It was on this day 37-years-ago, a series of tornadic supercells formed across portions of northeast Texas and southeast Oklahoma that resulted in over 60 tornadoes and 29 fatalities.
One F4 tornado hit our hometown of Paris leaving over 1,000 homeless, 170 injured and 10 dead.
Johnny Williams, an officer with the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office at the time, remembers the day like it was yesterday.
“It was all very surreal and I remember thinking that this can’t be happening,” said Williams.
Williams and his partner, Dub Drake watched from the 4th floor of the courthouse as the tornado crossed N Main heading east.
“I remember the wind, the sound, the debris, and the aftermath. It was a very traumatic time for everybody involved.”
Over 150 state police personnel came to the aide of Paris in the after hours of the tornado with a command post set up at the DPS office and manned 24 hours a day.
“There was always a helicopter in the air to deter looting and officers on every corner from loop to loop, east to west,” said Williams.
“We got a call from our sales managers wife, who was in Honey Grove, warning us of a tornado but there were no clouds in the sky,” said McCarley.
Warning his wife who worked at the front desk to keep an eye out, not 10 minutes later they found themselves outside looking at the sky.
“You could see some movement but couldn’t tell what it was but the closer it got the more apparent it got and then you could tell it was a tornado,” said McCarley.
Watching the tornado tear down the water tower and houses around it, McCarley said the tornado lined up coming straight towards them.
“It was taking out four houses at a time and when it crossed 34th Street we turned and ran to the vault.”
36 employees of Paris Lumber bunkered down in the vault for over a minute as the tornado went straight over them; completely destroying Paris Lumber.
“When we opened the door the roof was completely gone and we could see the tornado moving east down Pine Mill Road,” said McCarley.
All 36 employees were saved by hiding in the vault.
“The Paris people came together and we survived it,” said Williams.
“It brought the city together and everyone worked very hard to help each other,” said McCarley.