Skywatcher Ron Hughes Remembers A Bad Tornado

| March 23, 2011 @ 9:30 am | 34 Replies
The Candlestick Park family of tornadoes caused death and destruction along a 200 mile path all the way into Alabama.

Photo from the Tuscaloosa News the dayafter the tornado

Many of us who are interested in weather can point to one or two events that really got led to their interest.  Skywatcher Ronald Hughes from Coker was thirteen years old when his most influential event occurred.

It was the infamous Candlestick Park Tornado that devastated its namesake mall in Jackson, Mississippi.   The parent thunderstorm that spawned the F5 tornado in Jackson produced a family of tornado along a path that was over 200 miles long, all the way into Alabama.  A total of 58 people died along that path.

The general track of the Candlestick Park family of tornadoes.

The general track of the Candlestick Park family of tornadoes.

Ron wrote this account of that memorable night and gave us permission to share it on the blog.

March 3, 1966
As a thirteen year old this event would be to remember for a lifetime.

On the evening of March 3, 1966 as I sat at home watching tv while my parents and two younger sisters were gone to the Coker Elementary School for a music jamboree.  The show was put on by community musicians.  I noticed that the rain was coming down and wind began to pick up.

Around 7:00 PM I heard a roar and my fIrst thought was, why was a train coming thru at this hour. A few minutes later it happened, the power went out. I walked to the front door and looked out. At that moment I knew that was no train but a tornado about 1-1.5 miles to my west.

The F2 tornado tore thru the western edge of Coker on Nubbin Rd. killing the son of Robert Eatman, then continued on to Woodley Farm located just off hwy 82 which is now called Bel Aire Estates. The next stop for the tornado was the home of Nathan Robertson. It completely leveled his house. The only thing left was the concrete foundation and the couch, which was centered in the living room where he and his family was sitting when the tornado hit. Amazingly they only received a few minor scratches.

The tornado formed near Adams, MS and laid a path of202.5 miles of destruction before it dissipated near the Old Lock 15 Public Use Area on the Black Warrior River’s West Bank. A total of 58 people lost their lives and 518 injuries was reported that day and night. Pickens and Tuscaloosa Counties received 20 houses and 6 barns destroyed, 20 homes and 15 barns damaged. Crop losses was mainly timberlands.

Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter, Lorian had just moved to Candlestick Park, MS a few weeks prior to the tornado.

She wrote a book called” A World Turned Over” in memorialize of this event.

Ron also found these articles about the storm in Alabama:

Tornado Kills One in Area

Mississippi Counts 57 Tornado Dead

Prayers Answered, Family Escapes Death in Tornado

The amazing thing is that this family of tornadoes had been on the ground for nearly 200 miles when it got to Ron’s neighborhood.  He was watching television, and still had no advance notice that it was coming.  You know that the U.S. Weather Bureau was issuing warnings that night, but they weren’t making it to commercial television.  Boy, we have come a long way since then haven’t we?

Ron says the most rewarding part about serving as a Skywatcher is being a part of the process that provides warnings to people about terrible storms like this one.  Thanks for what you do Ronald, and all our Skywatchers!

Category: Met 101/Weather History

About the Author ()

Bill Murray is the President of The Weather Factory. He is the site's official weather historian and a weekend forecaster. He also anchors the site's severe weather coverage. Bill Murray is the proud holder of National Weather Association Digital Seal #0001 @wxhistorian

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