Late in the afternoon of June 8, 1974, several Emporians were out and about, going about their days in various fashions.
Jim Kessler had just graduated from Emporia State University that year, and was on his way to a birthday party with his wife. Kessler made a quick trip into the liquor store attached to the mall to pick some up. Kessler says he should've known something was awry, as the pouring rain was not exactly touching the ground. Once he got into the store, that's when it struck.
Kessler also suffered a head injury from a piece of tin from the roof. From there, he went to the hospital.
Gary Ace was indeed there at the hospital, stitching people up... even if they weren't directly injured by the tornado.
200 people were injured by this storm, and six people were killed. Most of the deaths came from the hard-hit Lincoln Village, while most of the injuries came from folks inside the mall when the tornado struck. Janet Haag was there.
Haag says it was a lot to process.
Coach Ron Slaymaker was living nearby, and watched the tornado get a little too close for comfort.
Marvin Tajchman lived in Lincoln Village at that time. He says the tornado arrived without warning.
Steve Sauder lived in and managed the Four Seasons apartments at the time. He says he was worried about getting dinner served that evening, when several tenants in his building knocked on his door and told him there was a tornado coming.
The tornado would continue to churn northeast for about 40 miles, finally dissipating near Auburn. Several rural farmsteads were damaged, as well as the structures in Emporia. The injured would fill both local hospitals, and clean-up would begin as soon as the tornado moved on.
Dave Lorenz was working at a Mobil gas station when the tornado swept through. He says the damage was extensive, so he jumped in and immediately began cleaning up.
Notably, a group of Kansas Mennonites came to help clean up. According to several sources, they arrived extremely quickly, and quietly went straight to work helping clear out debris.
In our next installment, we take a look at how disasters like the Emporia tornado are easier to predict and prepare for today.