14 Towns, KS, OK Tornado, May 1955
TWISTERS IN 2 STATES KILL 80.
STORMS HURT 700 IN KANSAS, OKLA.; LEVEL ONE TOWN.
Udall, Kan. (AP) -- The spring's most devastating tornadoes ripped through 14 Kansas and Oklahoma communities Wednesday night leaving 80 persons dead and property damage estimated in the millions. The injury list totaled more than 700.
Hardest hit were Udall in south-central Kansas and Blackwell in northern Oklahoma, towns just 80 miles apart.
The death toll included 55 at Udall, 18 at Blackwell, 5 at Oxford, Kan., and 2 at Sweetwater in western Oklahoma.
At Oxford, about 15 miles southwest of Udall, a twister destroyed a farm home killing five young children and injuring three other persons in the family.
Killed were five children of MR. and MRS. RAYMOND KING. They ranged in age from 3 1/2 to 12. MRS. KING and two other children were injured. The father has been in a tuberculosis hospital and was not home.
Homes For Aged Hit.
Among the structures smashed at Udall were three homes for the aged. The number of casualties among the elderly residents was not immediately determined. Most residents of this small community had retired when the twister struck at 10:36 p.m.
Tornadoes also skitted about Texas during the night and one was blamed tentatively for the flaming crash of an Air Force B36 bomber in rugged country northwest of San Angelo. The plane was from Walker Air Force Base, Roswell, N.M., and a spokesman there said it carried a crew of 14 and perhaps an additional man. Rescue workers at the scene of the wreck said there were no survivors.
Aid poured into the strickened communities. The Red Cross, National Guardsmen, police and highway patrolmen joined in helping the injured and searching for dead buried in wrecked buildings.
Most of Udall's population of about 750 was left homeless. Approximately 200 persons were injured. At Blackwell, a town of 10,000, 500 were injured and approximately 36 square blocks devastated.
Kansas' Worst Killer.
The Weather Bureau said the Udall twister was the worst killer in Kansas history.
The town was virtually destroyed.
ROY HARRIS of the nearby Sumner County sheriff's office said the devastation "is the worst I ever want to see."
"There were no lights," he said. "It was raining. In the darkness -- dark as the inside of your hat -- you could hear people screaming, moaning and calling for their families."
"My God, my God, it was terrible."
Rescuers estimated that in addition to the 55 known dead another dozen may be buried in the debris.
A first aid station was set up in the bank building, one of the few structures left standing. Most of the victims were rushed to hospitals in nearby Wichita, Winfield, Wellington and Mulvane.
Udall did not have a hospital of its own.
Officers said hardly a family escaped unscathed.
In Blackwell a residential area hit by the twister looked like a graveyard of splintered homes, uprooted trees and smashed automobiles.
A strip 2 1/2 blocks by 8 blocks was so badly devastated bulldozers and cranes had to clear the way for rescuers.
JAMES WILLIS, 27, saw the approaching twister.
"I yelled, grabbed my wife and two kids and got under a bed," he said. "We got out all right, but there's no roof left on my house, no porch and not a single window unbroken."
Other towns hit included Geuda Springs in south-central Kansas and Erick, Durant, Shattuck, Mayfield, Carargo, Leedey, Taloga, Cheyenne, Deer Creek, and Strong City in Oklahoma.
Twisters hit the south edge of Oklahoma City and Durant, in the southeast part of the state, leaving several blocks of unroofed homes in their wake. No injuries were reported.
Both Udall and Blackwell lost their electric power. Communications were hard hit.
Debris and mud covering the streets hampered rescue crews.
The tornadoes caught the residents by surprise.
"It sounded like a freight train coming through the house," said JOHNNY WALKER, 37, of Udall.
"There was an explosion, it seemed like, and all the windows shattered."
WALKER'S home was one of the few remaining standing in Udall.
At Blackwell, the Hazel Atlas Glass Co. plant, a two-block factory in the center of the storm's path, caught fire after being flattened. Thirty-five workers on the night shift escaped before the structure collapsed, however.
Bread trucks and other commercial vehicles were pressed iinto service to speed the injured to hospitals.
Portable lights were moved into Udall during the early-morning hours to aid rescue crews.
Approximately 90 per cent of the community was demolished. Fragments of buildings were left standing here and there, gaunt reminders of the wind's vicious force.
