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Breakdown: Why the holiday season of December 1987 was one to remember

Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 3:01 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -Residents in West Memphis that remember Dec 1987, know all about what a season it was. West Memphis, Arkansas broke a record and not one you want to break but West Memphis became the first city in U.S. history to be declared a federal disaster area twice in a two week period.

On December 14, 1987, a killer tornado swept through the city followed by flood waters on Christmas Eve, and nearly a foot of snow fell on January 5th.

Lets start with the tornado, Newspaper reporter Kaye Brockwell was covering a story at Southland Greyhound Park when the most powerful tornado ever to hit West Memphis touched down. The twister went through West Memphis on a path that was two miles wide and three miles long. The storm killed 6 people, injured hundreds more, and left 1,500 homeless. There were reports of homes being ripped to shreds and in one case, only the bathroom was intact. As daylight dawned on Dec. 15 it was revealed that property damage was over $35 million. Recovery efforts started immediately.

Normalcy was somewhat restored thereafter until Christmas Eve, when 12 inches of rain fell within 24 hours. Nearly 1,000 homes were flooded, and one person drowned in high waters. Some of the same victims of the tornado that struck on the Dec 14, 1987 were now dealing with flood waters. Many lost everything and one would think that the story would end there but on January 5th, seven to ten inches of snow fell throughout Crittenden County. Although this was another hardship, many were thankful that more lives weren’t lost.

Today, changes have been made, with flood control upgrades which act to prevent flooding in Crittenden County. There are weather warning sirens, and the First Alert 5 Doppler Radar is located in West Memphis Municipal Airport.

Despite the many advances in technology, many can’t erase the memory of the Triple Threat of the late eighties!

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