The Wrong Way Tornado

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Those who live in the Midwest are no strangers to severe weather. On June 10, 1958, a tornado anomaly occurred in El Dorado, KS. The path of this unique tornado made it’s way from the northwest part of town through the southeast, going the “wrong way.”

Due to the uncommon nature of this tornado and the lack of a robust emergency communications system, 13 lives were lost and over 80 people were injured. The community received an extensive amount of damage to residences and its neighborhood school, Skelly Elementary.

In 2008, the El Dorado Rotary Club wanted to pay tribute to those who were killed this event and to the community who showed exceptional resilience in the aftermath. Through a combination of donations and in-kind work, the Rotarians were able to present the community with a memorial.

Gravity::Works founder, John Prigmore and principal, Dave Stewart, both Rotarians, put a tremendous amount of thought and care into the design of this memorial. It’s located in Graham Park within the neighborhood that sustained the most damage.  The orientation of the memorial site is indicative of the tornado’s direction. The 13 pillars surrounding the centerpiece hold the names of the 13 victims and the story of the historic event.

The feature in the center of this memorial is meant to represent not only the tornado, but the spirit of the community. “…a community whose spirit was bent, but not broken.”

The wind harp was designed by artist Ross Barrable of Pagosa Springs, CO. It has 13 strings and produces an eerie hum when wind travels through it. The harp is removed yearly to be cleaned and tuned.

Each year, at 5:45pm on June 10th, members of the community gather at the memorial to honor those who were lost in 1958. Below are their names.

William Cantrell, Minnie Cantrell, William Welty, James Kirby, Howell Phillips, Elanor Phillips, John Phillips, Bessie Dia, Arthur Sharpin, John Jenkins, Mary Jenkins, Roberta Daniels, John Daniels

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