I SURVIVED AN F-5 TORNADO

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I SURVIVED AN F-5 TORNADO

Wednesday, May 11, 2016, will be the 46th anniversary of the Lubbock, TX tornado. From later assessment of the devastation, it was determined to be rated F-5, the highest on the Fujita scale. This is my story.

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May 11, 1970, is a date I’ll never forget. I was attending night classes at Draughon’s Business College in downtown Lubbock. We had noticed there was a storm coming, because of some lightning off to the west. Classes were let out early because of that.

My dad was picking me up in my car, but didn’t know we got out early, so I was waiting outside for him, around 9:30 or so. They’d already closed up the building, and only me, and a couple of others, were waiting for our rides. The wind was starting to get gusty. By the time my dad got there, it was starting to rain.

We headed for home down Ave. H, (now Buddy Holly Ave.) going north. Right before the underpass on Ave. H, at about 5th or 6th street, the wind, rain, and hail was so bad he decided to not go under the underpass, but turn back, heading south, to a little gas station/garage there on the corner. It had an overhanging roof over the gas pumps. We stopped there to wait for the hail to let up, but it only got worse. We had no idea it was a tornado bearing down on us. All we knew was the front end of the car was being lifted off the ground, and the brick garage was falling apart.

Bricks hit the car windows, breaking them out. We crawled into the back floorboard of the car, me and then Dad. The wind, hail, rain, and I guess it was the tornado, was so loud we couldn’t even hear each other. The doors to the garage were flapping open and shut. (later we’d see that those doors, the overhanging roof, and only half the garage were the only thing left of the building. I guess we came that close to being blown away). Across the street was a car dealership, and for some reason, I thought I saw those car headlights flashing on and off. (this was later corroborated by others – a strange electrical anomaly).

The hail finally eased off, so Dad said we should try to make it down the street to the courthouse, where he knew there was a basement. We got out of the car and walked the block or so down there. The wind was really strong, so we could hardly stand up. The water in the street was up to our knees, and signs and things were still flying through the air. I don’t know how we kept from getting electrocuted from downed power lines.

We finally made it, and the courthouse doors were actually open, and a few other people were there, too. I noticed I had cuts from the broken window glass, and of course, we were soaking wet. Someone suggested we all go downstairs where there was a tunnel that went to the police station, and emergency shelter, and the emergency operations center. We made our way through the underground tunnel, and found a huge crowd already there. The emergency workers were listening and broadcasting emergency information over their radio.

After awhile, Dad decided to see if we could find a ride home. We went outside – the storm was over by then. Everything downtown was a mess of debris. One of the weirdest things I saw was a street traffic light (on a pole). The metal was twisted all around like a pretzel. We found a guy that had just got off work, from the meat packing plant in another part of town, who said he’d drive us home. He was amazed at the destruction, as it hadn’t effected his work place’s part of town.

We went north on University, going slow to avoid power lines and debris in the streets. We finally made it to the Loop that goes around the city, and headed east toward our neighborhood. As we passed over another underpass, we could see the lower level was filled with water, and the guard rails on the top road were gone. Closer to our house in the Clayton Carter addition, some of the stores at the end of our street (north Ash) had been completely blown away. Our house, however, hadn’t been damaged, but someone’s camper had landed in our back yard, taking out the fence. My mom and sister had gone into our cellar, and didn’t know what had happened to us, until we got home, around 1 a. m.

The next morning, we drove around and took some pictures of the damage, and we had to find a way to get my damaged car back home. I was thinking, if we hadn’t turned around when we did, that night, to go under the garage roof, if we’d continued under the Ave. H underpass, we might not have been alive. That area just past the underpass was almost completely wiped out. As it was, one of my friend’s father was killed in that storm.

Other things I remember, was the electricity and water was out for days, and there were big trucks hauling water to the neighborhoods. We’d go fill up jugs when they came by. I never got to go back to the business college to finish, because the building had been damaged so much, that they closed down the college. We got my car back, and my books were water-soaked, too, and too damaged to be used, also.

My husband was in Viet-nam, at the time, and he only heard of the Lubbock tornado when it was written about in the Stars and Stripes military newspaper. He couldn’t find out if we were ok, for days.

I still have tornado nightmares, every spring, even now 35 years later (at the time I wrote this piece…now it has been 46 years). I still have tornado nightmares.

