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Ruskin Tornado Tales
Wednesday, 10 May 2006
Memories of the 1957 Ruskin Tornado
Mood:  quizzical














Here is the start of our blog to add your memories of the 1957 Ruskin Heights Tornado. Tell us your memories or how your life was affected by the Ruskin Tornado.

It started in Martin City, and moved directly to our neighborhood. I remember my Father looking out the window in my parent's bedroom. My Mom and I were under the bed, and the sound of trains shook the house. Mom called Dad to get under the bed and quickly the roar passed over our house. Our neighbor across the street my best freind was asleep in his bedroom against the wall facing the street westward. His bedroom window imploded and sent glass shards into the wall opposit his bed. Rubble was everywhere, but we were safe.


Posted by beforemay at 7:01 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 10 May 2006 8:40 PM CDT

Thursday, 29 June 2006 - 6:37 PM CDT

Name: "Nick"
Home Page: http://www.thekansascitychannel.com

Very tragic event.  I believe this was classified as an f-5 storm -- making it the most powerful storm in Kansas City history

Thursday, 29 June 2006 - 7:48 PM CDT

Name: "Tim"

A gentleman asked us how many people died in the Tornado. 7 died in Kansas and 37 in Misouri for a total of 44.  500 injuries were reported in Missouri alone.  With a path 700 yards wide makes you wonder how so few died in areas where basements were very few. Check out the links for Tornado sites for more details.

Thursday, 29 June 2006 - 7:54 PM CDT

Name: "Tim"

Originally it was called an F-4, but further indications showed it to be an F-5 depending on the source. If you view the destruction in Ruskin Heights you see it appeared to be multiple funnels.  By any standard the destruction and results are intense. Being under a bed would probably not helped much if the funnel had not hopped over our house. :)

Friday, 30 June 2006 - 11:11 AM CDT

Name: "Peggy"

I am a Ruskin tornado survivor currently living in the Chicago area.  My father was one of the 500 injured.  This had a profound affect on me and my family.  We lived at 7611 E. 110th St.

Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - 1:42 AM CDT

Name: "Judee Schumacher Pronovost"

Like my friend Peggy, I, too, was 7 when the tornado hit.  It was after dinner.  We had been watching "I Love Lucy" and Mom was cleaning strawberries she'd bought from a fellow that came to our door selling them, when a bulletin came on about the tornado.  I didn't know what a bulletin was before then, but I learned really quickly that it wasn't good news.  We lived at 7601 East 108th Terrace.  Dad got Mom, my brother and me down to our neighbours' the Mark's house on the corner of our street.  Then he went back to be sure all our neighbours were safe, that windows were opened in our houses, and that the gas was turned off in as many houses as he could manage.  He barely made it back and down the stairs.  He says he went to the back yard fence for one last look, and that's when he saw the high school gym implode.  The tornado started sucking him toward it, and he had to fight his way back to the front of the garage to get to the basement.  When he finally threw himself down the stairs and started pounding on the door, everyone thought it was the wind, so they didn't open it right away.  Mom was lying across my brother and me and I heard her praying out loud.  A man said he could see it through the window, and for years I wished I could have looked at it also.  Everyone said it would sound like a freight train, but I didn't think it did.  When it struck it started with the sound of fine sand hitting the house, then gravel, then bigger rocks, until it was a loud crashing sound, and our breath was taken away.  Then the sounds reversed, with the big rocks, gravel, the fine sand, and then silence.  When it was over, the men went out and looked to see if there were injured people.  I remember them bringing a few people down to the basement and my neighbour tearing strips off her slip to bandage someone.  I remember us afraid to go back home in case it turned around and came back.  We had to climb over debris all over the stairs to get out.  When we looked up, our neighbours' roof was mostly gone.  We walked three doors up the street to our house and it was still standing, but there was debris everywhere.  I think all but two of our windows were broken.  There was glass everywhere -- between the mattresses, in our drawers, jammed into the walls, in the strawberries in the sink.  Mom was upset that she'd have to throw the strawberries away.  The walls had been blackened by the roofing paper from under the shingles from destroyed houses.  Dad always said that our house was spared from more damage because we had the park right behind our house and not other homes.  We stayed with my aunt for three days while Dad and Mom went home during the day to clean up.  They couldn't find the dog for several days, and then one day he came out from under the bed in my brother's room.  There was no more school after that.  We became really close with our neighbours.  When we moved to southern California in 1962, several of them followed us out here.  Others came to visit.  We'd spend major holidays together and celebrated family events together for many years.  The tornado had a profound effect on me.  I couldn't sleep with the lights out for years.  I'd get clammy watching "The Wizard of Oz."  Mom said I turned green once when WHB had a bulletin on one afternoon, even though there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  But I have to say, I'd still prefer a tornado to an earthquake.  At least with a tornado there's a warning and one can prepare by taking cover.  Earthquakes come out of nowhere and their damage is so much more far-reaching.  

