In Remembrance of Arriba’s 1938 Tornado
By: Lola Quinn
Another tornado touched Arriba, Colo. last week Thursday July 2 and although it was not as disastrous as it could have been, many small building were blown around and wheat elevators being moved and trees toppled over, the wind and dirt were overwhelming. One family reported that , as they were sitting in their home watching the weather report on TV saying “ Tornados could be possible” they looked out a northeast window and the very strong wind was just outside of their home. They only had time to open windows as the tornado winds to 97 mph formed a vacuum that can cause much damage.
My dad shouted “Run to the basement.” The winds started to subside about 15 to 20 minutes later and rain came in sheets and hail was falling at the same time. What noise there was and we were all afraid our home would be blown away but then everything was completely silent. Dad and Mom went slowly up the stairs. My Mom let out a scream as she cold see that the roof of the Christian Church had been blown off and was slammed into the Congregational Church roof about a block away. We went outside to see if any of our buildings or our car had been damaged and they had not. We have thanks to God for that. Big hail stones had fallen. My mother ran out on a bare lot and picked up the biggest one she could see and was so glad to only see a few huge ones. She measured the one she brought in and it was 13 inches in circumference.
By that time, we started looking around the town and were amazed to see many building were badly damaged or blown over. The grain elevators were blown off of their foundations about 6 inches. Mobile home were rolled over and over. The biggest hotel in our town had every window blown out. But to add a little laughter, as Arriba had no plumbing in those days all the “pots” and all the curtains and bedding were all down the main street.
A building, built with cement blocks was completely blown down, blocks being carried a half a big block away. People were in that building which was a mechanical garage and a beauty parlor. The people got under a car and were not hurt.
The next two buildings had lots of hail damage but were still standing. Next to that was big lumber yard. It was demolished. They had open fronted buildings with all kind of lumber and others full of cement. The rain and hail were coming in sheets. After that stopped, the manager of the lumber company was hiring anyone who could lift the heavy sacks of cement to get them out of the “flood water” that was collecting in there. It had to be completely rebuilt.
The next buildings were Kemp’s filling station. Not much damage that I can recall, but a welding shop was next with a house built above the shop. The home was taken off of it and just leaned over touching the ground.
The tornado then took a different direction. It had gone east down main street but now it headed north. This is where the church damage came in when the wind turned north. After the tornado hit the big hotel on the west side of the main street that came in off the highway, the south side of the main street running east and west was hit. Blane Ashton’s office was damaged beyond repair. He and George Goulrey sold all types of farm equipment from tractors and combines to rakes and plows. The machinery was all twisted up.
The next building was where the “Arriba Record” was printed. The porch was pulled apart from the main house where the Hoffmans lived. The wind there shifted more to the north and a 5 & 10 cents store that was owned by Hawkins had several windows blown out.
Next was a big two-story building housing a pharmacy owned by Keith Hutchens. On the ground floor and an auditorium on the upper floor were “picture shows” were shown every Saturday afternoon. The Modern Woodman Lodge met there and sometimes dances were held there. The long staircase was blown away and windows were blown out. Next was a barber ship run by Tom Conary. It and the grocery store, run by Mary and John Freel were not damaged, that I remember. And the tornado went north up to “No Man’s Land” a half of a block wide and 3 blocks long.
This is where the Christian Church and took a big section of the roof and blew it a block north, sending it through the roof of the Congregational Church, Also our church had a brick chimney from the ground to above the highest point of the church roof; and the chimney stood by itself 6 inches from touching anything. The church had to be moved back on its foundation. After both churches were damaged by the wind, rain and hail ruined all the song books and a lot of other articles in the churches and many windows. One lady that lived across the road but in the path of the terrible wind showed me the glass from the church windows that was under the covers of their bed. It had come through the broken windows in their house. A big tank that held water for their cows in their corral was never found. Earl and Grace Van Cleve owned this house.
These are my memories of Arriba, Colo. My parents Arthur and Olive Copley moved there in 1919 from Fullerton, Neb. My father had tuberculosis when they came and he was told he only had 6 months to live but by going to the Modern Woodsman Sanatorium in Colorado Springs, he was cured and lived for another 30 years. He owned a cream station and a feed store combined for many years and was mayor of Arriba for 15 years.
I was born in 1923, went to Congregational Church, graduated from high school in 1941. In 1944, Dwane Quinn and I were the first couple marred in “our” church for 30 years. My father died in 1950 and mother died in 1977. Dwane and I were blessed with 5 children all of whom are living. We were married for 65 years when he passed away, 6 years ago. My sister Ruth Chubbuck and husband Meldon lived in Arriba most of all of their lives with their 4 children; Jerry Chubbock of Genoa tower, Don and Deloris of Ordway; Sharon and Bud Johnson of Arriba; and Yvonne and Rob McClan of Anton. If some of my memory has failed you can blame it on 92 years of hard work and lots of enjoyment.