Today marks the 73rd Anniversary of the 1949 Warren tornado

Monday, January 3, 2022 is the 73rd anniversary of the tragic tornado that hit Warren in 1949. It is a time so many of who grew up in Warren in the 1950’s, 60’s and early 70’s were told about over and over.

That storm was a disaster legend to several generations of young people growing up in Warren. The 1949 storm was more deadly in loss of life than the 1975 storm and still ranks as one of the largest natural disasters in Arkansas history.

The 1949 tornado killed 55 people and injured over 300, doing massive damage to the southern part of the City and pretty well destroying the Bradley Mill. Portions of the same areas were hit in 1975, particularly the Bradley. Both times the Mill was rebuilt and put back into operation.

The 1949 storm has been rated as an F-4. It was reported that debris was found in a number of places in Arkansas that was picked up by the storm in Warren and later dropped. One such report was of items found in Stuttgart. The 1949 storm hit sometime after 5:00 p.m. There was little ability to track storms at the time and little warning was available. The Mayor of Warren in 1949 was James Hurley, Sr.


Photos courtesy of http://www.argenweb.net

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  1. When the tornado began to rumple late that afternoon, I told my mother that something was wrong. She said it was a train. Because we lived upstairs at 511 Bond St., I could see the railroad tracks and no train was there. I was told to watch my baby brother while Mama left to check on an earlier friend and when the storm became louder, Jim began to scream and I couldn’t calm him. My grandmother came upstairs and told us to come downstairs with her. Then the telephone rang. I answered and the operator said “Kitty, your daddy said for you to gather all the extra pillows and blankets so that your mother can bring them to the clinic”. When I questioned this, she said, “Honey, there has been a bad tornado and a lot of people have been hurt and he needs pillows and blankets for them. I did as I was told. My sister, Susan, baby Jim and I remained with my grandmother all that night. Kitty Crow Rubenstein

  2. We just observed the 73rd anniversary the deadly January ‘Great Warren Tornado of 1949’. I had a very close call with the grim reaper that day and now I count each day since then as ‘borrowed time’. In fact, my family continues to observe this event as a day of remembrance and reflection.
    I was 9 years old at the time of tornado. Our family lived on Baker Street (then it was called Rear Wheeler). A few minutes before the tornado hit our neighborhood, I was lying down on our living room couch reading a brand-new Batman comic book. I had just turned the first page, when heard a voice. The voice said. ‘Move to that chair’, meaning the winged accent chair near the couch. So, I moved to the chair and obey the directions. No one was in the room with me and I believed to this very day, the message was from an angel.
    Sitting in the chair, I looked to my left and glanced at my neighbor’s house through the window that was directly behind the couch that I just left. Suddenly I heard the enormous sound of the tornado followed by the appearance of a black vortex that totally blocked my view of the neighbor’s house. My house was inside the funnel of the tornado and it hit hard. The wall along with the window behind the couch quickly crashed down on the exact spot where I had been reclining. I would have been killed had I not moved.
    After the wall fell, the room was quickly filled with foot-long wooden splinters along mixed with a lot of mud. All of the splinters shot into the opposite wall as if fired from a machine gun. The rug on the floor came up under the chair and I was lifted up like I was riding on a merry-go-round. Our entire house had been lifted off its original foundation. The high back of my chair protected me from the flying debris and chards of glass from the window behind me. Being in that chair was the only safe place from me at that time.
    I was dazed and confused … and completed uninjured. I was quickly joined by my older and younger sisters and older brother. All of us had to move to the porch due to a leakage of natural gas and water in the house. Outside I found a complete scene of devastation. Some of our neighbors’ houses were severely damaged or destroyed entirely.
    A hailstorm quickly followed in the brutal aftermath of the tornado. My older brother, served as a Marine in WW2, quickly jumped in action and rescued an elderly neighbor and bought her to our porch. He went on in the hailstorm using a dishpan to cover him and the lady. The next day I looked at the dishpan and all of the enamel had been beat off by the hailstones. He was my hero.
    There were a lot of stories from that event. Here are some highlights:
    • I walked home from school that day with Bobby and Charles Moore. That was the last time I did. Both brothers were victims of the tornado.
    • Life Magazine issue dated January 17, 1949 featured photos of the tornado. Some of these photos were taken in my back yard or on my street. I met the photographer and was able to accompany on his journey through my neighborhood. David Johns Jr. (4 months old) was featured as the ‘Most Famous Baby in Arkansas’. David was in a house demolished by the tornado under the dead body of his uncle.
    • The tornado stuck the Bradley Mill around 5:15pm. My father, John Woodall, was a supervisor at the Flooring Plant in 1949. his job required him to stay after later. He narrowly escaped being injured. After the tornado, several men were trapped in the Train Shop where they had taken shelter in a locomotive. My father was part of the team that rescued these men.
    • I happened to be in Warren at the time of the ‘Good Friday’ Tornado of March 28, 1975. I was traveling from Canada and I was able to get to my mother’s house minutes after the tornado hit.
    To view photos of the tornado damage my old neighborhood, be sure to visit the 1949 Tornado site at 1949 Tornado: Photo Index (rootsweb.com) and the links to Carmichael Bros Grocery, Mr. Pennington’s Chevy up-side down, Mr. Wade’s Home had a brush with a tornado, Leonard Johnson’s Barber Shop, Scene near the Bradley Saw Mill, Tornados do thing like this-Bradley Shops (these photos provide a view of my old neighborhood.)

  3. MY GRANDMOTHER GERTRUDE WHITMAN WAS KILLED IN THE TORNADO , I WAS NEARLY KILLED . I WAS 6 MOS OLD . WE LIVED NEAR THE BRADLEY MILL , DONT KNOW THE STREET . MY PICTURE WAS IN LIFE MAGAZINE , BUT WITH ANOTHER BABYS STORY . I HAVE THE ORIGINAL MAGAZINE . YOU CAN CLEARLY SEE ALL THE INJURIES TO MY FACE . I STILL CARRY SOME BAD SCARS.

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