Wichita Falls, TX Tornado Devastates Texas, Apr 1979

One Mile Wide Tornado Tornado In Wichita Falls Wichita Falls Damage Area Tornado Near Seymour, Texas

CRIPPLED WICHITA FALLS LIMPING BACK.

Wichita Falls, Texas (AP) -- Stunned by loss of life and crippled by power outages, Wichita Falls limped toward normal today while its mayor remained fearful of fires and an increase in the number of deaths caused by a mammouth killer tornado.
Mayor KENNETH HILL said power had been restored to about 50 percent of the city's 100,000 residents but water pressure was still too low to fight fires from the city's hydrants.
HILL said the death count remains at 42. But, he said, it still could rise to 100. No more bodies had been found by late this morning, he added.
As many as 8,000 residents were left homeless, the mayor estimated. He said there was no estimate yet as to how many were missing. Hundreds of persons were injured, and power and water in all of the city were knocked out for 24 hours.
Residents in Vernon, where a twister killed 11 and caused heavy property damage, and Harrold, where one died in a tornado, also tried to get their lives and property back in shape.
Dozens of search teams, bolstered by airmen from nearby Sheppard Air Force Base, continued today to comb Wichita Falls' ravaged area, a swath eight miles long and more than a mile wide in some areas through the heavily populated southern sections of the city.
"Maybe I'm speaking more from a standpoint of fear than knowledge. I just don't see how we can keep from having more (deaths). It's a huge area," HILL said.
"We'd been in terrible shape if we had had a fire. We'd just have to let it burn," he said.
An emergency curfew aimed at preventing looting was in effect in the city last night. HILL said three persons -- two adults and one juvenille -- were arrested and charged with looting.
"That's really not many at all," the mayor said.
Except for Red Cross shelters and National Guard jeeps, the downtown area appeared virtually normal today. Traffic signals again were operating, some gas stations were pumping precious fuels and retail businesses were open.
As reports of looting and price gouging flowed in, the city council passed the emergency curfew ordinance Wednesday night setting a citywide curfew and freezing the costs of all essential items.
Sen. JOHN TOWER, R-Texas, returned to his hometown and said, "I've seen the damage of hurricanes, a tornado, of American bombers over Japan, but I never have seen one equal to this in terms of damage."
Texas Gov. BILL CLEMENTS toured the site by helicopter Wednesday and estimated damages between $200 and $300 million. He said he would ask for federal disaster aid.
More than 500 persons were crammed into the rooms and wards and halls of Wichita Falls' two hospitals. JAMES LEE, medical coordinator for the Red Cross, said all would require surgery, hospitalization and extended doctors' care.
Another 200 persons were treated for minor injuries at emergency aid stations.
About 60 persons were hurt in the Vernon twister.
Partial power was restored Wednesday night in downtown Wichita Falls, but the residential areas were still dark.
This tornado was the worst in Texas since May 11, 1953, when a twister swirled across downtown Waco, in the heart of the state, killing 114 persons, injuring 597 and leaving behind $41.1 million in damage.

