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Texas Department of Public Safety Historical Museum and Research Center

Sound | c. 1970

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  •  Severe thunderstorm warning 
  •  Tornado warning 
  •  "Twister!" 
  •  The morning after 
  •  Lubbock is "lucky" 
  •  NARRATOR: Lubbock, Texas, airport, a warm evening in early May. 
  •  WEATHER BUREAU ANNOUNCER: The temperature is now 78. Some indications of severe weather conditions developing to the south and west of the city. For Lubbock, a strong possibility of thunder showers later in the evening.  
  •  NARRATOR: Downtown in the Emergency Operations Center at City Hall, the Civil Defense Director, Bill Payne, is just leaving the office.  
  •  BILL PAYNE: Well, that doesn’t look too bad, does it, Linda? Good night.  
  •  LINDA: Good night, Mr. Payne.  
  •  LOU: Good evening, City Hall. One moment, please. Going home, Bill? 
  •  PAYNE: Nope, showing this film at the Optimist’s Club. I’ll be at the Embers.  
  •  LOU: See you later.  
  •  NARRATOR: The sky is still bright, worrisome, some cumulus building up. So far, Lubbock’s been lucky. For years, tornadoes have been hitting all around, but never the city itself. But Texans have learned to take their weather seriously. And tonight, Payne is talking to the Monterey Optimists Club in South Lubbock explaining the city’s new emergency operations plan for dealing with various kinds of disaster and showing a National Weather Service film called “Tornado!” But before the film’s really rolling, there’s a message from City Hall.  
  •  LOU: Bill, this is Lou. The Weather Bureau just called, and they’re going to issue a severe thunderstorm warning just as soon as they can get it on tape.  
  •  PAYNE: Okay, Lou. Call the Operating Department. I’ll be right in. 
  •  NARRATOR: Coming back, the skies turn black, and already, KFYO, the local emergency broadcast station, is beginning its weather watch.  
  •  KFYO BROADCAST: During the past 10 minutes, indicate golf ball to baseball-size hail in the vicinity of Mackenzie State Park with the hail increasing at this time.  
  •  NARRATOR: In the Emergency Operating Center— 
  •  PAYNE: EOC, Payne speaking.  
  •  HERSCHEL SHARP: Bill, we’re all out here at the red bean supper. If things get rough, well, let us know. 
  •  PAYNE: Okay, Herschel. I’ll call you if I need you. 
  •  NARRATOR: On the other side of town, the Lubbock firemen are throwing their annual bash: a red bean and cornbread supper for their friends. The host, Fire Chief Herschel Sharp, and among the guests, Bill Blackwell, the City Manager; J.T. Alley, Chief of Police; leading citizens; the press; radio men Bob Nash and Max Mott. 
  •  MAX MOTT: Looks like the Weather Bureau may have to issue a tornado warning after awhile. 
  •  BOB NASH: Oh, don’t sweat it, Max. You’ve got less chance of being hit by a tornado than being trampled by a dinosaur.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER: District One Lubbock [inaudible], I’m at—trouble with road—receiving very, very heavy rains and very heavy hail.  
  •  NARRATOR: For Bill Payne, a time for waiting and listening as police reports begin to flow in. 
  •  POLICE OFFICER: Five-oh-eight. Okay, I’m still going east. The rain is still heavy, and I’m getting golf ball-size hail.  
  •  PAYNE: Eighty-nine, clear. Have you got a unit out around the traffic circle south of town that can give us a report on that large hail? 
  •  DISPATCHER: Ten-four.  
  •  POLICE OFFICER 2: I’m sitting over here on Fourth Street, and from here, it looks like one big, heavy, dark cloud centered around Twenty-third, and every once in a while, you can see something—like it snakes down and goes back up again.  
  •  WEATHER BUREAU ANNOUNCER: Alan, we have a hook about seven miles south of the airport.  
  •  ALAN: Operator, would you contact Bill Payne, please, and tell him the Weather Bureau is issuing a tornado warning for Lubbock County. Radar indicates a possible tornado seven miles south of the airport.  
  •  PAYNE: Mr. Blackwell, things are not looking too good. I think you, Herschel, and Bob Shannon should come on in.  
  •  BILL BLACKWELL: Okay, Bill. I’ll round up the troops and be right there.  
  •  NARRATOR: At the red bean supper, the Singing Plainsmen have taken over the entertainment.  
  •  In 10 minutes, they’re back at the EOC; the City Manager, Safety Director Bob Shannon, all the city’s key department heads.  
  •  SHARP: Eight-hundred to operator?  