The twister snapped off telephone poles at ground level and wires criss-crossed the streets. Cars parked in the streets were smashed by falling brick walls.
WALKER and his wife were in their frame home just north of Main St. when the tornado swept down on Udall.
"The lights went out," he said. "I was lying on the bed. I wasn't undressed, just lying there. My wife called to me. I jumped up and the door blew open. I forced it shut and then my wife put her arms around my waist and we crawled on the floor to the stairway."
"Then it sounded like a freight train coming through the house."
WALKER and his wife finally made their was to a basement across the street.
Rain accompanied the twister and continued to pour down after it had passed.
Udall occupied an area of about three-fourths of a mile square.
Aid Rushed To Udall.
Police, civil defense workers and highway patrolmen from nearby areas converged on the town to aid the injured and search for dead still in wrecked buildings.
Refugee centers were set up at nearby towns.
At Blackwell, with telephone communicationis wiped out, amateur short-wave radio operators broadcast appeals for help which brought ambulances, doctors, nurses, firemen and rescue units from numerous surrounding towns.
As Blackwell's two hospitals filled rapidly, the injured were rushed to Ponca City, Pawhuska and Medford.
A temporary morgue was established at the National Guard Armory and the members of the local guard unit patrolled the stricken area. Some of the injured were treated in churches, which were quick to set up emergency first aid stations.
Out of town policemen in Blackwell for a convention of northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas peace officers, joined local authorities in the rescue work, as did Civil Defense units and first aid teams rushed from as far as Wichita, Kan.
Like Bomb Damage.
One of the first reporters to reach the scene said the entire northeast section of the town, about 100 miles north of Oklahoma City, was a mass of twisted wreckage that looked as if a gigantic bomb had struck it.
It was the worst tornado to strike Oklahoma since the devastating Woodward storm of 1947 which took 106 lives.
It also was Blackwell's second storm of the day. A 70-mile-an-hour wind unroofed warehouses, shattered storm windows, tore down wires and uprooted trees in the same area before noon. At the same time a twister damaged homes and buildings at Braman, 10 miiles to the north, and a bolt of lightning killed 48-year-old FRANK KOHLER, an oil worker, east of Blackwell. CURTIS HOLDEN, 17-year-old Ripley High School boy, was electrocuted when he came in contact with a high voltage wire knocked to the ground by lightning.
All this was the forerunner of the twisters spawned by a squall line originating in the Texas Panhandle. Five persons were injured when a tornado struck a ranch 20 miles northeast of Shamrock, Tex., and blew away a number of buildings.
Another swirled to the ground at Sweetwater, Okla., near the Texas border, killing MR. and MRS. CHESTER TIDWELL and critically injuring their 10-year-old son.
In rapid succession, tornadoes then ripped into Erick, Shattuck, Mayfield, Camargo, Leedey, Taloga, Cheyenne, Deer Creek and Strong City, doing extensive damage. Residents of those western Oklahoma towns, warned of the possibility of such storms and wary from past experience, reached their cellars in time to escape death or injury.
Another tornado swooped down on a residential section of Durant, in the southeastern part of the state at 5 a.m. today, unroofing homes for four blocks.
Wichita, Kan. (AP) -- Names of 22 dead -- victims of the tornado that struck Udall, Kan., Wednesday night -- were released by officials at Winfield and Wichita this afternoon.
At Winfield, Coroner JOE MORRIS said the following dead have been identified:
MRS. ANNA CARLSON.
J. EDWARD TAYLOR.
RICKY WYCOFF, a boy.
RICHARD L. SELBE.
MRS. YUCTON (or YUTANN) ALLISON.
MRS. DICK STONE.
CLINTON WAYNE TURNER.
BILLIE KENNEDY and LESTER KENNEDY, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Kennedy.
MRS. GERTIE WARD.
MR. and MRS. NASH at a Wichita funeral home.
The Red Cross at Wichita said it has been informed the following are dead:
MR. and MRS. BOYD.
MR. and MRS. HENRY STORYE.
MR. and MRS. GEORGE KARNES.
MRS. L. D. BEALL, aged 78.
Blackwell, Okla. (AP) -- The following is a revised list of 16 identified dead in the Blackwell tornado as of 10 a.m. today:
MRS. HUGH EMBRY.
