WICHITA FALLS, Texas — The town of Wichita Falls can be described as a place where summers are hot and dry, and winters can get bitterly cold. But spring? Just about right, except for one thing: there’s something about the weather in April that has kept this city on edge – tornadoes.
Over the past 65 years, eight tornadoes have struck Wichita Falls in April, three of them were particularly bad.
On April 2, 1958, a tornado near downtown touched the ground and damaged or destroyed 50 homes and killed a man working at a farm.
Six years later – April 3, 1964, local television station KAUZ-TV, Channel 6, broadcast the first-ever live video of a tornado forming just outside the city. Viewers were spellbound watching as the tornado kicked up dust and debris and struck near Sheppard Air Force Base.
Retired journalist Larry Weidman was a young Channel 6 TV reporter on the day the tornado hit.
“The first pictures of the live camera they put on the parking lot made it look like a grass fire, or maybe a little dust storm in the in the southwest, and they followed it on the air live all the way across until the storm roped out and disappeared against the clouds. I'm still amazed that they rolled out a big camera and rolled a video tape,” he said.
The tornado that viewers watched on TV killed seven people and injured 11 others. It heavily damaged the air force base and damaged or destroyed nearly 500 homes.
But the worst April tornado, the worst in that city’s history, struck in 1979. Weidman, a Wichita Falls native, covered the tornado for KPRC-TV in Houston.
“It was a huge storm. It was described as three funnel clouds joining together and over 20% of the houses in which strong faults had been destroyed, more than 40 people were killed. It happened late in the afternoon, and some of the fatalities were in cars people who either didn't know about the warning or were trying to outrun the storm,” he said.
Whether it’s a curse or coincidence or just the way North Texas weather plays out in the spring, it’s interesting to note that of the 26 tornadoes that have struck this city since 1888, nearly half, and by far the worst, happened in the month of April.
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