Abbeville, Calhoun Falls, SC Tornado Damage, Apr 1973


Abbeville, S.C. (AP) -- At least six persons were killed, three missing, 35 injured, and an estimated 165 homes damaged when a tornado slashed through a section of northwestern South Carolina, leaving behind a scene Gov. JOHN C. WEST called, "a terrible catastrophe."
The governor said he would do everything possible, knock on all doors, to have the federal government declare the section of Abbeville County, a disaster area.
WEST toured the devasted area by helicopter Sunday and said, "It was the worst tornado I've ever seen. Fortunately it covered a relatively small area. At the same time the people who were in that area were literally wiped out. I certainly hope we can do something to help the situation."
The twister struck late Saturday night and cut a path of death of destruction 25 miles long and about 100 yards wide.
In the gruesome style of tornados, this one shreaded homes into strips of wood, plastic and tin, and then left untouched other homes directly across a street of highway.
There were many stories of miraculous escapes, and there were a few stories of death.
Authorities identified the dead as THOMAS WILLIAM FERGUSON, 16, TAMMY RENEE NEWTON, 7, both of Abbeville; FORREST G. ADDISON, 47, of Calhoun Falls; WALLACE CALHOUN POWELL, 49, of Rt. 1, Calhoun Falls; SAMUEL LOMAX, 40, of McCormick, S.C., and FLOYD DANIEL, about 35, of Greenwood, S.C.
Three persons are missing. Their cars were found at a destroyed motel, on the outskirts of Calhoun Falls, a community near the banks of the Savannah River, but the three were unaccounted for. They were identified as ALFRED PARKS, Greenville, S.C.; ALBERT KENNEDY and TROY EDWARDS, both of Rt. 1, Calhoun Falls.
Police estimated that at least 400 persons were homeless.
Authorities said ADDISON and POWELL were killed when the twister hit the motel near Calhoun Falls, ripping it from the foundation, as if by the hand of some angry giant, and tossing the pieces across the highway.
Police said the FERGUSON boy was killed when the power of the tornado sucked him out the open front door of his home, and he was struck by a falling tree.
The NEWTON child was killed when her three bedroom home was crumbled like a paper-mache doll's house, and tumbled into a heap of rubble in a ravine some 40 feet from its original site. Only the front porch remained.
TAMMY'S brother, 5-year-old WILLIAM ROBERT, was seriously injured, as was the babysitter. The parents, MR. and MRS. WILLILAM ROBERT NEWTON, JR., had been visiting with friends and returned home just minutes after the tornado struck. Young ROBERT was brought out of the wreckage of his home and up the steep slope of the ravine by neighbors and police, who carried him on a slab of plywood.
A three-mile stretchof the state highway between Abbeville and Calhoun Falls resembled a huge junk yard. Utility and telephone poles were cut as if by a dull saw, automobiles were overturned, mattresses blown from homes into muddy fields, pieces of wood and metal wrapped around trees, and a blanket waving in the stiff breeze from the top of a bent television antenna.
Brightly colored yellow and pink insulations, ripped from the walls of homes and the destroyed motel, covered a nearby five acre field, with material stuck on the dead cotton stalks, as if someone had decorated the place for a party.
Families poked through the rubble and walked through the mud in search of some bit of clothing, or some keepsake, or a chair, or a mattress.
In one destroyed home near Calhoun Falls, a tire torn by the force of the twister from an automobile, rested on a collapsed bed in the front bedroom.
AARON PARNELL, 41, rubbed the big bump on the back of his head and the bruise on his forehead, and said, "God only knows how we all escaped."
PARNELL stood in his front yard, looking at his destroyed brick home and pointed to the bits and pieces of metal and wood, all that remained of the trailer home his parents occupied.
PARNELL remembered the roar of the tornado and how he ran from his home, leaving his wife and children in bed, to bring his parents to the house.
"Suddenly," he said, "it was as still as death, then it hit with a roar. The door to the trailer house hit me, and that's all I remembered until I came to and my mother and father were there unhurt. The trailer house had simply disappeared, and left us there. My wife and two kids got out okay. But can you believe it, after looking at our home."
Nearby, MR. and MRS. L. H. OUZTS, both in their 70s, were in the kitchen of their small, white framed farm house, when the roar of the tornado was heard. OUZTS grabbed his wife, and pushed her into the bedroom. He followed and slammed shut the door. The tornado hit, sending a large piece of wood zinging through the kitchen.

Aiken Standard South Carolina 1973-04-02