Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Today in History: The Orrick MO Tornado of 1967

It was the noon hour of January 24, 1967 when a deadly twister struck the small community of Orrick in the northeastern Kansas City Metro.

Here is a description of that day from my yet-uncompleted book on Kansas City MetroRegion Tornadoes Since 1950...

"Weather conditions more like April than January that day contributed to a noteworthy tornado outbreak over the Central U.S. and western Great Lakes states. 

Noteworthy it was for at the time, it was the furthest north a tornado outbreak in winter had ever occurred in recorded history. 

Thirty-two tornadoes were reported in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. 

Two of the tornadoes during the outbreak reached F-4 intensity that January Tuesday. 

Four of those twisters ... in  Missouri, Iowa, Illinois ... were killers.

The first killer tornado of the outbreak touched down in the noon hour about 20 miles east of Downtown KC,MO ... in Jackson County ... moving northeast into southwestern Ray County MO, striking the high school in Orrick,MO..

The thunderstorm that would spawn the tornado formed about 30 miles southwest of Kansas City just before the noon hour. 

The storm quickly became severe as it moved northeast at an average speed of 40 m.p.h.. 

Around 12:25 p.m., straight-line winds estimated near 60 m.p.h. caused damage to the-then under contruction Metcalf South shopping center at 95th Street and Metcalf in Overland Park,KS. 

The storm moved through southern Prairie Village, northern Leawood,KS, the across the Missouri state line into southwestern Kansas City near 83rd Street and State Line. 

At Southeast High school across from Swope Park, winds estimated at 50 m.p.h. chased a boy's gym class from outdoor fields. 

The storm moved on, passing over the Blue Ridge Mall area. 

Reports of hail up to quarter size began to be received as the storm moved over southern and eastern Independence. 

There were scattered reports of damage to trees and power lines there, and at least one unconfirmed report of a funnel cloud near the Lake City munitions plant at Missouri Highways 7 and 78. 

At 12:40 p.m., the funnel dropped to the ground about 3 miles southwest of Buckner (present-day eastern 
Independence ). 

The tornado spared a direct hit on  Buckner , damaging outbuildings and barns in the nearby rural hills. 

The funnel then moved into the Missouri River plain, just missing the small community of Sibley.

As the tornado moved across the river into southwestern RAY County, the vortex reached it's maximum F-3 strength with the town of Orrick just a few miles ahead in it's path. 

It was when the high school's clocks stopped, at 12:52 p.m., the estimated 250-foot wide tornado with winds as high as 200 m.p.h. slammed into the one-story building on the west side of Orrick, a town of around 750 people off of  Highway M-210. 

The greater than Category 5 hurricane force winds lifted, then collapsed the roof of the gym as well as the upper walls of the building. 

This caused another part of the school's roof to collapse over the classroom area. 

Debris blew in and rained down onto the more than 200 students and their instructors taking cover in interior hallways, immediately killing one of the students. 

Fourteen more students, one them with critical head injuries, and a teacher were among the injured at the high school.

One of those who died that day was identified in Associated Press stories the next day as 18-year-old OHS senior Danny Gene Barber, who reportedly "suffocated" under debris from the fallen roof.

The student with the critical head injuries died after the AP story was written.

He was 15-year-old Danny Blythe, who died in the Richmond MO hospital. 

At least three other homes were either damaged or destroyed in town where the remainder of the 18 total injuries in the town were reported. 

Dozens of police, fire units and ambulances responded from a three-county area to assist in rescue, treatment and transport off the injured in Orrick that day.

The tornado continued on for about another 20 minutes, taking out more barns and outbuildings until it lifted 4 miles west-northwest of Richmond in central Ray County."

Orrick Tornado, rare as it was on a day in January, was not the deadliest. 

That distinction went to a violent twister later in the day in St Louis County across the state.

The F-4 tornado cut a 21-mile long path through the western and northern suburbs of St. Louis, killing three and injuring more than 200 people.

The tornado just missed a direct hit of St. Louis's Lambert airport.

1 comment:

Super Dave said...

That week of January set many records weather wise. January 27 1967 was when the record snow hit Chicago killing many people as well. Wichita KS was a balmy 75 degrees on the 22nd. Earlier in the month Monterrey Mexico on the 9th had 22 inches of snow in an eight hour period. As the New Year began, Concordia, Ks. had 10 in. of snow on the ground, its greatest January depth on record.

That week as well wasn’t kind either other than the weather when on the 27th tragedy struck NASA as the Apollo 1 fire kills astronauts Grissom, White & Chaffee.

Two other events that happened in January 1967 that I remember very well was Super Bowl 1 played the 15th with Green Bay Beating the KC Chiefs. And I mean beating them. Clint Eastwood movie career took off and never looked back as A Fistful of Dollars, the first significant "Spaghetti Western" film, is released in the United States on the 18th.

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