Remembering the 1967 Oak Lawn Tornado Outbreak: The Fatalities of Stuck Traffic

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CHICAGO, IL – As spring weather approaches, it’s important to remember the devastating power of nature and the need to take precautions during severe weather events. April 21, 2023, marks the 56th anniversary of the Oak Lawn tornado outbreak, a tragic event that remains etched in the minds of many northern Illinois residents.

On that fateful day in 1967, the Oak Lawn tornado outbreak, also known as ‘Black Friday,’ hit the region, producing a series of devastating tornadoes that left a trail of destruction and fatalities. The severe weather event produced 45 confirmed tornadoes with significant damage across Illinois, but it was the F4 tornado that tore through Palos Heights, Oak Lawn, and Hometown that stands out as the deadliest tornado of the entire outbreak.

This particular tornado claimed the lives of 33 people, including 16 people who were stuck in traffic on Southwest Highway and W. 95th St. in Oak Lawn during rush hour, making it one of the most heartbreaking incidents of the outbreak. The tornado threw 25-40 vehicles from the intersection, trapping commuters in their cars. Seven shoppers across the street lost their lives when the roof of a grocery store collapsed on them. 

In total, the line of storms that day caused 58 fatalities across three counties, with nearly 1,500 residents injured.

The Oak Lawn tornado outbreak highlights the need for people to take severe weather warnings seriously and to have a plan in place for emergency situations. As the memory of the event remains vivid 56 years later, it serves as a tragic reminder of the importance of being prepared for severe weather events.

The National Weather Service recommends that people have a disaster supply kit ready and a plan in place for where to take shelter in the event of severe weather. Taking precautions and being prepared for severe weather events can make a significant difference in protecting lives and minimizing damage caused by natural disasters.

The Oak Lawn tornado outbreak serves as a tragic reminder of the devastating power of nature and the importance of taking precautions during severe weather events. As we enter the spring season, it’s essential to remember the lessons learned from this tragic event and to prioritize preparedness for severe weather.

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