Warner Robins, GA Tornado Kills Nearly Twenty, May 1953

Tornado Destruction.jpg

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

Comments

Warner Robbins tornado

I was there during this tornado in a housing development just outside the base. I was 7 years old and remember standing in the street with my mother who had my baby brother in her arms. She was talking to a woman in a car about leaving or staying. We were staying. I think my father was overseas at the time.

As I looked down the street I noticed the clouds had a sickly yellowish gray tinge to them and the twister was headed in our direction. it was very big, I believe, even to adult eyes. We went inside and my younger brother, my baby brother, my mother and I went to the center of the house, a brick duplex and not very big at that anyway, to stand under the interior door jamb. I think she opened a window in the opposite direction of the funnel to equalize the pressure in the house.

At some time before the tornado got really close, but the wind was howling fiercely I went outside to retrieve something -a stuffed animal - or something. Might be a selective memory, but mine nonetheless. The wind was fierce as I hugged the house near the banging back door.

My mother read from the Bible, which she never did, and with my youngest brother in the crib (born only in February of 1953), and my five year old brother we waited out the storm. It did not hit us.

When we did finally leave the house trough the back door, perhaps the next morning, we looked at the neighborhood across the open area of red clay that separated us from the houses across the little stream and the houses across that street. They had been flattened. Only rubble remained.

To this day I am fascinated by tornadoes because I've actually been in one and know firsthand how fickle the winds can be.

Warner Robins Tornado in 1950

I was living in what was called the North Ziegler Apartments in Warner Robins when the tornado hit in 1950. I was almost three years old at the time and I guess I was too young to understand what exactly was going on because I never got scared during the tornado, nor did I grasp the full meaning of the destruction afterward until I was older.

The apartments were pretty sturdy, made of cement floors and cement blocks, but that tornado easily blew some of them away. I've seen on one of the web sites a couple of videos of that very tornado blowing away cement block buildings. In fact, it could very well be our apartment complex that is shown on the videos. It certainly looks like the apartments we lived in. I know this from family photos I've seen of the apartments.

I don't remember anything directly after the tornado hit. I don't remember going outside as soon as the storm passed seeing the destruction. Maybe I just was not allowed to see it. What I do remember though is later playing on the cement floor that was left after the tornado blew away the apartment building that was right next to us (beside us, not in front or back of us). I'm assuming it was after the rubble from the destruction was cleared away, or maybe there was no rubble because the tornado blew it away. The point is that the building next to us was probably only about twelve feet from our building, but the tornado didn't even touch our apartment.

To this day, it always amazes me how a tornado can destroy one building and not even scratch the building next to it. I will also always be amazed that we lived through that.

1953 Warner Robbins Tornado

I was there too. We lived in the government housing known as North Ziegler. South Ziegler was hit hard but we were spared. I was 7 years old in the third grade. I remember coming in the front door from visiting a friend nearby and coming to stand near my dad in the kitchen. He was looking out the kitchen window. I could see the tornado coming directly toward us. I remember seeing a refrigerator and some venetian blinds in the top of it along with a lot of other debris. My dad told my mother to get us under the beds. She had just made some fudge and my brother was so frightened he squeezed the fudge through his fingers.

After the tornado had left we got in the car and tried to go and help people. I saw things I will never forget like a tree turned completely upside down, with branches in the ground and roots in the air and a car sitting in the middle of the roots. I saw a house or what was left of it where everything was gone except the kitchen stove and the floor beneath it. The stove had a pot of steaming cabbage sitting on it, undisturbed and the entire rest of the house was gone.

We saw the housing barracks where 8 families lived and it had been sucked clean - no furniture, no interior walls. Only the outer shell of the building was left and the window glass was still in tack.

Amazing memories.

I was 15, school had just

I was 15, school had just let out and the sky was black as night. I ran from school to my job at the Big Apple Super Market on Watson Blv. I just got inside as the rain started. A short time later, people were running to the front of the building. When I got outside, I saw something big, black, noisy and distroying South Ziegler Apartments. I said "what is that thing?" A man replied" It's a tornado boy!" It was not like the wimpy things I had seen in cartoons. We watched as it lifted back into the sky and disappeared over the base. Everyone stopped what they were doing and went to help. I did not see any bodies but did see many injured people and lots of destruction. As I think back on that time, I remember no one locked their doors, we just went to help; it was a different world.

Warner Robins Tornado 1953

I lived in the Manor when that occurred and it was terrible.

By the way, Dry Branch is EAST of Warner Robins, NOT WEST.

Tornado of 1953

My family also lived in the Zeigler apartments at the time this tornado struck. I was only a few months shy of 4 years old, but can easily recall the confusion and fright that my father, mother, and five siblings experienced. We were told to huddle under the kitchen table as the sound of breaking glass, roaring wind, etc, occured outside, and when it was over it was very quiet except for the the subsequent activity of the rescue personnel. Later (perhaps a day or two) I remember seeing a big Red Cross logo on a nearby tent. Two or three buildings down from ours, everything was leveled and all that remained were the concrete floorings. In later weeks, neighborhood children would use these for playing on and skating. In those days, I owned a trike-bike (a tricycle with a chain-mechanism like a bike), and I would peddle furiously toward the end of the building where there was a drop off of a couple of feet. At the last second, I'd hit the brakes, slide to the edge, then repeat this dare-devil adventure. I finally stopped doing this when my brakes didn't work in time, and I went over the edge! That was the first time I recall understanding what pain is!