SURVIVOR RECALLS HUGE WICHITA FALLS TORNADO.
Wichita Falls, Texas (AP) -- "My God, it was huge," ELLEN GAHANAN said of the tornado that roared through Wichita Falls Tuesday.
"When you are laying on your stomach with stuff falling all over you, you don't fell like your're going to make it."
MRS. GAHANAN made it, stretched out in her home as the roof was ripped away and nothing was left but a shell.
MRS. M. J. FRANCIS sat in a wooden chair next to what had been her home. Only a door frame and part of a wall remained. The 65-year-old nurse was another survivor of the twisters that killed 42 persons in this North Central Texas city and left 12 others dead in two nearby communities.
"My nerves are so shot I want to go to my daughter's, but her house was destroyed too," MRS. FRANCIS said.
"My faith is stronger than ever because God saved me and our kids," JACKIE PATTERSON said.
When the roar of the storm was heard, MRS. PATTERSON and her two teen-aged children went next door and there with the neighbors huddled in a hallway with pillows over their heads for protection from the flying debris.
ED BIGGS and his wife stood in front of their damaged home and were able to joke about the disaster.
The couple had taken shelter in the bathtub and MRS. BIGGS said, "In 30-odd years of marriage it was the first time I've been able to get him in the tub with me."
What had been home to J. C. CLOSE and his wife for 28 years was now a mound of rubble.
"We were just fortunate the Lord spared our lives," MRS. CLOSE said.
Her husband rememberd, "It happened so fast. We saw the clouds coming in and jumped in the pickup and went on down to my mother's, since she had a cellar."
The three crawled into the protected area and held each other.
"It liked to blowed us out of there," CLOSE said.
JOHN HARASIMO was watching television when the set went black.
He looked out the window "and I saw this red car screech to a stop and people started bailing out and jumped under a culvert. I went outside and there was this huge cloud, and I could see clothes, parts of cars, floating up into it. I saw a door being scooped up into the cloud and I ran to the culvert."
"About 20 of us were there. It was hell. Some of the women started screaming and crying and I was hit by tree stumps and other stuff."

TORNADO DEATH LIST.
Austin, Texas (AP) -- The Texas Department of Public Safety has released the names of 42 persons known to be victims of the tornado in Wichita Falls and of 11 persons known dead at Vernon.
The DPS revised its list Wednesday night, saying four names should be stricken from its previous fatality list: JOE AYERS, whose body later was identified as that of HARRY L. JONES; RENEE GRAVES; a MRS. LEACH; and CHRISTY REASOR.
The DPS also revised three names: a MRS. GLANCE should be spelled MRS. GLANTZ; TERRY SWIFT should be shown as AUDREY MICHELLE SWIFT; and KERRY SWIFT should be shown as KARI MARCIA SWIFT.
The death list:
Wichita Falls:
DONNA ANDERSON.
J. R. ASTON.
HARRY L. JONES, 74, Little Rock, Ark.
DEFOREST CLAPP, 61, 4336 Hughes.
CHARLES GILE, 50 to 60 years old.
ANNA GLANTZ, 70.
LEON GOUGH.
MARY ANNA GRAVES.
FLOYD GREDING.
RONALD HARBOUR.
J. HUFFER.
EMBER HULL.
KELLY LEE HULL, female, 20.
MARGARETT LYNN.
L. F. LITTEKEN, 50 to 60 years old.
TERRI MAHON.
LAVIRL MASSENGALE.
PEARL MORRIS, about 60.
DELORES OWEN.
RICHARD SHERMAN.
JOHN SIMONS.
JOHN SPANGLER.
AUDRY MICHELLE SWIFT, 11, 5200 Tower.
KARI MARISA SWIFT, 5, 5200 Tower.
J. B. SWINDLE.
DENNIS THORP, 71.
GRACE ODEM THORP, 69.
MICHAEL DAVID LIGGINS, early 20s.
L. C. SMITH.
ESTER SMYTHE.
VERNA HARVICK.
HERMAN D. NORRIS.
MODENA NORRIS.
BECKY STANDRIDGE, 23.
ZONANA STONE.
CHRISTOPHER COX, 8.
NANCY RODAWALT.
WANDA ASTON, 51.
MARIE ISABEL SAIKOWSKI, 50.
RHONDA CROOKER.
SUE CORDER.
"BUNNY" GILL, Vernon.
DONNA SHELTON, Vernon.
LOU ANNE SHELTON, Vernon.
MRS. CLYDE BAGLEY, Vernon.
GREGORY MARTINEZ, Vernon.
JACK AVANT, Grandfield, Okla.
CECILIA NESON, Thalia.
MRS. JEANIE COLLINS, Albuquerque, N. M.
JAMES NORTON, Olustee, Okla.
MRS. JAMES NORTON, Olustee, Okla.
MRS. VIVIAN KELLY, Earth, Texas.
BEN WILLIA, Wichita Falls.

