Town Digs Out

12 Hurt, Damage $500,000 as Blow Rips Walton, Ky.

Walton, Ky., July 14. - This town of 1500 was digging out today from one of the worst tornados in the history of Kentucky.  Damage was estimated at $500,000.  The storm left a dozen people hurt, houses blown down, roofs off, huge trees across roads and telephone and electric lines out.

It hit like the hand of a giant about 4 p.m. yesterday, cruelly and without warning.

As you approach Walton from Cincinnati, 25 miles to the north, the scene is calm and peaceful, the Kentucky hills swept clean by a rainstorm yesterday, and the air sharp and clear.

At the edge of town on U.S. 25 (the Dixie Highway) you begin to sense something happened here.  A few tree branches litter the highway.  Here and there a window pane is missing.

Then, as you near the center of town, you come upon the full disaster.

The wreckage of what was once the home of M. L. Carey on Beaver Road lies in a jumbled mass - boards shattered and scattered about.  One minute it is standing there.  The next it was this piece of desolation.

Charles (Chick) Worthington, the fire chief, said four houses were demolished completely, 12 roofs blown off, two barns destroyed and at least three autos ruined.  The chief made the damage estimate.

No count has been made of the number of windows blown out, walls edged off their foundations and other damage that will be tallied later.

As the black, howling funnel-shaped twister hit, it snapped power and telephone lines, leaving the town isolated in a gloom-like twilight and heavy rain.

As it passed, the townspeople rushed out to see what was left.  The more fortunate began to help their neighbors.

The Volunteer Fire Department was mobilized and went to work, trying to bring order out of the chaos.

The Kentucky State Police moved in and routed traffic around the area over Kentucky 17 and 14 and back to U. S. 25.

The Fire Department Auxiliary got busy making coffee and sandwiches.  The volunteer departments of nearby Independence, Dry Ridge, Williamstown, and other communities hurried over with their manpower, tarpaulins and other equipment.

Through the night they labored. By morning, U. S 25 had been cleared and through traffic was again using it.  Partial phone service was restored early in the morning but was limited to emergency use.

The experience of the Carey family was typical of those in the direct path of the tornado.  Mr. Carey and his wife, Beatrice, were in the kitchen when they heard the racket.  He circled her with his arms and braced himself against the refrigerator.  The house just simply disintegrated around them and blew away.

Heaviest damage centered on Beaver Road where the storm's aftermath looked like a bombed European village during World War II.

Four houses were demolished - blown all over the country as one victim put it.  The side of another house was blown away.

Mr. and Mrs. William Lloyd McCubbin lost everything they owned.  The couple returned home from work just after the storm and found no home there. The two children were with Mrs. McCubbin's mother.

"We saved some clothing, and that's all," said Mr. McCubbin. "Our car was torn up. All our furniture was ruined.  If anyone had been in the house, they might have been killed."

Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Johnson were home when the storm hit. They ran for the cellar, and Mrs. Johnson was pinned for perhaps an hour when the floor caved in.

"The only thing that saved me was the hot water heater," said Mrs. Johnson, "My husband finally pulled me out."

Robert Cornwell, his wife, four children, and brother, George, of Kokomo, Ind., had their house blown right over them.

"I was in bed asleep," said Mrs. Cornwell. "Next thing I know, the bed was blown from under me, and the house was gone.  I was on the floor under a blanket.  Thank God no one was hurt.  My car was blown 75 feet and smashed up completely.  I have my family, and I can still smile.  I can always build another house."

A wall of the Luke Jameison was blown off by the high wind.  "We were lucky the whole house didn't go," said Mrs. [Margaret] Jameison.

The Walton Fire Department was rained out of its annual fund-raising picnic Thursday evening, and the Tornado hit Friday evening.  Chief Worthington said the storm destroyed booths, and ruined the picnic grounds. "We'll try again later," he said.

S. M. Hamil, vice-president in charge of electrical department, said the Union Light, Heat and Power Co., had service restored in the Walton area by 11 p.m.  He said it would be some time before cleanup work was completed, and an estimate could be made of damage to company property.

The Boone County Red Cross opened disaster headquarters in the Walton Fire Department under Robert Eads, disaster chairman.  The Boone County chapter affiliated with the Cincinnati area Chapter only Wednesday and was receiving aid from that five county association.


Cincinnati Post, July 14, 1956, by James Feldman, Post Staff Writer