“March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb” and “April showers bring May flowers” are sayings that ring true this time of year. As we all know, the arrival of warm spring air can also bring hazardous weather. Our area is part of the “Hoosier Alley storm-zone,” which includes: all of Indiana, western Ohio and Kentucky counties along the Ohio River from Northern Kentucky to Paducah. A look back in time reveals Boone County has survived many storms that have crossed this active region.
One of the earliest documented tornadoes hit Boone County in 1814, touching down along the river; damage was reported, but no lives lost. That was not the case in 1860, when local farmer Samuel Huey was killed by a falling tree during a “cyclone.” Another noteworthy tornado in 1876 demolished the Middle Creek Baptist Church building on the hill above Belleview and destroyed the headstones in the church cemetery. Some thought this a sign for the church to move from its hill-side location into town.
The impressive Big Bone Springs Resort was nearly destroyed by a twister at the beginning of April 1895. An entire wing of the hotel was demolished and the roof was ripped off another large section of the building. A bath house and spring house on the grounds were damaged and two nearby cabins were a swept away. The resort was closed by 1899.
For over a half-century after the destruction of the hotel, the tornado seasons were relatively mild. That changed in 1956 on Friday the 13th of July, when a surprise Summer storm hit Walton. The massive tornado tore down North Main Street and a long swath of Beaver Road. Cars and farm equipment were tossed like toys, livestock was lost and homes, barns and businesses were demolished. The picnic grounds where the volunteer firefighters were set up for an annual festival was also hit. Food and beverage tents and carnival games were carried off in seconds. A bystander not far from the picnic site described seeing the roof come off the school gymnasium “like peeling an orange.”
The destruction of 1956 was soon eclipsed by the infamous “super-outbreak” event of 1974, during which Boone County lost 75 homes, 100 barns and 50 head of cattle. Total losses included Pennington’s grocery store in Bullittsville and the Morehead Boat Harbor in Taylorsport, where witnesses reported that a tornado crossed the river twice. So, as we welcome Spring, remember to look to the skies, listen for the sirens and let history be our guide- stay safe!
By Hillary Delaney, Local History