SWEETWATER, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Sweetwater residents are remembering the devastating moments 35 years after an F3 tornado struck the city.
Ken Becker, who now works with the city’s Economic Development Center says it started out like any other Saturday in the spring of 1986.
“I was just getting up, didn’t have any plans to do anything that morning,” said Becker. “Of course my plans changed for the next several days on what we were going to be involved with.”
At the time, Becker lived on the north side of town and was woken up to a knock and a call for help after his south side neighbors had been hit by an F3 tornado.
“Our first job was to walk through the area,” said Becker.
Becker says houses were leveled, debris covered the streets and his job was looking for any survivors.
“The panic, or the anticipation of panic, was when you started to lift up a wall and hope there was nothing underneath there besides just belongings,” said Becker.
It was a feeling many in Sweetwater hadn’t felt before, but for Becker, it was like history repeating itself.
When he was in fourth grade, Becker got news a tornado had struck his home in Northern Indiana.
His mother and younger brother were still inside.
“They were standing beside the only wall that was left in the whole house,” said Becker.
Fast forward 20 years, he says he was seeing the same scene play itself out.
“I know where these people are coming from. We lived it, we lost everything that we had,” said Becker.
He says he did what others did for him, and started helping to clean up the mess left behind.
“We not only got to help pick up the pieces, but we got to help rebuild,” said Becker.
The tornado was categorized as an F3, touching down on April 19, 1986.
One person was killed and nearly 80 others injured as wind speeds reached up to 200 miles per hour.