I Survived an F-5 Tornado

Standard

May 11, 1970

I survived an F-5 Tornado

***

Every year on the anniversary of the tornado, I re-post this…my story. It’s now been 49 years, and I’ll never forget.

***

I SURVIVED AN F-5 TORNADO

Today, May 11, 2019, will be the 49th 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.

***

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 49 years later. Yes,I still have tornado nightmares.

***

you can click photos to enlarge

photos show:

  • Service station garage we were parked under when the tornado hit. It was half blown away.
  • Statistics
  • Path of tornado map
  • Newspaper articles “Toll of the Twister” and “Stunned City Digging Out”
  • My story that was printed in the local online newspaer

IMG_2689 IMG_2687 IMG_2678 IMG_2679  IMG_2681 IMG_2686

~

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

***

Thanks for visiting! Peace ☮️

© 2019 BS

18 responses »

  1. One of the many reasons why I don’t live in the South anymore… I have a huge fear of tornadoes. But they’re cropping up all over these days. Gotta love climate change. ^_^ Glad you made it through to tell the tale.

    • Thanks, Willow!
      It does seem that way, that you hear of tornadoes touching down in unusual places more so than before. Glad you don’t have to worry too much about them now where you are. 🙂

  2. I remember reading this story last year, and I read it again this time. Both fascinating and frightening at the same time. While I would love to see a tornado from a very safe distance, I hope I never get to experience one this close…

    • Thanks, Bill!
      They look so awesome … from a distance don’t they! At least the videos of them on TV. I didn’t even see this one, but have seen at least one small one from quite a ways away here. Yes, I post this every year, and hope people will take tornadoes and the safety warnings seriously when they come around.

  3. That must have been awful. I mean, the wind and destruction are bad enough, but when you consider the things it picks up and throws around, that just makes it that much worse. I thank God we’ve never had to deal with a tornado or its aftermath.

    • It was really bad, with whole areas of town leveled of all houses and buildings. You’re right, so many things, large and small flying through the air, any of which could kill you. Very scary to be so close to it all. Hope you never have a tornado come close to where you are. Seems they are getting worse and striking in places that haven’t had to deal with such weather before.

  4. OMG. That was awful. I was only three when this happened & this is the first I’ve heard about it. I lived in Central Texas from 2002 to 2011 and my former supervisor never mentioned it…and he graduated from Texas Tech in 1968. Just…wow.

    I am TOO familiar with Texas hail storms, living in Round Rock & working in Austin.

    I’m back in my home state of NC. I’ve lived thru some hurricanes and I caught the edge of a small tornado storm west of my hometown in June 1989. My small car at the time was no match for even low level wind gusts.

    I was living in Durham when Cat 3 Hurricane Fran hit. The entire city looked like a war zone & I-85 was shut down.

    I read more about your storm. It was a history book monster & you (& family) are lucky. I would have nightmares, too.

    *hugs*

    • Thanks so much! Small world, isn’t it, that your supervisor graduated from Texas Tech, and also that you’ve lived in Round Rock. My sister and her family live there now. We used to live in Killeen/Ft. Hood, when my husband was in the Army. When he retired, we moved back to Lubbock, our hometown.
      Yes, the storms can get bad here, especially in the spring. Seems every part of the world has some kind of natural disaster happening from time to time. It must have been scary to be in the hurricane. Wind can do so much damage. We were in a typhoon when we lived in Japan, outside of Tokyo many years ago.
      Hope you haven’t had too many nightmares about storms. All we can do is take shelter and heed the warnings. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s