Did you know a massive and powerful tornado hit McKinney, Texas at 3:03 PM on May 3, 1948? It caused widespread destruction across the south and southeast section of town, killed 3 people, injured 43, left 700 homeless and produced over 2 million dollars worth of damage.
What started out as a cool spring morning on McKinney’s one hundredth birthday, turned into a rain mixed with grapefruit sized hail storm that spawned into a tornado of very strong rotating proportions. There was no such thing as an early warning system. Residents heard it coming but never saw it. The rolling black clouds and green colored rain and wind made it nearly impossible to detect.
A survivor, a young boy at the time, later recounted how he crawled under his mom and dad’s bed and put marbles in his ears to drown out the noise. Cars were flung into cotton fields, homes and barns simply disappeared. Trees were uprooted, making it difficult to transport the injured to the city hospital. The Cotton Mill area was the hardest hit.
In the midst of tragedy, heroism reigned. Principal Charles T. Eddins of the South Ward School and his wife, Mirita, kept the children calm and safe. Charles lost part of his hand while barricading doors and Mirita led the children in singing “April Showers” until the terror passed.
Help came from everywhere. Thousands of pounds of food were flown in from San Antonio by the Air Force. Radio communications were re-established by the National Guard. Able-bodied men were sent to prepare and serve food to the homeless.
The Red Cross built temporary shelters and helped to rebuild homes. Physicians and nurses came from all over north Texas. Good Neighbor Day was declared by Mayor Newsome, when, on the Friday following the storm, all businesses closed to help clear debris. President Harry S. Truman sent his sympathies and commitment to help McKinney rebuild.
And rebuild they did. Although it took months, that same spirit that still exists today helped McKinney emerge stronger.
Just a little remembrance on a rainy night.
Photo credit: North Texas History Museum