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


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.

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.

article | by Dr. Radut