A memory of a significant event from my past
On 10 January 1975 an F4 tornado roared across Pike County, a corner of Lincoln County and into Lawrence County in southwest Mississippi, following a typical tornadic path to the northeast from its point of origin. The funnel first appeared at treetop height in the northeast corner of Percy Quin State Park and cut a swath through forested areas until it neared the open pasture land area on the outskirts of McComb, MS. There the storm dropped to the surface.
Crossing Interstate Hwy. 55, the funnel claimed its first victim when it caused a man commuting to work to wreck his car. The storm then tore into the populated area, ripping through houses, apartments and small businesses on its journey on to the northeast. Leaving the more urbanized area, the storm blew through a variety of rolling terrain, some in pasture, some in forest, until it crossed into Lincoln County, Mississippi. Across Pike County the storm left 4 dead and 200 injured. The official time of occurrence of the tornado was 8:14 am.
Lincoln County was somewhat more forested and less populated than Pike County with no towns in the path of the storm; however, the storm's strength had not abated and remained at F4 level as determined by damage evaluations later. In Lincoln Co. the death toll was worse -- five died, primarily because they had no storm shelter of any kind and lived in less substantial housing, e.g., mobile homes. One retired man, who lived with his elderly sister in a mobile home, apparently panicked and tried to escape the storm in his truck, only to have the vehicle overturned as he tried to enter it, crushing him. The mobile home virtually exploded, killing the elderly sister and leaving only the horizontal metal trailer frame on the running gear used to move the home. Even that frame was twisted into a figure 8 shape. The sister's remains were not located for quite a while afterward some distance away in a tangle of downed timber.
The storm crossed timbered land owned by my father-in-law. The timber was just reaching merchantable age and size for being sawn into lumber. After the storm, the timbered area was nothing but a tangle of downed trees so broken and twisted that even salvage for use as pulp & paper wood was not practical. Some eighty to 100 acres of timber had to eventually be pushed up into windrows and burned to make way for replanting.
Portions of the storm track in the Lincoln Co. area showed two distinct paths of destruction running nearly parallel but separated by some few hundred yards. It appeared that the original storm either spawned another funnel or the main storm split into two funnels for a time. The official time of the storm in Lincoln Co. was 8:45 am.
The storm held together and entered Lawrence County on to the east, still maintaining F4 punch for a time; no deaths or injuries occurred in that county, however. Official time of the storm in Lawrence Co. was 8:59 am. The tornado finally broke up somewhere in Lawrence Co. and did not cross the entire county intact.
Where was all this? See map image enhanced with a couple of notes:
Due to volunteering for storm assistance work and my family connections, I had the opportunity to see more of the results of this storm than any other in my lifetime up to now. What I saw, read about, and otherwise heard of the details of this storm prompted me to pen the song which follows and devise an appropriate melody. Later I had the opportunity to record this song and one other in a professional recording studio. (Those familiar with the works and style of Gordon Lightfoot will likely see his influence on the song; it would be even more obvious if you could hear it.)
© 1977, Wayne B. Anderson
Whirling, swirling, no sun will shine today
Whirling, swirling, the wind is on its way
Twisting, tearing, black as Hell inside
Twisting, tearing, no place can you hide.
Southwest to northeast the funnels always run
On that winter day, death kept away the sun
The winds began to gather, before the light could show
Moving ever faster, the storm began to grow.
Moving through the forests, the trees were all torn down
Moving o'er the pastures, the storm was gaining ground
Crossing the highway, the first life was snuffed out
As it climbed up the hill, the people began to shout.
The city was the next to fall, the houses came apart
Their boards impaled other homes like gigantic darts
Large homes, small homes, cars, utility poles
Some were taken only in part, others taken whole.
Northeast of the city the storm winds did divide
Two funnels now raced away, neither would subside
As one they claimed many lives, as two they added more
Until sometime later, they rejoined in a roar.
Once again the wind went forth, but strength now was gone
The freight train roar passed away to only a mournful moan
Behind a wake of many deaths was left by the wind
As though the wrath of God had struck out at our sins.
First to mourn, then to bury, to clean up and rebuild
With help from every province, even the King lent his skill
Maybe soon or maybe later the winds will come again
Where is not important, nor why, but only when!
Closing (repeat intro)
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