’44 storm hit some of same areas

The Sept. 18, 1944, Clovis News-Journal captured damage from the Sunday evening storm.

By David Stevens: CNJ Editor

The March 23 tornado that ripped through southeast Clovis wasn’t the city’s first, but it was by far the most damaging in about 75 years of record keeping.

Officials said one person was killed, 35 people were injured, about 100 homes and businesses were destroyed and close to 500 structures were damaged by the recent twister.

Before that, Clovis’ most damaging tornado occurred on Sept. 17, 1944. That one destroyed eight homes and injured seven people, according to newspaper archives and www.tornadoproject.com, a Web site that records tornado statistics.

The 1944 tornado did most of its damage on what was then the city’s east side, the Clovis News-Journal reported. It was first spotted on Mitchell Street, then traveled east before unleashing most of its terror near the 500 blocks of Oak, Lea and Maple streets. Those same areas were hit hard again March 23.

One woman suffered a lacerated scalp and possible back injury when the roof of her home at 501 Oak was blown off in the 1944 storm. A 3- or 4-year-old boy — the newspaper gave both ages in different accounts — suffered a broken arm when a stove fell on him inside his home at 506 Oak. One other small boy received cuts on his face from flying glass, eight small homes were demolished and other structures were “partially wrecked,” the newspaper reported.

Wilma Fulgham was 13 when the twister destroyed a shed outside her family’s home at Fifth and Lea. The shed housed a horse named Star.

“It lifted (the shed) up in the air and just knocked her down, but didn’t hurt (the horse),” Fulgham recalled last week. “It tore that shed up and scattered my saddle, blanket and everything for several blocks.”

Fulgham said the twister also tossed her mother’s canned fruit into a neighboring lot, “but didn’t break a jar.”

Ira Brown’s rent house at 515 Lea lost its roof in the violence early that Sunday evening.

Fulgham said she did not remember seeing a funnel from the clouds, but remembers “the clouds looked like they were boiling.”

The newspaper reported Mrs. Euel Smith did see it coming, over Hotel Clovis and down Main Street. “I noticed cars parked on Main shaking and then I looked up and saw the whitish, funnel-shaped cloud spewing and whirling. I thought for a minute it was going to take the hotel with it,” she said.

It didn’t, but a city lumber yard sustained about $5,000 in damages, and numerous trees were uprooted or otherwise destroyed across town.