April 9

This Day in History

Disaster

Apr 9, 1947:

Tornado reduces Oklahoma town to rubble

The town of Woodward, Oklahoma, is nearly wiped off the map by a powerful tornado on this day in 1947. More than 100 people died in Woodward, and 80 more lost their lives elsewhere in the series of twisters that hit the U.S. heartland that day.

The storm occurred when a cold front from Siberia met a warm and moist stream of air from the Gulf of Mexico. In the late afternoon, the first tornado struck in White Deer, Texas. In Glazier, Texas, only a gas station survived the twister. In Higgins, Texas, 30 people were killed as the tornado grew to nearly a mile-and-a-half wide.

As the tornado traveled on in its nearly 100-mile-long trip, it got even wider. By the time it reached Woodward it was reportedly as big as two miles wide. Fierce lightning and hail preceded the twister and drove the residents to seek shelter. At about nine in the evening, the town s gas and electric plants were destroyed and the residents were left in complete darkness.

As the storm moved through Woodward, 200 residential blocks were completely leveled and nearly 1,000 homes were razed. Fires broke out in several spots but the heavy rains kept them under control. In all, 107 people were killed in Woodward and many more were injured. The devastating tornado then continued on to Kansas, where significant damage was done but no one was killed.

As looting was reported in the areas hit by the tornado, the National Guard was called in to restore order. Army barracks were used to house the homeless until their homes could be rebuilt.

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