WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Wichita Falls Twister Remembered

Posted May 18, 2009 10:09 a.m. EDT

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.