Rocksprings, TX Tornado, Apr 1927
Tornado Lasts Five Minutes; 150 Injured As Town Demolished
ROCKSPRINGS, Texas, April 13 (AP) - This quiet mountain town, pulverized Tuesday night by a tornado, had the appearance Wednesday of a battle-ruined village, as United States cavalrymen succored the homeless, an emergency army hospital tended the wounded and dying, a field kitchen fed the remainder of the population and an airplane ambulance dashed back and forth between here and San Antonio, carrying wounded.
In a furious moment, the wind came out of the south at 7:50 o'clock Tuesday night, wiping the town from its defenseless position at the top of Edwards plateau in far West Texas, and within five minutes had taken the lives of fifty-six persons and injured 150 others, a number of whom are fatally hurt.
Scurrying on, the same angry wind, or some of its cohorts, bobbed about Texas, striking at no less than eight widely separated points, killing one, injuring about fifteen persons and doing an unestimated amount of damage.
DON GRIFFITH, 15, who suffered broken bones was rushed to San Antonio in an airplane by Kelly Field pilots and narrowly averted collision with student planes taking off.
Like War Torn Village.
The desolation left by the storms' artillery, the uprooted trees and piles of debris, and the accouterments of war brought here by the army on its mission of peace, enhanced the illusion of a war torn village.
The cavalrymen came from Camp Clark, sixty miles from Rock Springs, by automobile and horse and the airplanes came from Kelly Field at San Antonio, 145 miles west. Doctors, army surgeons, Red Cross nurses, litters, were at the scene long before the extent of the catastrophe was known, and volunteers were pouring in from all directions.
With one-half the business houses and residences crushed and the other half severely damaged, the survivors of the town of 800 spent the night of horror, groping about in the darkness. For a time after the storm, all was paralysis and confusion. The cries of the injured and dying were mingled with the calls of persons calling their relatives, the uninjured being at a loss to distinguish one from the other.
Tells Story of Storm.
For many hours there was no direct communication to the stricken area, then finally MISS GLADYS LOWERY, telephone operator, with a heroism equal to the occasion, drove a mile and a half in the rain with a telephone lineman to the nearest unbroken point on the line. There, over a telephone mailed to a post in the open country, she told the story of the storm.
The lobby of the First State Bank, all of the windows of which were blown out, was converted into a morgue. The Edwards County Wool and Mohair Company's building became a temporary hospital. Many injured were taken to Campwood, several miles away, which is the nearest railroad point. There a movie theater was converted into a hospital.
Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX 14 Apr 1927
Tales of Heroism and Horror in Wake of Tornadoes
ROCKSPRINGS, Texas, April 12 (AP) - Crawling through a window of the Valentine Hotel, which though partially wrecked gave refuge to sixty persons, and commandeering an automobile, MISS AMANDA EASTLAND of Sonora, a teacher in the public school at Rocksprings, drove twenty miles Tuesday night to the RUBY DAVIS ranch and telephoned to Sonora the first news of the storm disaster in the Edwards county seat. A youth named BARTLEY accompanied her on the drive over rain-drenched roads, being the only person MISS EASTLAND could find whose automobile would operate.
MISS EASTLAND was standing in the door of the frame part of the hotel when the tornado suddenly descended, a post whizzing by being the first warning of danger. Other guests dragged MISS EASTLAND inside the new concrete part of the hotel as the original frame building collapsed. The heavier building withstood the storm.
Dead and injured lay scattered among the debris and cries for help came from all directions when MISS EASTLAND emerged after the tornado. Its duration was timed by one of the survivors in the hotel at exactly five minutes.
J. W. HOUSE, cafe proprietor, discovered the tornado - a black funnel-shaped cloud swirling upon the town from the north, while in the rear of his place of business, which also was his home. He was unable to close the rear door and grabbed a mattress, beneath which he and MRS. HOUSE crouched beside a counter.
"Suddenly the roof went off from over our heads and we were blown into the street, still hanging to the mattress," MR HOUSE related. Though bruised and cut, neither he nor MRS. HOUSE was hurt seriously.
The cafe was a frame and sheet iron building north of the postoffice off the main square on the road leading to Sonora. Not a trace was left of the Mexican settlement, composed largely of one and two room huts in the northern part of Rocksprings, where the tornado first struck.
G. M. CARSON, surrounded by friends and his family, was about to cut the cake of his sixty-ninth birthday. A splintering roof above their heads ended the party. The aged man was blown from the house and more than 100 feet from the wreckage. He was found stunned, but otherwise uninjured.
The usual sardonic pranks of the "twister" were in evidence. A baby was hurled fifty feet through the air and landed safely, almost gently.
T. K. NEWEL, an automobile salesman, in the midst of the wind, rushed into the splintering Valentine Hotel to save whoever he might. He continued to extricate dying and wounded after the hotel was in ruins.
After the tornado passed two women, neighbors for many years, lay side by side. One on the verge of unconsciousness asked: "Are you sleeping well?" "I'll be sleeping in a minute." She died with the last word and her companion lapsed into unconsciousness.
Outstanding among the acts of heroism and devotion to duty is that of MRS. JACK ROTE, who took up the work of telephone operator after the phone office had been wrecked. She had been stationed, unprotected in the open, one mile from town, where a phone was nailed to a post, and while her life was constantly endangered by lighting and she was being continually shocked, she sent out word of the disaster by putting through calls for doctors and nurses.
Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX 14 Apr 1927
Transcribed by Sue Yerby. Thank you, Sue!