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Oklahoma Tornadoes 1

March 14, 2013

This is an excerpt from my second book, “Memory Harvest of a Sharecropper’s Son,” which is now available in Amazon Kindle format and in printed format. This story is about Oklahoma tornadoes.

Oklahoma and tornadoes; the two words seem to go together. Mom and Dad lived in southwestern Oklahoma when I came home from the Navy in 1955. Dad was the pastor of a small, rural Baptist church near Snyder, Oklahoma. The girl who I later married and her family were members of Dad’s church and sharecropped near Mom and Dad.

Snyder is located between Lawton and Altus and was the site of one of the deadliest tornado disasters in Oklahoma history. On May 10, 1905, 97 people were killed and 150 injured when a monstrous funnel dipped out of the sky at 6:45 p.m. The tornado path was about 800 feet wide and 40 miles long. In Snyder, 100 homes were leveled, 150 more badly damaged. This area of Oklahoma became known as Tornado Alley.

The people in this area lived in almost total fear of tornadoes in the 1950s, since there was not an adequate warning system. Many people watched the nightly news and weather on black and white TV and went to the cellar to sleep. They were afraid they would not have enough warning to get to the cellar if they tried to sleep in the house. Some of Dad’s church members slept many nights in a cellar during the storm season.

The best tornado warning system in Oklahoma during the 1950s was the Ham radio operators. A network of Ham radio operators worked with the weather department at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma. Since I was a Ham operator, I helped with this effort.

At that time, none of us had special training to be “Storm Chasers.” This was a new experience for me, although I grew up in west Texas and had seen a couple of tornadoes; I had seen nothing like I saw in this area. Each season, we saw several tornadoes, although very few damaged property or injured people. There was one other Ham operator in Snyder with whom I worked.

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