Port A. was our favorite vacation spot, and we stayed in condos a lot and eventually bought a little beach house down there. The picture below is me in Port A in front of the condos we always stayed in, Sea Isle. I was 12 or so in the picture and it might have been taken that day in 1979.
Well, I remember the long drive down. It seemed to take forever, especially considering there were no cell phones, no hand-held video games, and nothing much really to keep me entertained at all. The only think I remember was a Sony Walkman, which I used with cassette tapes. Oh, and no seatbelts, so that was a plus. I could lay out flat on the backseat and sleep. The closer we got the more excited I got. I remember that feeling very vividly. I truly loved that place! I loved walking on the beach, crabbing, watching the ships come in and go of Corpus Christi Channel. I loved the dolphins. I loved it all. Just couldn't wait to get there!!
This time though, it was different. We enjoyed only one glorious day at the beach. The very next evening we heard some terrible news on the radio and tv. A tornado, a HUGE mile-wide tornado, had just torn through our hometown of Wichita Falls. And my brother was still there. The excitement turned suddenly to panic. Was my brother ok? Were our friends ok? Was our house ok? We had no way of knowing. We tried calling on the land-line but all lines were dead. It was so scary. I remember the fear and that horrible feeling.
So..very very early the next day we got back in the car and headed home. Wow what a crazy trip. From exuberance one minute to desperation the next. And for the next several hours we drove not knowing what we would come home to. Back then people used CB radios to communication while driving long distances. I remember my dad using his CB radio like it was yesterday. He was a pro talking to those truckers! Breaker 1-9... So my dad got this idea to form a communication bridge through different people he knew in different towns, to try to eventually reach someone back home. It was brilliant but a long-shot. Amazingly, he was able to get one person to call another, then call another, then eventually call his friend in Wichita Falls, who went looking around and found my brother. He was ok! He had gone into a friend's tornado cellar. We got word back as we were approaching town. What a relief!! I remember being so happy, but still worrying about friends and property. When we finally approached town, it was crazy what we saw. Devastation and things broken, torn up and scattered everywhere, just like you see on the news. We came into town right where the tornado had it struck. By the time we go to our house though, we saw that somehow we were blessed and our house and neighborhood were fine.
The next day I remember going to my best friend's house. Her area sustained some tornado damage. We walked down the street to what used to be a drive-in theatre, and found giant movie reels all over the ground and movie posters ripped and laying everywhere. It was crazy. The movie names were still on the reels. I wish I could remember what they were or had taking a picture. But again, photos weren't so easy to snap back then. People didn't carry camera phones around..
I remember the t-shirts that everyone had after the tornado. It was like a bonding kind of thing. They said "I survived Terrible Tuesday April 10, 1979" with a picture of the three tornadoes coming together and something about tornado alley on the back. I wish so much I could find mine now. It was the most destructive tornado to hit Texas. We were all over the national news and are now in the history books.
An F4 tornado struck the heavily populated southern sections of Wichita Falls in the late afternoon on Tuesday, April 10, 1979 (known locally as "Terrible Tuesday"). The storm was part of an outbreak that produced 30 tornadoes around the region. Despite having nearly an hour's advance warning that severe weather was imminent, 42 people were killed (25 in vehicles) and 1,800 were injured because the storm arrived just in time for many people to be driving home from work. The tornado left 20,000 people homeless and caused $400 million in damage, a U.S. record not topped by an individual tornado until the F5 Moore-Oklahoma City tornado of May 3, 1999. 45 people were killed in this tornado.
Here are some links to photos:
From the news:
Me in 1979.