20 YEARS AGO TODAY: I had Neighbors who died....

  • HndsmKansan

    Posts: 16412

    Apr 26, 2011 1:16 PM GMT
    It was a hot sticky start to the day on that Friday, April 26, 1991. I was home, studying for finals from law school. I had 2 horseback riding lessons, a fertilized yard in back to mow and it was long and we needed to watch the weather. They said for several days that Friday could be a severe storm day and now the thick gray clouds were racing north. It was very humid. My Dad and his girlfriend were due back from their vacation and during a morning phone call, even reminded him the weather was supposed to be bad later in the day.

    I studied, I mowed. KoKo (my quarter horse) munched on grass clippings.
    A squall line developed west of Wichita and moved into the metro area as my Dad got home about 5:30 p.m. Before 6:00 p.m. it was announced that a tornado had formed southwest of Wichita, near Clearwater and within about 20 minutes it had reformed and was on the ground at McConnell AFB in southeast Wichita and moving northeast. We listened to the events on TV and on the radio... it moved northeast... it was at 127th St. and Pawnee (about 5 miles from my house). I remember, wow, maybe I can see it.

    At that moment it was still a novelty. I'd grown up a Kansan and had only seen a tornado once, from miles away and the funnel did no damage. I stared intently and gradually I could see something strange. It was like the clouds reached the ground with a weird "dancing" at the sides. We went outdoors and I could hear, what I would describe as a "B-1 Bomber" like sound.
    It grew closer and curosity changed to grave concern. What about my horse? The dogs were in. As weird as this sounds, I always figured I would let my horse out like they did in the opening of the "Wizard of Oz".
    Instead he was secure in the barn with the door closed.

    The tornado drew closer. It was within a mile... I could see it wasn't going to hit our house, but tornadoes are unpredictable. We went to the basement as all the electricity failed. You could hear the sound of the tornado and nothing else.....

    It was over, I went outside and knew immediately something was odd. There was no sound at all, then the sounds of sirens north in Andover.
    But we didn't even have sticks from the trees knocked down... but you see the mass of electrical lines down from across the field in back (north of our house). The neighbor across the street had certifications and had been called to help people who were wounded. I opted to ride with the neighbors a half mile to the intersection of 54 and Andover Rd. I will never, EVER
    forget what I saw.... in this town in which I grew up.

    You can see the damage on the news. F-5 tornado damage is something you won't ever forget. It was like a damned bomb went off. And the stench that went on for weeks from all the clean up.... Today, you'd never know it ever happened.

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    Apr 26, 2011 3:03 PM GMT

    Thanks for sharing this, Chris. It's good to be reminded of how fragile our lives are in comparison to events like these...that are totally out of our control.
  • HndsmKansan

    Posts: 16412

    Apr 26, 2011 9:04 PM GMT
    Thanks for that. I'm amazed at how many people lost everything and only 7 people died in Andover and the middle of the suburb was absolutely trashed.
    I feel for those people in Arkansas and North Carolina that have had such a bad time this spring.
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    Apr 27, 2011 12:09 AM GMT
    Thanks for making me remember this when I lost 4 cousins and one uncle, one aunt, and my grandmother lost everything but her clothes on her back! icon_sad.gif
    There wasn't even a blade of grass left in her old neighborhood and they had to re-survey to find everybodys property corners again.icon_neutral.gif

    Witnesses claimed and evidence showed that two twisters went through Dunlap and Elkhart like egg-beaters.

    We drove out to Indiana two days after to help our family out and it was devastating to see...especially when you are only 12 years old!

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    Apr 27, 2011 12:24 AM GMT
    I only have a few memories from that night, but they are very vivid and I wasn't even that close to the destruction. It has taken many years later for the communities to recover from that night.