Revisiting the path of Amarillo’s record 1949 tornado

Revisiting the path of Amarillo's 1949 tornado

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Amarillo’s most devastating tornado touched down south of the city but made a b-line to the north and quickly became destructive.

Revisiting the path of Amarillo’s record 1949 tornado (Source: KFDA)
Revisiting the path of Amarillo’s record 1949 tornado (Source: KFDA) (Source: KFDA)

The tornado first touched down just north of Washington Street and Hollywood Road, near the railroad overpass or the old Country Pride restaurant, if you’re familiar with that location.

This property owned by the Wineinger family was just demolished. I interviewed that family awhile back and they told me some amazing stories.

Their house was just demolished; in fact, their whole family was scattered around with the debris left behind by the tornado and the house.

One of the little boys thought that they had died and were waking up in heaven.

Another really amazing story though, Raymond Wineinger had told me that he had laid a pocket watch on top of an old time refrigerator, the kind you open from the top. When they came back and surveyed the damage and were looking for belongings, they found that pocket watch where the kitchen had once been but never found the refrigerator, if you can believe that.

From here the tornado continued north into southeast Amarillo and it became very destructive.

Revisiting the path of Amarillo’s record 1949 tornado (Source: KFDA)
Revisiting the path of Amarillo’s record 1949 tornado (Source: KFDA) (Source: KFDA)

The tornado struck residential Amarillo just north of 34th and Washington. It’s the Alice Landergin Elementary School area and the surrounding neighborhood. This was sort of ground zero for most of the residential destruction. Houses for blocks and blocks around were destroyed. This is where most of the fatalities and injuries occurred, but the tornado continued north across I-40 and was still very destructive.

Tradewind Airport was being destroyed at about the same time. I once talked to a worker that was here at the airport when the tornado hit. He said the noise was unbelievable, it was so loud because of the wind, the hail and destruction that he was standing some 20-feet away from another worker and they were screaming but couldn’t hear each other.

Revisiting the path of Amarillo’s record 1949 tornado (Source: KFDA)
Revisiting the path of Amarillo’s record 1949 tornado (Source: KFDA) (Source: KFDA)

Of course, heavy losses at the airport with many hangars and aircraft were just destroyed. From there, the tornado continued on to the north doing damage.

Right after the tornado crossed what is now I-40, it started to veer to the northeast.

It swept right across the Tri-State Fairgrounds and did major damage. It leveled most of the buildings and did a lot of destruction.

It would take a major rebuilding project to get the fair up and running again, but the tornado was still on the ground and heading to the northeast.

Revisiting the path of Amarillo’s record 1949 tornado (Source: KFDA)
Revisiting the path of Amarillo’s record 1949 tornado (Source: KFDA) (Source: KFDA)

The tornado exited the city in its northeast corner, not too far from what was then English Field and now the Amarillo International Airport where the National Weather Service is.

This was the strongest tornado to ever hit Amarillo, a record that remains unbroken 70 years later.

Copyright 2019 KFDA. All rights reserved.