XENIA, Ohio (WDTN) — 48 years ago, the City of Xenia began to clean up from a direct hit of an F5 tornado that heavily damaged or completely destroyed businesses and changed the lives of residents forever.

Residents will never forget April 3, 1974 as an F5 tornado formed near Bellbrook and moved eastward, reaching Xenia by 4:40 p.m. destroying half of the city, and directly killing 32 people. One resident who was in high school at the time described what he saw after the tornado destroyed the city.

“It was one time that I can honestly say and probably the only time in my life I literally saw thousands, 5,000-7,000 people with clinical shock on their face just looking at the devastation that was incomparable,” Judge Mike Buckwalter Greene County Common Pleas Court said.

“I have friends that worked Katrina, after Katrina and they went down to help and I asked them how to compare to the Xenia tornado. Their response was always the same, ‘total devastation is total devastation.”

Buckwalter never thought that he would see such devastation be possible in a town that he grew up in.

“It’s something that if you live through you just hope that it really couldn’t happen again. That level, an F5 tornado,” Buckwalter said

He continued to say, “You know not the only killer that has hit Ohio.”

When the city began cleaning up, he said that the city came together and embraced the mantra of “Xenia Lives!”, even after such destruction and loss.

“Except for the courthouse here, everything else you can see there are relatively new buildings from it, but everybody pitched in. It kind of reminds me what we see the spirit in Ukraine right now honestly is that it was indelible, the spirit was incomparable and everyone knew Xenia would rebuild and live.”

Improvements in communications, warning systems, emergency preparedness, and forecast techniques and equipment have been implemented since the outbreak, increasing lead times for warnings, more accurate forecasts, greater public awareness, and more reliable communications.