Thank you to Special Collections student employee Greg Pierce for finding these scripts!
Sixty years ago, On April 2, 1957, an F3 tornado laid waste to 60 blocks of west Dallas, in what was then called the “worst storm in Dallas history.” Ten people died, and over 600 people were injured. The tornado created a 21 mile path of destruction, with the hardest hit area being a residential section of Dallas near Record Crossing Road and Riverside Drive where five people lost their lives. During the storm, the tornado moved through north Oak Cliff, crossed Harry Hines Boulevard and demolished warehouses in the Brook Hollow industrial district over a course of 20 minutes.
Original broadcast scripts from the first news WBAP news broadcast to cover the storm reflect both the “breaking news” nature of the event as well as the shock of those who witnessed the storm. In describing the event, the script notes, “There wasn’t any safe place to hide. And very little time for it anyway.” The first page of the script, show below, displays handwritten annotations showing the increase in causalities as well as the locations of other tornado which were recorded in /the north Texas communities of Anna and Melissa that same day.
Coverage of the storm continued for several days after the event. This script from April 3, 1957 provided an update on damage to specific buildings and homes.
After two days of tornado coverage, however, the news station was able to find some levity in the situation during a segment about a stray burro. The script begins by saying, “A couple of days ago, Dallas police were busy with a tornado. Today, a routine matter of rounding up a stray burro puts the whole, efficient force into a tizzy.”
The 1957 Dallas tornado was remarkable in several respects. It was the worst storm in the history of Dallas, but because it struck in such a populated metropolitan area, it was the one of the most widely observed tornadoes, and led to a new scientific understanding of tornado activity. Image of the storm shot by the citizens of Dallas later allowed meteorologists to carefully plot debris movement, and thus, for the first time, obtain reliable estimates of the very high wind velocities associated with severe tornadoes.
Original 16mm news film in the NBC5/KXAS Television News Archive also contains footage of both the tornado and the aftermath (not to mention the stray donkey), however, archivists are still in the process of converting this massive archive into a digital format. If you would like to contribute funding towards digitization and preservation of this important historical resource, please donate today.