WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Wichita Falls Twister Remembered

Posted May 18, 2009

Those of us in the WeatherCenter received an interesting e-mail from viewer Ronald tart last week. In the wake of recent severe storms and tornadoes in our area, he thought we might like to see some photos from his younger days as a USAF Airman at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, TX. There was a rather famous tornado that struck the city and the base in 1964, and he had a group of photos from the event, a couple of which he had taken and a couple taken by a fellow airman named Jones. I thought I would post them here, along with some links to additional information about that F5 tornado, which was the first on record to be broadcast live by a television station.

The twister was a deadly one, killing 7 people and injuring 111 (64 of which were at the AFB). Ronald reports that after seeing the tornado appear to stop moving but then grow taller (never a good sign - it's getting closer!) he and his group took shelter in an interior first floor barracks hall with mattresses placed along the walls, and everyone in the group was okay.

The attached photos include three shots of the tornado, two (taken by Airman Jones) of the funnel while it was large and powerful, and one (taken by Ronald) as it was beginning to dissipate and had assumed a skinny rope-like appearance. He also took a shot of another airman holding a hailstone that looks to be on the order of baseball sized, another indicator of the intensity of the thunderstorm and it's updrafts (usually considered to be 90 mph or more for baseball sized stones). The web link I included goes to a nice retrospective story about the event published last year in the Wichita Falls Times Record News.

 

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  • Mike Moss May 20, 2009

    cas06232, You're right about the later tornado in Wichita Falls - the newspaper story I linked to notes that the 1979 twister was an F4, not quite as intense but its path led to a more destructive and deadly impact, with 42 lives lost and some $2 billion in damages, compared to $104 million in 1964 (both adjusted to 2008 dollars).

  • cas06232 May 19, 2009

    There was another big tornado in Wichita Falls on April 10, 1979 (just over 30 yrs ago). It was an F4--still did lots of damage. I was there as an AF brat and remember it well. Gotta respect those tornados!