Saturday, 23 December 2006 - 10:25 PM CST

Name: "Stephanie"

 Hi, thanks for posting your story on the 1957 Ruskin Heights tornado. I live by Ruskin Heights near 99th and Blue ridge and always wanted to hear stories of the tornado first hand and if it touched down over where I live. My house was built in 1959 but I moved in in 2005. I wanted to talk with neighbors if they were around but havenet talked to everyone on the street.
 
 
 
"Judee Schumacher Pronovost" wrote:
Like my friend Peggy, I, too, was 7 when the tornado hit.  It was after dinner.  We had been watching "I Love Lucy" and Mom was cleaning strawberries she'd bought from a fellow that came to our door selling them, when a bulletin came on about the tornado.  I didn't know what a bulletin was before then, but I learned really quickly that it wasn't good news.  We lived at 7601 East 108th Terrace.  Dad got Mom, my brother and me down to our neighbours' the Mark's house on the corner of our street.  Then he went back to be sure all our neighbours were safe, that windows were opened in our houses, and that the gas was turned off in as many houses as he could manage.  He barely made it back and down the stairs.  He says he went to the back yard fence for one last look, and that's when he saw the high school gym implode.  The tornado started sucking him toward it, and he had to fight his way back to the front of the garage to get to the basement.  When he finally threw himself down the stairs and started pounding on the door, everyone thought it was the wind, so they didn't open it right away.  Mom was lying across my brother and me and I heard her praying out loud.  A man said he could see it through the window, and for years I wished I could have looked at it also.  Everyone said it would sound like a freight train, but I didn't think it did.  When it struck it started with the sound of fine sand hitting the house, then gravel, then bigger rocks, until it was a loud crashing sound, and our breath was taken away.  Then the sounds reversed, with the big rocks, gravel, the fine sand, and then silence.  When it was over, the men went out and looked to see if there were injured people.  I remember them bringing a few people down to the basement and my neighbour tearing strips off her slip to bandage someone.  I remember us afraid to go back home in case it turned around and came back.  We had to climb over debris all over the stairs to get out.  When we looked up, our neighbours' roof was mostly gone.  We walked three doors up the street to our house and it was still standing, but there was debris everywhere.  I think all but two of our windows were broken.  There was glass everywhere -- between the mattresses, in our drawers, jammed into the walls, in the strawberries in the sink.  Mom was upset that she'd have to throw the strawberries away.  The walls had been blackened by the roofing paper from under the shingles from destroyed houses.  Dad always said that our house was spared from more damage because we had the park right behind our house and not other homes.  We stayed with my aunt for three days while Dad and Mom went home during the day to clean up.  They couldn't find the dog for several days, and then one day he came out from under the bed in my brother's room.  There was no more school after that.  We became really close with our neighbours.  When we moved to southern California in 1962, several of them followed us out here.  Others came to visit.  We'd spend major holidays together and celebrated family events together for many years.  The tornado had a profound effect on me.  I couldn't sleep with the lights out for years.  I'd get clammy watching "The Wizard of Oz."  Mom said I turned green once when WHB had a bulletin on one afternoon, even though there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  But I have to say, I'd still prefer a tornado to an earthquake.  At least with a tornado there's a warning and one can prepare by taking cover.  Earthquakes come out of nowhere and their damage is so much more far-reaching.  

Monday, 1 January 2007 - 2:35 PM CST

Name: "Mike Smith"
Home Page: http://www.weatherdata.com

I was 5 years old when the tornado occurred living in the Fairlane neighborhood (97th and Blue Ridge) when the tornado occurred.  It had a profound effect on my life as it sparked a life-long interest in weather.  I am the CEO of WeatherData Services, Inc., in Wichita which has been an innovative company in the field of tornado and storm warnings.  There are two other meteorologists who got their interest in weather because of the Ruskin tornado:  Dennis Smith (no relation) of The Weather Channel and Leslie Lemon one of the contributors to the current generation weather radar used by the National Weather Service to warn of tornadoes.  

