Cover

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Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-x

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Preface to New Edition

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pp. xi-xiv

"The Tornado" that struck the heart of one American city May 11, 1953, is vanishing into the mists of recorded weather history, but it will always remain vivid in all its horror to people who witnessed its awesome destructive power....

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1. The Cloud

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pp. 1-16

Extended drought had left plant life brittle brown, as if from a hard freeze. Deep cracks cut through depleted soil: chapped lips of earth waiting for relief that could come only from plentiful moisture.
Stunted buffalo grass lining the banks of an...

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2. Coming Closer

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pp. 17-30

Our satisfaction increased as the western horizon darkened. Although we couldn't yet be certain of receiving so much as a sprinkle of relief, this weather obviously was moving from west to east, as it should be doing to corroborate some old proverbs...

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3. Rain

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pp. 31-41

Still overlooking its propensities, my father and I mentally urged on the great black cloud with that green-tinged base, but now it was obviously veering too far to the north of us. All our entreaties beamed toward that magnificent thunderhead had no...

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4. Hail and High Winds

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pp. 42-58

Less than half an hour later, the menacing sound of hail beating against the roof of my father's house had replaced the happy swish of windshield wipers playing with the first significant rainfall in months.
Upon arrival, during a new downpour...

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5. Scattered Wreckage

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pp. 59-72

At Hewitt, the community reportedly struck by a tornado, I found much mud, a water-soaked dog lying dead near a large tree against which it had been blown, downed utility poles, a few wrecked automobiles, some damaged buildings, and a number...

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6. A Legend of Safety

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pp. 73-88

Waco in 1953-was a small, nondescript, self-satisfied city of about 85,000 inhabitants who lived along or near the steep, brown banks of the Brazos River, a historic stream of greater dependability than most others in Texas and, with a length of 840...

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7. Hovering Overhead

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pp. 89-102

That same Monday afternoon, the distant, high-banked cloud creeping in on Waco from the southwest again put weather into conversations of some persons who became aware of its approach. This was, of course, the same cloud my father...

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8. Approach on Downtown

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pp. 103-109

So the same weather that had inflicted a tornado upon San Angelo earlier Monday had continued moving eastward, as fishermen and farmers from millennia past could have guessed in their own primitive way that it would.
The newest tornado had skipped...

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9. “Here It Comes”

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pp. 110-117

A tornado veteran shopping with his wife at Penney's, in the 600 block of Austin Avenue, heard wind whine "like a power saw in a wet board." Chester Stockton, a painter who lived just north of the city limit, in Bellmead, knew from experience what...

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10. Scant Security

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pp. 118-123

Persons who sought to ride out the storm in the scant security of automobiles had realized the true danger before others, huddled inside buildings.
Twelve-year-old Harvey Claude Home and his father, after waiting inside the Hub Barber Shop, had...

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11. “Tornado!”

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pp. 124-137

Downtown, many other persons were being buried dead or alive.
Ira Baden saw much of the destruction from his exposed vantage point—crouched near that Amicable Building guide rail, with an arm lock on it. He seemed unable to breathe, but his...

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12. “Help Me”

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pp. 138-156

For minutes after the tornado swept on elsewhere, a deathly silence settled over the downtown area.
Wiley Stem, then assistant city attorney and local commander of the National Guard, remembers that eerie stillness to this day. The tornado had...

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13. Later

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pp. 157-163

Twenty-three years to the day, and almost to the minute, after that stormy Monday, May 11, 1953, another dark cloud appeared off to the southwest of my father's ranch. This one wasn't of such an ominous hue, but it was large enough to mean trouble...

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Acknowledgements and Bibliography

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pp. 164-175

This narrative has been based not only on publications and other sources listed below but on my own recollections and notes of that time and on my father's and mother's memories of May 11, 1953, given before their deaths...

Index

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pp. 176-181

Image Plates

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