Texas Disasters: True Stories of Tragedy and Survivalby Mike Cox
The enormity of Texas's many major disasters are an appropriate match for the state's large size. This is an area of the country where tornadoes are a frequent threat, but in addition to the many violent twisters, residents have experienced fires, floods, drought, blizzards, shipwrecks, and other devastating events, including a yellow fever epidemic in 1867, which earned that year the grim moniker "The Year of Death."
Twenty dramatic true stories are retold in this well-researched collection, including:
The deadly quarter-mile-wide tornado that roared through the town of Goliad in 1902, killing 114 people, injuring 230, and demolishing 150 structures.
>A 1937 natural gas explosion at a school in New London, which blew the whole building into the air and killed 298 students and teachers.
A 15-foot wall of water that in 1965 swept down the canyon in the West Texas railroad town of Sanderson, killing whole families but uniting the racially divided town in rescue efforts.
The 1947 explosion of the SS Grandcamp, a French vessel docked in Texas City and laden with ammonium nitrate, which had caught fire and later ignited another ship carrying the same cargo. The two blasts killed 576 people, injured thousands more, and jarred residents of Houston 40 miles to the north.
Read an Excerpt
Just before 6 p.m., a monstrous black cloud dropped from the skies on the south side of town and began its death march across the defenseless city. "The giant tornado was a massive black column extending from the low striated base of the inky clouds to the ground," a National Weather Service report later said. Huge pieces of debris thrown high in the air were clearly visible from miles away as the storm cut a swath of destruction through the city. Eyewitnesses described details of the storm differently, but they were unanimous on one point--it was an awesome, terrifying experience beyond anything they had encountered before.
The police officers at Memorial Stadium could attest to that. They watched in horror from outside the stadium press box as the cloud-containing at least five funnels-moved straight toward them. Knowing they could not outrun it, they bolted down the stadium stairs, huddled against a steel stairway railing, locked their arms together, and prayed. One of them later told a reporter that his only prayer was that his body could be identified. The roar of the storm was deafening, and the men were blasted by swirling debris.
But then the roar stopped. The mile-wide tornado moved on, looking for more victims, and the police officers were alive. The winds had torn the speakers from their radios, their handcuffs had been sucked out of their leather cases, and their service revolvers had been ripped open. Neuberth's watch had stopped at 6:05.
Meet the Author
Mike Cox is the author of a dozen books on Texas history and other subjects. He was the communications manager for the Texas Department of Transportation while Texas absorbed hundreds of thousands of evacuees during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Before that, he spent fifteen years with the Texas Department of Public Safety as a public information officer and was a newspaper reporter--all good research for writing about disasters and rescue efforts in Texas.
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