They Say The Plural Of Tornado Is Tornadoes.

So William and Kate got married.  Big deal.  I refuse to write about it.  Maybe in ten years I’ll use it for one of those “this date in history” blogs.  Today, I don’t care.  And even if I did, they could have at least scheduled the damn thing so you didn’t have to be up at 3:00 am to watch it.  Like that really matters though.  There are at least 10,000 video feeds online right now that you can watch, and a bazillion pictures, but you won’t be able to say you saw it live.  All you “I just wanted to see her dress,” people, you, got up for nothing.  I’m still pissed my invitation got lost in the mail.

So what else is going on?  Let’s see….Tornadoes are trying to wipe out the Southern United States.  Can you imagine 160 tornadoes out of one storm system?  I remember in 1979, Cheyenne, Wyoming, had one of the biggest and most damaging tornadoes in Wyoming history.  It was the first tornado in Cheyenne’s history.  And, you guessed it, I was there.  Actually, I was playing golf in Laramie the afternoon the tornado hit, which is 40 miles to the west of Cheyenne.  More about that in a minute.  The tornado missed my house at 6969 Manhattan Lane in Cheyenne by five blocks.

The Cheyenne, Wyoming, Tornado of 1979.

They said it formed and touched down just west of the airport, went down I-25 and took the airport exit.  It moved across the airport, turning over two C-130 aircraft, and damaging two others, then continued southeast carving out a 1/2 mile swath across a subdivision known as Buffalo Ridge.  It caused $22 million in damage to the planes, airport and hangers.  One-hundred forty houses and 17 mobile homes were destroyed with another 325 homes damaged.  I was in that last number, having damage to my roof and fence from high winds.  But other than that, damn lucky.

Tornados are not normal occurences in Wyoming.  They’re rare for the most part and usually not a lot of damage associated with them.  In case you haven’t heard, Wyoming is the least populous state.  Cheyenne is not even the largest city, but is the state capital.  So unlike the Alabama tornadoes, there were no large population centers to be demolished.    I can still remember looking out over acres and acres of debris and personal belongings strung out for miles.  There would be a refrigerator just sitting out in a field, two miles from where it was originally plugged in.

There were a million stories from the storm.  One little girl was saved because the shard of glass flying through the air imbedded itself in the Teddy Bear that she was hugging.  It would have killed her.  One picture I remember distinctly was the one of my co-worker standing in the basement of what had been a bi-level house, talking on the wall phone.  The phone still worked, but the house and its contents were completely gone.  Good advertising, though,  for Mountain Bell, where we worked.

So I was playing golf in Laramie with some friends when the dark clouds moved  in, and quickly.  We were on the back nine, on a hole that ran parallel to a street, and was also close to the home of one of our foursome.  Within seconds the rain started and we decided we would sit it out in the golf carts.  I had seen large hail before, but what happened next people still don’t believe.  The hail started out the size of marbles, then grew in size to golf balls.  Within minutes it was the size of baseballs and when we decided to steal the golf cart and drive to my friend’s house a short distance away, the hail was the size of softballs.  I’m not kidding.  The fiberglass roof of the golf cart was pulverized.  It could have killed us.  Then it stopped almost as quickly as it started.  Believe it or not, we drove back over to the golf course and finished the round.

There was no hail reported with the storm of July 16, 1979 in the official reports, or any other storm that day in Wyoming.  I guess we should have called someone.

The memory of the storm and its aftermath was brought on by the recent devastation in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.  My heart goes out to all those who have suffered a loss.  I have a stepson and his family living in Tennessee and thankfully they only suffered a 24-hour power outage from the storms.   




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9 responses to “They Say The Plural Of Tornado Is Tornadoes.

  1. Me

    Soooooo… how did you finish the round with all the golf ball, baseball and softball size hail balls all over the place???

    • Are you accusin’ me of tellin’ tall tales, girl? What happens after a hail storm? It rains like a mother. That melts hail. It was wet and slushy, but we paid the thirty bucks, and, by gawd, we were playin’ out. I’ve played golf in the snow with orange and green balls. I’ve played golf at night with flashlights! So, yeah, we golfed with remnants of softball-size hail all over the fairways and greens. LOL

  2. kortcoop

    I was there in Cheyenne Wyoming and I’m from Laramie originally…….anyway I was with a friend and his dad down by the hitching post and we drove towards it some to downtown cheyenne and i thought it was a fire over by the safeway store on pioneer ave at first, because we all saw it form into the tornado… we then got hailed on real bad and big hail was falling on us……..the fallout shelter downtown was right by us thankfully…..but we didnt get out of the car so fast as to watch the tornado direction real quickly and the big pieces of hail coming down on the car…….then all the sudden the hail quit and the tornado was going opposite direction………..we ended up driving where it hit and it was one big mess……we ended up in buffalo ridge and the fire dept asked if we could help turn the gas off by houses ………after that when we looked way out towards the east in the sky, you could see abt 5 funnels and I was thinking omg!!!!

    • Thanks for the personal experience. I think it’s amazing how we never forget those things. It gets pulled out of memory for me everytime a tornado hits somewhere. They’re a pretty amazing natural phenomenon. I remember watching the funnel clouds form for weeks afterward. How did you help turn the gas off by houses? Were you working for the utlity, or did they just give you a wrench?

  3. B. Bush

    My husband and I were visiting from Australia and were checking-out a large steam engine in Cheyenne when the tornado struck. As the sky went dark and the street lights came on, I managed to snap a few quick photos of the funnel as it swept by a church steeple before taking shelter under the train. The noise, as well as the swirling dirt which embedded itself into our skin, were incredible and I never forgot the experience. After the recent tornado in Massachusetts (I now live in NH), I dug my old slides out to show co-workers the WY tornado and the damage it caused, and went to Google Search to see if I could find any information on it, which is how I found this site. At the time I didn’t realize it was Wyoming’s first – and hopefully last – tornado, but it was certainly the first one I’d been up-close and personal with!!

    • Wow! A little too up close and personal for me. I know the steam engine you’re talking about. It’s still there in the park. Thanks for the personal experience, and I hope you guys don’t get anymore severe weather up there in the Northeast.

  4. Cheyenne WYoming

    I was 18 when it happened. Buffalo Ridge was a disaster area. I remember my girlfriend telling me that she was taking pictures from a distance at her mom’s place when it hit. Two weeks later my girlfriend breaks up with me at Frontier Days after I ignored her. I would call her several times when ever I got up the nerve over the next year. She would not talk to me for more than a couple of minutes when I called. That lasted for nearly a year. After that I simply gave up trying after so much time passed. That tornado will remain in my memory for all times but for other reasons.

    • Well, why were you ignoring her at Frontier Days? Have you ever found out what happened to her? You probably ended up better off. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Christian

    My brother 8, friend 10, and I 10 were fishing at Lions Park as we watched the tornado go by through the airport. Being kids we were awed more than afraid. Watching a C-130 get picked up and tossed about was, at the time, cool. We lived in the Buffalo Ridge area but our house was undamaged. My school, Buffalo Ridge Elementary, was severely damaged and the K-3 grades had to go to a different school that year while they rebuilt. Right after the tornado passed us in the park it began to hail. Long after the tornado my friends and I built forts in the empty lot behind my house out of the debris left around.

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