Warner Robins, GA Tornado Kills Nearly Twenty, May 1953
TORNADOES WHIP OVER CENTRAL GEORGIA.
Macon, Ga., April 30 UP -- Fierce tornadoes tore through the air base town of Warner Robins and four other middle Georgia communities late today killing at least 14 persons.
Mayor W. T. GILES of Warner Robins said 13 bodies were taken from the ruins there. He estimated up to 300 were injured.
A three-year-old boy, CHARLES BARRENTINE, was killed at Dry Branch, just west of Warner Robins.
Savage twisters hit Warner Robins, Dry Branch, Ft. Valley and Marshallville, all within a 25 mile radius of Macon, without advance warning from weather stations.
The new death toll apparently brought to at least 26 killed in a three-day cyclonic rampage stretching from Texas almost to the Atlantic.
Mayor GILES said that he personally had seen six broken bodies lifted from the ruins in two ravaged government housing projects. He said he was advised "officially as mayor" that seven other bodies had been taken to funeral homes at Warner Robins and Macon.
Other dead were believed buried in the flattened buildings.
GILES said the dead he saw were four adults and two children. One of the children was a Negro, the others white.
"There are an estimated 300 injured at the base hospital and at an emergency aid station in the city. All are being taken care of," he said.
Making a wide curve through the town, the tornado left "complete desolation," GILES said.
"It was the worst thing I have ever seen. Most of the houses were completely demolished. There just wasn't a trace of where they had gone to. At least 1,000 persons are homeless."
Warner Robins is a twon of about 16,000 which sprang up during World War II when Cochran Field was a huge air training base. Cochran is now a civilian field but Warner Robins is a big Air Force maintenance depot.
A national Guard company was rushed to Warner Robins from Atlanta. About 150 airmen from the base, and every available doctor in Warner Robins and Macon were engaged in rescue work or helping at hospitals.
Added to the crisis was a flood threat as torrential rains which preceded the storm sent the Oconee River suging from five and one-half feet to 18-feet flood stage in a few hours.
A hasty survey showed about 25 buildings leveled in the housing projects. Eact of them contained five dwelling units. A high school gymnasium and a nursery school were destroyed, but they were not occupied.
A. V. P. ANDERSON, vice commandant, was in charge of the base's rescue force.
Twisters hit at least five communities south, southwest and northeast of Macon.
The funnel of destruction at Warner Robins, 17 miles south of here, cut out a patch at least 1,000 feet wide reported Capt. WILLIAM R. TOWNSLEY, an airman. He was driving to the base when the storm hit.
"There was more damage than I have seen after any air raid," said the veteran of the European war. His wife, a German war bride, said the scene looked like a city in her homeland after a heavy bomber raid.
"A good many homes were completely demolished and many others badly damaged," TOWNSLEY said.
"Automobiles were turned upside down, telephone poles were toppled and one car was thrown into a space that a few minutes before was occupied by a house." Third Army bases in Atlanta and Columbus organized ambulance teams to speed to Warner Robins at 5:10 p.m.
Brig. Gen. ANDERSON said damage was heavy in both the southern residential area and in the base itself.
A woman whose husband works at the base said she was talking to her husband who works at the base, on the telephone when suddenly he shouted, "A tornado's coming!" and hung up. She heard no more from him and quickly called a newspaper.
Medical aid was being rushed to the disaster scene from Third Army headquarters in Atlanta and the Red Cross was hurrying blood plasma to the area.
The Macon Telegraph said damage at Warner Robins was "extensive."
The Aiken Standard And Review South Carolina 1953-05-01
Researched and Transcribed by Stu Beitler. Thank you, Stu!