Afternoon of Terror: Looking Back at the Sadorus/Ogden F4 Tornado of 1976


SADORUS, Ill. (WCIA) – 45 years ago, parts of Central Illinois were devastated by an F4 tornado. It tore through farms, neighborhoods and communities, sweeping away livelihoods and personal belongings.

Here’s an excerpt from the National Weather Service’s Tornado Database on the path of the tornado, from Piatt County through Champaign County and into Vermilion County before it lifted.

This violent tornado originally touched down near Decatur, and traveled 63 miles across Piatt, Champaign and Vermilion Counties to near Danville.  It entered Champaign County just south of Ivesdale, and went through Sadorus, Tolono and Ogden.  From Storm Data:  …Members of the Bement Fire Department followed the tornado from south of the town to Ivesdale; the tornado was nearly a half-mile wide at the base and appeared to be filled with pieces of trees and buildings.  The tornado passed south of Ivesdale about 1:33 pm.  The tornado’s destructive path increased in size to nearly a mile in diameter before approaching Sadorus; the funnel narrowed to a half mile upon reaching Sadorus at about 1:45 pm.  Multiple funnels were sighted at this point; an eyewitness destribed the tornado as “two whirling clouds running side-by-side in the manner of an egg beater.”  Marks left in a field 3 miles southwest of Sadorus indicated that the tornado was composed of three or four suction spots (funnels) at that point.  Sadorus was hit hard — 5 people were injured; 30 families were made homeless; 13 houses and 7 mobile homes were destroyed; 25 houses were damaged beyond repair; at least a dozen vehicles were crushed by falling debris and the winds.  Damage at Sadorus topped $2 million. Shortly before reaching Ogden, the tornado veered to the left setting a course right for the town.  The tornado — with two funnels visible — slammed into Ogden about 2:10 pm passing directly through the downtown district.  A lumber yard, bank, water tower, grain elevator, fire house, and several homes were destroyed.  Five persons were injured in the town; total damage in Ogden was near $1 million.

In a post on our Facebook page, many residents remember the terrible Twister and the impacts it left behind. You can read some of those online.

Here’s a look at the tornado shot by a resident on a Farm near Sadorus. The tornado passed a few miles north, heading directly through the town. This was the second strike in 13 years for Sadorus. They were also hit in 1963 by a significant F3 tornado. The tornado also hit Ogden, which would again be struck in the same areas impacted again in 1996. Another significant tornado passed close to the same area in 1942.

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