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Vicksburg, MS Tornado, Dec 1953


Some Sources List 12 Dead.

Theater Filled With Boys And Girls Is Demolished In Vicksburg.

VICKSBURG, Miss., Dec. 5 (AP) – Death-dealing tornadoes twisted in hammer-like bounces through Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas tonight, leaving death and destruction behind.

The dead in the wake of the multiple twister numbered at least six and the injured exceeds 100. Some reports placed deaths at 12, including 10 at Vicksburg.

The worst of three reported twisters smashed downtown Vicksburg, demolishing a theater full of boys and girls enjoying a Saturday night movie. At least six persons were killed along its narrow path.
Another tornado struck at Montrose, Ark., and first reports said two children were missing.

A third tornado blasted the communities of Ouachita City, Rocky Branch and Spencer near Monroe in Northern Louisiana, mounting an injury toll of 11 persons. No deaths were reported.

A violent windstorm struck a farming section 10 miles west of Clarksdale, Miss., injuring seven persons.

Storm Comes Silently.
The Vicksburg blow came out of an eerie early nightfall, silently and viciously, so that residents of Vicksburg only short distances from its path did not realize what was happening.

From downtown Vicksburg, the twisting funnel roared up in a mighty hop and struck again, with less, force, in a residential district.

It snapped all electrical power, blanketing the city with darkness, which was relieved only by the flickering flames of a dozen fires started by the storm.

Inside the Saenger Theater, the bulk of the storm's injured screamed and sobbed for help, for their parents. Most of the injured were reported to be boy and girl patrons engaged in watching their customary Saturday night movie.

Nursery Demolished.
Another theater was reported blown down.

The whirling wind blew down homes, business buildings and toppled buildings onto automobile tops.
It demolished a day nursery, killing two babies.

In its wake, Gov. Hugh White send National Guard units into the stricken city to guard against looting. Nearly every store window in downtown Vicksburg was blown in.

The Red Cross rushed a 10-person disaster team into the area with 150 units of blood serum for use in shock.

Aid Rushed In.
Ambulances from throughout the area sirened(?) their way toward Vicksburg, where hospital facilities were strained beyond capacities. The injured lay on floors of corridors. Doctors and nurses labored among the worst hurt in dining rooms.

Communications were snarled beyond much help in the worst of the downtown storm area. Some lines still stood in residential fringes along the storm's path.

The Anniston Star Alabama 1953-12-06

Continued on page 2


Vicksburg tornado

who were your Daddy and Uncle in Palermo's. I also had an uncle in Palermo's. I was 13 and at a grocery store, Piggly, Wiggle, I think with my 4 year old brother, Daddy was across the street getting a hair cut. My uncle worked at Palermo's. Daddy rushed over, took us home and wend back to help find my uncle.

Vicksburg Tornado

I was 5 when the tornado hit. We lived in an apartment. I can remember my mother hurrying my brother and I into the hallway,, the most sheltered place in the apartment, and the farthest from any exterior walls and windows. I remember the roaring, like a train. The tornado actually hopped over our building. It tossed around some railroad cars just down the hill from us, and badly damaged an antebellum home just up the hill, but didn't touch us. Very lucky.
My father was still in the Navy Reserves at the time, and he spent most of the next couple of weeks on duty. It was strange seeing him in uniform, and strange not having him at home during that scary, upsetting time.
My brother had planned to go to the movie that day, but he was punished, and couldn't go. Several kids, including a couple he knew, were killed when the theater was destroyed.
No one had gas, but we did have electricity after a few days. I can remember being cold, and I can remember my mother trying to cook on a small electric hotplate. I think one of my great aunts brought us food those first few days, when we didn't have any way to cook.
The actual tornado happened so quickly that I didn't have time to be frightened, but the weeks afterward were upsetting for me. It was the first time I realized that the world wasn't always going to be safe and normal.

Vivid memories of Vicksburg Tornado

My Dad had just picked me up from the nursery that was demolished and taken me to get a haircut in the basement of The First National Bank building. I remembeber glass blowing in from the street level into the barber shop. One of the barbers possibly saved my life when he stowed me under one of the waiting chairs. My Dad's life was spaired as he hung on to a light post on Washington Street while going to buy a newspaper. He was injured and I remember blood on his shirt as he carried me out of the barber shop. I remember he tried to keep my eyes covered as he climbed over the ruble of smashed cars. As a five year old, I vividly remember blood running down the street gutters as though it was water and cars smashed with fallen bricks. I also remember lifeless bodies where only arms were exposed and blood trickling down off the end of thier finger tips.
And by the way, my dad was suppose to take me to the Singer Theater next to the old YMCA for a Saturday day Matinee following the haircut that was also demolished.
Then final death count was 38 with hundreds injured.

Tornado of '53

How interesting to find this site. I don't really know what prompted me to look for it tonight.

I was four years old when the tornado hit. My mother was trying to get downstairs with me in the house we lived in on Cherry Street. My father (who was a civil engineer with the Illinois Central Railroad) was trying to get home to us but he actually got lost trying to find our house. We didn't have a car in those days and so he was on foot. He wore thick glasses and was practically blinded by the storm. There were balls of electricity rolling out in the streets due to the downed lines.

