Deadly tornado struck Willard 40 years ago today

Share your memories of the Twister of 1973.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
May 10, 2013


It’s been 40 years since a tornado carved a path of destruction in the City of Blossoms.

On May 10, 1973, a tornado which consisted of at least two and possibly three funnels, made its way eerily down U.S. 224, killing four people and injuring dozens of others in the process.

Three mobile home parks that contained a total of 190 trailers had about 160 of those destroyed. Three-hundred people were left homeless.

The twister also destroyed two car dealerships and the Triangle Motel and damaged the Hi-Ho Restaurant where the Moose Lodge stands today.

In Friday's Norwalk Reflector, you can read several stories and see photos of the devastation. If you were in Willard in 1973 when the tornado struck, please share your memories in the comments section below.



I remember my father who worked at RR Donnoneys, came home earl from work. My mother asked him why he was'nt at work? His reply was he was in a tornado. My mom did'nt believe him as he was known to mess with her. I walked to the door and saw his truck (which had flown accross the parking lot) and told my mom she should believe him . "LOOK AT THE TRUCK!"


I can remember it as it were yesterday. We were eating supper and we heard that a tornado was in Willard on the radio. We lived east of town the direction the storm was moving. When we went outside I remember seeing one
big tornado with two more funnels one at each side of it. We got in seperate cars and half left to go to Norwalk and the other half the family went and waited it out under one of the railroad underpasses as it passed by. After it passed I can remember golf ball sized hail pounding the hood of our vehicle that stuck out under the underpass.


I remember it well. I lived in Centerton at that time. I was out doors and the elderly man who lived 2 doors down said Hey there is bad storm coming. My brother was home on leave from service and he was out cleaning his motorcycle. I told him what Harry had said and no more got it out and could feel the eeriness in the air and I looked to the south west and said OMG get in the basement, I yelled for my husband to grab the baby and I grabbed my son,purse and shoes and we had all no more got in the basement and all hell broke loose. Windows in the house broke (hail) and I thought it was all over but the shouting. I have never been so scared in my life. It went over us as fast as it came. We knew it was safe to go outside and check things out. When we did the neighbor came out and said it has hit Willard. A tornado has touched down. My brother and I first thought was our mom who lived in town 2 blocks north of 224. We jumped in our cars and went to check on mom. The hospital was just about 4 houses north of mom’s house and traffic was wild in that area. We got at moms and no damage and everything ok. So we decided to walk down to 224 and got about half way there and police car came down the street on a speaker and told everyone to take shelter there was another tornado coming. Everyone was running like hell to their homes. Mom had people in her basement she didn’t even know. To this day I think police just did that to get everyone home. But it was not a nice trick to play because everyone was scared to death. I would say we waited maybe 20 or 30 minutes and I told my husband I was going to walk to the hospital to see if there was anything I could do to help. At the time I was a nurse’s aide. I got in the hospital and there were people everywhere. The one that sticks in my mind the most was a girl who was burnt by the grease at the HI Ho Restaurant. She must have been in front of the fryer and when that tornado hit the hot grease went everywhere. There were so many people with cuts on their body. They were crying and in shock. That is one experience I hope I never see again. I did walk later that evening to 224 and was totally amazed. It was just awful. Everything was gone. Just gone. Including the Hi Ho the first place I ever worked when I was 15. It was very sad. To this day someone says Tornado I am in the basement. People always say oh it will never hit here. That is wrong answer because it can. We always said it would not hit Willard but we learned real fast it can hit anywhere. It has made a believer out of me.


I remember Dad called from the B&O between 5 - 6 pm and told Mom to get to the basement. Mom took us to the basement into the crawlspace where the sump pump. Shortly Mom left and went upstairs. I crawled out and remember hearing loud peals of thunder and frequent flashes of lightning. We all survived.


I was an employee at R.R. Donnelleys as a senior at Willard H.S/Pioneer JVS. I remember the black wicked wall cloud west of Willard as I walked into the building at 4:30 or so. Inside we had no warning what was coming. Gusts of wind blew in on the docks on the east end of the building. We could hear the tornado roar across the roof of the building directly overhead. As it subsided we walked outside to the docks. The funnel cloud was hanging above the tracks spinning wildly. It had already hit the mobile home park by the tracks. In moments it reached the next park and we could see dirt, trailer parts and trees getting sucked upwards. Sad with the deaths and injuries but still an amazing sight to see. A friend gave me a ride to my home near Stueben and I reclaimed my damaged car the next day. May 10 is a day I remember every year.


Thanks norwalkresident and everyone for helping me remember details and giving me new ones of 5/10/1973. I recall for weeks afterward how dry my throat was all the time as I recovered from this event. [Peace Out...]