On this day 36 years ago, the worst tornado in Lubbock's history devastated the city. The F5 tornado hit Lubbock at approximately 9:50 pm, killing 26 people, injuring more than 500 and causing $150 million worth of damage. More than 400 homes were leveled by the intensity of the storm, leaving 1,800 people homeless, and leaving the city covered in debris for weeks.
Although the technology for warning the public has improved since 1970, how the aftermath of a disaster is covered really hasn't changed. NewsChannel 11's Kealey McIntire bring us the story from one Lubbock newsman who was there that fateful night and had just that job.
These days you can hear Paul Beane broadcasting on 105.7 KRBL, but 36 years ago after an F5 tornado ripped through Lubbock, Beane was news director at a local TV station where he was in charge of getting crucial information out to hundreds of injured, stranded and worried Lubbockites.
At the exact moment the tornado hit, Beane was near 13th and Avenue A. 36 years later, he walks us through the decisions he would make as a news director.
"When I first heard the police radio they'd been turned around in their car by a tornado that was on the ground, I immediately called for on air from my mobile unit on the AM and FM and television stations and simply said over and over again the words, 'take cover, take cover. There's a tornado on the ground in Lubbock,'" said Beane.
While others surveyed the damage, Beane didn't leave the television station for four days. His priority was informing the public, he says he learned how to put the competitive nature of the news business aside.
"The TV station where I was employed leased a helicopter, we had tons of aerial footage of the damage, but we had no way to process the film because we had no water so we worked in cooperation with channel 11, where channel 11 could develop the film. The reason is that channel 11 had a water well system at the station in the 70's, so they processed the film, we showed it and handed it back to channel 11 for them to show their viewers. In perilous times rivalries have to take a backseat and you have to get word out to as many people as you can," said Beane.
Beane says the week following the tornado, searching for survivors and clearing debris became a blur. It was crucial for him to keep sight of what was important: telling people where to get food, water, and shelter, and how to find loved ones.
Beane says one of the biggest differences we have now is technology. With Doppler Radar, NewsChannel 11's weather team can more accurately predict when and where a tornado will hit and 36 years ago that wasn't possible.
"It's not to say we can't be hit by another tornado, but I believe we would never again face the loss of life that we had in 1970," Beane said.
The Lubbock Memorial Civic Center is a standing memorial for the 26 who were killed in the tornado, it was built as a monument to them in 1977.
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