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Respect The Wind


Great Plains Life Building (Metro Tower) after the storm

Aerial view of damage

Downtown Lubbock

Downtown Lubbock

Downtown Lubbock

Great Plains Life Building (Metro Tower) Damage

Today is the 41st anniversary of the F5 Tornado that hit Lubbock, TX - May 11, 1970.  My mother was 9 years old. My dad was about to turn 12.  My mother and her family were in the area that got affected the most -- Downtown and east Lubbock.  She has told me that my grandfather, who was a meteorologist in the Army, came home from work that night knowing something was going to happen pertaining to the weather. He could just feel it in the air. She lived a few miles from Lubbock International Airport and said when it was all over with, that there were jet engines in her front yard.  There were reports of houses that were completely demolished.  One house was untouched while the one next door's foundation was the only evidence that a house ever stood there.  My mother even has a memory of a duplex where one half was torn to shreds and the other side merely had a crack in one of the front windows.  If that wasn't ironic enough, the side that was slaughtered in the F5 winds belonged to a family that was out of town.  The people who lived in the side with the cracked window were home that night.  My mom's house lost their garage and had some other damage, but thank God that they all got out with minor injuries.  

People ask me why I chase storms and am fascinated with this weather phenomenon.  As stated above, tornadoes are so unpredictable.  How is it that one house blows away completely and the other is fine?  How is it that a brick house with a cement foundation is never seen again but a mobile home across the street stands strong?  Tornadoes are eerie.  You never know what you're going to get with them.  Regardless of all the science and research put into it, meteorologists still don't have complete answers on why one storm becomes tornadic and another doesn't.  This is why it fascinates me.  The unpredictability, the hard work and research, the spookiness.  

On the other hand, when I see the devastation it sends in the aftermath, it breaks my heart.  A tornado in an open field is amazing.  A tornado with a town in it's path is painful.  This is why scientists are working so hard to get the answers needed to make warning times longer for those affected.  Right now the average warning time is 10 minutes.  Even if we could extend that to 15, the benefits would be substantial. 

There were 26 people killed the night of May 11, 1970 and 500 reported injured.  According to the National Weather Service, Lubbock endured two tornadoes that evening - an F1 and then the devastating F5 that hit later.  The storm began to form when the dryline backtracked over the town of Levelland, just 25 miles west of Lubbock.  The storm began to intensify and organize over Woodrow, a small community 7 miles south of Lubbock where I live right now.  At 9:35 there were reports that the tornado had touched down near Texas Tech University.  There were reports that claim that the tornado, at it's peak, was 2 miles in width as it ripped through the heart of Lubbock.  Winds were documented at 90 MPH.  

Lubbock's Metro Tower, which was called the Great Plains Life Building at the time, was hit dead on.  The frame was actually twisted. It sustained substantial damage and it was recommended that they tear it down and rebuild it.  However, the owner's repaired it and it reopened in 1975. It still stands today, holding the record for the tallest building to survive an F5 tornado.  Also, the F5 tornado is one of the largest to never be photographed. Since it was a night tornado and it came with no warning, no one had time to snap a picture.  

Also, in great West Texas fashion, to bring in the 41st anniversary, we were hammered with an early morning severe thunderstorm around 5:15.  It wasn't tornadic but was still marked severe with winds in excess of 60MPH, 1" diameter hail, and extreme lightning.  I was just thankful for the rain.  We have been without any precipitation since March.  It rained for about an hour, and now when I go outside it doesn't even look like it rained.... the ground soaked it up like a sponge.

All in all, the point of this blog is to remember to always RESPECT THE WIND.  

1 comment:

  1. We had a batch of tornadoes in our area recently. And as amazing and beautiful as the storms were, the aftermath was heartbreaking.