  •  NARRATOR: The radio room and switchboards are fully manned according to plan. The Emergency Center is ready for action. 
  •  BLACKWELL: Chief, are your units covered? You pretty well-covered throughout the city?  
  •  POLICE OFFICER: Three-eleven? Three? Okay I’m at [inaudible]. I’ve got dead lights. We’ve got the wires sparking real bad here. Breaking down now. 
  •  FIRE DEPARTMENT DISPATCHER: Fire department? Yes, sir. Need some help in the dispatching office. Power is out. Need help in the dispatching office. 
  •  NARRATOR: Across the street from City Hall, the radio stations also lost power, but as part of the Emergency Broadcast System, the station has an old emergency generator obtained as surplus property from the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency. The switch is thrown. The station is back on the air.  
  •  KYFO BROADCASTER: At 790 on your radio dial, Lubbock, Texas, on the weather watch. The tornado warning remains in effect for Lubbock, western Crosby, Floyd, and southern Hale Counties until 10 p.m. tonight. and now more music.  
  •  POLICE OFFICER: Okay—storms—We’re getting more steady electricity storms. I keep—in the distance, one of them after another keeping the whole sky lit up. 
  •  WEATHER BUREAU ANNOUNCER: Tell them we got a new hook down here moving toward us.  
  •  JOHNSON: Lubbock DPS, Lubbock Weather Bureau? This is Johnson at the Weather Bureau Office. Would you advise the police department in Idalou to sound the warning sirens for a possible tornado? 
  •  PAYNE: The Weather Bureau is issuing a tornado warning for the city. Their watched placed the darkest cloud. We’ve had one report of a funnel.  
  •  POLICE OFFICER: It’s raining real heavy off of 289, winds about sixty miles an hour, rain is blowing to the southwest. 
  •  POLICE OFFICER 2: Okay, the cloud to the southeast just dropped two hooks a minute ago, and then they went right back up in the cloud.  
  •  JOHNSON: A possible tornado was indicated by radar at 8:57, and a funnel cloud has been observed in that same area.  
  •  KYFO BROADCASTER: A massive storm has just struck downtown Lubbock. All persons, take cover! 
  •  POLICE OFFICER 3: I’m out here on Ashton Road at this time, headed back in towards town. It’s raining so hard, I can’t hardly see anything. 
  •  BOB WHITE: Hello, this is Bob White, KRLD in Dallas. Could you give me something brief for my 10 o’clock? 
  •  KYFO BROADCASTER: Not right now. You’ll have to hold on. All citizens, do not attempt to come into the downtown Lubbock area because hotwires are down.  
  •  POLICE OFFICER: Okay, I’m on this hill looking back towards town. You’ve got a funnel cloud hanging right over the city limits. Look like it’s touching the ground.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER 2: Forty=one, can you see anything?  
  •  MALE SPEAKER 3: Twister! MALE SPEAKER 4: Hit the deck! 
  •  MALE SPEAKER 5: I can hear it coming. You better find yourself a spot. 
  •  MALE SPEAKER 6: Don't worry. I'm going to get right under the table here.  
  •  BLACKWELL: You don't have any contact with your station?  
  •  SHARP: Bill, they won’t answer over there. There’s probably something going—phone’s gone out.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER: We’ve been hit! We’re up here at Monterey station.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER 2: Chief Central’s been hit. 
  •  MALE SPEAKER 3: Tornado! Here she comes.  
  •  PAYNE: DPS, we’ve been hit. Don’t hang up. I’ll be right back.  
  •  NARRATOR: The tornado smashed directly into City Hall and the police station just upstairs. For seven seconds, the lights go out. Then the emergency generator kicks in. 
  •  BROADCASTER: Ninety-one, we’re heading downtown where it hit.  
  •  POLICE OFFICER: Lubbock, I’m coming back in town.  
  •  BROADCASTER: Don’t come [inaudible].  
  •  POLICE OFFICER: It’s horrible out here. Loud, loud noise here in the northwest part of town. It sounds like another one’s coming in from the north. 
  •  BROADCASTER: Ten-four. It’s coming in again. 
  •  MALE SPEAKER: Tornado. That’s not a hoax. 
  •  NARRATOR: The tornado roars on north through the city toward the country club and the airport then lifts just over the Weather Bureau leaving Lubbock behind it in shambles.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER: Police station has been hit.  
  •  BLACKWELL: Lou, are there any lines left?  
  •  LOU: Only incoming. We can’t call out.  
  •  BLACKWELL: Well, hold those you have and keep trying.  
  •  LOU: All right, Mr. Blackwell.  
