Wichita Falls Rebuilds Successfully After "Terrible Tuesday"

It's been just over three decades since the "Terrible Tuesday Tornado" ripped through Wichita Falls.
It was a deadly storm that was spawned from three different tornado storms that day.
While many still have vivid memories of that day, the City of Wichita Falls has recovered well.
It was sheer devastation and it left 20,000 people homeless.
It was a day that this community will never forget.
The storm moved from the city's southwest side near Memorial Stadium down Southwest Parkway before veering north over Sikes Senter Mall. It continued on it's deadly path to the east across the city. The devastation left behind made that tornado the worst one in United States history.
Since then other twisters have overtaken it in rank. However, the tornado caused $400-million in damage. As of last month the '79 tornado ranked as the 6th costliest storm ever in the United States. If you transformed that damage into today's dollars it would rank second at over $1.2-billion. Despite that money it would be just as devastating today as it was then.
"It's hard to fathom. I believe that $1.2 billion would be about 20% of our entire economy in a years time," said Wichita Falls City Manager Darron Lieker. "It obviously would be huge so it would take months if not years to fully recover from something of that magnitude."
City Manager Darron Leiker also believes the fact that the damage value in today's dollars tripled. Is an indication that the city has recovered three times better than other storms that at the time were more costly than the '79 tornado.
"The community rebuilt and bounced back, and I think there was an element of urban renewal where the community came together and said okay we're going to find a silver lining in this cloud and to rebuild differently and smarter and better and the community did that over a series of years after the tornado," said Leiker.
There was an urban renewal that occurred in many parts of the city. Some of the neighborhoods that were leveled came back stronger, raising property values and giving what were run down neighborhoods new life that still thrive today.
Another change that came in part from the '79 tornado is the way insurance companies underwrite homeowners insurance in this part of the nation. Many who lost there homes got their insurance pay out, but it was less than what it was going to cost to rebuild. That's something insurance companies have changed to protect homeowners.
"What happens there is if you bought a house for let's say $50,000 and you don't have an inflationary ryder and you bought it 20 years ago, that $50,000 is not going to be that same amount of money. You know it may be $100,000 now depending economics and time," said Insurance Agent Mike Morris. "So if you don't have something that is going to keep that up then you're going to defiantly lose ground and so when you try to go back and rebuild the same house you had and we give you $50,000 and it cost you $100,000 you're going to have to go to the bank and borrow that money. And, often times not at a time when it's convenient for you."
Morris said the way natural disasters are handled by claims adjusters has changed dramatically to get help to you faster.
"Before we had adjusters, now we have "catastrophe adjusters" they are full-time for disasters. So, you have to be mobile. You have to be able to set up your offices because you don't have an area when you have that big tornado like that you have lost your infrastructure so you've got people in portable offices RVs and stuff to be able to set up these offices and stuff and bring people in to help out," said Morris.
Another thing the '79 tornado showed was that the community worked together to take what was a dark day in the history of Wichita Falls and not only learn from it but come back stronger.
Darron Leiker said, "Community leaders and citizens got together and said you know we're going to rebuild first and foremost and we're going to sit down, we're going to plan we're going to figure out the best way to do this and there was a lot of good because those community members and citizens came together there was a lot of good that came out of that and the community did in fact rebuild."
Right now there is a memorial in the works that would run the 47 miles that was the tornado's path that day.
The Leadership Wichita Falls Class of 2009 has set a $200,000 goal for that project and continue to work toward it.
We have provided a link associated with the story here. You can also look at our Terrible Tuesday slide show and check out our severe weather guide for ways you can stay safe on our weather page.