'I don't know how but I made it': Remembering the Udall tornado 68 years later
UDALL, Kan. (KAKE) - Bob Atkinson was only 15 on the night of May 25, 1955. He woke up to the sound of a water cooler crashing through his house. He had no idea an EF-5 tornado just ripped through his home.
"I don't know how but I made it," Atkinson said.
This was the beginning of one of the worst possible tragedies a teenager could face.
"My two brothers and my mother didn't make it,” Atkinson recounted. “My dad, he lived about six months. He had cancer of the sinus. And he got weakened. He was torn up badly by the tornado."
The tornado was only one in a deadly series of tornados that sprang up all over the region that day.
Jim Minick became interested in the story after hearing about it from his sister-in-law who lives in Udall.
He said that all of the tornadoes in the region that night caused staggering casualties.
"The tornado that hit Blackwell was actually a different one that crossed the border and kind of petered out,” Minick said. “And then another one picked up but they were very close and following the same track."
Victims were honored Thursday evening at a memorial in Udall, followed by a presentation by Minick about just how different forecasting is now 68 years later.
"The communication has vastly improved, as well as the technology,” Mincik said. “But people still need to be prepared and to listen."
Atkinson said that even in the most tragic of circumstances, he's grateful for the continued generosity of the people of Udall.
"People were ready to get in there and work, you know, everybody wants to help,” Atkinson. “So I always remember how people want to help."
Menick’s book ‘Without Warning’ is on sale now.