Lubbock, TX Devestating Tornado Rips City, May 1970
TORNADO LEAVES LUBBOCK REELING.
19 TO 26 REPORTED DEAD; 21-STORY BUILDING APPEARS READY TO TOPPLE.
Lubbock, Tex. (AP) -- A tornado so powerful it ripped great chunks of concrete from buildings struck this city of 170,000 with death estimates today ranging from 19 to 26.
State authorities counted 19 bodies, while newspaper and radio surveys reached a total of 26. Texas Safety Department officers said some dead may still be under debris.
Authorities said 300 or more suffered injuries in the Monday night disaster. Property damage was unofficially calculated in the millions.
"There is no doubt in anybody's mind around here," said a veteran newspaperman, "that it is one of the biggest and most prolonged, tornadoes ever to strike Texas."
All persons except rescue workers were blocked out of the downtown area. The National Guard called out 300 men including a medical unit. The state safety department sent 45 units. The Red Cross dispatched six disaster teams with 10 mobile vans.
Cars lay flattened to within two or three feet of the pavement. A Greyhound bus was slammed broadside into a building. The ground floor of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal was awash from a cloudburst which came with the twister.
The width of the destruction was the greatest tornado observers could remember.
A newspaper executive touring the downtown area shook his head and called it a "nightmare."
Others looked at the severe damage and muttered, "incredible."
The storm left a path of destruction eight miles long.
The blitz winds drilled to earth near the campus of Texas Technological University than sprang along an eight-mile route to the heart of the city where it virtually destroyed scores of buildings, sending glass shrapnel raining over the streets.
Concrete slabs were ripped from buildings and were slammed into cars and other buildings.
At about 4:40 a.m., police said they expected the 21-story Great Plains building to fall "any minute."
Police cardoned off an area 100 yards around the building.
This city of some 170,000 persons was plunged into darkness as the maddened winds ripped down power and communications lines.
Pumps which supply the city's water were knocked out and residents were advised to maintain strict water conservation.
Gov. Preston Smith ordered and a curfew was placed over the city.
Even as the winds continued to gust in the storm's aftermath, looters and pillagers began working their way through the ravaged downtown area.
A temporary morgue was established at the Smiley Wilson school and homeless victims were being sheltered in the city coliseum.
Over 100 airplanes at the city's airport were damaged or destroyed including a state police jet helicopter.
The airport was closed.
Hospitals began filling quickly and all off duty doctors and nurses were summoned to work.
The Department of Public Safety dispatched at least 45 units.
Red Cross workers converged on the devestated city from Dallas, Wichtia Falls and Waco.
Nine mobile feeding units were sent to provide food for those whose homes were destroyed.
A state of emergency was declared by Mayor James Granberry who called the catastrophe "massive -- just massive."
"We are trying to set up some sort of evacuation system for the injured. I guess we'll try to get them into Midland, Odessa, and Amarillo," he said.
Two of the city's largest hospitals had to turn away cut and bleeding patients after hospital corridors began filling with cots, stretchers and beds.
The twister struck near the Texas Tech campus, levelling a brick wall which crushed a number of parked cars.
About a dozen homes in the $200,000 price range were demolished.
The Bell Telephone System had nearly 400 repairmen and other crews on duty with flights leaving Dallas bringing cable and other needed replacement equipment.
An amateur radio operator who said the injured could reach 1,000 called Lubbock "a dead town" hours after the twister struck.
JAY HARRIS, managing editor of the Lubbock Avalance-Journal, said, however, that the city reacted with calm and cool precision. "Doctors, nurses, police and firemen stayed cool," he said. "So did the residents. I neither heard nor saw any hysteria."
"I heard it coming," HARRIS replied. "I was talking to the AP in New York. The noise came in a rising crescendo and reached such a pitch that you could hear nothing else. Then all the lights went out." Hours later the power was still off.
HARRIS said a second story wall of a major addition just completed at the newspaper plant was blown away -- "destroyed in seconds."
PARTIAL LIST OF DEAD
Lubbock, Tex. (AP) -- A partial list compiled by the Texas Department of Public Safety of the dead in the Lubbock Monday night:
Unidentified White Female, 45.
THOMAS ANDREW COOK, no age.
MRS. HENRY SHORT, no age.
FRANK MORENO CANALES, JR., no age.
JOSE AGUILAR, no age.
SALVADOR LOPEZ, no age.
JACK LOPEZ, no age.
KENNETH MADLIN, no age.
ALAN RAY MADLIN, no age.
DUSTY MADLIN, no age.
MRS. RUTH KNIGHT, no age.
MRS. ESTEFANA PAZ, 45.
OLETA GONZALES, 44.
S. C. GLENN, no age.
JOHN STEPHEN COX, no age.
MRS. BUTTS, no age.
The Abilene Reporter-News Texas 1970-05-12