In all, 38 people were killed, nearly 1,000 buildings were destroyed or heavily damaged and 1,200 of everyone's friends and neighbors were left homeless.
It was 5:35 p.m. Saturday, December 5, 1953, when Mother Nature unleashed a fury of winds of up to 250 miles per hour upon the city.
My Mother was downtown working at a Jefferson Davis Hotel and Restaurant when she had to hide in the kitchen under the big stoves. She said the sprinklers came on and the bricks from St. Paul's Catholic Church behind the hotel came crashing through the windows. (Later the church had to be demolished) Afterwards, she told me that she could hear the Mothers crying for their children that were in the Saenger Theatre just across the street and behind the Hotel Vicksburg.
I was 12 years old at the time and home when I heard this horrible sound like a train and went to our front door picture window to look out and saw the tall bush in the front yard bent in half. I had no idea what had just happened. My Dad, brother and sister were in the back of the house. Later, Dad sent me over to the store across the street to get something and while there I heard the customers talking about the town being all tore up and I ran home crying and told my Dad. He left and went to check on my Mother. At the same time all this was going on, my grandfather laid dying at our home. Mother was alright but shaken up pretty bad. The next day our grandfather died. We had to go downtown in all the rubble to Koury's Dress Shop to pick out something to wear for my sister and I. I remember how dark it was in the store with no lights. The next day we boarded a train and went to New Orleans, Louisiana, to bury my grandfather. I remember how sad I was when I saw my Dad cry for the very first time. It made me cry.
As you see on the photo below I marked an "X" where our home was on Washington Street (now demolished) and how close it came by our home. Later in the evening you could see fires burning below our home at the Cotton Foundry.
It was a horrible sound and a day I will never forget.
The tornado destroyed electrical services to the city, and it also initiated several fires. Buildings were "shambles" along four city blocks, and 12 blocks were adversely affected. Many automobiles were submerged by debris. Path length was 9 miles. Damages approached $25 million (1953 USD). F5 rating is disputed due to the frail nature of the structures destroyed.