Camille Righter

Writing Process

            For this writing project, I changed my writing process from the previous writing project. I wanted to see if this way worked better, or gave me better ideas.

            What I did for the rough draft involved sitting in a very quiet room that allowed me to focus. No music, TV, or other people in the room. This was a huge change from the process of my last writing project. I did write this paper a lot faster than the last, due to the lack of distractions. I did find it more difficult to write without stopping though. Before, when I had distractions, I could pull from different things being spit out of the TV or radio. Without these, I had to stop and think which directions I wanted my paper to go next.

            I found it easier to focus on what I was writing with this project because I was confident in what I was writing about. I did my research and had personal accounts of what actually happened, and that made it easier to write a paper in depth. The meaning of this paper to me is strong. Not only does it involved my community, but the people I interviewed were family or friends, and that made me want to learn more knowing that they had gone through this tornado.

            Everything that I learned with this project was exciting to me. It was exciting because I learned about my community, and natural disasters are becoming more and more intriguing. Also, learning about everyone else’s communities and natural disasters in my class made me more interested in what other communities are like, or what they may be like now that they have been hit with a natural disaster.

            When we do peer reviews, that also helps with my writing process. My final draft is VERY different from my rough draft because I received so many different angles that I could take with my paper. Not only do I like new ideas from others who read my paper, but it makes editing and revision easier. I can go back and read my own paper one hundred times, and not find a single thing wrong with it because that was how I wanted it to look in the first place. With other classmates’ guidance, I was able to find what I could elaborate more on, or maybe some things that were not even needed in my paper.

            The one thing I did not like about this project was the fact that my natural disaster happened when I was not born. That made it hard to make my paper appealing to the reader because I had to make them feel like they were going through the storm, even though I wasn’t there to even know what it was like. It was very challenging to remember every little detail to include to make that possible in my paper. If I had actually been through the experience of a tornado hitting my community, then it would be easier to write about it.

            I did enjoy this project a lot more. I found that the new process I took made it easier to revise more of my rough draft, and I think that will be better for my paper. This project has made me extremely interested in not only natural disasters, but what is going on in the world. Natural disasters are happening all the time, and I have not been paying enough attention. It will be good for me to start understanding what is changing and shaping the communities of our world today.

            I am excited to start our next project on how we shape our communities. I think it will be very interesting to tie everything together, and learn about why we have such a huge impact on what happens in our communities, and even how we can cause the natural disasters that cause devastation to them.



Interesting Research

This is just an article I found when I was researching. This is just part of the article, but if you found yourself as drawn in as I was, I recommend reading the entire article. The website is:


BLACK TUESDAY: May 6, 1975 Written By: Jeff Hanusa, Omaha Native

Nearly a year after Elvis Presley sold-out performances in his “Tornado Over Omaha” concert tour of June 1974, a real-life tornado – of F4 strength on the Fujita Scale – tore through Nebraska’s largest city, Omaha, on the spring afternoon of May 6, 1975. The connection with Elvis is purely coincidental, and fun irony to note, yet the day was no laughing matter. It is a day that some call “Black Tuesday” in Omaha, and appropriately so; the aftermath of the maxi, three-tailed twister was horrendous. Three people were killed, and almost 300 were injured. Almost 2,500 residential units, as well as 180 businesses, were destroyed or damaged. In addition, scores of public, or semi-public, buildings and facilities were damaged or destroyed, along with hundreds of automobiles – all within a short period of twenty-three minutes.

The severity of the May 1975 storm is definitely worth remembering: Nationally, it was an event calculated as the “Costliest Tornado to Hit a Major American City” in history, even more damaging then the severe Xenia, Ohio tornado of 1974, the powerful Lubbock and Wichita Falls, Texas tornadoes of 1971 and ’74, and Topeka, Kansas tornado of 1966. Omaha’s 1975 tornado managed to hold that impressive title for nearly a quarter of a century, now placed only second behind a record-breaking, F5 twister that ravaged Oklahoma City area suburbs on May 3, 1999.

