I'm Dave Thurlow for the Mount Washington Observatory and this is The Weather Notebook. It was at 8:42 p.m. a half-century ago today, when the town of Woodward, Oklahoma, population 5,000, was all but demolished. The twister that ravaged this town was one of at least five in a tornado family, and it was exceptionally long-lived. In more than two hours, it carved a path 100 miles long through Texas and Oklahoma.
Today, the residents would have had some warning; perhaps only a few, or even none, would have died. It's of little consolation to the survivors these days, like those in Arkedelphia, Arkansas, that warning systems are saving more and more lives, though not all. But in 1947, there was no warning system at all for tornadoes. Almost every home had a radio, but there were no bulletins warning of the twister's approach. By the time this tornado reached Woodward, not long after sunset, it was a fearsome three kilometers wide, with its winds blowing at well over 200 miles an hour, that's 320 kilometers an hour.
The twister struck the town full force, destroying more than 1,000 homes. The final toll in Woodward: at least 107 people killed and nearly 1,000 injured. Less than a year later, the nation's first tornado alert was issued and the system that would save hundreds of lives was born -- not far from where so many lives were lost on that April night 50 years ago today. Our show is written this week by Robert Henson.
Funding for The Weather Notebook is provided by The National Science Foundation. Our show is underwritten by Subaru, maker of the all Weather Legacy. Subaru -- the beauty of All-Wheel Drive.