Fifty Years Later: Remembering A Devastating Tyler Tornado - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

4/26/2007-Tyler

Fifty Years Later: Remembering A Devastating Tyler Tornado

Fifty years ago on April 27,1957 a devastating tornado hit Tyler. Even now it remains the most devastating tornado to hit Tyler in almost one hundred years.

KLTV spoke to a man who remembers that day well.  

"I think about where I was that day and trying to crouch down and trying to get away from all the stuff flying around and the loud noise. I think about all the noise more than anything else has stayed with me," said Jim Keele. It was the longest minute of his life. "A good minute, I'm sure it seemed longer than that to me."

He was at Andy Woods Elementary School, one of the first places hit by the tornado. "My parents both work so they had taken me to school early. About six minutes before eight that's when it hit because the clocks stopped," said Keele.

"It started raining really heavy and the wind started blowing," said Keele, "Most of the rooms were closed at the times. The teachers hadn't gotten there yet. So they just exploded. Most of the doors exploded off the hinges and the glass started blowing out."

50 years ago Andy Woods Elementary's entire roof was torn off and all the windows shattered. But just right across the street Pollard United Methodist Church was left completely untouched.

"It started right near that road that is inside the loop. Hit andy woods came through skipped over it hit Bell Elementary hit Wise Auditorium went on through hit Friendly Baptist Church and went on up further than that."

Vicki Betts has been compiling the information on this devastating twister.

"They considered it a miracle," said Betts "the hospitals immediately went into emergency mode. But they braced for an onslaught of injured people and only a few people came at all."

And there may be a reason for that. "The week before they had practiced their duck and cover drills and they think that is what probably saved quite a few lives," said Betts.

"It's a wonder worse things hadn't happened," said Keele, "but if the tornado had happened thirty minutes from when it did. There is no telling what would had happened because all the students would have been there."

In just a few minutes the tornado left, leaving only a trail of debris and memories that haven't faded in 50 years.

About four huncred houses and three schools were hit. They didn't have any type of warning sirens or radar.

Danielle Capper, Reporting. dcapper@kltv.com

 

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