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Tales from Tornado Alley

By Bobbi (Hackney) Huck

Satellite view of Bob Hackney's farm on Highway 160, 8.5miles east of Coldwater, Comanche County, Kansas. USGS photograph, 15 August 1991. Left: Tornado's eye view of Bob Hackney's farm on the north side of Highway 160, 8.5 miles east of Coldwater, Comanche County, Ks, USGS photograph, 15 Aug 1991.

"I had been helping Don York fix fence on an exchange basis on the Baker place southeast of Wilmore and we were coming in at about 3:30 p.m. because of a nasty looking cloud that was coming up in the southwest. We were on Highway 160 east of Coldwater at about the New Eden schoolhouse when we saw a tornado almost due west of us and moving towards the northeast. We pulled into Bob Hackney's yard so I could call Alice, as it looked like it was headed for our house. Bob wasn't at home but Jean and the kids came out into the yard and talked with Don while I went inside to call Alice. When I came outside, Don said: "Look up there". I don't know how high it was, but not nearly high enough to suit me. We were looking directly into the eye of the tornado. We could see tree limbs and other debris, including a picnic table, just floating. They seemed to be barely moving. Needless to say, we hurried Jean and the kids into a storm cellar. Don and I made a quick exit in the pickup. The tornado dissipated without doing any harm." (by Wendel Ferrin, 05/26/89.)

I don't really recall the tornado Wendel Ferrin told about, but I do remember some men hurrying us down into the cellar, which is under the house. You get into it from the back porch, and mom never would let us down there. That's where the furnace is, and its a dirt floor. We thought it was neat down there cause in the corners it was damp and there were sometimes salamanders. We must have been very young, early 1960's possibly.

In 1974 I married Dan Huck from Coldwater. We moved 18 miles SW of Coldwater. At that time it was called 'the farm' or referred to as the "west" place by his family. There were 3 buildings there at that time, the house, granary and the calving barn. We added the large metal machine shed, and later moved the barn in from the abandoned farm of Mattie and Ostwalt Huck.

We had 6 tornadoes hit there in 12 years. It still seems strange to me to have that many tornadoes in one location in so few years. When a tornado hit, it would only take one building. Two tornadoes only took out several trees just north of the house in the tree row. The first tornado came in either May or June 1975, and took our drive-thru wooden granary. It also laid down a few trees, but was headed more east than northeast.

The second tornado was on June 16, 1976. This one took the doors off our metal machine shed. Dan was in the shed working when the wind came up that afternoon. One of the doors on the south side was starting to come out of its track in the wind, so Dan tied it down with a log chain to our feedtruck that was parked in the shed. He had just finished this when the tornado struck. It pulled the doors completely off the shed, both north and south doors, and since he had it tied down so well with a log chain, it drug the feedtruck out to the south of the shed and rammed it into our bulk fuel barrels. We had several trees south of the fuel barrels at that time and about 5 of them were uprooted. This tornado continued NE right past the house and took a couple of trees out of tree row north of house.

The third missed all the buildings and struck only the tree row north of the house.

The fourth tornado came in 1983 and took out our calving barn right west of the house.

The fifth one came on May 16, 1985. This one threw a large tree through our north kitchen window, and it landed on my kitchen table. All the drawers were pulled out in the house. Small wood nails were found in the back bedroom half-way driven into the woodwork behind the curtains that were still up. I had a couple of aquariums at the time, they were full of twigs and ladybugs. Pictures were all blown down off walls. One of the kids plastic toys was still sitting on the kitchen table, where it was before. Lots of branches were down. We had replaced the doors on large metal machine shed, and it took those with it also. We went out to check out the damage, thought we had been lucky as bad as it had sounded. Then the wind started coming up again and debris was blowing around us in different directions. At ground level it was going one way, then about 4 feet off the ground it was going another way, and a little higher was also a different way. The circles of debris were going in different speeds also, if you can imagine that. We decided there must be another tornado, so went back into the basement again. And there was. This time, about 10 minutes after the first, it hit again. It took the whole and complete machine shed with it. Flattened it. Electrical wires down everywhere. Clifford Blount watched this tornado. He said a small tornado touched down, looked real close to our house, and still on the ground headed north/northeast. It was 1.5 miles north of our house when another tornado headed east touched down right in front of the tornado headed NE. He said these two tornadoes combined, turned around and headed straight for our homestead, in a southwesterly direction.

We really decided at this time, maybe we should leave. Maybe this is not the place for us. So we moved. On May 16, 1986, the sixth tornado hit that place. This time it took a great deal of the only building still standing, the house.

What do you think?

Now we live at the Box Ranch. This ranch headquarters are located approximately 6.5 miles from the "west place".Last year I watched clouds go over here that looked tornadic, boiling, dark,chaotic and tri-colored. I watched the clouds pass right south of this house. They were going straight east, following the Cimarron River. When the clouds reached the spot where the river turns SSE, they turned and went NE. Right up a valley that leads towards the other place. I do not know if they hit there, but a tornado hit 2 other homesteads that do have people living in them. Could have very easily passed over the south end of our old place. Something makes them turn NNE there.

My grandmother Ollie Hackney has told me there were always cyclones in that area of the county.

Satellite view of the Huck farm, 18 miles SW of Coldwater, Comanche County, Ks, showing tornado damage.

The house is at north and the big white rectangular object south of the house is a cement slab the machine shed used to be on. The house has two walls completely gone, roof and all, and two walls still standing. You can see in the tree row 4 spots where tornados went thru over the years. The drive thru wooden grainery is gone, the calving barn is gone, and the horse barn, which we moved in after we moved there, burnt down.

-- Bobbi (Hackney) Huck

Also see:

The Wilmore News, May 27, 1949: "Twister Wrecks Wilmore Business District"
The Wilmore News, June 3, 1949: "Town Cleaning Up After Tornado Damage"
Aftermath of the Wilmore Tornado, May 20, 1949,   photos by J.R. & Gloria Cline
Tornados in the Wilmore, Ks, Area
C.J. Huck, U.S. Navy

Tornados on October 9th, 2001.

Autumn Twisters Rip Through Midwest     "On October 9, 2001, the Storm Prediction Center issued a "Moderate Risk" warning for severe storms to occur over portions of the Central and Southern Great Plains region of the United States. This warning prompted Colorado State University's Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) to initiate super rapid scan operations of the GOES-12 satellite to collect images over the region at 1-minute intervals. Residents of Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas didn't know it at the time, but they would be hit by a series of tornadoes sweeping through portions of those states later that day.

The National Weather Center received 23 reported tornado sightings for the region. This animation, produced from GOES-12 data, shows a series of storm cells as they formed and moved northward." -- The Visible Earth Project

(The animations require the QuickTime player. You can download QuickTime at no charge but you'll have to find it for yourself on the internet .WARNING: NEVER install Quicktime on a Windows machine. It changes other software's settings without asking your permission during the installation and is impossible, in my experience, to completely uninstall from a Windows operating system.)

This web page was made by Jerry Ferrin on September 1st, 2001. It was last updated 27 Dec 2003.

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