  •  PAYNE: Mr. Blackwell, the hotline to DPS is still working.  
  •  BLACKWELL: Major, it looks like we’ve been hit pretty hard here in the downtown area. Well, the central fire station’s been hit, the police station, and City Hall. Can you start some of your people in our direction? We need communications, please.  
  •  NARRATOR: Quickly, state police cruisers from the Department of Public Safety move in, circle their wagons at City Hall, begin relaying emergency messages, and Max Mott and Bob Nash at the radio station have cannibalized equipment from one of their mobile units, are stringing cable down the stairs. 
  •  BLACKWELL: Give me a cue. I’ll take it any time, any time, any time. 
  •  KYFO BROADCASTER: Okay, you’re on. 
  •  BLACKWELL: This is the Lubbock Operational Area Emergency Broadcast System. With me is Bill Payne, the Civil Defense Director for the City of Lubbock.  
  •  ANDY: Hey, Dallas? Keep this line open. Don’t get off this line. You’re the only outside contact.  
  •  DALLAS: Okay, I’ll stay on hold. Now, Andy, do you have any reports of injuries?  
  •  ANDY: Not yet. We just had a hit downtown. We can’t get anything in. I’m afraid to look out the damn window. Wait a minute. All right, we have extensive damage. I just looked across the street. City Hall is completely broken. All of the glass is out of it. It’s standing, but all of the glass is out of it.  
  •  NARRATOR: People are pouring into the EOC; the mayor of Lubbock and members of the City Council. They go into emergency session in Bill Payne’s office.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER: ...the structure to have the—City Manager do this. The operational aspect—I’d recommend that we go ahead and let him run the show just like he does day to day. 
  •  BLACKWELL: We’re going to need a lot of help. Can you go ahead and put Austin in contact with the governor’s office, and get the National Guard ready to activate?  
  •  NARRATOR: Quickly, the news is relayed to the Capitol at Austin, the State Department of Defense, and Disaster Relief. 
  •  MALE SPEAKER: The city of Lubbock has been hit by a tornado.  
  •  NARRATOR: Then on to Washington, D.C. 
  •  SHARP: Dave, what’ve you got cordoned off here now? 
  •  NARRATOR: Communications are out, but each man knows what he has to do. It’s all laid out in the emergency plan.  
  •  SHARP: Our problem right now is going to be to work out all these motels along Amarillo Highway. We’re going to make these motels one by one, go through the whole thing. If we have to, we’ll drain those swimming pools.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER: Okay, we’ve got six, four-man teams  going to do search and rescue. So we’ll take this—are and also this country road— [indistinct voices] 
  •  MALE SPEAKER 2: [Inaudible] is blocked with trailer houses and everything they lost.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER 3: There’s some people trapped in the house upstairs. [indistinct voices] 
  •  NARRATOR: Emergency rooms at all the Lubbock hospitals are being swamped with tornado victims.  
  •  NURSE: Oh, it’s all right, honey. FEMALE SPEAKER: Como se llama?  
  •  NARRATOR: Others are coming into City Hall. And just down the hallway from the EOC, Helen Payne, Bill’s wife, has set up a first-aid station.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER: Is there anything you need? 
  •  HELEN PAYNE: Not right now. We’re doing pretty good. Do you know what area was hit hardest?  
  •  MALE SPEAKER: I know about one area; it’s supposed to be the 2900 block of Third Street.  
  •  HELEN PAYNE: Third Street? That’s my street.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER 2: Okay, can you confirm anything at 206 Sherman?  
  •  MALE SPEAKER 3: Negative. I’m not able to get a unit into there at this time. Eighty-nine?  
  •  MALE SPEAKER 2: Okay, they cannot of the central fire station the roof is down on their truck. 
  •  HELEN PAYNE: The man from the Salvation Army said that our apartment was damaged.  
  •  BILL PAYNE: Yes, I know, and there’s nothing I can do about it now. I’ll see you later. 
  •  KYFO BROADCASTER: The Lubbock Red Cross office has been asked to please contact the Odessa Red Cross on priority.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER: How’s the generator, Bill? 
  •  BLACKWELL: How’s the generator, Bill? 
  •  MALE SPEAKER: Okay, let’s get an Oklahoma credit card. 
  •  BLACKWELL: All right.  
  •  NARRATOR: In neighboring Oklahoma, they probably returned the compliment by calling it a Texas credit card, but either way, it means chopping off a length of garden hose and using it to siphon gas from the nearest available car to keep the emergency generator running.  
