University of Arizona

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Destruction Swirls Out of Clouds: Recounting the Wreckage Caused by a Rare Tucson Tornado

Destruction Swirls Out of Clouds: Recounting the Wreckage Caused by a Rare Tucson Tornado

It appears as though the monsoons have arrived here in the Sonoran Desert. This is a most beloved time of year for us desert rats, when, sometimes like clockwork, desert storms roll in every afternoon and dump much needed rain on the overheated city. The monsoon showers are such a relief that we often forget they bring Southern Arizona’s only real natural disasters in the form of flash flooding and violent storms. The monsoons also bring enough moisture to create a climate for the rare tornado, like the one seen in this 1964 photograph. The inscription on the back of the photo reads: “Destruction Swirls Out of Clouds—Jay Taylor, creative director of Harwood Advertising, took this picture from the sixth floor of the Phoenix Title Bldg. The Pima County Courthouse dome is on the left, the storm in the far background, and the funnel dips out of the storm clouds—bent on its path of death and destruction. In the foreground is W. Penningtion St. The twister broke up and blew eastward after flattening four homes and killing a mother and her baby at San Xavier Mission.” According to the Pima Public Libraries site on Tucson tornadoes this was the deadliest recorded tornado in Tucson’s history.

This photo comes from the Arizona, Southwestern, and Borderlands Photographic Collection, a collection of photos on many Southwestern related topics including people, places, events and activities ranging from 1875 to the present. You can find more photos of views of Tucson along with thousands of other digitized photos from the UA Photograph Collection in Special Collections’ digital collection.

Destruction Swirls Out of Clouds