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Great Tornado outbreak of 1970

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A picture worth a thousand words, but to Edna Osburn Durben and her daughter Judy pictures don't come close to describing what they went through April 18th 1970.

Severe storms started to move into Donely County. At the time their farm was located outside Clarendon.

"Her dad, a tornado was his worse fear," said Edna Osburn Durben. "When he got in, he kept saying we better watch this cloud."

Edna, her husband Robert and daughter went to their shelter. Then around 2:20 in the morning they thought the coast was clear and went back to the house.

"Directly he said oh my god, we're hit, we're hit," she said. The house began to rock. "I told Judy to get in the hall. He went and fell on top of her and then it hit us and took us out."

Edna and Robert were flung into a pasture near the house and Judy was blow in another direction near their barn.

"And I remember getting up and starting to walk," said Judy Osburn. All she could think about was get somebody or finding her parents. She walked a quarter of a mile to a neighbor's house covered in cuts, a few broken ribs and shoulder. Then she came back for her mother who had been scalped by debris, broken her neck, ribs, and was barely alive. Sadly Robert was the first of many people to die that night.

The F-4 tornado started at Plainview and moved northeast to Sherwood shores-present day Howardwick. The community was mostly made up of mobile homes and the tornado took out nearly every mobile home in its way. It injured over 30 and killed 16 people.

According to Meteorologist Dave Hennig form the National Weather Service office in Amarillo, this tornado come close the record for fatalities. The most deadly tornado to hit the Texas Panhandle was in White Deer that was rated at an F-5 tornado. It would go on to hit Woodward Oklahoma.

Patrick Robertson was only fifteen at the time, but said he doesn't really need the funeral home's record to remind him of the event.

"I knew it was going to be an enormous thing," said Patrick Robertson. "To just have, you know, more death in the funeral home in one morning, than you normally have in 3 months, is just overwhelming."

Patrick said for weeks after the tornado, folks in Clarendon helped clean up what was left of Howardwick the damage exceed 8 million dollars.

In the 37 years after the tornado, Edna still doesn't know why she survived. But maybe it's to pass along a message sometimes a picture can't describe.

"The ones that think that it just pick you up an sets you down somewhere, that's not the way it works. A tornado is no respecter of people, but let me tell you I respect them."

Click Here to view the video version of the story

Quick Facts:

  • 17 fatalities in Clarendon and Greenbelt Reservoir
  • At least 66 injured
  • Cattle decimated
  • Damage over $8 million

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