Paris remembers deadly 1982 tornado

On that day in 1982, a powerful F4 tornado hit Paris, leaving 10 people dead, 170 injured, and 1,000 homeless.

Stacy Jones expressed, “I recollect the day when our family endured the loss of our residence, all our possessions! We sought refuge beneath a culvert alongside the family residing across the street. We clung to the conduit that traversed the culvert, while my mother enveloped us with her utmost strength. It was undeniably one of the most terrifying encounters I have ever undergone! I shall forever engrave it in my memory!”

While an ‘unsettling tranquility’ covered the county, certain individuals heard sirens; nevertheless, individuals such as Regina Johnson did not.

Johnson stated, “I was eleven years old when the tornado struck.” “We sought refuge in the rear chamber of the dwelling we occupied, and my aunt and two cousins were by my side.”

Johnson says that although she doesn’t remember hearing any sirens, she does recall seeing a school bus stop.

She mentioned, “I was in the house but I couldn’t see any damage from there. I remember seeing everyone as we all came out of the shelters, looking around at the damage. I quickly ran to a nearby ditch to take cover and I remember pulling the children off the bus.”

I will never forget the day. We saw a funnel in the town about 3-4 miles north, maybe. I was told to go to the football field house where they had rubber foam nets, “said, James Nichols, who was at Clarksville Football Field.”

Johnny Williams, an officer with the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office at the time, remembers thinking that this couldn’t be happening as he watched his partner, Drake Dub, from the fourth floor of the courthouse, crossed East Main Street and witnessed a tornado. He recalls that it was all very surreal.

“I remember the wind, the sound, the debris, and the aftermath. It was a very traumatic time for everybody involved,” said Williams.

Hundreds of volunteers came to help both near and far, including over 150 state police personnel who came to assist with the aftermath of the tornado, as well as the police personnel from Paris who provided aid during after-hours.

Brenda Leonard, who was motivated to become a storm observer after that incident, expressed, “Back in 2007 in Oklahoma, I embarked on my journey as a storm observer. It was also the beginning of my captivation with extreme weather and twisters, and the memories of what I witnessed will always stay with me.” At the age of 19, my father and I offered our assistance.

Without a doubt, our small Northeast Texas town continues to embrace the heart and essence witnessed on that particular day. Indefinitely, Paris will forever take a moment to commemorate the day that altered our community, regardless of the passage of time.