This is just an article I found when I was researching. This is just part of the article, but if you found yourself as drawn in as I was, I recommend reading the entire article. The website is: http://www.shayden.com/_Omaha5675/BlackTuesday.htm
BLACK TUESDAY: May 6, 1975 Written By: Jeff Hanusa, Omaha Native
Nearly a year after Elvis Presley sold-out performances in his “Tornado Over Omaha” concert tour of June 1974, a real-life tornado – of F4 strength on the Fujita Scale – tore through Nebraska’s largest city, Omaha, on the spring afternoon of May 6, 1975. The connection with Elvis is purely coincidental, and fun irony to note, yet the day was no laughing matter. It is a day that some call “Black Tuesday” in Omaha, and appropriately so; the aftermath of the maxi, three-tailed twister was horrendous. Three people were killed, and almost 300 were injured. Almost 2,500 residential units, as well as 180 businesses, were destroyed or damaged. In addition, scores of public, or semi-public, buildings and facilities were damaged or destroyed, along with hundreds of automobiles – all within a short period of twenty-three minutes.
The severity of the May 1975 storm is definitely worth remembering: Nationally, it was an event calculated as the “Costliest Tornado to Hit a Major American City” in history, even more damaging then the severe Xenia, Ohio tornado of 1974, the powerful Lubbock and Wichita Falls, Texas tornadoes of 1971 and ’74, and Topeka, Kansas tornado of 1966. Omaha’s 1975 tornado managed to hold that impressive title for nearly a quarter of a century, now placed only second behind a record-breaking, F5 twister that ravaged Oklahoma City area suburbs on May 3, 1999.
Despite the fact that tornadoes are nature’s definite apex storm – in terms of sheer violence, and most unpredictable phenomenon, Omaha was prepared for the severe ’75 blow, in what some experts called an “overdue storm.” Although the city’s last major tornado event was sixty-two years in the past – Easter Sunday, March 23, 1913 – and long forgotten on the city’s conscience, 1975 was a year in Omaha that refined the local’s weather senses. In January, a legendary blizzard struck the city, accompanied by howling 60-mph winds and up to 16-inches of snow in some places. The city was paralyzed for days and several deaths occurred. In addition to the great winter gale, the city was caught off-guard on March 27th, when a patch of southwest Omaha – specifically the Stonybrook area of Millard – experienced a blow from a small, unexpected tornado. By the time the sirens were sounded, the funnel had lifted, and left a trail of damage and tears twenty minutes earlier. It was again a similar story, seven years earlier in August 1968, when a hailstorm and twister did $1.5 million dollars in damage to the Bel Air area, near 120th and Center. Thus, when the National Weather Service posted the first weather watches on Tuesday, May 6th, amidst glorious sunshine and gentle breezes, Omahans were not deceived. Midlanders are full aware that the very elements that make the spring day feel benign – sunshine, warm temperatures, buoyant air, swirling breezes – are some of the same key ingredients that factor into a creation not so benign: The mighty tornado.
Hundreds of miles south in Kansas City, Missouri, the offices of the National Weather Service watched Nebraska on May 6th with its great “hawk eye”, mapping the advance of a cold front and squall line moving across the state that day. The air was abnormally warm and humid, and cold air was quickly sliding over the region – a classic scenario for a severe weather outbreak. A tornado watch was posted for much of the state during the noon hour, including areas of the neighboring states of Kansas, South Dakota, and Missouri. As the day progressed, the National Weather Service revised the watch area and redrew the red lines; Nebraska and southern South Dakota only remained in the watch area. It was very clear: Conditions were ripening in the Cornhusker State.
By mid-afternoon, weather conditions heightened to an alarming status; as predicted, severe weather was in commencement. A tornado warning was issued for Northeastern Nebraska, roughly one hundred miles from Omaha. The storm system’s destructive chemistry was erupting in that state corner; funnels were reported along a squall line at Yankton, South Dakota, and down through the towns of Crofton, Magnet, Osmand, Pierce, and Winside in Nebraska. At least a dozen twisters touched down and created damage – one an F4 status. Pierce and Magnet were among the towns affected. Magnet was quoted as being “half gone.”
