cent loss. Numerous other buildings, stock, and implements on other properties were also destroyed or damaged.

An over-all survey of the relief operations in the affected area, shows that the local chapter has met and is meeting the disaster situation in an excellent manner. Immediate attention has been given for food, clothing, and temporary shelter.

The Red Cross deeply appreciates the work and cooperation of many volunteers, the many farmer neighbors who helped clean up the rubbish and debris. The Lowell American Legion, Lowell Lions club, and the Indian Trail Grange, Numerous other organizations have also volunteered their services for sewing and the collection of clothing.

In the conduct of field operations, the Red Cross has set up headquarters at the Lowell National Bank, and is working with a strong local advisory committee, representing all interest in the affected area. This committee consists of H. Boyd Wason, and Leon L. Bailey of West Creek township, John Miller and Harry Clark, chairmen of Cedar Creek township, Thomas Fisher and Winfred Bryant of Eagle Creek township, with Wilbur Heidbreder as chairman of the local chapter also sitting in. The local advisory committee interprets the community to the Red Cross, and the Red Cross to the community, thereby bringing about mutual understanding. “It serves as a case committee to give advice to the field unit in carrying out Red Cross policies to the best advantage of the disaster sufferer and the community,” Mr. Heidbreder, local chapter chairman said.

Mr. Heidbreder states also: “Any family or individual affected by the disaster who are unable through their own efforts to meet their disaster-caused needs, will find the Red Cross willing to help them. The disaster-caused need of a family, rather than its loss, is the basis upon which assistance is given a person who has lost heavily in the disaster, but who[ever] is able to stand the loss financially, without unreasonable hardship, should not ask for disaster relief. The relief funds have been contributed by the American people, not to take the place of insurance, and to replace losses, but to meet actual needs. They are used only to meet minimum needs which the sufferers themselves can not meet, from their own resources — cash, credit, insurance, and earnings.”


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