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Here’s how a Xenia brewery is saluting life-saving weatherman in the 1974 tornado

Devil Wind Brewing in Xenia will pay homage to the late News Center 7 weather specialist Gil Whitney for saving lives in the April 3, 1974 tornado that leveled hundreds of homes and businesses in the town.

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At 5 p.m. today, April 24, the Dayton area’s newest brewery, at 130 S. Detroit St. in Xenia will release a seasonal beer it calls “Whitney Wheat” in honor of Whitney, who saw a signature “hook” on early weather radar and gave Xenia residents in many neighborhoods that a massive tornado was bearing down on them.

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“He gave the Arrowhead neighborhood in particular a heads-up that the tornado was headed their way, and he saved a lot of lives that day,” Devil Wind co-founder David Hatfield said.

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The massive tornado killed 32, left more than 1,300 wounded, and destroyed more than 300 homes and half the buildings in the city, including nearly every public school. 

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Hatfield said he made contact with one of Whitney’s sons, Gil Whitney Jr., who lives in the Columbus area, “and he was excited that we were doing this. He said he was looking forward to trying it and to checking the brewery out.”

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Gil Whitney in 1975. FILE (library)

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Devil Wind co-founder Doug Lane described Whitney Wheat as “a light, refreshing American wheat, with a subtle sweetness and clean finish.” It has a relatively tame 4.5  percent alcohol by volume — “perfect for after a bike ride on a sunny April day,” Lane said.

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Whitney, who had worked in several positions for WHIO-TV, became a News Center 7 weather specialist in the early 1970s. He died in 1982, at the age of 42, of Hodgkin's lymphoma.

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