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Cape Central High Photos

Ken Steinhoff, Cape Girardeau Central High School Class of 1965, was a photographer for The Tiger and The Girardot, and was on the staff of The Capaha Arrow and The Sagamore at Southeast Missouri State University. He worked as a photographer / reporter (among other things) at The Jackson Pioneer and The Southeast Missourian.

Come here to see photos and read stories (mostly true) about coming of age in Southeast Missouri in the 1960s.

Please comment on the articles when you see I have left out a bit of history, forgotten a name or when your memory of a circumstance conflicts with mine. (My mother says her stories have improved now that more and more of the folks who could contradict her have died off.) Your information helps to make this a wonderful archive and may end up in book form.

I Prefer Predictable Hurricanes

Sorry for not posting last night. A dog ate my homework. (Did I use that one before?)

I was talking with Carla Jordan at the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum about doing an exhibit of my Wittenberg photos at a 2012 conference when the weather alert went off  announcing a tornado watch. “I’m from Oklahoma,” she said. “A watch means we pull out the lawn chairs.” I was equally unconcerned. The skies didn’t look particularly threatening.

On the way back to Cape, I stopped to shoot a couple of really neat cemeteries under clear skies.

KFVS-TV in full storm mode

When I pulled into the driveway, mother was looking out the window, the scanner in the living room was cranked up to plaster-cracking minus one, and the weather alert was blaring out a tornado WARNING. Before the evening was over, it must have come on at least a dozen times.

KFVS-TV went into full-blown storm coverage mode with all their cool toys. (And, they did a decent job for the four hours or so they stayed on the air.)

Wind gusts were reported as high as 90 mph. Streets were flooded and the fire department was kept running to fire alarms and arcing wires.

While this was all going on, Wife Lila was on a plane flying from West Palm Beach to St. Louis. I was using a flight tracking ap on my Droid to watch the pilot change his path to somewhere in Alabama where there was the only break in a line of storms beween the Gulf and way up north. It must have been like threading the eye of a celestial needle. After that, he flew west, almost to the middle of Missouri, before coming in behind the storm in St. Louis. The flight was about 1-1/2 hours late.

Unplugged the computer

When lightning started crackling around us, I unplugged all the computer gear, so I didn’t even have a chance to download the photos I had taken during the day.

We had a big limb break off a maple tree and smash a redbud tree, but no other damage in a quick look-see this morning.

So, that’s why I didn’t have something up this morning.

If you don’t believe that, I was using a new ink that must have smelled like catnip, because the cat licked all of the photos right off the paper.

(The lightning shots were taken in the mid-60s, not last night.)

10 comments to I Prefer Predictable Hurricanes

  • van riehl

    Kudos to KFVS…….and I don’t ordinarilly complement them.

  • Jane Neumeyer

    Ken, I think of tornado warnings as predictable for Southern Missouri and Illinois. It seems like every other time Don and I have visited we have ended up in a basement or inner corridor waiting it out. I made it back from Dallas and Ft. Worth just as the wildfires were beginning further west. Our Wisconsin late April snow and ice storm is tame by comparison.

  • Codine Sherwood

    The URL below takes one to a recently discovered letter written immediately after the 1949 Cape tornado:

    • Thanks for the link. I had never seen this before.

    • Codine,

      My mother was so taken with the letter that the battery in her iPad went dead before she could make it to the end.

      I tried to follow the link this morning and it takes me to the description, “The following pages are a letter from a young, pregnant wife to her mother immediately after the 21 May 1949 tornado that devestated Cape Girardeau MO, killing more than 20 people” but not to the pages of the letter.

      With your permission, I’d like to reproduce the pages on this blog as a posting rather than a comment so it’s easier for folks to see. (That’s assuming that I can ever connect with them again.)

      It’s a great piece of Cape’s history.

    • UPDATE:

      I’ve taken the first-person account of the 1949 tornado and made it a separate posting that will be easier to read.

      Thanks for the family for sharing it.

  • Sharon Ridings Steele

    The letter is a very interesting read. As a genealogist, I know how special a find like this is. Thanks for sharing.

  • Virginia Kerr West

    Codine,s letter to her Mother described the Cape 1949 tornado very well ! I was there and will never forget it !! It is that season now for tornados and I am still afraid of them! I live in Monticello, Il. now and night before last our sirens went off and since I don,t have a basement I got in the hall,in the middle of the house! There were tornado warnings out for all over ! Scary!!

  • Brad Brune

    Thank you Codine Sherwood for sharing the letter about the tornado in Cape in 1949. Having been a one year old and living through that catastrophe made reading the description an emotional journey. It was like looking through a time machine to a different world – 1949 Midwest USA.
    The young ladies’ description of the path of the tornado, the damage, the deaths, the appearance of different parts of town, and especially the names of doctors and well known Cape natives was fascinating yet heartbreaking.
    Thank goodness this priceless historical story has been saved for posterity.
    Sincerely grateful,
    Brad Brune

  • Audrey Reynolds

    The letter takes me back to that day in 1949, when I stood with my mother on the front porch of our house on Locust St., watching the course of a funnel, as she prepared to awaken my dad from his nap so that we could go to the basement. Suddenly the funnel changed its path and turned north toward Red Star, where it would take many lives.

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