I remember the weird color of the sky and the horrible noise and our house being lifted slightly off its stilts. (We were put right back down - so peculiar.)

An older friend of mine was injured in the theater that collapsed.

I remember gathering with neighbors and all the grown-ups being so upset.

It is all still very vivid after all these years. I will never forget it.

Vivid Memories of Tornado

My family and I were on Washington street parked outside of the Kress store. We were waiting for my brother and I was in the backseat. The wind started blowing and the sky darkened. My brother had a part time job in Palamo Clothing Store, had just gotten off. He was running to the car and had just got in when the full force hit us. I remember looking up and seeing a dark cloud coming down the street. I did not know what it was. I remember my father pushing my brother and I to the floor and then pushing my mother down in the front seat. Bricks, signs, mortar, everything was falling around us. A large concrete clump hit the front window on the passenger side of the car and landed up in the back seat. It would have killed my mother if she had been sitting up in the seat. Bricks and mortar were strewn on the inside. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Our car was totality destroyed.

When we could finally look up, I saw a street that was devastated. The car in front of us was smashed to the ground and covered with debris. The man inside was crushed. Most of the cars on and parked along Washington street were in bad shape. A woman ran out of the Kress store, fell to her knees and yelled "Lord please take care of my children." All of a sudden people were everywhere some in a panic, some trying to help others but most just trying to get to safety. My dad forced open the doors of the car and we got out. My mother decided to go to the Vicksburg Hospital where she was a nurse. We all walked to the hospital stepping over debris and around cars, etc. There were no lights and we did not have a flashlight. My most shocking memory was seeing people looting from the jewelery store and other stores where the windows were broken. Their were some people I recognized as they used lighters to select their booty. They were considered good citizens. All the stores were dark. We walked past Palamo's and it was sunk in on itself. We turned left and the Valley store and up the hill. My cousin Larry Nosser's restaurant was dark but did not look hurt.

I do not know how long it took us to reach the hospital but I can say it was too long.At the hospital, the halls were lighted by candle light. Beds were placed along side the wall in the corridors and each had a candle. It seemed that all of the nurses I knew were already there and working with the doctors and the patients. My mother was Dr. Knox's nurse and he was there. I was parked with Mildred at the switchboard but my brother went elsewhere. My dad left for the fleet to begin to organize the electricians to help with generators and other electrical equipment. I do not remember the hospital being in a panic. Everyone seemed to be going about their tasks quietly and efficiently. I do remember hearing the cries and groans of the injured and walking around to see if I recognized anyone. News came of the Sanger theater and many people started crying.

My Dad returned at some point and took my brother and I to Nosser's grill for sandwiches. I remember the were cheese and ham. Larry said they were making food for the injured and the workers. He gave us some for the nurses. We then went back to the hospital. It seemed more crowded than before. We were given a place to lie down and told to go to sleep. I was tired and scared and was ready to go down.

The next thing I remember was that we were home with no gas, water or electricity. My Mom and Dad used a grill to cook for us. Hattie came to care for us boys and my parents went back to work. I remember it being a gray cloudy day lacking any joy or happiness. News trickled in from neighbors, friends and my parents. No one went to church. I just waited for news of when I would go to school if it still was standing.

The electricity came back on which was great for lights. In our house and in most of our neighbors gas was used to cook and heat. Dad came home with an electric skillet and coffee pot so we were able to cook inside. As I remember, it was a week before school opened. The church was moved to the St. Francis auditorium. It would be another week before my parents took us to see the damage.

my grandfather

i lost my grandfather in 1953 when the twister hit vicksburg mississippi his name was grady elmer lowery... alot people lost loves one and kids got killed so sad:(

Vicksburg Ms 1953 Tornado

My mother Ruby Nell (Downs) and my Father, Bob Dungan and I, with my infant brother Ricky, were visiting at the home of Charlie (Jaybird) and Margaret Powell and their daughters Lydia and MaryLee. At that time, they lived in the back of Powell's Pawn Shop when it was located on the East Side of Washington Street Downtown next door to Marion Finkie's shop and over Ragsdale's Department Store. I remember my Mother being frightened and upset, and my Daddy and Jaybird trying to calm everybody down, and then my Mother commented that "it sounds like a freight train outside". Then the lights went out, and for a little while nobody said anything. After the Tornado passed, we went out onto Washington Street and walked down as far as the Strand Theater. Christmas decorations were all over the street, there was debris and broken glass everywhere, and that is the first Christmas I remember. I remember that my Father, Bob Dungan, was always able to make people feel safe, even in very frightening situations. He was the best man I ever knew. He and Charlie Powell remained lifelong friends.

My daddy and uncle helped

My daddy and uncle helped look for people at Palarmo's Dept Store.

I had a Great Grandfather

I had a Great Grandfather (Grady Lowery) die in the tornado, from what I understand he was on the river fishing when it hit.

Relatives 1953 in tornado, uncle was owner of cleaner

Dear Anonymous, I believe that my great uncle was the owner of the dry cleaners and his grand daughter (my second cousin) parished in the storm trying to rescue her doll. Currently we are trying to create a family tree/history for our Grand Family Reunion next year.
If the owner first name begin with A. please contact me.

article | by Dr. Radut