Illinois tornado brought back Terrible Tuesday memories on the anniversary
With all the focus on the weather on April 8, more was due, April 9 this was on the eve of one of the worst tornadoes in history. Of course, APRIL 10, 1979 would forever be etched it the mind of a lot of Wichitans, at least those that were there. After seeing the effects of last night’s aftermath, it would make me race toward the city limits with no thought of returning.
This EF-4 tornado killed 50 people, left one fifth of the city homeless, and put the region on the map while almost wiping it out. The newspaper on Okinawa, The Stars and Stripes, showed horrific pictures of the devastation to the city. Back then, my father wanted to avoid Texas all together, especially the border town Del Rio, which had nothing for me medically and Seymour Johnson AFB, in South Carolina. After seeing all the horrific images, the quicker I left the better.
The reason why severe weather was so bad was that conditions were ripe for that during mid March-early October. This was typhoon season on Okinawa and part of hurricane season in Florida. Hurricanes and typhoons were the same thing. The warm moist air came up from the Gulf of Mexico and often collided with the cooler air coming from the Rocky Mountains over the nation’s mid section affectionately named tornado alley. Hurricanes usually started over water as tropical depressions.
Back then, there weren’t any warning sirens or severe weather alerts beeping on cell phones or weather radios. All of that came after this horrific event. The closest we all came to a tornado was in 2003. There was a gust front that came before the storm from Oklahoma. A gust front was the leading edge of cold air which has descended from a Cumulonimbus CLOUD and is moving horizontally near to the surface into warmer air. There were 90 mile an hour winds that shook my storm windows and knocked me offline at least three times. The damage from the wind stripped some of the siding off of my building and several others in the apartment complex. Several bushes had to be removed and the tree next to mailboxes lost the second of its three branches.
It was nothing that occurred in the nation’s midsection in the last three days or during the 1979 tornado. According to the meteorologist that just retired in 2014, he said that was three funnel clouds, or rotating funnel-shaped clouds forming the core of a tornado or waterspout. that merged into one because he showed a picture during the 10 p.m. newscast. Luckily, all this county suffered was a lot of wind in the last two days and cold mornings due to the front that came through.
By the time I started high school in 1981, the bus driver still pointed to places where the damage still remained from that bad time. The pictures from Illinois and other states didn’t look any better either. Just like back then, the cleanup had begun.