I Survived an F-5 Tornado

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I Survived an F-5 Tornado

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Every year on the anniversary of the tornado, I re-post this…my story. It’s now been 48 years, and I’ll never forget.

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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 okay, 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 ☮️

© 2016 BS

18 responses »

  1. I will read this every year. We get out share of tornadoes, and they are wicked scary, but also, really, really awesome in the literal sense.
    So glad y’all made it.

    • Thanks, Joey, for reading it again. I know some have seen it before, but it’s just something I need to do. Of course it’s all over the local news about it today. Never want to go through another one, or anyone I know, either!

    • Sorry to maybe cause you nightmares, Emily. I don’t know if y’all get tornadoes up where you are, but it’s a regular thing around here in the spring. We definitely got caught in that big one that year. I still have tornado nightmares from it sometimes.

      • None of those here – there were where I grew up though. Nope. The only things to worry about here are breweries stopping making my favourite beers, oh, and the earthquakes…

      • Yeah, that would be a bummer if your favorite beer got cancelled. 🙂 Glad you don’t have tornadoes, and hope no big earthquakes happen either.

  2. each tornado is different and those fives are just brutal…taking out everything in their path. You are so lucky.
    I’ve lived through a couple now, the worst being back in central Texas about twenty years ago…took our entire back eight foot privacy fence in one big gulp and blew every board through the neighbors living room. her house looked like a porcupine afterwards.

    • Yeah, they are all different but destructive. There’s been a few others we had to take shelter from here and also when we lived in OK. None so bad as this one, as mostly they missed us. That’s so crazy with the fence & house. There are some strange things you see afterwards.

  3. Great post! Riveting. I’m glad you and your family came through the tornado okay!

    I have been pretty close to about 3 tornadoes, but they were probably only about Cat 3’s or so. I can’t imagine being that close to a Cat 5 like you were! That will definitely cause a lifetime of nightmares. Tornadoes are the only form of weather I am truly scared of. Everything else I take in stride. But when the tornado sirens go off, I’m in my safe room in 2 minutes. They just appear so quickly and are so unpredictable in their paths.

    Thanks for sharing this again!

    • Thanks. We were lucky, we were so close to being wiped out that night. We’ve never had a cellar ourselves (my parents did at the home I grew up in) so we’d just have to hide in the hall or a bathroom now. They did away with the sirens here for some reason, and I wish they still had them. You just never know what thunderstorm will drop a tornado out of them, with barely any warning. I’ve been through a Cat 5 Typhoon, too, in Japan, but at least we had a few days warning on that one. Keep safe in this tornado season! 🙂

  4. That is freaking scary! We’ve only had a couple of tornadoes withing the city in my lifetime… one memorably hit the uptown business district in the early 80’s and took out the entire back of the big hardware store. That was on the other side of town from me, though. My closest call was on Good Friday back in 2011. I was at the bowling alley that night… it was our league roll offs for position round. We got sent to the restrooms when the sirens went off, which we mostly laughed off since there didn’t seem to be much going on outside. I wasn’t aware until I tried to get back home that a tornado rolled through the neighborhood just a mile away from the bowling alley and left a lot of damage. That tornado started off going through Lambert Airport in St. Louis, which is about 20 miles away… so it was on the ground for a long time. Since I live in a home without a basement, I’m hoping there will be no closer calls with a twister… though I would love to actually see one from a safe distance someday.

    • Yes, it was a close call for us that night. You just never know what the tornado will hit or what it will miss. We had a cellar at our house when I was a kid, but haven’t ever had one again, or a basement, either. It’s shocking to see the damage afterwards. Did you all finish your game of bowling after the all clear? I was watching the weather channel one year, maybe 2011? and they were showing a tornado hitting the St. Louis airport. That was very scary. We’ve been through that airport (unless there are more than one? and I can’t remember the name of it). That was in winter, and a huge mess at the time. Thanks for sharing your stories of tornadoes!

      • That would be the one because I’m pretty sure it’s the only twister to actually go through the airport itself. And yes, we did finish bowling… though a few people left. LIke I said, we weren’t even aware that a tornado actually rolled through until after we’d left. Just goes to show you have to take every warning seriously…

      • That happened with this one, where parts of the city didn’t even know until later that a tornado had hit. Weather is strange, isn’t it. I’m glad they do give out warnings, so at least you get a head’s up about what could come your way.

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