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A massive tornado ripped throught he heart of downtown Lubbock in 1970, leaving death and destruction. The twister, which was also accompanied on the fringe of its funnel with winds clocked in excess of 200 mph, left damage in the area generally bordered by 19th Street and University Avenue and in the area north and east of that point.

Deadly Twister
Emergency crews respond to devastation after tornado roars through city

1970 A massive tornado ripped through the heart of downtown Lubbock late Monday night - leaving death, destruction in the millions, and a city badly crippled.

Unofficial estimates placed the dead at 2 a.m. today as high as 20, with more than 200 hurt, at least 14 of those hospitalized. However, other reports indicated the toll might not go above 12.

The twister, which also was accompanied on the fringe of its funnel with winds clocked in excess of 200 mph, left damage in the area generally bordered by 19th Street and University Avenue and in the area north and east of that point.

Damage easily will run into the millions of dollars. At 2 a.m. as an eerie quiet settled over the torn business section, rescue workers continued to dig into shattered homes and crumbled buildings for possible other victims of the savage storm - the first time in the city's 70-year history it has been hit full force by a tornado.

The hardest hit area of the business section appeared to be in a triangle starting at 15th and Avenue Q and spreading out as the funnel gouged its destructive path north-eastward.

Standing starkly against the blacked out sky, lighted by emergency power, was the First National Bank Building - huge holes torn in its glass and marble, debris and marble and concrete blocks, some of which fell five or six stories, crushed cars parked around the buildings.

Early today a state of emergency existed in a large part of the city, with police, Department of Public Safety, and other officials patrolling the streets.

A curfew has been ordered by the city's mayor, Jim Granberry.

The Guadalupe neighborhood north of Fourth Street suffered heavy damage in the 1970 tornado.

An appeal was issued throughout the city for residents to conserve water until pumps, which had been knocked out by the tornado could be put back into operation. The city's two major hospitals, West Texas and Methodist, were swamped, several other hospitals were reportedly taxed to capacity, treating persons for lacerations and mostly minor injuries.

Power and telephone loss was widespread.

The National Guard and Army Reserve units immediately were mobilized. In addition all off-duty fire and police personnel plus crews from the Lubbock County sheriff's office, Reese Air Force Base, City of Lubbock and American Red Cross first aid and disaster experts pitched in.

Even just plain property owners, many of them with property damage and injuries - were pressed into service, directing traffic, watching devastated stores and helping in any way they could.

As the storm lifted, looting became widespread, but law enforcement officers were too busy shuttling dead and injured and attending to more important duties.

Businessmen were urged over emergency broadcast facilities to protect their own firms.

The northern half of Lubbock was a shambles.

Water was running knee-deep in many downtown sections.

A temporary morgue was established in Smiley Wilson Junior High School.

Attorney Bill Moss, working on the 10th floor of First National Building, thought he heard a freight train.

"People say a tornado sounds like a freight train," he said, turning on his transistor radio. Hearing tornadoes were actually in the area, Moss headed for the basement. "The building started shaking and I took the stairs instead of the elevator. As I was going down, the stairs pulled several inches away from the walls," he said.

Parts of Southwest Lubbock, which escaped the storm's fury, were without electricity. Street and traffic lighting on 34th St. west of Ave. Q was out. Some damage to tree limbs was apparent in the area of Monterey High School where LP&L electricity shut off about 9:50 p.m.

The lights on the east side of Jones Stadium were down.

Hardest hit areas of the city included the area north of 34th St. and east of University Ave. to downtown Lubbock. Also hit hard was the area surrounding the airport and the country club addition.

"The looting started before the wind stopped," Lubbock policemen C.H. Cranford said. "Heaviest hit was the industrial areas on Texas Avenue."

The L-shaped Texas Motel on north Ave. Q was demolished, the owner said. But everyone staying in the unit was evacuated. No injuries were reported there.

Memorial Baptist Church at 39th St. and Elgin Ave. was offering shelter to anyone who needed it late Monday night.

Shallowater, northwest of Lubbock, escaped tornado damage, but hail and high winds knocked out all power at 9:35 p.m.

More than an inch of rain flooded the town, accompanied by golf-ball size hail. No injuries or serious damage was reported there, however.

The storm apparently touched down on the 2400 block of 19th St., building up intensity until it reached the center of the downtown area.

Trees were uprooted, limbs blown off and small buildings wrecked in the residential area each of Tech campus.

Phyllis Freeland, who lives at 2319-B 14th St., said she and some companions were trying to get to a basement in the house next door when the storm hit. "It sounded like a hurricane," she said. "The wind was blowing so hard, we could hardly stand and debris was flying all around."

Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. said 25,000 telephones were cut along with 600 long distance lines.

The A-J Remembers The Most Important People in Lubbock's History
 
 


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