Wednesday, 9 May 2007 - 11:55 PM CDT

Name: "Linda Cook Chandler"

My name is Linda Cook Chandler Class of 61. My Mother, Father and myself survived the tornado in Ruskin Heights May 20th 1957. I was 14 years old, getting ready to graduate from the 8th grade in a few days, I had gotten my cap and gown that day, brought it home and laid it on my bed.
We lived at 7401 E 109th Terr just a few houses down from the high school. We had moved into our new house (with no basement) March 20th 1957. We had not met any of our neighbors  yet only being there 8 weeks.
 It was a very hot humid day, I had gotten home from school, my parents home from work, after dinner my Mom and I had changed into our P. J's, Mom was laying down and I was doing my homework, my dad was sitting in the kitchen. I got up and looked out side, everything was a pea green color and very still, our neighbors were all out in their yards looking at the sky, I woke my Mom and told her to come look, she told me it was going to storm. I turned on the TV, the news said their was a tornado on the ground south of Olatha, Ks, my Dad came in at that time and said close the windows a storm is coming, my Mom an I were looking out the front door and saw a hug black cloud sitting on the school, my dad grabbed us both and through us in an oversized chair, then fell on top of us, (About 5 minuets after hearing it was at Olatha) my parents said they heard the walls and roof start breaking, I remember no sounds no feeling, I feel we were in the eye or center of the funnel cloud. I remember all of us praying at once for the Lord to protect us. After a few minutes everything was still and quiet, then almost instantly we began to hear people screaming. My dad stood up and ask if we were OK, we thought we were, it was dusk and we could not see well but well enough to see I had blood all over me, but I felt fine, as we looked at my dad he was bleeding from his head, which had been laying on my chest. We discovered he had been hit on his head with something, we think was the fridge, which was on the wall behind our chair. The gas and water were pouring out, as everything was broken off at the floor and electric wires were hanging and sparking
We stood up and realized that our house was gone and everything in it, our car was sitting beside us and everything else was gone. We saw something moving in what we thought was our yard, it was our neighbor from 5 houses up, it had picked him up and dropped him in our yard.  I have along story of what happened next not enough time or room to write it here. How I would love to share my story with all f you. I am writing a book, maybe someday you can read it.
It was a miracle that the Lord protected us through such a tragic horrible event. We tried walking to the shopping center to call my sister who was married and expecting her first child, we had to let her know we were OK, when we got to the Presbyterian Church, they had set it up as a temporary morgue, many bodies lying on the church yard. I had on my P. J'S and house shoes, as I was walking I saw a friend from school walking toward me, I remember he came to me and hugged me, we never said a word, just hugged and walked on, something I won't forget.
A few strange things that happened, a friend of mine found my cap and gown, in the box, on the Bosina Baptist Church yard about 5 to 7 miles from our house, nothing disturbed!!! My dad had gotten his tax refund check that day in the mail, had laid it on the table next to the chair he had thrown us in, the next morning when we went back to our house about 5:30 in the morning, he took the cushion from the chair and there was his check. Our refrigerator was twisted as if you had wrung it out like a wash cloth, laying in our front yard, when we pried it open, nothing was broken not even the eggs. I had my hair up in pin curls (that was our way of curling hair in 1957) the bobby pins were all straightened out but not driven into my head, my skirt hems, that were hanging in my closet, were packed full of debris but not a stitch broken. I could go on and on about the strange things that happened that night and the days to follow.
My parents rebuilt at the same location and we continued to live there. I graduated in May 1961, married in August of 1961, my parents left Ruskin Heights in 1971. My Parents are both gone now.
The Tornado was a very tragic and unforgettable experience one I never want to experience again. I thank the Lord everyday for allowing my parents and I to survive it.  My prayers and thoughts go to all the families and towns that have gone through what we did.
Thank you for sharing my story on your site, Linda Cook Chandler



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Friday, 28 March 2008 - 11:38 AM CDT

Name: "Clayton E. Hill"

Tornados are particularly interesting to me every spring.  The recent Atlanta tornado and a storm chasers’ TV show about the last year’s Greensburg, Kansas tornado caused me to research the internet recently about the 1957 Ruskin Heights tornado. 

 

Your web-site is fascinating.  I never knew the Ruskin tornado was estimated at F-5, nor did I know that actual photos existed.  The vivid descriptions told on your site really added to what I was told by my dad, as my dad survived his close encounter that May night.

 

He was going to help his friend, “Fire Chief” Bunch, paint his house and had stopped at Homer’s bar on Highway 71 on the way.  When he left the bar, he was 1 -1/2 miles to the right and slightly ahead of the tornado’s path.  He drove north on 71 then turned right onto Blue Ridge Boulevard. 

 

The tornado caught-up with him from the left, more-or-less in parallel to his route.  When he realized his predicament, the tornado was very, very close.  Dad was just across the street from a shopping center that was completely destroyed, and less than a minute from turning left into its direct path prior to destroying the high school.  Its winds were so strong that he couldn’t open the car door to get in the ditch, so he just “took to the floorboard.”  He said it felt like 1000’s of B-Bs were hitting him in the back, but he came out of it with just small cuts and abrasions.  The rear window was shattered, but laid intact on the back shelf under the ladder that he had suspended on the dash, front seat and back-seat shelf.  His pockets were full of grit, and a small sliver of wood, about twice the size of a tooth pick, was driven into the left-rear tire.

