Adam Powell
U.S. History Interview

This interview was conducted by Adam Powell. Susan Ridgeway was interviewed to gain a historical and firsthand perspective of the tornadoes that struck Del Rio, Texas during September of 1988.

The interview:

Adam Powell (AP): It’s November twelfth, two-thousand and five (11/12/2005). My name is Adam Powell. I’m going to be interviewing Susan Ridgeway. Hi, Susan. Susan Ridgeway (SR): Hi Adam, how are you?

AP: Fine yourself?
SR: Fine, thanks.

AP: Can you tell me a little about yourself?
SR: Yes. I’m Susan Ridgeway. I’m a native of New Zealand but I am an American citizen and have lived in Del Rio, Texas for over thirty years.

AP: Alright. Today we are going to be talking about tornadoes that hit Del Rio in what year Susan?
SR: 1988.

AP: 1988, alright. And where were you when the tornado hit?
SR: I was at Wright’s Steakhouse.

AP: And that is were you work?
SR: Yes it is.

AP: What time of day did it occur?
SR: Approximately about 6:10 in the evening.

AP: How did yourself and your fellow coworkers react to the situation?
SR: Well, us ladies that were in the building we had warning that potential tornadoes could be coming and we moved a heavy table up close to the fire place and we got underneath that where as the men in the kitchen stepped outside and stood there and watched it (laughing…). We stayed under the table, I would think approximately twenty five minutes.

AP: What did y’all hear outside of the building?
SR: Well this building is pretty stout being rock and we really didn’t hear anything. We just stayed underneath there until the boys came in and told us that it had passed by, but they had stayed out and watched it go to the right and one to the left of the building.

AP: That’s amazing. They are really lucky.
SR: Foolish!

AP: (Laughing…) That’s maybe a better term. What is the difference between the warning system used then and now?
SR: Well the warning system- sirens had been going off all afternoon. The hurricane spawned off, no, the tornado, excuse me, spawned off hurricane Gilbert which hit in the lower coast of Texas around Brownsville into Mexico and we had been warned with radio and TV flashes about potential tornadoes coming off it.

AP: So you did have warning-and had that been going on for several days or was this just a very quick warning?
SR: Yes. (Answer to first question) – No. That day I believe it was – I want to think it was a Thursday and we had very heavy rains in the afternoon, the latter part of the afternoon; I would say 3:00 to 4:00 o’clock. And then it stopped and got very dark and the clouds were really wild looking clouds and you knew trouble was brewing somewhere.

AP: Did the restaurant take any damage?
SR: No, we didn’t take any damage at all.

AP: So y’all were lucky?
SR: I went to the west and the east of the building. Damage was reported across the street at Trail West. They had some damage there.

AP: So you know someone who was actually a victim of the tornado?
SR: Yes I do. Not only out here, the White’s from Trail West, but a friend of mine in Del Rio who lived up on the reservation, they had damage to their house. She and her children took cover in the closet in their house and they had bricks that had to be replaced and two doors down, a house was leveled. In fact, every street that it came across was leveled.

AP: So it was a strong tornado?
SR: Yes it was. It took down houses and did quite a bit of damage, uprooted some trees. My friend in Del Rio, she hid in the closet with her two children and she was six months pregnant. This happened in September of 1988.

AP: Everyone did survive, correct?
SR: Yes. There were no fatalities to my knowledge… I don’t believe there was.

AP: Do you remember if the tornado made the public news?
SR: I believe it did. It was on San Antonio news I know for sure. How about national news, I’m not sure. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

AP: And it did make the Del Rio news?
SR: Oh, absolutely. Yah, and for quite a while after words. That whole area was quartered off. Only if you lived there, were you allowed to go to that area to what they call the reservation.

AP: And after the tornado, did the city of Del Rio develop any new security measures?
SR: I’m sure they did. I know they have a better system now: louder sirens and of course they come on T.V. and radio… (AP: to offer some more fore warning) Yes. With the better grade of the national weather service, we do tend to get better reports of potential weather storms coming.

AP: Alright. Thank you, Susan. It has been great to have you.
SR: And thank you.

AP: Alright…