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The story of a survivor of the horrific April 9, 1947 Woodward tornado

by Bryan Painter Published: April 9, 2014
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Taken from a March 9, 2013 story, The Oklahoman:

By Bryan Painter

WOODWARD — Sue Marts Alexander was a child.

About 8:40 p.m. April 9, 1947, a tornado struck Woodward, killing 107 in the city of 5,500. Lives also were claimed in other communities that night.

Alexander, 3 years old at the time, was already in bed with her older sister and younger brother at Woodward when it hit. What she knows is what her family was told and in turn relayed to her.

A man found Alexander and took her to the hospital at Mooreland, about 10 miles east of Woodward. He said he heard a child crying and located her in a hole beneath a car.

          Bare tree limbs rise eerily as the damaged Woodward County courthouse stands in the background after a tornado struck April 9, 1947. OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES PHOTO    
Bare tree limbs rise eerily as the damaged Woodward County courthouse stands in the background
after a tornado struck April 9, 1947. OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES PHOTO.

 

 

          Pictured are Elnora Marts (mother), standing on the left is Sabra Marts, standing on the right is Sue Marts (Sue Alexander), and the baby being held is Charlie Marts. Photo was taken in Woodward, days before the Woodward tornado in April of 1947, near the intersection of US 412 and US 270 (9th & Oklahoma Avenue) in Woodward. I recognize the building in the background as the Woodward Municipal Building/Fire and Police Department. ORG XMIT: KOD    
Pictured are  Elnora Marts (mother), standing on the left is Sabra Marts, standing on the right is Sue Marts (Sue Alexander), and the baby being held is Charlie Marts.  Photo was taken in Woodward, days before the Woodward tornado in April of 1947, near the intersection of US 412 and US 270 (9th & Oklahoma Avenue) in Woodward. I recognize the building in the background as the Woodward Municipal Building/Fire and Police Department. PHOTO PROVIDED.

Alexander has two scars across the top of her knees and several on her back.

She knows that her eyes “were packed with mud and I couldn’t see for a few days” after the tornado in early April 1947.

She and her siblings were scattered by the tornado.

When her mother began searching for the children, she first went to an area where the bodies of the deceased had been taken before she headed to the hospital.

“Mom found a little girl that looked like my sister wearing the same type of pajamas with pig tails, in the area among the deceased,” Alexander said. “When she found my sister at the Mooreland hospital, she was actually looking for me and for my brother. She heard someone yell ‘Mom!’ and looked and they were shaving my sister’s head to get the splinters out.”

Alexander and her siblings survived the tornado.

Today, Alexander lives near Fort Supply in far northwestern Oklahoma. She and husband Tony have a storm shelter at their home. The shelter is about 30 years old.

If weather is moving in, Alexander won’t go to bed until it’s out of the area, “because I’m watching all the time.”

That leads to a somewhat humorous memory.

One night, storms were moving in, and Alexander called her son who lived next door and said “Get to the cellar.”

The voice on the other end wasn’t that of her son, but the person said, “Sue?” She said, “Yes.”

In her haste, she had accidentally dialed someone her son had gone to school with.

She told him she had meant to call her son and he said, “Is it that bad, Sue?” and she replied, “It’s that bad.”

The two saw each other awhile later.

Alexander recalls, “He said, ‘Sue we were asleep, we had no idea. I appreciate your call.’”

She was warning the public, one call at a time.


by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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