Today is the 50th anniversary of the Topeka tornado. I was ten and we were getting ready for supper at my grandparents house. We went to the neighbors outside cellar that had big black pipes overhead. I guess they were gas pipes maybe? I am not sure. We didn’t use Grandma and Grandpa’s cellar because it would fill with water. And I was always afraid a snake would pop it’s head through the dirt walls! Probably not, but at ten years old you can have quite and imagination.
Grandpa decided he would stay outside and watch because it would probably blow over. When it turned green and the roar came, I have never seen an old man move so fast! It seems like they were just barely able to get the door shut and fastened. I don’t remember too much other than the roar. I had always heard that a tornado sounds like a freight train. In my opinion, that is a very accurate description. When the power went off and it was pitch black, there was nothing but the roar and some weeping from someone. It was a terrifying experience. It was a tight fit and you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face when the lights went off. We had eleven people and three dogs in the cellar. The six of us and our dog, the family of three that lived in the house of the cellar with their dog, and two neighbors and their dog.
When it was over and we were able to come out, it was as if the world was washed clean. The sky was bright and, if I remember correctly, the sun was out. It was almost pretty. Until you looked around and seen all the debris. Everywhere. Mom’s car was plastered with debris. It was like it was glued on. I don’t remember how long it took her to get it cleaned up.
There was a tree that sat between my grandparents driveway and the yard where the neighbors lived. Part of the tree was blown over. If it would have fallen another foot or two, we would not have been able to get the cellar door open. Thank God for small favors.
The one funny thing, or rather the amazing thing, was we found a dress with a big hole in it, in my grandparents yard, and what I am sure was the matching belt in our yard a couple blocks away. We were lucky that all we had in our area was some minor damage to the windows and a lot of debris. At least I don’t remember that much damage. The front window in the living room of my grandparents house, was forever crooked after that. Whenever you looked out of it, there was a tiny bit of a wave in it. That’s the best way I can describe it. The rest of Topeka was not so lucky. There was several million dollars worth of damage done to businesses, homes and farms. I don’t ever want to experience a tornado again. I have had my fill. I always pray for anyone in the path of one of these terrors. Even if you don’t have anything more than a warning.
Here are several youtube videos about the tornado and years after the tornado. There are many others. Too many to put in a blog. Check them out at your leisure. I even came across a video of a tornado in Topeka in May of 2011. I don’t remember that one. But then I was living here on the farm then. It may be the one that hit by Topeka West High School. Check it out.
Stay Safe and God Bless!