Listen to a 10 min. audio account of actual radio
news reports and commentary on this tornado here.
Back on June
13th, 1975 a funnel cloud coming from out of a very dark
northwest sky struck Stillwater. Its path started at the northwest edge of town near the corner of W. Lakeview
and N. Western Rd. From there it moved southeast to 14th and S.
Perkins Rd. and onward to a rural area outside town. In its path
through the middle of the city, it touched down at least three
times, causing damage to the Oklahoma State University campus,
downtown Stillwater and a residential neighborhood to the
southeast. Once further southeast in a rural area on E. 32nd, the
funnel cloud dipped down low again and wrecked the Green Valley
Mobile Home Park, destroying at least 20 homes. Fortunately, park
residents were warned and left in time for shelter at the city sewer plant nearby. Upon return,
one resident became concerned over not finding the frame to his
trailer, fearing it could mean a long drawn out process over making
an insurance claim. At least several other homes, along with a
stone barn, in that area were damaged or destroyed. The photo of
the tornado, above, was snapped only minutes after it struck Green
Valley. It soon turned into a rope formation and dissipated. Reports of multiple tornadoes involved were believed to be
erroneous. During the weekend, E. 32nd had to be closed, due to too many sightseers.
On the OSU campus around 30 buildings were damaged with worst of it
confined mostly to the east side. Among them, the OSU fire station
had its cupola blown off. It landed upside down and partially
through the station's roof, an unforgettable sight. Old Central, built in 1894, had
the upper portion of one wall blown out. Some of the other damaged
buildings were Business Hall, Morrill Hall, Hanner Hall, Gunderson
Hall and Civil Engineering Lab. All together, at least a $1,000,000
worth of damage was done to the campus.
Near OSU, Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church had damage to the
sanctuary. Heavy rain coming in ruined the organ. Downtown
Stillwater stores had much awning, plate glass and roof damage.
Police watching downtown prevented looting.
Much of southeast Stillwater was a mess of downed trees limbs, blown
off front porches, power lines on the ground and sometimes worse. Several homes were heavily damaged by falling
trees. Damage was worst near the corner of 14th and S. Perkins Rd.
where two homes were unroofed. Damage to Stillwater's electrical system
was significant. About a half mile of power poles fell along Western St. between Sunset and McElroy.
Probably no one knew how high the wind blew. The wind gauge at the
official weather station blew off the roof at 75 mph. The tornado
was rated F3. Nine people were treated for injuries at the
Stillwater hospital, none serious.
Sequence of Events on June 13th, 1975:
5:40PM - Civil defense observers sent out due to severe storm
approaching the city.
6:17PM - National Weather Service in Oklahoma City reports
tornado on radar six miles northwest of town.
6:25PM - Sirens sounded.
6:34PM - Power goes off on west side.
6:40PM - Power goes off downtown and at KSPI radio station.
Sirens sounded again.
7:00PM - Radar indicates 2nd tornado. Sirens sound third time.
Only heavy rain and small hail result.
7:30PM - Assistance from National Guard requested. 44 called
Residents Recall The Tornado's Impact
"It sounded like everything in the world was
breaking," a resident near 14th and S. Perkins Rd., in
reference to tornado while sheltered in her closet.
"I've lived here 50 years and I've never seen this. I hope I
never see it again," a resident who lived near the mobile home
"After it was all clear we drove to the 32nd street trailer park and all the mobile homes were destroyed(gone), except for the sheet metal and frames wrapped around the trees, bark stripped from trees and clothes scattered everywhere! Larry
"We were coming into town at this time from Ripley. Stopped at the Latigo. It was like a movie. We ran in and no one was there. All the food on the table, some steaming. A waiter ran in and ushered us to the basement where everyone was. I was 6 at the time but will never forget it." Julie
"I remember it well. I drove into town not knowing it was coming and wondered where everyone was, there was so little traffic. Surprise!" Liewellyn
"I was stuck in my car downtown while it passed over. I'm surprised it didn't pick that big Mercury up. That big Mercury was a-rockin', though." Sam
The Harrowing Drive Through the Tornado
I once rode out a tornado while in a car. It was
probably the most frightening experience of my life. It was the
Friday the 13th Stillwater, Oklahoma tornado from June of 1975. I
was at home with my parents and a visiting nephew. Severe weather
was forecasted that day. The time was around 6PM. I went outside to
see if a storm was gathering. Was it ever. From SW to NE the sky
was a very dark, ominous looking mess, all too typical and scary
looking of a bad storm's approach. I went inside to hear what TV
9's weatherman, Gary England, from Oklahoma City thought about the
storm. He believed radar indicated a tornado. Very soon, sirens in
Stillwater started sounding.
My father, nephew and myself watched toward the northwest for signs
of a tornado coming. (This was unusual for it to be coming out of
the NW, rather than SW.) We soon spotted something in the distance.
Not a funnel, but rather a piece of debris floating high in the
air. Like idiots, we all panicked and fled in the car, headed for
shelter downtown in the Stillwater city hall basement. It was not
quite a mile's drive away.
We were doing okay on the drive until just a block from city hall
when hell started breaking loose. Suddenly, the wind erupted into a
very loud roar. It made a loud pounding noise upon the car. With
the roar going on, I looked outside and spotted pieces of roofing
peeling off a large building - then Mac's Body Shop, now the Post
Office - and going straight up in the air as if being sucked off by
a giant vacuum high in the sky. But that awful view was instantly
interrupted by the startling sound of a very loud blast. My nephew
and I instinctively ducked down in the back seat faster than my
mother could shout "get down!".
While down, I sensed that the car was strangely wobbling, like some
of the four wheels were not staying on the ground. But thankfully,
the roaring wind stopped. I sensed the car had stopped, too. I
raised up and found we were parked just outside city hall. We all
rushed into its basement. There, I came across my neighbor lady.
She was in a lot of distress, biting her fingernails, furiously
going back and forth on them. As it turned out, she and her husband
were actually foolish enough to follow us in their car in our mad
dash. They said they had to dodge falling trees on the way.
The loud blast I heard was caused by the window on the driver's
side of the car blowing out. While keeping control of the car, my
father saw the wind flip a pickup truck upside down. The side of
our car that faced the tornadic winds looked like it had been
We drove back home, relieved to discover no damage to our home,
aside from some shingles blown off. The only heartbreaking damage
was to an elm tree in the front yard I used to play on as a kid.
All major limbs on the tree were blown down. Later the tree
died and was removed.
My family and I lucked out more than anything else with the Friday
the 13th tornado. My mother, though, later had to go to an eye
doctor to have something removed from her eye. Thankfully, her
vision was not harmed.
These days when there's a serious threat of a tornado, I have the
good sense now to stay home and take cover in my safe room of
reinforced concrete blocks.
-Who's Protecting Stillwater Today When It's Stormy? See
Lifesaver Video. (Includes Glimpses of Friday the 13th Tornado Photos.)