50 Years Later: The 1968 Tornado

(Source: Joyce Cleghorne)
(Source: Joyce Cleghorne)

(KAIT) - It is the 50th anniversary of the 1968 F4 tornado that ripped through parts of Jonesboro, killing 34 and injuring over 300 people.

The Region 8 StormTeam interviewed multiple Jonesboro residents that lived through the event, each with a unique story.

Jim Reed is one individual that was interviewed.

Reed was an Engineer for CWL and started working for the company just one week before the F4 destroyed parts of his new town.

According to Reed, a 69-volt line and multiple distribution lines were downed, leaving around 6,000 people without power.

"Took care of the Fairview Addition, and the area between Harrisburg Road and Parker Road going east past Caraway and Stadium (known at that time as Young Road) and into the subdivision," said Reed. "Lots of damage we didn't actually see until the next morning when we had daylight."

Reed worked in the office trying to figure out which circuits were out as other electric companies from all around came in to offer any assistance they could.

Wade Quinn, although not working alongside electric crews, also offered his assistance to those in need.

After being called by a clerk at the store he owned in town that a man needed help, Quinn went to the neighborhoods impacted by the storm.

Quinn remembers seeing residents who had lost their lives in a field and remembers hearing a baby crying.

"I love children and it was something to help cut the baby out," said Quinn, "The baby wasn't hurt at all, she was just wound up in barbed wire… I heard the baby was fine, though."

Fortunately, another man he assumed had passed away was seen walking down the streets of Jonesboro just weeks later.

Darlene Goforth was also impacted by the tornado of 1968.

Although her home was not destroyed, Darlene has tragic memories surrounding that night.

Goforth's mother was a babysitter and had been babysitting two children the night of the storm.

Those two children were picked up by their mother when it had started raining but the family never made it home.

"Gale was trying to get in the house, and the wind blew her and the babies back against a tree… Of course, it killed them, all three," said Goforth.

Since hearing the news of her friend and that family, Darlene now panics with every thunderstorm that passes… a similar story for David Thorne and Joyce Cleghorne, two tornado survivors.

David Thorne was six when the storm destroyed his home.

He remembers the lights going out and his father protecting him and his sister in the corner room of the house.

The tornado crashed the living room walls down and created a vacuum in the room they were taking refuge in.

According to David, it even put out his father's cigarette.

"I really didn't know what to think," said Thorne, "I was so young. But I did know at that point that it's amazing you're alive."

He and his family all survived the storm, but Joyce Cleghorne did not have the same ending.

Joyce remembers being at home when the tornado was coming.

Her father shielded Joyce and her mother under a sofa but it didn't protect them from getting picked up into the tornado.

"We were taken up in the air," said Cleghorne, "It felt like it lasted for a long time but it couldn't have been since we landed just across the street… all that was left was the foundation to our house. That's it."

After being rushed to the hospital by an elderly couple, Joyce recalls hearing news of her parents' condition.

Her mother had survived… but her father passed away.

"I had no idea he was going to pass away," said Cleghorne. "We couldn't leave the house, so he did the best he could to protect us."

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