MRS. JESSIE BIRD.
R. L. RILEY.
SHERRY RILEY, 6 months.
MRS. ANNIE BALLINGER.
JAMES N. ELLINGTON.
TERRY RAY DENTON, aged 3.
D. A. KLING.
MRS. W. A. BURRIS.
J. H. BARTELL, aged 60.
MRS. EUGENE STILES.
One Victim Unidentified.
Oxford, Kan. (AP) -- Following is the list of known dead in the Oxford tornado:
NANCY KING, aged 12.
BARBARA ANN KING, aged 11.
RONNIE KING, aged 6.
BILLIE KING, aged 5.
VICKI KING, aged 3.
Press Telegram Long Beach California 1955-05-26
Listing of the Victims in Udall Kansas from the tornado of May 25, 1955.
MRS. YUTON ALLISON, 22.
WILLIAM A. ATKINS, 46.
MRS. JENNIE MAE ATKINS, 70.
MRS. NINA ATKINSON, 35.
GARY D. ATKINSON, 12.
STANLEY ATKINSON, 4.
MRS. NONA BAILEY, 80.
LINNIE CAROLINE BEAL, 74.
MARY BINKEY, 89.
MRS. FLORENCE BOYD, 55.
PATRICIA KAYE BOYD, 9.
RICHARD BRADDY, 11.
NOLAN W. BUTCHER, 45.
ORAN PAUL BUTCHER, 6.
WILMER E. BUTCHER, 16.
MRS. ANNA CARLSON, 73.
CLARA BELLE CLAY, 64.
ORA S. CLODFELTER, 80.
MRS. MARY E. CLODFELTER, 77.
ROBERT LEROY COSTLOW, 2.
DAVID COUNCIL, 26.
MRS. EMMA ROSILLE FAULK, 79.
IDA MAY HART, 72.
MRS. ANNA HARVEY, 59.
MARY BOYD HORN, 6.
MRS. FRANCES JEFFRIES, 28.
KATHERINE JEFFRIES, 4.
GEORGE L. KARNES, 37.
MRS. WREATHA KARNES, 30.
GERALD KENT KARNES, 9.
MAXINE FAYE KARNES, 11.
JOHN KASTLE, 79.
MRS. STELLA KENNEDY, 73.
BILLY ROY KENNEDY, 6.
LESTER LEE KENNEDY, 5.
LEA ANN KENNEDY, 8.
HARVEY RAY KENNEDY, 4.
MARY KINKEY, 80.
MRS. DRUCILLA LANE, 84.
MRS. SARA LeFORCE, 86.
MRS. ALPHA LAWSON, 28.
MRS. ILA LAVONE MANGRUM, 25.
MICHAEL RAY MANGRUM, 4.
SYLVIA ANN MANGRUM, 6 months.
MRS. AUGUSTA MILLER, 86.
LEROY N. NASH, 50.
MRS. ADA INEZ NASH, 52.
LORAN M. NASH, 53.
MRS. JENNIE PADDOCK, 80.
JIM A. REEVES, 72.
MRS. MARY REEVES, 72.
BENJAMIN F. RUDD, 86.
MRS. LUTIE SARGENT, 80.
JOSEPH SATTERTHWAITE, 80.
RICHARD L. SELBE, 70.
JOHN F. SERROT, 74.
MRS. OPAL SHERMAN, 57.
AUTHER C. SHERMAN, 60.
MRS. MARY ELLEN SIMONS, 67.
MRS. HAZEL STANDRIDGE, 33.
DONNIE GLEN STANDRIDGE, 4.
HAROLD STONE, 63.
MARY JANE STONE, 60.
HENRY F. STOREY, 67.
MRS. SADIE STOREY, 64.
MRS. MARY ELLEN TAYLOR, 63.
JAMES EDWARD TAYLOR, 39.
TRUMAN TURNER, 16.
CLINTON W. TURNER, 9.
MRS. CYNTHIA WALKER, 79.
MRS. GERTIE M. WARD, 80.
ZACK T. WEST, 72.
GERTIE ESTELLE WILLIAM, 75.
MICHAEL WOODS, 6.
In Memory from www.tornadochaser.com/UDALL/monument.htm
Researched and Transcribed by Stu Beitler. Thank you, Stu!