  •  BLACKWELL: As you know, Mayor Granbury just a little while ago, declared a state of emergency for the city of Lubbock. Things are rough here in the downtown area and in other areas struck by the tornado. We don’t know at this hour just what the extent of damage is and the number of injured and dead are. We have received some reports of dead in the north part of the city. Our search and rescue teams are out at this time composed primarily of fire and police personnel. There are many other problems that face us at this point. We continue to search out the areas that have been struck by the tornado and will continue to report to you by means of radio through the hours of the night.  
  •  NARRATOR: The darkness still hides many things. No one knows what they’ll find at dawn.  
  •  Lubbock, the morning after. The tornadoes cut a swath more than eight miles long, nearly a mile and a half wide, right through the heart of town. It’s been impartial. Nothing’s been spared. The downtown business district, the industrial areas, country club, and the Mexican-American section. Death and destruction everywhere. People still pinching themselves, surprised that they’re still alive.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER: What did it sound like last night when the storms started? 
  •  FEMALE SPEAKER: Well, it went guuush, guuuush, stop awhile, and then gush. We was in that little storm cellar, and that’s just the way it sounded, and the hail seemed like that big on that cellar door.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER: Who was with you? 
  •  FEMALE SPEAKER: My husband.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER: Have you ever seen anything like this before?  
  •  MALE SPEAKER 2: Eh, part of like this. That thing there once blowed over there. I missed it about that much. This time, it got me.  
  •  FEMALE SPEAKER 2: And the lights across the street went out twice before we ran.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER: Did you get under the bed?  
  •  FEMALE SPEAKER 2: The kids did. I couldn’t get under there. 
  •  FEMALE SPEAKER 3: It just sounded like a big whoosh, and boy—and the top of the ceiling and everything started falling in on top of us. 
  •  MALE SPEAKER: What was it like when it was all over and the survivors started peeking their heads out?  
  •  FEMALE SPEAKER 3: I don’t know. [laughs] I was so scared, I didn’t know what to do. He had to carry me to the bomb shelter.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER 3: I don’t know exactly what instant it struck, but we were at the cellar door, and the rest of the family had preceded me down into the cellar. And I wasn’t going in that hole at the time, but at about that time, something happened. What it was—I don’t know whether it was noise or something hit me or—or just what it was, but something just made me say, “Let me in there, too,” and in I went. And we pulled the door to, and no more than got it fastened, then everything broke loose. We hear debris hitting the cellar door and the cellar door—or we was trying to decide whether to push on the cellar door or pull because it was going one way one minute and one way the other way; it tried to come in on us, then tried to go out. 
  •  ANNOUNCER: Do not go into the downtown business district. Do not go into the downtown business district. Police and National Guard have cordoned off the area. There is still danger from hotwires and falling glass.  
  •  POLICE OFFICER: Good morning, sir.  
  •  MAN IN CAR: Good morning. I’m taking some Coleman lanterns and stuff down here to Texas Testing Lab. 
  •  POLICE OFFICER: Yes, sir. You’re going to have to have to get a permit to get in here today.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER: They are reporting that the Great Plains building is twisted, and it should be secure. Some bricks are cracking above at this time.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER 2: Now there are a lot of rumors floating around town about the Great Plains building about to fall, and I think that we might contact some local engineers to get them to make a visual inspection and give us a report.  
  •  BLACKWELL: Right, the Director of Public Works and I were talking about this a few minutes ago, and so we’ll go ahead and get a team in there this afternoon.  
  •  NARRATOR: In the Emergency Operating Center, a thousand pressing problems: Setting up a temporary morgue; clearance of emergency routes; food, clothing, shelter for the thousands who are suddenly homeless. 
  •  MALE SPEAKER 3: [Inaudible] Center in Lubbock is now in desperate need for 300 sheets and pillow cases, also some diapers, some children’s underwear, and blankets. For the party calling about John and Jenna Goforth, they are at Possum Kingdom at safe. This is from the EOC: Lubbock Colosseum is needing sandwiches for 750 to 1,500 people. Now they’ll be feeding from 5:15 p.m. until— 
  •  NARRATOR: Help of every kind is needed and is coming from every direction. Linemen from all the surrounding cities and states are coming in to restore power and communications. The Texas National Guard is there in force. So is Fourth Army with helicopters and heavy equipment, and men from Reese Air Force base just outside the city. The President’s declared Lubbock a major disaster area. And at the airport, a White House plane’s arriving, bringing Texas Congressional leaders and federal executives to coordinate a massive assistance program.  
