blank'/> Liberally Lean From The Land Of Dairy Queen: Random Weather Thought

12.16.2006

Random Weather Thought

I was of high school age on April 10, 1979 when a violent tornado hit Wichita Falls. I remember that night my family in Bridgeport went across the street to the neighbor's storm cellar (remember those?). When the wind kicked up that night, everyone was gun shy because of what had happened in Wichita Falls earlier in the day. I stumbled across the page of photos of the damage cause by the storm. Fascinating stuff.

15 comments:

Andria said...

Barry -
Yes, I've got memories of that. I was 5 and the tornado went through Vernon first. My grandmother and I were in a neighbor's storm cellar - my mom was hiding in the courthouse basement, not sure where my dad rode it out - I don't think I've ever asked him. A little boy in my kindergarten class and his mom and baby sister were in their home went it hit - mom and sister killed, and my little friend was carried by the storm to a field a few miles away. He's a State Trooper now. My dad worked for the power company and was gone for days afterward, working to restore electricity. One of my aunts was in Dillard's in the WF mall - when half of the store blew away. Another aunt, uncle, and baby cousin in WF jumped in their car and outran the tornado, but their house was completely destroyed. I remember going with my mom and dad to WF a few days later so that my parents could help them sort through things and my most vivid memory of that is the Red Cross van coming by and giving me all of the doughnuts that I could eat. I also remember being told not to touch anything because the pink fiberglass (I think that's what it was) insulation was in everything and it could cause tiny cuts in your hands. I was also as pissed as a 5 year old can get because my mom had recently made me pass some of my toys along to my baby cousin in WF - and the tornado took them all away. I do remember that my dad found one of my "Little Golden Books" in the rubble...oddly enough, I can remember the title "The Tawny Scrawny Lion." There are also some pics on that site of the damage in Vernon if you search for them.

Anonymous said...

I had an all too close up experience with this storm. I grew up in WF and was 16 yrs. old at the time.

We knew the storm was on the ground, at 6:10 p.m., the television signal was lost, while the local weather guy was broadcasting the take cover announcement.

We lived on McNiel street about 8 blocks north of Southwest Parkway. My dad, brother Mom and myself went to the front yard and looked in the direction that the storm would be approaching and sure enough, there was a mass that filled the sky with debris about a mile or so away. The cloud was not funnel shaped, but more like a clyindrical barrel, very large on the bottom.

Seeing the size of the cloud and observing from this distance what was flying around in the sky, My dad made the decision to flee our house.

We very quickly jumped in the car that was the most accesible (my first car)with my Dad at the wheel. A bit about Dad, he had a career as a Policeman in WF and was at home recovering from surgery at this time. What I saw over the next few minutes will always be in my mind. The destructive force of nature can not easily be described. Our exit from the storm path was delayed by traffic at the intersection of Kemp and Southwest Parkway. We also made a 10 second stop at my sisters house which was on Cunning ham street. Her back yard was along Southwest Parkway. After a few seconds of banging on her door, we resumed our escape. Debris was everywhere in the air, striking the car on all sides. It sounded as if we were being shot by a thousand small bullets, electrical lines were live on the pavement and flying in the air, A large trash dumpster slammed into the side of the car, shattering the passenger window, The noise prompted us to shout so that we could communicate, my Mom was the only panicked person in the car, praying in a shouting voice, my brother and I were in the backseat of my two door Buick Century looking back and hollering the distance the storm was behind us to Dad. No kidding, at one point the cloud was on the ground travelling along the path of a drainige ditch, no more than 200 yards behind us and houses were literally being shredded. My most vivid memory is that of a furniture store at this intersection, the roof coming off like that of a tin can with couches going into the air. I have never seen tornado footage anything like I personally witnessed. At this point, the storm took a path towards the Mall and we continued out on SW Pkwy. Little did we know, that my other brother was in the Mall, taking cover in the movie theater.

