LUBBOCK, Texas – May 11th, 1970, is not a date any resident in the Hub City will likely soon forget. Twenty six people lost their lives, and 400 homes were destroyed. The memory of that day remains the most vivid for those who experienced it first hand.
Ronnie Overby, a police officer at the time, was on shift with his partner near 22nd street and University. He said nothing prepared him for the level of chaos that broke loose that fateful night.
“It just blew the whole downtown away,” Overby said. “It knocked out all of the communications from the police department, and the telephone lines and all kinds of stuff so there was no communication at all.”
Overby said he and his partner scoured the area searching for people who needed they’re help, but the strong winds, pouring down rain and hail made it nearly impossible to see.
“At that time the tornado was really picking up steam,” Overby said. “It picked our police unit and put it on the sidewalk. It didn’t turn us over, but we didn’t have any control over it until the tornado passed over. So, we proceeded on downtown. The closer downtown we got, the more the damage that we saw and everything.”
Overby said the thing he’ll always remember the most is that despite the shocking amount of damage and destruction left behind by the storm, people in the community showed compassion and generosity for their neighbors and first responders.
“The city really pulled together during that time,” Overby said. “I was really impressed with people. We’d be out there directing traffic, stayed in that hot sun all day long, you know, and people would drive and hold out a sandwich, or a cup of coffee, or something to us. It was really amazing to have people pull together during those times.”