Today is the 53rd anniversary of the Ruskin Heights Tornado, a night that will never be forgotten in south Kansas City. Forty-four were killed by an F-5 tornado that cut a 75+ mile path from Williamsburg, KS to eastern Jackson Co., MO. It was that tornado, along with seeing the damage it caused the next day, that convinced me to become a meteorologist even though I was only five years old.
A few of the tragic stories of that night are recounted in Warnings. For example, this is the grown-up Bobbi Davis. She was in the car that was lifted and thrown into the Ruskin water tower while trying to escape the tornado. The car came to rest next to the Kansas City Southern Railroad tracks. Her mother, father, and sister were all killed. Bobbi was hospitalized for a month.
Preventing deaths and injuries is the primary goal of the meteorological profession.
The Kansas City Star recently ran an article about the Ruskin tornado and my book. The online version is here.
The national civilian tornado warning system was born that night due to the work of Joe Audsley. Had Joe not “bucked the system,” it might have been many more years — and thousands of lives — before the Weather Bureau started issuing tornado warnings.
I get emotional writing about that evening — it was the defining moment of my life (it even had a role in meeting my future wife).
Lets hope the Vortex II research project, now in progress, results in even more life-saving knowledge.