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Friday, May 6, 2016

1947 tornado remembered

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Jimmy Weathers
Life is slowly getting back to normal in the local area, but those effected by the Feb. 5 tornadoes know the images, sounds and memories of those trying days will stay with them.

Jimmy Weathers, a resident of Salem, still remembers the tornado that ripped through Salem in 1947 destroying large parts of the town, including Weathers' home.

"I was 7 when the tornado blew our house away," Weathers recalled.

Like many victims of a tornado, Weathers remembers the night in clear detail.

The day the tornado hit had been unusually hot and Weathers recalled that the sidewalks began to sweat.

That night as the tornado was steadily moving towards Salem, Weathers' father was out of town, and Weathers and his mother were sleeping soundly in their beds.

Weathers' two uncles, Max and Lloyd Weathers, lived close by and once they realized the tornado was headed in their direction, they ran through the streets of Salem to Weathers and his mother. After they were gathered together, the frightened family ran down Locust Street and took shelter in his uncle's storm cellar. Huddled in the shelter, they waited out the winds and pouring rain that destroyed many homes and buildings in Salem in a matter of seconds.

The sounds Weathers heard as the tornado whirled through Salem are something he said he will never forget.

"It hit so quick ... and it sounded like a freight train was coming," Weathers said.

Right after the storm hit, the family came out to survey the damage. Weathers said that although he was still frightened by what he saw, he was mostly embarrassed for being rushed out of the house in only a towel. It was dark and wet and the family decided to stay with a family member that night.

The next day was strangely cold compared to the day before and Weathers discovered that his boyhood home had been destroyed. The town awoke to find over 12 houses damaged or destroyed. Luckily, the town square, where most of the businesses were located, had been spared.

Although Weathers' house was among those destroyed, because of the heroic actions of his uncles, he and his mother narrowly escaped the tornado's path.

Weathers recalled that only one or two people were injured with no deaths reported.

After the tornado, Weathers father came back to town to find it in tatters.

"The first place he went was to our house, and it was gone," Weathers said.

As we learned from the Feb. 5 tornado, the winds don't stop where they destroy. They keep going carrying cherished items and trash sometimes more than 50 miles away.

Weathers' recalled a similar story of a man from Missouri returning his missing jacket days after the storm had hit.

"A man from Koshkonong, Mo., found my jacket. It had my name and address in the back of it, and he mailed it to me," Weathers said.

Koshkonong, Mo., is almost 40 miles away from Salem's city limits.

After the storm, Weathers', his family, and the local community began to pick up their lives. Weathers said that his family lived in a shack with a dirt floor behind their house until they were able to fully rebuild.

Within months Salem had made an impressive recovery from the storm.

It seems despite the difference in time, the few things that people can count on during tumultuous situations are humanity and the example of towns like Salem that have risen out of the destruction to become a strong town once again.

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