Skip to Content

Emporia, KS Tornado Destruction, June 1974

Emporia KS 1974 Tornado 1.jpg Emporia KS 1974 Tornado 2.jpg Emporia KS 1974 Tornado 3.jpg Emporia KS 1974 Tornado 4.jpg


Emporia, Kan. (UPI) -- Between 75 and 90 automobiles in an Emporia shopping center were tossed about and left in heaps of twisted steel Saturday as a tornado destroyed the 20 stores in the center, then went on to strike a nursing home and destroy a mobile home park.
There were 5 confirmed dead and over 100 persons injured, many hospitalized. The dead were all found in the trailer park. All but two of the approximately 100 units were overturned or destroyed.
Workers from all branches of city and county departments dug through the rubble of the collapsed buildings of the 7-year-old Flint Hills shopping center looking for bodies of dead or injured.
All available towing equipment was being used to haul smashed autos away from the immediate vicinity of the shopping center to cut down on hiding places for looters.
Witnesses said the tornado dipped into the industrial park area in the northwest part of Emporia, skipped over several small industrial buildings and hit the shopping center about 6:10 pm.
A policeman at the scene said, "It was lucky at least that it hit right after all the stores closed at 6 pm. There weren't as many people there as might have been earlier."
In addition to a number of Kansas Highway Patrol troopers already at the scene, another 15 troopers were ordered to the city with a mobile communications unit.
The Red Cross set up a disaster headquarters in the basement of civic auditorium where shelter and food were provided for those left homeless by the storm. In addition the Red Cross from Kansas City sent two vans of cots, blankets and other essentials.
A spokesman for Gov. ROBERT DOCKING said he was driving to Emporia to survey damage and determine the amount of state aid that would be necessary.
The DOCKING spokesman said city officials so far had not indicated it would be necessary to call the National Guard, although reports from officials on the scene indicated that call might be made soon.
Emporia's National Guard unit was at Ft. Riley Saturday, taking part in a Guard summer camp.
A large portion of Eastern Kansas was placed under tornado watches or warnings as twisters continued to drop to the ground only to return quickly to the clouds.
One of the areas under a warning was the Topeka area, where 8 years ago Saturday night a twister leveled the state capitol area in downtown Topeka.

The Salina Journal Kansas 1974-06-08


Emporia Kansas 1974 Tornado

I was in that tornado as well. I was 6 years old at the time and I will never forget it. It completely leveled our house. My mom yelled at me to run down the hallway and grab my shoes after the first tornado and there was a man under debris in our hallway.I am hoping someone can verify that we had 7 tornadoes that day? The first one was around 6pm and then more followed. I also remember staying in the college dorms for a few days because no one had nowhere else to go. That day changed my life forever and I still have pictures from that day. If anyone wants copies, please let me know.

Family survived

I lived in the moble home park when the tornado hit. It was 4 days before my 14th birthday. I had left with my sister no more then 30-40 minutes before the tornado hit. She had picked me you to stay with her in Strong City for the Flint Hills parade and rodeo. We stopped by the mall quickly just before it closed. When we arrived at her place in Strong, a friend called and said my home had been hit by the tornado. We then heard it on the radio. We retuned to Emporia to the moble home park to find the national guards at the entry way and they would not let us in. My Mom, dad, little brother and a family friend had been in the trailer and we had no idea if they were ok or not. We had to go Around to the north of the park and go through yards and across the road and into the park over the fence to get in. My dad was the maintanice man and he was trying to help the guard find injured people. Four of the ones that died lived across the street from us, is what I was told. They were two young mothers and their two babies. It was said their trailer flipped over onto the trailer next door. They were such nice girls.
We found my little brother in the club house with cuts and bruises. The friend was hit in the head with debri but ok and we found my mom sitting on the air condition unit with her pistol because people were looting. It was sad to see that. Our trailer... Didn't fair to well. My parents, little brother and one of familys dog road out the tornado in the bathtub and Ernie laid beside the tub. Everything was gone except one wall in the bathroom by the tub. Our big desk was still sitting where it had been in the living room but was turned. The phone was sitting beside it on the floor just like it had been placed there. Mom found her teeth that had been in her bathroom, on the floor where the fridge had sat and she found a can of beer to wash them off with. They had a chip in the front tooth and she wore them for many more years chip and all! And a bed in the very back bedroom was still just like it was and the other family dog was under, scared but alive. My mom had thick curly hair and I remembered so clearly how the fiberglass was like a birds nest in her hair. At the age of 14 and having everything you knew taken away. It was devastating. 41 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday.

I believe a women was killed

I believe a women was killed in the apartments behind the Mall. I was in a van at the intersection of 15th and Industrial when it hit.

Emporia tornado June 1974

I was in that tornado while working part time at Dolly Madison in the shipping dept. The storm dropped out of the sky right there and traveled NE over the mall and through the mobile home court. Most of the deaths were from the mobile homes. I am not aware of any deaths coming from the mall as it happened on a Saturday at 6pm and the mall had just closed. Mostly employees were left inside during the storm. I was part of the red cross search team that went through the mall and we found no deaths. The mall was a total loss as was the mobile home court and several homes in the track. My parked car was also a loss.

I am very lucky to even talk about it as the roof came off directly over me within 10 seconds and I was buried under much debris. Several 18 wheeled rigs that were just loaded were tossed in the field about 100 yards away and turned on their sides like they were thrown toys.

Fact corrections

I would like to correct a few things in the 1974 Emporia tornado article that are not correct. The mall was only 4 months old, not 7 years, and there were 6 people killed instead of 5 and 200 injured. I remember it very well, as I was 12 years old when it happened. The new mall was a total loss. Some stores never reopened.

article | by Dr. Radut