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Russiaville residents share recollections of Palm Sunday destruction

From the 1965 Palm Sunday Tornado articles series
  • 2 min to read
Roger Waddell

The home where Russiaville Town Marshal Roger Waddell's family lived in 1965 was one of the few buildings spared by the Palm Sunday tornado. He's pictured here on April 9, 2015.

At approximately 7:35 p.m. April 11, 1965, an F4 tornado slammed into Russiaville, virtually wiping out the business district and damaging hundreds of homes.

Many residents were caught off guard when the tornado packing winds up to 260 mph rolled through the small town west of Kokomo leaving several people dead and many more injured.

Roger Waddell, the Russiaville town marshal who started patrolling the streets of Russiaville in 1981, was just about to turn 9 years old when the Palm Sunday tornado blew through town.

“It’s one of those things you never forget,” said Waddell. “I lived on the north end of town. We went in the basement when we heard the storm coming.”

Palm Sunday Tornado (23).jpg

This aerial file photo shows damage to the town of Russiaville following the 1965 Palm Sunday tornado outbreak.

The tornado cut a path through the south end of Russiaville, tore through Alto and West Middleton before hitting Kokomo and Greentown.

"Luckily we were far enough away we had no structural damage,” said Waddell.

“A lot of glass breaking, tree tops down. We were spared the misery of most people in town.”

The tornado destroyed nearly 90 percent of the homes and businesses in the small town, he recalled.


"I still remember the noise and the feel of the tornado. I could feel the vibration.”


“Luckily, we were one of the 10 percent. You never forget it. I still remember the noise and the feel of the tornado. I could feel the vibration.”

Waddell said he also remembers the whistling noise throughout the small town after the storm rolled through.

“Everybody had LP tanks back then,” he recalled. “The storm broke the valves on the tanks and they whistled. You could that whistle every place.

“I also remember my grandparents walking up to our house injured. Their house was totally destroyed. It was the first time I had seen my grandfather cry. He said, ‘Everything is gone.’ They were lucky they survived.”

Russiaville Historical Society President Marsha Berry also was just a child when the storm hit.

“I was watching Disney on television with my father when a newscaster broke in to say there was a bad storm headed toward Russiaville,” Berry recalled.

Berry’s house was on County Road 775 West, about a half-mile south of Indiana 26.

"My dad was running back and forth to the front door. Eventually he said we're going to go. I remember I didn't have any shoes on, but my dad told me there wasn't time.


"I remember going outside, our house faced west, and looking at the sky. There was an inch of light on either side of the sky, but the rest was a huge, black, rolling cloud."


"I remember going outside, our house faced west, and looking at the sky. There was an inch of light on either side of the sky, but the rest was a huge, black, rolling cloud," she said.

As her family piled into their car and took off, she remembers turning around to look at the storm.

"I could see there were two funnel clouds," she said. "There were these two brown barns on either side of the road. One funnel picked up the barn on the north side and sucked it up. A half-second later, the other funnel did it to the barn on the south side.

"It was just like you think it would be. They were sucked up, and you could see them break apart," she said.

Mike Fletcher can be reached at 765-454-8565 or by email at mike.fletcher@kokomotribune.com

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