The Story of the Oak Lawn Tornado

On April 21, 1967, a line of severe thunderstorms moved through northern Illinois that caused an outbreak of 19 tornados that afternoon.

At 3:50 PM, a violent, F4-rated tornado rolled through the town of Belvidere, causing damage to the local high school and killing 24 people (13 of which were at the high school).

At around 5:30 PM, another F4-rated tornado touched down at 103rd Street and 82nd Avenue in the town of Palos Hills. The twister moved rapidly (at 65 mph – more than twice the speed of the average twister) in a northeast direction towards the village of Oak Lawn, causing severe damage to the Starlite Drive-In at 95th Street and Ridgeland, and touching down again at the intersection of Southwest Highway and 95th Street.

It was at this intersection where the tornado caused the most damage, ripping the front off of Oak Lawn High School, leveling several businesses, and literally throwing transit busses, parked at their depot, randomly into the surrounding neighborhood.

The worst carnage took place as commuters, waiting in their cars for the stop light to turn green at the intersection, became helpless victims of the twister as it roared through them.

The twister continued on, leveling homes and destroying a roller skating rink on Cicero Avenue, and then moving through Hometown before reaching the Chicago city limits. It left land near 79th Street and became a waterspout over Lake Michigan.

The death toll of the Oak Lawn tornado was 33, with 16 of those perishing at Southwest Highway and 95th Street, and over 1,000 people were injured.

The twister caused over $50 million in damage ($285 million in today’s dollars) and is the benchmark tornado that all other local tornados are measured against.

4 Responses to The Story of the Oak Lawn Tornado

  1. gary beckefeld says:

    i saw the tornado that day me and my friend ray were sitting in his front yard that day . we heard the sirens roaring that day ,the sky was green and the stilness was unbelieveable ! something ray and i will never forget. it was windy and then the wind stopped. we looked at each other and knew something was about to happen! and it did . i will never forget that tornado , and the snow storm . 2 of the biggest events in my life . i will never forget it . gary

  2. lynda zastro says:

    I lived in Palos Hills, when it hit. My mom and I were at the table and it got so still outside. The air and sky were green!

  3. Patty says:

    I lived in Worth and saw it from my parents’ house. It was moving as if it was in fast forward. It was awful. A friend and I jumped in the car and went down Southwest Highway. We saw terrible things. It bothers me to this day.

  4. Jan LR says:

    I lived in Hometown next to Oak Lawn. I was going to go to the roller rink but my mom to stay home and then it happened. The tornado came, sirens was going and then we all hid in the hallway. It was so dark and I couldn’t see my hand in front of me. It actually sounded like a freight train. And the windows in the house were blown out. I too will never forget that day..

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