***

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More information on this F-5 tornado can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1970_Lubbock_tornado

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Now posted for the Daily Post – Survival https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/survival/

Thanks for visiting! Peace }I{

© 2016 BS

 

20 responses »

  1. Thank you for sharing that scary time..Still scary times when it gets bad I go to bed lol if it’s going to hit I want to be asleep and hope to not know…But times I do help dad get the closet ready or bathroom just incase…I hate it at night since you can’t see it coming ….and dads home is near the train tracks ..funny story one time it was bad all around us and dad and I were at the front door and the thunder and shitt well the train was coming and I said I thought a tornado sounded like a train and he looked at me and said omg what do we due lol I said I don’t know I have never been in one ..only earthquakes in California then the train passed and we both had a laugh…lol…It just scares me.I don’t know how you did it gurl…brave gurl you are….

    • I know! They always say it sounds like a train, and to be living by the tracks where it’s loud like that, especially in a dangerous storm situation…OMG! Scary! Wish we had a cellar here, though. Tornado weather coverage on the tv…I can’t help but watch it all, just in case it gets close.

      • Yeah it was scary lol…I usually watch it for a lil bit then bed lol.. but dad and my better half usually watch it just in case…but I hate since where we live is the cut off line so they stop showing it on tv and the regular show comes in…sad….could save a life or many

  2. Terrifying, Barbara. In the Northeast, we had blizzards and hurricanes, but there was always plenty of warning. I think the unpredictability and ferocity of tornados would frighten me the most. Thanks for sharing your story. It was riveting.

    • Hi, Diana! That’s the thing about tornados around here, that they can just form in a moment and you don’t get much warning. I’ve been through a hurricane too, in Japan, but at least we had several days to prepare for it.

  3. What a scary memory, Barbara! I am so glad that you and your daddy and the rest of your family survived it. I am so sorry that your friend lost her dad. 😦

    We’ve been in the area of tornadoes several times, but never really experienced them, if that makes any sense. The closest that I came to experiencing one myself was when our oldest son was a little one and he and I were at a newspaper customer’s house. Her house was a huge rock house. We started to leave when the storm came up and warnings were issued. She had me and the baby come back into her house, where we watched the storm from inside. It was a tornado, but all I saw was wind and rain, not the funnel. Meanwhile, her husband got put into a ditch by the tornado. This was back in South Carolina.

    When I was a little girl (also in SC), I was at school. The tornado drill went off at the school. While we were lining the hallways, my little sister was outside on the swing set. Mama called her in. My sister came in and when my mama looked into the back yard, our swing set was upside down. It could have been much worse. My sister could have found herself in Kansas or somewhere other than in the house with Mama.

    Another time (also in SC), a storm of some type came up and picked up the 2x4s that were in our yard and tossed them like they were match sticks across the yard.

    Then, here in Wharton, just up the road from us, a tornado took the farmer’s barn. Just sucked it to who knows where. It was awhile before they got it replaced. Now, their new barn is bigger and maybe glued down better. I sure hope so! It was so odd going by seeing their tractor with no barn around it.

    Here’s hoping no more F-5s happen in our lifetimes! Have a blessed day.

    • We were lucky that night, that none of our family got blown away, or much damage. The area where we lived there were quite a few houses destroyed that night, and some people were killed, too. We didn’t even know it was a tornado we were in, until later! Oh, I remember those tornado drills at school. I don’t know how safe we’d have been lining up in the hallway, but we never had a tornado come while I was in school. Your sister came inside just in time that day you mentioned! Lucky! Yeah, there is some weird sights after one comes through. Don’t want to be in another one, but every spring, I get nervous!

  4. Damn. Yeah, I reckon you earned those nightmares!
    I’ve been through many tornadoes. Had some damage, but NOTHIN like that. I am amazed at your timing and so glad you lived to write the tale!

  5. I fully understand how you feel. Bad weather makes me lose my mind a little bit, as I’ve been through a similar situation, so I admittedly get overly neurotic any time the forecast indicates there might be trouble. I am glued to the TV, and I don’t relax until the radar is completely clear. And yet both of us still live in Texas, where the weather can be so intense. Go figure… 😉

    • I know I keep a watch out and listen to the weather news when there is the slightest hint of a storm. You never know around here in TX when a tornado will drop down from a thunderstorm. I’ve been in a Category 5 Typhoon in Japan, and earthquakes, and still the threat of a tornado is more scary to me. Well, TX is home, so we deal with it, right? 🙂

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