Once we knew we were safe, we stopped in the parking lot of what is now Sutherlands. I had a small cut on the back of my head, that required no attention. My car was damaged on every panel, dents, broken glass and thousands of small pellet like marks.

My Dad was so calm and cool getting us out of danger. At the intersection, of Kemp and SW Pkwy, things got very close to us. My Dad getting us through that intersection saved us. There was chaotic traffic, debris, accidents buildings going up, shouting in the car, people were literally running for survival. My Dad swears a board flew through the car.

A few minutes later, we returned home. We could get no closer than the ditch along SW Pkwy to our house. We walked the rest of the way. We did not know how my other brother and sister had made out.
I could not believe what I was seeing. Where I had grown up all my life and had seen a few minutes earlier was a sea of rubble. Over the next few hours, I saw the best and worst of humanity. Even though my dad was off on medical leave and out of uniform, he immediately displayed his badge and went to work. He sent me on ahead to our house, to try and find some equipment he would be needing. Over the next few minutes, my brother showed up and told us that he had seen my sister and that she and her husband were fine. I saw death for the first time, crawled through windows and retrieved valuables for old people, stayed with my dad until dark while he tried to direct traffic so that ambulances and resuce vehilces could get in and out of the neighborhood.

Within less than an hour, the looters showed up from other parts of the city. There was nothing that could immediately be done about it, there were more pressing things that needed to be taken care of.

Our house was standing. There was damage, but it was liveable. Total destruction was a block away.

I attended McNiel Jr. High and Rider. McNiel is in the photos shown.

I well remember school mates from Rider that were killed. One was a girl that I had known since elementary. She was killed in the mall, where my brother was. Our school lost four students in all.

Two years after surviving the tornado in Sikes Mall where several were killed, my brother was killed in a construction accident.

I learned: family matters more than anything, people are good, life is not a for sure thing, some people are so mean, they will take advantage of victims, good people that get busy and help themselves and each other can recover from serious disaster.

I haven't thought of these things in many years, but just started hammering away at the keyboard.

doodad said...

how long did it take FEMA to get there?
i think they (the people of wf) pulled themselves up by the boot straps and rebuilt their lives.

Anonymous said...

hey , that was a Cool story. thanks for sharing it with us.

Anonymous said...

The story is contrived. It is so obvious.

Anonymous said...

The National Guard building in WF is tilt-wall construction, not brick like you usually see. I inquired about this when I was visiting it as a Texas Army National Guard officer once, and was informed that the building was flattened by the tornado, and the only thing left intact was the walk-in safe where they keep the weapons and ammunition. The full-time employees had run in there at the last second and slammed the door shut on themselves--and when they opened it up, everything was destroyed! I guess you could say the National Guard in WF needed the National Guard! That's why their armory is built in a newer style than most armories!

Anonymous said...

4:56, that was an excellent story!

Anonymous said...

April 10th, 1979 = BLACK TUESDAY

thats what the people of WF and surrounding area call that day.

Anonymous said...

Dec 30 CW33 News at Nine. Special program to follow on Prosecutors who continue to bargain probationary sentences with sex predators. Wise County DA is just one of em. Be sure to watch! Voters need to be educated on this inexcusable practice.

Anonymous said...

News is "tornadic winds" have struck in the DISD system. Changes abound...rumors are whirlin'. A storm has it! Anyone know more?

Anonymous said...

Annoy 8:15
May Dirk Diggler give you a high hard one!

Anonymous said...

My aunt and cousin were in that tornado. They hid out in the linen closet in the bathroom. It was the only wall left standing in the entire house.

Anonymous said...

not that interesting, the pics look just like the news every time a storm hits anywhere.

Anonymous said...

those picts are contrived. youcan tell when you look at the pixels. dont be suckered in.

Anonymous said...

wonder about the 'bridges and overpasses'? and i didnt see picts of a spinning tire.