TOPEKA, Kan. — Six people died and 200 were injured in 1974 when a tornado came down on June 8 and destroyed homes, a shopping center, a nursing home, and an apartment complex in Emporia.
The National Weather Service rated the tornado an F4, that designation estimates winds could have been from 207 to 260 mph. An F4 will do “devastating damage,” according to the NWS. Well constructed homes and cars will be picked about and become missiles.
Property damage was estimated at $25 million. Included in the damage estimate were 10 farms that were in the tornado’s path.
The NWS recorded the tornado hit around 6 p.m., was up to a half-mile wide, and continued for 38 miles through Lyon, Osage, and Shawnee Counties before finally breaking up southwest of Auburn.
The anniversary of the tornado is often overshadowed by the devastating June 8, 1966 tornado that hit Topeka.
The June 8 tornado that hit Topeka in 1966 caused over $200 million worth of damage and killed 17 people, injuring over 500, according to records at the National Weather Service. Accounting for inflation, the 1966 tornado is still considered one of the costliest on record, estimated at $1.8 billion dollars.
The tornado first hit Burnetts Mount, the highest point in Topeka and was part of a Native American legend that claimed as long as the land was left alone, Topeka would be safe from a twister.
A few years before the 1966 tornado, a water tank was built on the land which some believe the tornado was retribution for its construction.
The 1966 tornado destroyed much of Washburn University and tore a copper panel from the State Capitol.
The Topeka tornado cut a 22-mile path, at times half a mile wide across the city. The F5 tornado came with winds over 250 mph.
According to the NWS, hundreds were left homeless after the Tornado.
Likely from the same storm a June 8 tornado also hit Manhattan destroying 11 homes and damaging 300. Sixty-five people were injured and the Manhattan tornado was blamed for $2 million in damage.