The Ivy tornado, the other 50-year-ago disaster

The crash of Piedmont Flight 349 wasn't Charlottesville's only disaster in the autumn of 1959. On the afternoon of September 30, a tornado ripped through two occupied houses on an orchard near Ivy, killing 10 of 14 members of one family and a neighbor. One more died in Dyke, so 12 people total, according to the Crozet Gazette.

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I remember how unusual and evil the sky looked that afternoon. I guess it is a manifestation of being so young at the time, I still have what I consider an unreasonable fear of really severe thunderstorms. I find myself moving from window to window to be sure nothing worse is about to happen.

I remember going out to Ivy some days after the tornado. I'll never forget seeing one of the homes involved. The roof had been lifted up, the curtains (still on the curtain rods) were hanging on the outside of the house, and the roof had been put back down. It's funny how one memory like that can stay with a person for so many years.

Didn't have my camera with me that day. When word came of the tornado, I borrowed a camera whose owner assured me it had a new roll of film in it and rushed to UVA Airport. Flew the length of the tornado swath and photographed the damage, including the exploded houses. Dramatic images!

The processed film revealed flower beds, family shots, pets, etc. Yes, the film was new, but the owner forgot that he had exposed and rewound it and left it in the camera! In the rush and excitement I never checked the usual safeguards, especially with a strange camera. Another lesson learned!