Kansas made the news this last Saturday with over 100 tornadoes spotted on the ground or by radar. The approaching bad weather—thanks to modern technology—was forecasted both well in advance and during the tornado outbreaks.
We knew exactly when to go to our tornado shelter because of the radio announcer’s commentary on the paths of the three tornadoes that threatened our immediate area during the day and evening storms.
Even though a few homes were destroyed, the people that lived in them were saved by the warnings.
Because I’ve been posting photos of dugouts, I did some online search for old tornado photos on KansasMemory.org. Tornadoes have been a part of the Great Plains nature since the beginning of time so I figured I could find something on the internet.
What I found was the first photo believed to be taken of a Kansas cyclone on April 23, 1884 by A. A. Adams, a photographer from Garnet, Kansas, as the storm passed by Central City, Kansas. (It’s noted that it looked like he enhanced the tornado a bit with ink to make it show up better.)
Because of our “instant news”, we see the remains of households strewn and destroyed by current storm destruction almost immediately. We also know that help is on the way from the Red Cross, National Guard, neighbors, etc. In most cases, insurance or organizations will replace belongings.
What happened to the people in the dugouts or sod houses out on the prairie? I’m sure they watched the weather and had a very clear view of approaching storms—unless it happened during the night. But think of the panic, as there was no way to fit your wagon in that little house space. They may not have a shelter built for their livestock so the milk cow and horses were out in the elements.
What if the tornado caused the roof to cave in? Some possessions would blow away and others ruined. Letters from their parents in their homeland, the only photo they had of a child that died, the memory quilt signed by all the wife’s old friends, their only bucket, the wagon, the livestock…all gone forever. Hopefully, the family lived through the incident, with no one killed, injured, or buried under the remains of the home …
After the destruction, you’d just be standing there out in the open, and it could be dark, raining…and you’d have no help…