Postcards from Grafton

1965 Palm Sunday Tornado

June 28, 2021

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On April 11, 1965 a tornado tore through the Village of Grafton at 11:23 pm. The tornado that hit Grafton was part of a larger, infamous outbreak known as the Palm Sunday Tornadoes. Over the span of 12 hours, 37 tornadoes were unleashed on Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. The outbreak claimed 260 lives, 140 in Indiana alone, and caused millions of dollars in damage. In Ohio, 55 people died. The town of Pittsfield was completely leveled, a bus on Interstate 75 was flipped upside down and smashed, and electric and telephone failures throughout the state lasted from Sunday night through Monday, making rescue and cleanup efforts difficult. While houses were blown across streets and severely damaged, Grafton luckily experienced few serious injuries. This episode we’re chatting with Nancy Caithaml. Caithaml was only a first grader when the Palm Sunday Tornado hit Grafton, but she has vivid memories of the experience. She shares what it was like to seek shelter, how her home was damaged, the community’s cleanup efforts, and how the tornado continued to impact her and her family long after April 11, 1965. Caithaml’s story was featured in the book The Night of the Wicked Winds: The 1965 Palm Sunday Tornadoes in Ohio by Roger Pickenpaugh. You can check out a copy to read at the Grafton-Midview Public Library. If you are interested in more firsthand experiences of the Palm Sunday Tornado and the months that followed in the Village of Grafton, check out our Voices of Grafton oral history collection online at https://library.biblioboard.com/anthology-collection/06d343dd-9170-4da0-b2d4-ce0b3119497f/bd173390-5c51-4a04-9247-e2d8aee95a56. Below is a photo of Caithaml's home after the tornado hit, and the recovered dress both her and her mother wore on their wedding days. 

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