64 years since deadly Waco tornado, community tours downtown

Posted at 3:40 PM, May 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-11 23:48:55-04

Sixty-four years ago, on May 11th, 1953, a powerful F-5 tornado hit downtown Waco, Texas, killing 114 people. It was the deadliest tornado in Texas' history. 

Tornadic winds reached speeds of up to 300 miles per hour in minutes. The tornado destroyed hundreds of businesses. Nearly 600 people were injured.

On Thursday, a group of several dozen toured downtown Waco, talking about the devastation on the 64th anniversary.

Waco Walks, a local group, organized the walk. It started at the Waco Tornado Memorial Monument across the street from Coach's Smoke BBQ at 330 Austin Avenue. Local author and historian Eric Ames lead the walk, sharing facts and fables related to the tornado.

"We lost 114 people that day and I think sometimes we lose that story too," Ames said. "The tornado is one of those things that everyone in Waco has sort of heard about and knows a little bit about. But until you get down in downtown and walk around downtown to see the impact that it had on the city, on the building environment, you don't always get a sense for the scale of it. Especially for those who weren't here when it happened."

Robert Martin was there when it happened. On May 11th, 1953, Martin was 8-years-old. He and his mother were sitting on the 11th floor of the Alico building when the tornado hit.

"We went over there to see a dentist," Martin recalled. ""We were sitting there talking and all of a sudden the desk just moved across the room. Mom grabbed me and out of there we went."

It's a day Martin said he will never forget. 

The walk was about 3 miles. The group started the teardrop memorial, moved to the suspension bridge, then circled back around towards the Dr. Pepper Museum.

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