Fort Walton Beach, FL (Other locations) Tornado Strikes, Dec 1967


Panama City, Fla. (AP) -- Roaring tornadoes shattered Sunday morning quiet in 10 Florida panhandle cities, leveling hundreds of homes and buildings and killing two persons. One twister hit an Alabama border county.
More than 200 were reported injured in Florida, most in a housing area at nearby Tyndall Air Force Base and at Fort Walton Beach 60 miles west of Panama City.
Several were in critical condition. A watchman at a wrecked shopping center was reported missing.
Officials estimated damages at more than $7 million. Gov. Claude Kirk asked federal help for what he termed a disaster area.
Helmeted National Guardsmen toting rifles patroled the cities and highways to prevent looting, turned back sightseers and helped in the massive cleanup.
Kirk toured the Bayou Wood section of Fort Walton Beach Sunday hours after a twister spun off from a violent thunderstorm had smashed 50 homes, bounced over a lake and tore a five-mile long swath it left 220 homes wrecked.
Five hours later another funnel ripped into a row of duplex homes at the housing area for Air Force families, flattening 30 of them and damaging 24 others, leaving one dead, nine seriously hurt and about 400 persons homeless. That tornado touched down five more times before fizzling out.
Damage was estimated in the Fort Walton Beach area at more than $6 million by Okaloosa County Sheriff Ray Wilson and at $1.5 million to housing at Tyndall by public information officer Hank Harshan.
Water, gas, electricity and telephone service was cut off in the northwest section of Fort Walton Beach.
Tornadoes also hit at small towns between Panama City and Pensacola 158 miles west.
One twister smashed into the Alabama coastline, damaging homes at Miflin and raking a boatyard in Bon Secour, Ala., where the uninsured loss was estimated at $20,000.
Three-year-old JOAN COKER, one of six children dug out of the wreckage of their Fort Walton Beach home, died at Elgin Air Force Base Hospital Sunday where her mother gave birth to her seventh child during the storm, hospital officials said.
The parents were identified only as M. Sgt. and Mrs. H. Coker. Officials said the Cokers' two-story home was leveled by the twister.
LOVETA BYRD, 29, the wife of M. Sgt. Jerry J. Byrd, died of a crushed skull and her husband was critically injured when their two-family house splintered before the tornado at Tyndall.
A six-month-old baby adopted by the Byrds two weeks earlier was asleep in the same bedroom but was unhurt.

Biddeford Journal Maine 1967-12-11