To the south, tornado reports on television and radio filled the airwaves, and altered the hum of Omaha’s typical, nothing-usually-special Tuesday afternoon. Because of the media buzz, many locals gave a second glance at the blackening western sky. Weather radar continued to scan the atmosphere.
Five minutes after 2:00 p.m., red flags starting flying; the Omaha Forecast Office issued a severe thunderstorm warning. Omaha’s REACT team immediately reacted, positioning themselves at strategic points around the city. This organization, made up of amateur radio operators who are trained to recognize tornadoes, stands for “Radio Emergency Associated Citizens Team.” With their assistance, the citizens of Omaha were definitely going to be prepared if a tornado threatened – a chance not given on deadly Easter Sunday 1913.
During the three o’clock hour, rain, thunder, lightning, wind, and large hail bombarded the Omaha area. At 3:03 p.m., a whistle was blown – a funnel spotted near Nehawka, a small town just south of Sarpy County in Nebraska. Just to the west and north, a second regional sighting was reported near Gretna and a protrusion in a black cloud over the town of Springfield was also brought to attention. Reports of funnel clouds were also coming out of Cass County, to the west. At 3:15 p.m., another severe thunderstorm warning was issued for Omaha, valid until 4:30 p.m. The television never seemed to stop beeping, flashing, that afternoon.
An intense hour passed by. By 4:00 p.m., a complex of severe thunderstorms had mushroomed – a massive cloud mass covering most of the extreme eastern portion of the state, from Kansas in the south, to South Dakota in the north. Two thunderstorm lines existed: One stretched diagonally from Columbus, Nebraska to ten to twenty miles west of Nebraska’s capitol city, Lincoln. The other: A line stretching from Beatrice, Nebraska, to Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska, south of Omaha. All marching towards Iowa, the towering, exploded storm cells continued to drift north-eastward, imbedded with thunder and lightning, wind, large hail, and heavy precipitation. Omahans continued to wearily watch the skies.
Meanwhile, a strange calm was reported in a rural area of Iowa in the vicinity of the South Omaha Bridge, just south of Council Bluffs (a city directly across the Missouri River from Omaha). Within that airy hush, a black funnel percolated from the sky. The Council Bluffs Civil Defense sirens were sounded at approximately 4:07 p.m. Two minutes later, at 4:09 p.m., REACT observers spotted another funnel. This time, the peculiar cloud hung over northern Sarpy County in Nebraska, near the communities of Springfield, Papillion, and La Vista – all just south-southwest of Omaha. Seconds later, another sighting came from Check Point Indian in Nebraska, near Gretna. Between the scattered sightings and sirens, a look-this-way-no-that-way action was occurring. Five minutes later at 4:14 p.m., the National Weather Service issued a verbal tornado warning for the three-county Omaha area, although the sirens were not yet sounded.
With the media’s first word of warning, thousands of people heeded, by heading for their basements and small interior halls and closets. Traffic in Omaha reduced dramatically, and most industry and commerce came to a halt, as the storm’s “bear cage” section – an intense area of heavy rain and hail that often precedes a tornado – moved through town. Mutual of Omaha, the city’s famous insurance company, sealed up their offices downtown and would not allow the release of its employees. Ten miles west of downtown, officials at the Westroads Shopping Center also restricted people from leaving. The entire city remained poised, alert and ready.
Ten minutes passed. The sky above looked bizarre and threatening – swirls of black, grey, and green hues, a palette of tones that seemed to penetrate everything that afternoon. Beneath the great storm tower, a rotating wall cloud hung heavy over the landscape, indicating a grandiose circulation in the heavenly formation. An eerie, humid stillness had cast a spell over the land. Not a single branch – nor single leaf – moved. In those frozen trees, birds stopped chirping. Within residences, cats reportedly prowled restlessly and cried, and tropical fish burrowed into sand at the bottom of aquariums. On the ground, everything seemed hushed and frozen, quieted by this strange oppression. Contrastingly, in the far west, the sky looked warm and peaceful – clouds glowing gold in the sun, on the backside of the storm. But, the storm wasn’t over yet; above, the atmosphere continued to be filled with spooky animation – ghostly flashes of lightning and booming thunder, clouds caught in odd sprints of rapid motion, oozing with ominous colors: A true show of meteorological wonder.