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‘Night of Stark Terror’ revisits ‘74 tornadoes

Posted on Tuesday, April 8, 2014 at 6:15 am

Front page of the newspaper from April 1974.

Front page of the newspaper from April 1974.

A documentary on the super tornado outbreak of April 3, 1974, which claimed six lives in Lincoln County and destroyed homes and farms here, will be aired in the coming days.

“A Night of Stark Terror” is a collaborative effort of The National Weather Service, Fayetteville Public Utilities and The Elk Valley Times.

“The 40th anniversary of the April 3, 1974 super tornado outbreak occurred on Thursday, April 3rd,” said Tim Troutman with the National Weather Service, who has helped spearhead the documentary project. “The National Weather Service has collaborated with Fayetteville Public Utilities and The Elk Valley Times to produce a documentary that will remember and re-visit the super tornado outbreak and how it affected Lincoln county residents.

“It is hoped that this documentary and other related April 3, 1974 web page information located at http://www.srh.noaa.gov/hun/?nhunsur_1974-04-03_aniv will serve as a remembrance to the ones that were lost in the tornado outbreak, further documenting the event and also serve as a reminder to residents that we are in a severe weather active region,” Troutman said.

The documentary will be aired on the local FPU channel 6, the FPU web site and The Times’ website, www.elkvalleytimes.com, and will include several interviews, testimonials and footage of historic pictures and video from the April 3, 1974 super tornado outbreak. Viewers will hear from eyewitnesses to the day of terror, including Donna Gill, Bobby and Joyce Plunkett, Donnie Ogle, members of the Caldwell family, Joe Tom Hudson, Harv Edwards, the Gardner family and Jeff Walker.

“I have read there were 148 tornadoes, and seven were F-5’s,” said Britt Dye, CEO and general manager of FPU. “Thirteen states were hit on the 3rd and 4th of April, 1974.  2,014 miles were covered by the tornadoes. FPU  became a StormReady Supporter in 2008. Working with the National Weather Service as part of the StormReady Program shows our commitment to being prepared as best we can for extreme weather conditions.

“I would like to thank The Elk Valley Times and The National Weather Service for giving us this great opportunity to be a part of documenting the tornadoes of 1974,” Dye added. “The historic documentary will be aired beginning on Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12, beginning at 7:30 p.m. We would also like to thank the victims of the 1974 tornado for allowing us to come in their homes to video and go through their pictures to relive their painful stories.”

“A special thanks is extended to The Times’ readers who responded to our call for photos from the super tornado outbreak,” said Sandy Williams, The Times’ news editor. “The photos our readers shared, which are included in the documentary, show the devastation left in the wake of that deadly storm and remind us that it truly was a day of terror for our community and those impacted by the storms.

“Thanks, too, to Tim Troutman with the National Weather Service and Don Counts and Gina Warren with FPU for their hard work on this project. They have spent many hours on the documentary to make sure that it is informative and honors the memory of those lost as a result of the storm.”