 

After regaining his composure, he stayed to offer medical first-aid and help to survivors into the early morning hours the next day (He was Navy medical corpsman stationed at Olathe, Kansas). 

 

Our family, one older sister, one younger brother, a baby sister, and I lived about a mile from Richards-Gebaur AFB in the Belvedere Heights Sub-division in Grandview, Missouri.  My dad trained mom and me in the tornado drill at the time:  Leave the doors open/unlocked, so our basement-less neighbors across the street could join us (We never locked them in those days anyway, and the garage door was always open for the Boots, the dog); open the windows; take the transistor radio down stairs; move the ping-pong table under the steps in the northwest corner of the basement; and take cover.  That is exactly what we did!  Except that particular storm we also prayed.  We had the radio and TV on after we knew the event had passed, and we waited anxiously by the phone knowing exactly where my dad was going that evening.  Luckily, it was for a call that never came!  However, early the next morning, we were all very-much relieved when dad finally did come home.  The next day, mom drove us to High Grove Elementary in our beat-up ‘52 Dodge – windows blown out and all.


 

The news and photos in the Kansas City Star/Times were extremely interesting - even to a second-grader – especially knowing my dad was there.  My mom and dad never took us by the destroyed sights except in our normal routes to KC on Highway 71, on Noland Road through Knobtown to Liberty, and through Martin City on the way to the base.  That is - except once - to that spot at the side of the road, then to the high school, and the turn-around, and then back to Grandview.  He did not want to be reminded of his terrible experience (much the same as any of the bad about WWII), nor did he want my mom to rubber-neck at the expense of others’ ill fate (even though that was her nature).

 

Later, before we moved to Jefferson City after my dad’s retirement, I had a baseball practice at an elementary school or park in Ruskin Heights that was in the direct path.  My coach made mention that it was good that we were not here that May 20, 1957 night. In the eighth grade, I “sat the bench” as a “third-stringer” in the Grandview - Baptiste Junior High football game at the Ruskin field with the tornado memories more prevalent than any football plays.   In my adult life with the National Guard, I occasionally had duty at the Military Park in Raytown and learned that some of the buildings there were also destroyed that night.  Last year, the 50th anniversary year, I made the trip along Blue Ridge Boulevard, north one day, and south the next.  On the return trip, I stopped a few minutes to read the memorial and remembered my dad’s ordeal and others’ calamity that day.   

 

Had he finished his (last) beer a minute or so earlier and been a victim, our families’ whole lives would have changed – he would not have retired from the Navy, and who knows where or what would have been different in a single-parent home.  Hospital Medical Corpsman Chief Clayton E. Hill, Jr. (USNR) died in November 1991, but his selfless service to the injured that night and early morning must have been appreciated.  So, I have taken this opportunity to record his help to unknown others that fateful night historically at your web-site.  Maybe someone there that evening told others or remembered a short, mustached, nearly-bald man helping after the tornado.   

 

                                                                        Clayton E. “Bud” Hill, III

                                                                        Jefferson City, MO

                                                                        bandbhill@earthlink.net

 

P.S.  I was 8 years old that day.  I attended St. Catherine’s in Hickman Mills in kindergarten and first grade, and Grandview schools through the 8th grade prior to moving to Jefferson City.  I had to leave many friends, family and memories in the KC area, but none are forgotten.

 

Monday, 25 May 2009 - 9:29 PM CDT

Name: "Jacob Russell"
Home Page: http://www.jacobrussellsbarkingdog.blogspot.com

Here is my account of the tornado... when I was 15. A piece I wrote on the storm was published in the Chicago Sun Times a week later as a Sunday feature. 

 

http://jacobrussellsbarkingdog.blogspot.com/2008/05/ruskin-heights-tornado-51-years.html 

Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - 8:41 PM CST

Name: "Renee Thorne"

Interesting web site.  My mother and I were just talking about this tornado tonight.  My parents lived near 109th and Blue ridge (I think) When the tornado hit they happen to be gone.  (Shopping? Food store?  she couldn't remember) I wasn't born yet.   They came home and nothing was left of their home.   They rebuilt - but, moved in early 60's to the KS side.  

Monday, 23 May 2011 - 2:26 AM CDT

Name: "e. evans"

I  was 8 my family had friends in Ruskin. It seemed like everything north of Blue Ridge road was gone. Homes on south were still their. When I was 16 or 17 I could drive east on 59 hiway and still see the tornador damage on the hills out of Raytown to Nolan rd. Many trips in my life I was on 71 hiway through Joplin, school campuses and court house it took an hour 4 lane hiway through town. It was beautiful, homes on what looked like to me 5 acres. What I saw today of Joplin reminded me of Ruskin. It made me sick. My hope is that they can come back as the others of this terrible tornado out break we are seeing. And become another Ruskin, Mo. 

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