  •  The city has lost 8000 homes, suffered nearly $150 million worth of business and industrial damage. City Hall, the police, and central fire stations have been smashed, the city warehouse flattened, two main power stations are out, and so are the main pumping stations for the water system.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER 4:  
  •  MALE SPEAKER 5:  
  •  NARRATOR:  
  •  MALE SPEAKER 6:  
  •  NARRATOR:  
  •  For ten long days and nights, the emergency center will be in continual operation. People working around the clock; eating, sleeping at their posts. Many not going home at all until the crisis is over. Ten days, but now the book is closed.  
  •  BILL PAYNE: Checking out now, Linda.  
  •  LINDA: All right, Mr. Payne.  
  •  LOU: Good afternoon, City Hall. One moment, please. Going home, Bill?  
  •  PAYNE: I guess, what’s left of it.  
  •  NARRATOR: It’s happened a thousand times these last 10 days.  
  •  MALE SPEAKER: But now you have a pile of rubble that you once lovingly and fondly called a home? What do you do now? 
  •  MALE SPEAKER 2: Well, really, that’s just junk. We’ve got our kids.  
  •  FEMALE SPEAKER: We’re lucky, though. We really are.  
  •  NASH: Lucky or just a grim joke? Well, actually, in one way, Lubbock was lucky because we were prepared for disaster as very few cities are. Just the year before, the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency had picked Lubbock for a pilot project; a testing round, and disaster experts from the federal and state governments came in, worked long and hard with the city officials and their neighbors to produce a model emergency readiness plan. This plan, covering every conceivable kind of disaster and telling us exactly just what we had to do. Second, we had a working emergency operating center to do it in. When the trouble came, the top executives stayed together, worked together, made the key decisions. Finally, they kept the people informed. With warning before the twister struck and full information after, these were the things that carried us through. And lucky for Lubbock, we had them because well, I’m Bob Nash, and I learned that even in this day and age, you can get trampled by a dinosaur.  
  •  JOHNNY DAVIS: This is what can happen to a town in the space of about one minute. It could have been yours, and it can happen yet because nearly 700 tornados strike this country in an average year, and no state in the union is safe. I’m Johnnie Davis, Director of the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency in Washington, D.C., and it’s our job to help your local community with emergency planning and construction of emergency operating centers, but it’s your job to know what to do to save your life if a twister ever hits.  
  •  Whenever conditions are threatening, the National Weather Service will put your area on Tornado Watch, which means keep listening to radio or TV for further developments and be ready to move at a moment’s notice. Tornado Warning means a funnel has actually been sighted. Take shelter immediately. If you’re at home, the basement is the safest place, under a sturdy table or workbench or in an inner closet or bathroom. Keep away from windows and flying glass, and don’t stay in a mobile home or parked car. They’re too easily overturned. If you’re in school, your teachers will take you to an inner hallway on the lowest floor. Keep out of gyms and auditoriums with widespan roofs that could come crashing down.  
  •  In office buildings, the same rules hold. Go to an inner hallway on the lowest floor or to your designated shelter. If you’re caught in the open and see a tornado funnel coming, move away at right angle to its path, and if there’s no time left for escape, lie flat in the nearest ditch or ravine. It’s your life that’s at stake. So remember these rules whenever you hear the tornado warning. 
  •  Transcribed by Adept Word Management™, Inc. 
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On May 11, 1970, Lubbock, Texas was struck by an F-5 tornado, until that time the only tornado to hit the highly populated downtown area. Produced by the federal Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, this film recreates the events of that evening and includes interviews with citizens during the aftermath and footage of the tornado's destruction. All major city officials including Civil Defense Director Bill Payne, Fire Chief Herschel Sharp, and Chief of Police J.T. Alley are involved in the recreated scenes. The federal Office of Civil Defense selected Lubbock as one of three cities nationwide to develop an Emergency Operations Plan, a project that was completed in November 1969, only months before the May 1970 tornado struck. This film served to show the importance of municipal emergency planning and response, as evident from a message by Johnny Davis, Director of the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, at the film's conclusion. Transcribed by Adept Word Management™, Inc.

Established by the Texas Legislature on August 10, 1935, the Texas Department of Public Safety was created by the consolidation of the Texas Highway Motor Patrol with the Texas Rangers. Since that time, its duties have grown to include such activities as the state licensing of drivers, vehicle inspection, narcotics enforcement, and the State Civil Defense Office, (now the Division of Emergency Management,) which aids local governments during times of natural disaster or social upheaval. While its duties have evolved over time, the mission of the DPS has remained constant - to provide public safety services to those people in the state of Texas by enforcing laws, administering regulatory programs, managing records, educating the public, and managing emergencies, both directly and through interaction with other agencies.