Pryor, OK Tornado Destruction, Apr 1942 - Pryor Starts Digging Out
Main Street Wrecked.
Practically every brick building along the main street and on the principal business side streets was flattened or heavily damaged.
About one third of the thomes were damaged or destroyed. Entire blocks of houses were smashed in some instances.
Sheriff DON McELROY estimated that hundreds of parked cars were buried under the crashing buildings.
In one trailer camp west of town, eight persons were trapped and killed. The collapse of a grocery killed another. Five persons eating in a cafe died in the smashed structure. Three bodies were recovered from a rubble heap that had been a garage.
"All Went Black"
FAYE MITCHELL, employe of the county agent's office, said "everything went black as the storm struck."
"It made my ears hurt," she said. "There was a high whistling sound. It was like swimming deep under water."
All telephone communications were cut. The electric power was off. Ambulances from nearby towns carried out wounded.
F. C. (DICK) DICKINSON, employe of the Grand River dam at Lagley, Okla., had just driven into town as the purplish-black storm cloud descended.
He said he counted 11 bodies in five blocks.
The ordnance plant workers cleared the streets of rubble, then attacked the tottering walls of business houses to lay the danger of further crumbling and injury to rescue workers.
Rush In Supplies.
Portable power units from the ordnance works were set up at strategic centers in the downtown area. Emergency water supplies and food were brought in.
The storm was freakish in its savagery. About 15 to 20 chickens cowered down the street, picked clean by the wind.
One side of the First National Bank was blown out. Loose money from the tills -- the amount undetermined -- littered the street. Nobody stopped to pick it up. They were too busy.
Claremore residents reported seeing the storm east of there. It dipped down on highway 20 about 12 miles west of here and apparently followed the highway into Pryor.
Its path along the highway was littered by twisted automobiles, some of which it tossed 200 yards into fields. One giant gasoline transport truck was twisted like a pretzel.
Standing on a hilltop on the highway, GEORGE WOLFE, Tulsa truck driver, told of seeing the purplish-black cone -- "from all sides were spitting big cows, calves, whole trees, telephone poles, roof tops." After waiting until he thought the storm had passed, he and his helper, LEONARD WALLACE, 18, along with 10 persons huddled on the hill, got into their machines and started out again. But those that had gone ahead apparently, plunged into the storm's center.
Saw Truck Vanish.
WALLACE said a light bakery truck with the driver in it just disappeared.
"I saw that truck a good 15 feet off the road and twisting in a continuous circle," said WALLACE. "Afterward I looked all over for it and never found a trace of the driver or the truck."