More than 35 years ago, Paris experienced a devastating tornado. With winds gusting near 200 mph, the F4 tornado touched down in west Paris and lasted about eight minutes. Ten people lost their lives, and about 170 people were injured.
Tornado season has hit Northeast Texas, and Paris Police Chief Bob Hundley recounts the 1982 F4 tornado.
“We had received advanced warning from Department of Public Safety Sgt. John Hanna and ran our warning routes with time enough to run them again,” Hundley said. “This was prior to outdoor warning sirens, electronic media and social media.”
Hundley said police officers and the fire department had preplanned routes to drive slowly with sirens activated to warn the public of the upcoming storm.
“I made it back to the intersection of 19th N.W. and Campbell when I met up with the approaching funnel cloud on the ground,” Hundley said. “I abandoned my patrol vehicle and took cover in a ditch watching the debris fly by. It was definitely loud, and louder than most trains I’ve been close to.”
Hundley said after the funnel passed, it became search and rescue to get injured people to the hospital. Household doors became makeshift litters, and pickups, patrol cars and other vehicles became ambulances.
“In the midst of the response, you don’t have a whole lot of time for feelings,” he said. “On one trip to the hospital, I was able to drive by my apartment, where my wife and two children were OK, so the rest of the evening on into the next day was just responding to calls and doing searches.”
Hundley said after the second day, “the enormity of the destruction, loss of life and injuries became something you could get your head around. It was very depressing for the next couple of days and weeks.”
Hundley said the city of Paris and Lamar County offers a CodeRED alert system community members can sign up for and receive alerts when a storm occurs.
“Our local program has an automatic feature in that when a warning is issued for an area, CodeRED will call all registered phones, hard-line or cell , to pass that warning along,” Hundley said. “You can also sign up for text messages or e-mail notification.”
Click here to sign up for CodeRED.
Hundley said a tornado watch is when people should keep an eye on the weather and be aware of weather conditions, “because certain conditions are favorable for the type weather to form.
“A warning means the weather event is taking place and you should seek cover, or make sure you know where the weather is occurring,” Hundley said. “Remember, storms do not follow streets or roadways, can move 50-70 mph and be in your vicinity in short order.”
Three ways the city ensures the public is made aware of severe weather includes social media, local media and outdoor warning sirens.
Hundley said outdoor warning sirens notify people who are outside — away from radios, phones or internet.
“The city of Paris operates eight sirens inside the city limits and other sirens are established in a few areas in the county,” Hundley said.
Hundley said the department will also contact local media to ensure the public is aware of a watch or warning.
“We have excellent relationships with our local media, and the information is two-way,” Hundley said. “We provide warnings and information to the local media, and we get feedback from the media if they know of something different.”