NOBLE COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – On the 40th anniversary of the worst tornado outbreak in Indiana history, Linda Speakman-Yerick of Noble County says she is fortunate to have survived it.
The “1974 Super Outbreak” killed more than 300 people, including 49 in Indiana. More than 148 tornadoes hit 13 states and around 5,000 people were hurt.
One of the tornadoes in the outbreak targeted Rome City in Noble County. It heavily damaged the Brady’s Landing mobile home park near Sylvan Lake, which is where Speakman-Yerick was living at the time.
On April 3, 1974, Speakman-Yerick said she and her former husband were following severe weather on the news.
“The last one we heard was a sighting near Warsaw, Indiana but it was only traveling 35 mph,” she said. “So I knew I had plenty of time to take a shower. At that time we lost power.”
What they didn’t know was one of the 20 tornadoes to hit Indiana was heading directly toward them.
“We felt the home going up. You could hear the creaking of gas lines or water lines,” Speakman-Yerick said. “I knew we were in the air and as soon as the house started to tilt, out the door I went.”
“By the grace of God and his blessings I really felt like I was gently placed on the ground.”
A naked Speakman-Yerick fresh out of the shower landed next to her car. She says her mobile home was airborne with her then-husband inside. She said it broke his ribs and detached his sternum.
“It went almost straight up…15, 20 feet and did two rotations and then landed.”
Speakman-Yerick says the mobile home landed right on top of their car…leaving her safe in a triangle space underneath the home and beside the vehicle.
“I didn’t have a scratch. Not a scratch,” she said. “It’s very hard to explain. I just know that God was on my side and I truly felt blessed.”
Speakman-Yerick then ran in the heavy wind and rain to her mother’s house a couple blocks away.
“As I said, I got out of the shower, I threw on my glasses. But when I got to my mom’s, I still had my glasses on but there were no lenses in them,” she said.
Within hours, Speakman-Yerick, now executive director of the Noble County Community Foundation, says the community rallied together to rescue victims and assess damage.
She tries to remember the good that followed the disaster. But as rain fell over Noble County 40 years after the outbreak, she couldn’t help but recall the outbreak’s long-term damage in the minds of many.
“Many of the families and friends that went through the tornadoes 40 years ago when we did were almost terrorized every time it rained or we had a windstorm,” Speakman-Yerick said. “I try not to think about tornadoes. I think it’s kind of like lightning, it would never hit in the same spot twice, and that’s what I’ve chosen to believe.”