AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - As we enter this time of year we are reminded of our tornado history, and just how devastating and deadly some events have been in our past.
This week, we observed the anniversary of the worst tornado in our history. The only documented EF-5 tornado that occurred in 1947 - this long track tornado demolished our communities of Glazier and Higgins as well as Woodward, Oklahoma, killing 168 people.
We are also approaching the deadliest tornado in Amarillo's history with 8 fatalities and major destruction to the city in 1949. I spoke with residents who were living here during that event about what it was like to face an extreme weather event with little technology or advanced warning.
“Look at the clouds mostly. We didn’t have very much communication. If you had a radio, you might get a little information,” said Kay Stargel, an Amarillo resident since 1946.
“I think we just looked outside and saw if it was windy or if it looked like bad weather to go stay inside,” said Tommie Nell Townsend, who remembers the Amarillo tornado of 1949.
“We barely had a TV and it didn’t work very good. We got all our radar stuff now that we didn’t have back then. We’d know how much rain we’d got but that’s really about all we knew,” said longtime resident of 'Tornado Alley’ Garland Walker.
Since those days, there has been a virtual explosion of technological advancements in communications so that no one should ever left in the dark. We now have Doppler radar to find and track tornadoes. Sometimes we have indications before tornadoes even form.
With forecast technology, we’re usually ready in advance and have our intercept crews out and our own eyes watching for tornadoes to keep people posted.
Along with TV, we have ways to get information no matter where we are, like our First Alert phone app, social media, and computer websites. It’s technology that our older friends could only have dreamed of.
“Everything that we have now, back then, all the technology we can know for sure where it’s at,” said Garland.
“Television and computers, a lot of people have cell phones that tell them exactly what’s going on,” echoed Kay.
" And now of course, there’s always the TV and the radio and I keep mine on all the time. All the time and I appreciate all the good weather that you do, I always turn it to your channel," said Tommie.
We’re not to the point that we can stop tornadoes yet but we have the technology and the communication to track them and help keep people safe. That’s good news.