Tornadoes popped up in multiple counties in Kansas on the evening of September 25, 1973, with many reaching the ground in Clay Center, Salina, and surrounding towns. The Clay County Medical Center history includes an article entitled “September 25, 1973: Night We’ll Never Forget” that gives the following account of that terrifying night at the hospital:
“On September 25, 1973, employees moved 8 patients confined to bed
into ‘safe’ hall area. Anyone else that could walk was sent to the
basement, and new mothers were instructed to take their own babies
while the aide took the diapers, formula, and water to the basement.
“About 8:00 p.m. the maintenance man shouted, ‘It’s headed straight
down Sixth Street!’
“During the tornado, no patient was injured, however, the maintenance
man got a door slammed on his arm, nearly severing it, and a nurse
aide’s arm was sliced open from a covered hall light that flew by while
she was protecting a patient.
“Later an obstetric patient arrived, and Dr. Richards and Marge Urban
delivered her new baby safely in the basement, and the baby was
“‘You just do what you need to do and what you’re trained for at the time,’
Clay County Hospital Registered Nurse/Shift Supervisor Alyce Specht
On that frightful night trees were destroyed on the Clay Center Court House Square. Part of the hospital roof was blown off, and the building where Meadowlark Hospice now stands was severely damaged.
When the tornado hit Clay Center that night in 1973, my husband and I and our two young children were living in Miltonvale, Kansas. That evening my husband Ralph Thorn was in Salina, attending classes at Kansas Wesleyan University. I was home with our two girls.
The sky was ominous; the rain had started. I was listening to the radio messages instructing all in the area to take cover. As I scurried around, getting ready to go outside to our storm cellar, my neighbor, Mrs. Melton, came over and asked if she could join us—she did not have a safe place to take cover.
The wind was so strong it was difficult to get to our cellar. It was also difficult to open the cellar door and to pull it shut behind us, but we made it safely. We could hear the wind howling outside, and I felt anxious, wondering where my husband was and if he was safe. The cellar smelled dank, and water was soon pouring in around the edges of the cellar door.
I don’t remember how long it was before the storm outside quieted down and my neighbor and I returned to our houses. I was very thankful when my husband arrived home safely later that evening. He told me his story about watching a tornado hit a trailer park in Salina, destroying most of the mobile homes.
That night there were 3 deaths, 34 injuries, and millions of dollars in property damage in the state of Kansas. The tornado touched down in the following counties: Rice, McPherson, Saline, Ottawa, Dickinson, Clay, Washington, Marshall, and Gage.
Nature produces many storms—tornadoes, rainstorms, ice storms, snow storms, floods, volcanoes, and more. It is usually possible to rebuild and start over from nature’s fury. For instance, I work at Meadowlark Hospice, 709 Liberty, Clay Center, a building that was severely damaged that night in 1973!
Even though it is not easy, it is possible to rebuild and heal after many of our “life” storms, storms such as sicknesses, losses, financial challenges, heartaches, and deaths of those we love. After a loss, hearts can heal.
Lyrics from a song say “Storms Never Last.” Storms come, and storms go, just as bad times come and leave. Winds will calm, rains will cease, and the sun will shine again. If you are in the middle of a life storm, remember what Alyce Specht said, “You just do what you need to do.” Have faith that the sun will shine again and keep walking, one step at a time. Storms never last.
Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
Meadowlark Hospice 709 Liberty Clay Center, Kansas
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator