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Tornado April 29, 1971: numbed citizenry, communications, power, dead

Coverage of the tornado of April 29, 1971 from the Columbia Statesman archives; six people lost their lives and a path of destruction was left behind. Click for the previous installment of these stories.

Tempest's aftermath leaves numbed citizenry, communications, power dead
By Pete Walker


In the storm's aftermath, power lines and telephone communications were down. In the eerie darkness punctuated with floodlights and warning signals from rescue vehicles, searchers looked for the storm victims.

Relatives from outside the tornado's erratic pattern frantically hunted for the families. Kentucky State Police, the Adair County Sheriff's Office, and city officers, through their radio network coordinated rescue work throughout the night.

Adair County Jailer Hailey Neagle, grasping the magnitude of the disaster when the first reports of the tornado came in, immediately summoned ambulances from surrounding counties.



The Columbia Fire Department and Civil Defense Unit worked tirelessly to locate and and aid the victims. They welcomed the assistance of the Green County Civil Defense Unit. Grover Gilpin, who farms in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, says, "This community owes a debt of gratitude to the Green County Civil Defense Unit who brought a degree of professionalism to rescue operations.

They moved in as we were hunting for victims, and their training was immediately apparent as they fanned out to help conduct the search, caring for the victims."

Offers of help from the community were spontaneous and immediate. Mayor Hollis Keltner and Hospital Administrator Ken Rice Set up emergency shelter for the homeless survivors in the Columbia United Methodist Church. Cots were furnished by Downey Furniture Store. The K&F Market offered emergency food supplies. College students assisted in rescue operations.


This story was posted on 2022-05-03 15:03:35
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Tornado of 1971: in the aftermath



2022-05-03 - Adair County, KY - Photo from the Columbia Statesman archives.
Temporary offices set up for disaster relief after April 29, 1971 tornado.

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