San Augustine, TX Tornado, Mar 1943

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Tornado Kills 2, Destroys Houses In San Augustine

By Robert M. Hayes,
East Texas Bureau of The News.
San Augustine, Texas, March 5.-A mile wide tornado struck this historic old East Texas town at 4:45 p.m. Friday devastating the business district, leveling many homes and damaging probably 75 per cent of the others in a fifteen-minute scourge that killed at least one person, perhaps two and injured several others.

EZEL BRUANT, 10, son of Mr. and Mrs. JOHN BRUANT, residents on the near-by GEORGE BARNAHAN farm, was killed when struck by a flying timber while riding a bicycle home from school.

An unidentified Negro girl was also reported killed.

The power house was among business places demolished, leaving the town without lights. It also was without outside communications for more than six hours, all telephone and telegraph wires being down.

A food shortage for the entire area may be crated as a result of huge grocery losses.

The San Augustine Wholesale Grocery Building, containing a stock of goods valued at $500,000 was practically destroyed by the twisting wind. Torrential rains which followed the tornado practically completed complete destruction of the huge stock of goods. Practically all other food stocks in the city were similarly damaged, the rain pouring through unroofed buildings to destroy what had escaped the winds.

The loss probably will run into millions, businessmen say; but none would hazard an estimate. Practically every business house in the town is at best unroofed. Some have the fronts blown out. In some the fronts were blown through the back ends of the stores. Thirty houses in a Negro section known as Sunset Addition were literally blown away. At least 75 per cent of the better homes left standing are damaged. Damaged also were some of the historic old homes.

Word of the disaster first reached the outside world when the Rev. MARSH CALLOWAY, a Presbyterian minister, reached Nacogdoches at 7 p.m. seeking aid.

Doctors, Nurses Sent.

Police, doctors, nurses and others were quickly sent from Nacogdoches and Lufkin. The state highway police also hastened to the stricken town. The Nacogdoches Texas Defense Guard battalion mobilized and is awaiting orders to go if it is needed.

Mrs. TESS POTTER of St. Louis, of the Red Cross disaster relief division, happened to be in the area and went to the town, arriving about 8 p.m., and began organization for whatever services are needed.

JIM HALTON, a bus driver, reported he left San Augustine a few minutes before the storm struck and though on the edge of the tornado, had to stop his bus to keep it from being blown from the highway.

The tornado was reported to have struck from the west doing its most serious damage on the north side of the town in a swath about three blocks wide.

The north side of Main Street bore the brunt of the blow, where all churches and business houses were unroofed.

Damaged were more than fifty residences, four Negro churches, several warehouses, garages, lumber yards, sheds and a gin. Six brick buildings were involved, including those of the San Augustine Grocery Company.

No damage was reported in rural sections farther than two miles from San Augustine.

Residents prepared to labor Saturday and Sunday to salvage merchandise and furniture.

Sheriff JIM HALVERT said windows were blown out all over the town. No lights were burning Friday night, but he was unable to say whether it was due to blown-down wires or to the light plant itself being damaged.

San Augustine, one of the oldest towns in Texas, is said to have been the first one in the state to be settled by Americans. The town-site was laid out in 1833 by THOMAS S. MCFARLAND, BEN ROBERTS, J. PINCKNEY HENDERSON and S.W. BLOUNT are among the famed early-day Texans who made their homes there.

Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX 6 Mar 1943

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