1947 Glazier–Higgins–Woodward tornadoes

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The 1947 Glazier–Higgins–Woodward tornadoes were a system of related tornadoes that swept through Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas on April 9, 1947. Most of the damage and all the deaths are still blamed on one large F5 tornado, known as the Glazier-Higgins-Woodward Tornado, that traveled nearly 125 miles from Texas to Oklahoma. This tornado was often compared to the Tri-State Tornado, because it was originally thought to have left a 220 mile path, but it is now believed to have a been part of a family of 8 or 9 tornadoes. These tornadoes, although deadly, did not match the astounding death toll of the earlier event, nor did they match the record speed of that tornado, although at over 40 mph (64 km/h), they qualified as a fast tracking storm.

Event description[edit]

The tornadoes began in Texas, the first of which was an F2 that occurred in the White Deer area. That tornado derailed a train, damaged several homes and destroyed outbuildings, and destroyed a school as well.[1][2][3] After the White Deer tornado dissipated, a second tornado touched down near Pampa, remaining over open fields and causing no damage before dissipating.

A third tornado developed near Canadian and passed near Miami. This large multiple-vortex F5 storm would become the main killer tornado of the event. The tornado first impacted a railway station near the small community of Codman, where one person was killed and work cars were thrown from the tracks. Several farms in the area sustained glancing blows from the tornado, though trees in the center-most part of the circulation were reportedly debarked.[4] When it struck the tiny town of Glazier, it may have been as much as two miles (3 km) wide. Most structures in the town were swept completely away and scattered. Vehicles in the area were thrown hundreds of yards and mangled, shrubbery was debarked, and ground scouring occurred.[5] Glazier was considered completely destroyed, with 17 dead, a major percentage of the populace. Press reports told of two people who were known to be together in Glazier before the tornado struck were found three miles (5 km) apart afterward.[6] The tornado maintained its intensity as it slammed into Higgins, Texas, on the Texas-Oklahoma border, which was also devastated. The accepted death toll here was 51; again, a major fraction of the residents of the town were killed or injured. Much of downtown Higgins was completely demolished, and entire rows of homes were swept away in town. At one residence, a 4½ ton lathe was reportedly ripped from its anchors and broken in half.[7][8]

The tornado was at its worst in Oklahoma—this was the deadliest storm in that state's tornado-troubled history. Six more people were killed when the tornado swept away farms south of Shattuck, Gage, and Fargo.[9] The tornado then moved into Woodward, where it devastated the town and killed an estimated 107 people. The damage that occurred in Woodward was catastrophic. There, the tornado was two miles (3 km) wide and destroyed 100 city blocks. Many homes and businesses were leveled, and as the tornado struck the town's power plant, a 20-ton steel boiler tank was lofted and thrown a block and a half.[10] The tornado finally dissipated in Woods County, west of Alva, Oklahoma, while the tornado family pressed on to Kansas.[11]

The parent supercell continued through parts of Oklahoma and into Kansas, producing tornadoes intermittently along the way before dissipating near Topeka. Most of these tornadoes were about F2 in intensity and affected rural areas. However, one tornado near Fowler, Kansas reached F4 intensity, sweeping away two homes and injuring 3 people. Cleanup in the region was made more difficult because of cold and snow that followed the tornado. The Glazier-Higgins-Woodward tornado was the 6th deadliest in U.S. history, killing 181 and injuring 970.[12]

Joan Gay Croft disappearance[edit]

4-year-old Joan Gay Croft and her sister Jerri were among refugees taking shelter in a basement hallway of the Woodward hospital. As officials sent the injured to different hospitals in the area, two men took Joan away, saying they were taking her to Oklahoma City. She was never seen again. Over the years, several women have come forth saying they suspect they might be Joan. None of their claims have been verified.[13][14]

Damage totals from the Red Cross[edit]

  • Lipscomb County, Texas - 36 homes flattened, 1 damaged
  • Hemphill County, Texas - 83 homes leveled, 116 damaged
  • Texas total - $1,505,000
  • Ellis County, Oklahoma - $1,264,000
    • 52 homes destroyed, 133 damaged
    • 223 other buildings destroyed, 107 damaged
  • Woodward County, Oklahoma - $6,608,750
    • 430 homes destroyed, 650 damaged
    • 925 other buildings destroyed, 975 damaged
  • Woods County, Oklahoma - $950,000
    • 25 homes destroyed, 34 damaged
    • 110 other buildings destroyed, 90 damaged
  • Kansas total - $200,000

Total damage estimates were $747,850,050-$173,489,564 (2008 dollars).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Grazulis, Thomas P (July 1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1. 
  2. ^ "Higgins, Woodward Set Afire; Train is Blown off Tracks". The Amarillo Daily News (Amarillo, Texas). April 10, 1947. 
  3. ^ "Storm Sounds Like Freight Train as It Strikes Town". El Paso Herald-Post (El Paso, Texas). April 10, 1947. 
  4. ^ "Santa Fe is Commended for Relief Work". The Amarillo Globe (Amarillo, Texas). April 15, 1947. 
  5. ^ "Levi Holt Tells of Glazier Storm". The Hemphill County News (Texas). April 25, 1947. 
  6. ^ Grazulis, Thomas P (July 1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1. 
  7. ^ "Survivors Wander Dazed and Helpless at Ruins". The Amarillo Globe-Times (Amarillo, Texas). April 10, 1947. 
  8. ^ "Stunned Victims Unable To Comprehend Disaster". The Amarillo Daily News (Amarillo, Texas). April 11, 1947. 
  9. ^ Grazulis, Thomas P (July 1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1. 
  10. ^ "Levi Holt Tells of Glazier Storm". The Hemphill County News (Texas). April 25, 1947. 
  11. ^ Grazulis, Thomas P (July 1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1. 
  12. ^ Grazulis, Thomas P (July 1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1. 
  13. ^ Mike Coppock, Sixty years after Woodward tornado, girl's kidnapping unsolved. Oklahoma Gazette, April 3, 2007.
  14. ^ Woman may be girl stolen after tornado. Rome News-Tribune, April 15, 1994.
  • Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991, A Chronology and Analysis of Events. The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-00-7 (hardcover)
  • Bedard, Richard (1997). In the Shadow of the Tornado. Gilco Publishing. ISBN 0-9649527-1-8 (paperback)
  • Sanders, Kellie R., “‘The Wednesday Monster’: The Glazier-Higgins-Woodward F5 Tornado of April 9, 1947,” Panhandle-Plains Historical Review, 80 (2008), 23–44.Total damage estimates were $747,850,050-$173,489,564 (2008 dollars).

External links and sources[edit]