The Great Thanksgiving Storm of 1926

White County Historical Society

Thanksgiving Day in 1926 was too warm to be November. The wind was blowing in circles and swirling the dry leaves in every direction. Mama commented that she was afraid we might have a storm. Edgar & Effie Soon after sundown a dark cloud appeared southwest of Pangburn with streaks of lightning and rumbling thunder in the distance. Mama scanned the sky then had Papa look to see what he thought. Papa said maybe we ought to go to the storm cellar. We had to walk about three blocks to get to the nearest cellar, at the home of Julius and Evia Albert. After the storm passed over us, word came that Heber Springs had "been blown away" and "was burning up." People had been cooking supper with their wood stoves when the tornado hit and their fires were scattered among the ruins of many homes. A number of people were killed because there were no weather reports or warnings at that time. On Sunday, we were among the many people who went to see the ruins in the Cleburne County community, just 15 miles away, and it made a lasting impression on us. Soon after, Edgar Doyle built a storm cellar for Effie and their family in the side yard. It was a simple hole dug in the ground with concrete sides and top, a dirt floor and dirt mounded over the concrete. There were three steps down and wooden benches around the sides where people sat. I kept my Sunday shoes and my dolls in that cellar.
Almost every time there was a rainstorm at night we lit the lantern and went to the cellar. Many neighbors frequently joined us when they were frightened by the storm clouds. One night, we counted almost 20 of us huddled together.
There are times now when I wish for a safe place like the storm cellar of my childhood.