One of nature’s most suddenly appearing and destructive forces is the tornado. They usually make national news because of the damage and misery they bring to communities.
Somehow, I’ve “wrangled” an invitation to four of ‘em, and that’s definitely enough.
The first was 1953 in Waco, 50 miles from my hometown of Teague. It was spring and time for the annual junior-senior prom. Even though I was a sophomore, I was dating a girl a class ahead of me and she invited me to the prom. So, there I was shopping for my first tuxedo. It was a rental, of course. Why else would a small town boy need a tux. It’s not like we had debutante balls to go to as well as the prom. Thank God for little favors.
That introductory twister struck in downtown Waco, a mere two blocks from where I was picking up the tux. There was no harm to me, my accompanying classmates or to our vehicle.
There were deaths and extreme damage from the storm. Somehow, we were spared.
Three years later, I got a triple dose in two days in Huntsville. I would’ve yelled “uncle” if I’d been told they were coming, loudly and fervently enough that the actual storms would have been unnecessary.
Actually, I only saw one of the tornado triumvirate, but I felt one and some of its effects and I was told of the third one.
I was attending then-Sam Houston State Teachers College in Huntsville in the spring of 1956, when the triple strike occurred.
As a full-time student, I still found it necessary to hold what amounted to a fulltime job, that of sports publicity director for the college’s teams, to pay my way through school.
EARLY THAT spring, Sam Houston was playing Southwestern Louisiana at home. As usual, I was in the press box-announcer booth, high behind home plate and, of course, the high hurricane fence and netting. My dual job was to do the public address announcing, to keep statistics and to report the game to three Houston newspapers and the student newspaper.
The previous day, the Bearkats had beaten SLI and this Saturday game was to be the first game of a doubleheader.
It had rained a bit that morning and the second game of the slated three-game series was to start at 1 p.m. with the second immediately after completion of the first. It was very cloudy and the first game was delayed very briefly a couple of times by a sprinkling rain.
The two college coaches and the umpires were huddled in the infield trying to decide whether to play the game. I looked directly out past center field and noticed the “end” of the black cloud formation beginning to develop what looked like a tail. All of a sudden, that tail got bigger and began to drop, so I flipped on the microphone and announced: “Look out across center field. I believe the decision is made for you.”
THERE WAS a lot of scrambling and, even though I had to dismantle the public address system and carry it with me, I managed to beat everyone to the cars. I hightailed it to the house where I had a room, figuring the tornado would pass to the west of us.
Wrong. It came through a part of Huntsville and the peripheral winds knocked a tree over onto the eaves just outside my window as I lay in bed. It crunched the gutter and made a sizable dent in the roof and I leaped out of bed, ready to get under it and the roaring stopped.
I was told that second one passed a mile east of the house causing more damage and wreaking havoc.
A third one hit the other side of the city on Sunday.
Thankfully, I just got a verbal description of that one and its damage. That was enough, thank you very much..
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.