Whether the dead of January or near the anniversary, not a day goes by when someone doesn’t stop by the Oak Lawn Public Library’s Local History Room to inquire about the Oak Lawn Tornado of 1967.
This Saturday, April 21, marks the 45th anniversary of the worst tornado ever to hit the immediate Chicago region in history.
“I’ve been here four years and every day someone stops in or calls to ask about the tornado,” local history coordinator Kevin Korst said. “It changed the course of Oak Lawn and its future development.”
Watch resident Andy Koszyk's home movie of the day after the tornado struck.
At approximately 5:30 p.m. on a humid Friday afternoon, and EF-4 tornado—as wide as a city block with estimated winds of up to 200mph—began its rampage on the outskirts of town ripping apart the Starlight Drive-In before beginning its hellish trajectory down Southwest Highway. When it was all over the deadly storm claimed 37 lives, injure 500, heavily damage two schools, and destroy 319 homes.
The largest loss of life was at the intersection of 95th Street and Southwest Highway where the funnel cloud with a ground speed of 65mph claimed 18 souls, many of them motorists trapped helplessly in their cars waiting at a red light.
“The funnel cloud was on the ground at 95th Street and Southwest Highway for just a few seconds,” Korst said. “Many long-time residents say the tornado only lasted a few minutes.”
Watch Ed Fruh's donated home movie of neighbors cleaning up after the tornado in the snow.
While the Oak Lawn Library isn’t planning any special exhibits around the 45th anniversary, patrons can stop by the Local History Room and view the country’s largest collection of tornado-related artifacts all day Saturday.
Included in the library’s extensive collection are over 200 photos donated by residents, home movies, insurance films, newspapers of the day and oral histories by survivors.
Much of the library’s tornado collection is also available online, including an interactive Google map tracing the twister’s first touchdown on what is now the site of Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills through Oak Lawn, Hometown, Evergreen Park and Beverly, before weakening and dumping its payload on the Dan Ryan Expressway.
The latest acquisitions include 20 minutes news footage from the local CBS affiliate WBBM-TV. Although the footage lacks audio, Korst said it shows chilling scenes of residents sifting through the rubble of leveled homes and buildings, mangled cars dropped from the sky, grim-faced rescue workers and blanket-draped bodies in the snow that fell the next day.
The Oak Lawn Public Library’s Local History Room will be open all day Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. located on the second floor.
Read more tornado stories on Oak Lawn Patch:
More 1967 tornado links of interest: