Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The 1970 Lubbock Tornado

Today is the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Lubbock tornado. I was born in Lubbock in 1968, but our family moved to Dallas a few months before this storm.

In addition to killing some 28 people, the Lubbock tornado was notorious for slamming into the 20-story Great Plains Life Building and causing a permanent 12-inch deformation in its steel frame. Three of four elevator support rails were bent and approximately 60 percent of the windows were blown out.

While many predicted the building would collapse in the days after the storm, civil engineers from Texas Tech said it could be repaired and didn't need to be torn down. A series of out-of-town owners let the building sit vacant for years, attracting pigeons and occasionally shedding bricks onto downtown streets. The building was auctioned off to Amarillo investors Rufus and Kenneth Gaut in 1974 for the princely sum of $115,000 in back taxes.

The building reopened to tenants a year later and the now-renamed Metro Life tower still stands today as the tallest building in Lubbock.

For a dated-but-interesting look at Lubbock's emergency response to the 1970 tornado, check out Twister!, a 26-minute educational film that was produced by the federal Defense Civil Preparedness Agency (FEMA's precursor). You can view it online at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image's ever-growing video library.

1970 photo from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

1 comment:

Shaz said...

"Now at the Red Bean Supper, the Singing Plainsmen have taken over the entertainment"