Remembering the 1970 Tornado - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

5/9/05

Remembering the 1970 Tornado

Remembering the tornado of 1970. The F-5, which is the highest a tornado can be rated, struck Lubbock on May 11th, 1970. It killed 26 people and injured hundreds.

The destruction stretched more than eight miles long and more than a mile and half wide. Downtown Lubbock was one of the areas hardest hit. If you didn't live through it, it's difficult to imagine this entire area in shambles. Take the Lubbock Avalanche Journal building for example, one of the outside walls was blown off by the tornado.

One of the people inside was part time Journalist, Bill Morgan. At the time he was 20-years-old. He's now a retired Lubbock Police Information Officer, but he remembers the disaster like it was yesterday, recalling the strange colors in the sky.

"At 9:45pm one of the editors, a guy named Jim Nelson, and I went down to check the weather. Now at the AJ at night, the newsroom is on the second floor the only door that was open then was one of the doors facing South onto 8th street. You come thru that door and there are two plate glass doors and two plate glass walls, so if you come in that door you are in-between four walls of glass. So Jim and I went downstairs, I was infront of him and when I got down to the lobby I walked to the one door that was unlocked and just as I touched it, it snapped open of it's own accord. It was shaking on the hinges and I thought 'What the hell is this?"

"And then I was enveloped by the freight train roar, it's really not even a sound it completely encapsulates you, you can't pick out any single sound because your eardrums are just being buffeted. That was enough to make me turn and run. As soon as I heard the roar I turned to run for all it was worth and right as I got to the stairs a distance of maybe ten feet, all of the front of the building blew in. All of the plate glass doors, it was like a bomb went off, just a huge explosion behind me."

"And then screaming wind. I basically had to use my hands and feet, doggy style to get up the stairs, the wind was propelling me, I remember seeing tree limbs go up the stair well and rocks. I was just being sandblasted all the way up. When I got to the top I rolled behind the banister that stopped people from falling down the stairs and I got behind that and in short order it got absolutely quiet," Bill Morgan, former LPD Information Officer, recounting the 1970 tornado like it was yesterday.

And then came the second tornado.

"While I was crouched under the desk the building was breathing. You could feel the floor lift about a foot and then you could feel it drop. And it would lift then drop. And I know I thought any second this is going to drop and we are all going down to the first floor with the building on top of us. I was terrified when the building started moving, I thought I'm gonna die," Morgan said.

Bill never left work that night. He became a runner, taking news to KFYO radio Lubbock's only radio waves to get a signal across the state in the disaster.

"I have chill bumps as we are talking about it. Yes I still get chilled and I can still remember a lot of it like it was yesterday. It has effected my weather responses to this day." 'Was there a time that you felt lucky to have survived?' Every minute literally since then. Sure, I've often thought if I had been two seconds later, I'd probably been jerked through the window and blown back thru all of those plate glass windows and just become part of the debris. So I feel like the fact that I am here today is a matter of 2 or 3 seconds," says Morgan.

Morgan says technology today should be better able to warn us of a tornado, but he says on that day there was no warning and he says to this day he never takes for granted what could happen when the sky looks odd.

Your Stories of the 1970 Lubbock Tornado
NewsChannel 11 asked you to send us YOUR stories of survival from the 1970 tornado. Here are the e-mails that we received from out viewers.

This is just the beginning of our commemoration of the 1970 tornado, we have personal accounts for the next two nights as we look back on this 35th anniversary.

NewsChannel 11 Special Reports
Take a look at the special reports on NewsChannel 11 from the past.

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