Friday, May 3, 2024

25th Anniversary of the May 3 Tornado + Deciding Which Books to Save

Today is the 25th anniversary of the F5 tornado that devastated the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.  I wrote this post because of last weekend's tornado outbreak.  When I take cover from an approaching tornado, I take whatever is most important with me into the shelter.  I usually take a few books with me as well.  My collection is so large that I can only save a few books.

Back when I was growing up, I never worried about tornadoes.  I knew what to do, but I also firmly believed (very naively) that I would never have any chance of being impacted by a tornado.  My opinion changed on May 3, 1999.

1999 Bridge Creek-Moore Tornado

This is the opening paragraph from the above link:

The 1999 Bridge Creek–Moore tornado (locally referred to as the May 3 tornado) was a large and exceptionally powerful F5 tornado in which the highest wind speeds ever measured globally were recorded at 301 ± 20 miles per hour (484 ± 32 km/h) by a Doppler on Wheels (DOW) radar. Considered the strongest tornado ever recorded to have affected the metropolitan area, the tornado while near peak intensity devastated southern portions of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States, along with surrounding suburbs and towns to the south and southwest of the city during the early evening of Monday, May 3, 1999. Parts of Bridge Creek were rendered unrecognizable. The tornado covered 38 miles (61 km) during its 85-minute existence, destroying thousands of homes, killing 36 people (plus an additional five indirectly), and leaving US$1 billion (1999 USD) in damage, ranking it as the fifth-costliest on record not accounting for inflation.  Its severity prompted the first-ever use of the tornado emergency statement by the National Weather Service.

Also visit today's National Weather Service Facebook post for a few pictures and a good summary of the impact of the deadly tornado.

I sat frozen, watching the tornado coverage during the late afternoon of May 3, 1999, for around two hours, knowing that the storm track of this monster tornado showed it heading directly towards where I live.  I didn't have a storm shelter at that time.  All I could do was put a pillow over my head and huddle down in the center of my house.  I remember thinking calmly to myself, The cats will die.  I took cover as best I could when the tornado was around 8 miles away, heading directly towards me.  I had a radio on, listening to the coverage. 

As cross streets were named, I said to myself, 7 more miles... 6 more miles... 5 more miles... and so on.  I knew that as long as the power was still on that the tornado hadn't arrived.  The baseball size hail began.  That was ominous.  Sometime after that, the house began making creaking and popping sounds.  It was eerie, and it had to have been from the storm's pressure.  And then the lights went out approximately when the named cross streets were just 1 mile away.  And I waited and waited some more.

Finally, I said to myself, It's been too long.  I knew that somehow the tornado had missed me.  I went outside, where I found scattered pieces of small debris everywhere, like canceled checks with addresses from miles away and other small items that must have come out of attics.

I later learned that the tornado dissipated just one-half mile away from me.  Yes, half of a mile away.

I had deep trauma from that event.  I thought about it and dwelled on it everyday for at least six months.  I couldn't avoid seeing the debris.  I drove by completely demolished neighborhood subdivisions at least five days per week.  I remember a mound of badly smashed cars that was at least 20 feet high, piled by the side of the road.  It was traumatic seeing all of that damage over and over for months.

I don't think of it very often any more, except during April and May and especially on May 3 every year.  When I do think of it, I get a little upset and have tears come to my eyes.  I became just slightly teary while I typed my recollection of the event for this post.  It happens every time I think about it.

I have never been more scared in my life than I was on that day.

Ever since then, I have paid close attention to severe weather forecasts.  The National Weather Service had us under a moderate threat for severe weather on Saturday, April 27.  Their forecast indicated that we had a significant risk for tornadoes including some strong tornadoes.

Their forecast did pan out, and at least 22 tornadoes touched down in the state on Saturday.  The closest one was approximately five miles away from me.  In the early afternoon on Saturday, I gathered together what I needed to take into the storm shelter, like my medications, devices, and other important items.

At first, I wasn't going to gather any books to save in the event of a tornado strike.  I just wasn't in the mood.  I then reconsidered.  Obviously my 1930A-1 Nancy Drew Old Clock with dust jacket needed to come with me, even if I didn't take anything else.

To help me decide what I should gather, I went to my Facebook page and found a post from June 1, 2013.  These books went into the storm shelter with me that day when I took cover.

This is an excerpt from my June 1, 2013 post:

I took my most valuable Nancy Drew first printings (the ones with stars on the spines), my Wanderer hardcover Nancy Drew books that are not library discards, my Girls of Central High duotone jackets (these are most of the books upside down in the bottom row), three Linda Carlton (Perilous Summer is upside down in the bottom row), the last Girl Scouts by Fairfax, and the last Outdoor Girls book.

I thought of Beverly Gray World's Fair, but I drew a blank on where it was at.  With stress and a short amount of time, one forgets many things. Of course I know exactly where the book is right now.  I thought of my duotone Moving Picture Girls books, but I didn't want to get a chair to retrieve them.  I thought of many books.

I wasn't in the mood to take even one book into the shelter on Saturday.  Looking at the books in the above photo, I didn't see a strong reason to choose most of them.  I decided against taking my Beverly Gray World's Fair (and I knew exactly where it was and stared at it on the shelf on Saturday afternoon as I decided).  World's Fair isn't that hard to find.  Seriously, it isn't.  The problem is that sellers overprice the book.  With some patience, the book can be had easily in dust jacket for $250 to $400.  It may be out of reach for most collectors, but it's not that hard to acquire.

I knew I had to take my breeder set Nancy Drew books with dust jackets.  The breeder set consists of the first printings of the first three Nancy Drew books, Old Clock, Hidden Staircase, and Bungalow Mystery.  David Farah denotes these first printings as "1930A-1."  They are very valuable and about impossible to acquire.

I also decided to take my 1930A-1 first printing Nancy Drew Lilac Inn with dust jacket.  That's a very tough title to get in a first printing book and jacket.  In my opinion, it's the second-hardest to find of all Nancy Drew first printings, right behind the 1930A-1 Old Clock.

I thought about taking only those four books.  There are so, so many books that I would want to save.  There are probably 1,000 books that are absolute must-save books, but I can't save them if the worst ever happens.  There are too many of them.

I quickly decided which other books I should take in addition to the four Nancy Drew first printings:  my Nancy Drew 1940s style library editions.  They are so darned scarce and in such high demand that it is my duty to save them if at all possible.  They certainly aren't the next most-valuable books after my breeder set Nancy Drews, but they probably are more scarce than the breeder set books.  

I wrapped the books in plastic and took this picture.  I put them in a tote bag.

The books did go into the storm shelter with me around the time that a small tornado was five miles from me.  Right now, the books are still wrapped in plastic.  I may leave them in plastic for all of this month, just in case.

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