The Paris News Texas 1979-04-12

Comments

I was 12 years old when it

I was 12 years old when it hit. my dad put us in the car and we out ran the storm. We made it out by the old dirt race track,and watched it go by. I remember looking out the back window of my dads car when we were running down southwest prkwy, and watching that monster getting closer. It hit the nursing home where my great grandmother was. They put all the people in 1 wing. tHe rest of the home was wrecked but d wing was almost untouched. And no one was killed. It was a hell of a day.

Yes her name was Margie

Yes her name was Margie Nichols. she was the missionette leader at evangel temple assembly of God. She was my missionette leader and a sweet sweet soul. She always said if God called home .She wanted to be in church. She got her wish. May forever rest in peace.

Terrible Tuesday

I think the book you are referring to is called 47 Miles, it's an great book and I have read it twice. Amazon did have them.

Sister Margie

I realize this thread is years old. I am looking for information on a female I believe died in the tornado. The only thing I know about her is that she was called sister Margie by the congregants of the Assembly of God church she was involved in starting in Loving Texas. I believe her brother may have pastored a church in Wichita Falls. Thanks for any clues! Cheryl

Terrible Tuesday. April 10, 1979. also my uncle Elmer's birthday

I was in that tornado. I lived on Taylor street close to the mall. I will never forget that day. My mom and I were leaving her friends house that was in a trailer park my mom came running outside screaming for me to get in the car .. I remember looking out the back window of the car watching that huge black tornado getting closer to us. We made it home ran to the hall and my mom took the mattress off of my bed brought it to the hall shut all the doors and we huddled underneath that mattress. The sound we then heard was unlike any other. It was as if a train was roaring right thru our house. As we emerged the only damage to our house was a huge crack in our living room ceiling. Others in our family were not as lucky .. My grandmothers house was just a concrete slab as well as my aunts house. It was absolutely devastating . it was definitely the worst disaster I had ever seen ..

My techers friend

My teachers friend was inside of the tornado and he got tangled up in barb wire and has scars everywhere he miraculously survived

i was also there i suffer

i was also there i suffer still

Modena Morris should be

Modena Morris should be Modena Norris , she was married to Herman D Norris, they were my parents. I lived in Wichita Falls with my husband , we had been married 7 months. Everything is as vivid today as it was that day it was the most horrible time of my life. I still cannot watch tornadoes on the news & don't like to listen to the stories theyr'e always the same. I still wonder what went through my parents minds as they faced their fates that evening.

Terrible Tuesday

I too was one of those airmen, and also remember sitting in my room looking out the window and wondering why it was so still outside, no noise, no birds chirping weird. 2 minutes later we were told to grab our mattresses and head to the first floor hallway. We all gathered in trucks and went into Wichita Falls to help, the devastation was unbelievable, the worst disaster I have ever witnessed. We went to our first sergeants house and his wife and kid were trapped in the bath tub; a 2x4 had penetrated the exterior wall and had pinned them down luckily they had pulled a mattress over the top of them for protection.

15 years later I returned to Sheppard AFB as a technical instructor. There was a civilian lady working in the office and upon her shelf was a book about Terrible Tuesday, it was I believe assembled by the town. In it were pictures of all the military help. Ironically I turned to a page and found a picture of myself on one of the trucks. I wish I could find a copy of this book I would love to keep it as reminder of that terrible time.

if anyone has seen this book please let me know I will would willing to pay for it or get copies of the pictures etc.

Seems Like Just Yesterday...

I was one of the Airman mentioned from Sheppard AFB. I remember sitting in the office where I worked in the afternoons after classes were done when the sirens went off. They had us drag our mattresses off of our beds and huddle beneath them in the hallways. I was Airman of the Month that April and attended several functions with the Base Commander to extend our condolences and offer our support. I remember so many of us piling into trucks and heading into town to help with clearing debris and directing traffic. It was a horrible thing and my heart still aches for the folks who lost so much. The destruction in Joplin, MO brings it all back.