Despite the fact that tornadoes are nature’s definite apex storm – in terms of sheer violence, and most unpredictable phenomenon, Omaha was prepared for the severe ’75 blow, in what some experts called an “overdue storm.” Although the city’s last major tornado event was sixty-two years in the past – Easter Sunday, March 23, 1913 – and long forgotten on the city’s conscience, 1975 was a year in Omaha that refined the local’s weather senses. In January, a legendary blizzard struck the city, accompanied by howling 60-mph winds and up to 16-inches of snow in some places. The city was paralyzed for days and several deaths occurred. In addition to the great winter gale, the city was caught off-guard on March 27th, when a patch of southwest Omaha – specifically the Stonybrook area of Millard – experienced a blow from a small, unexpected tornado. By the time the sirens were sounded, the funnel had lifted, and left a trail of damage and tears twenty minutes earlier. It was again a similar story, seven years earlier in August 1968, when a hailstorm and twister did $1.5 million dollars in damage to the Bel Air area, near 120th and Center. Thus, when the National Weather Service posted the first weather watches on Tuesday, May 6th, amidst glorious sunshine and gentle breezes, Omahans were not deceived. Midlanders are full aware that the very elements that make the spring day feel benign – sunshine, warm temperatures, buoyant air, swirling breezes – are some of the same key ingredients that factor into a creation not so benign: The mighty tornado.

Hundreds of miles south in Kansas City, Missouri, the offices of the National Weather Service watched Nebraska on May 6th with its great “hawk eye”, mapping the advance of a cold front and squall line moving across the state that day. The air was abnormally warm and humid, and cold air was quickly sliding over the region – a classic scenario for a severe weather outbreak. A tornado watch was posted for much of the state during the noon hour, including areas of the neighboring states of Kansas, South Dakota, and Missouri. As the day progressed, the National Weather Service revised the watch area and redrew the red lines; Nebraska and southern South Dakota only remained in the watch area. It was very clear: Conditions were ripening in the Cornhusker State.

By mid-afternoon, weather conditions heightened to an alarming status; as predicted, severe weather was in commencement. A tornado warning was issued for Northeastern Nebraska, roughly one hundred miles from Omaha. The storm system’s destructive chemistry was erupting in that state corner; funnels were reported along a squall line at Yankton, South Dakota, and down through the towns of Crofton, Magnet, Osmand, Pierce, and Winside in Nebraska. At least a dozen twisters touched down and created damage – one an F4 status. Pierce and Magnet were among the towns affected. Magnet was quoted as being “half gone.”

To the south, tornado reports on television and radio filled the airwaves, and altered the hum of Omaha’s typical, nothing-usually-special Tuesday afternoon. Because of the media buzz, many locals gave a second glance at the blackening western sky. Weather radar continued to scan the atmosphere.


Five minutes after 2:00 p.m., red flags starting flying; the Omaha Forecast Office issued a severe thunderstorm warning. Omaha’s REACT team immediately reacted, positioning themselves at strategic points around the city. This organization, made up of amateur radio operators who are trained to recognize tornadoes, stands for “Radio Emergency Associated Citizens Team.” With their assistance, the citizens of Omaha were definitely going to be prepared if a tornado threatened – a chance not given on deadly Easter Sunday 1913.

During the three o’clock hour, rain, thunder, lightning, wind, and large hail bombarded the Omaha area. At 3:03 p.m., a whistle was blown – a funnel spotted near Nehawka, a small town just south of Sarpy County in Nebraska. Just to the west and north, a second regional sighting was reported near Gretna and a protrusion in a black cloud over the town of Springfield was also brought to attention. Reports of funnel clouds were also coming out of Cass County, to the west. At 3:15 p.m., another severe thunderstorm warning was issued for Omaha, valid until 4:30 p.m. The television never seemed to stop beeping, flashing, that afternoon.

An intense hour passed by. By 4:00 p.m., a complex of severe thunderstorms had mushroomed – a massive cloud mass covering most of the extreme eastern portion of the state, from Kansas in the south, to South Dakota in the north. Two thunderstorm lines existed: One stretched diagonally from Columbus, Nebraska to ten to twenty miles west of Nebraska’s capitol city, Lincoln. The other: A line stretching from Beatrice, Nebraska, to Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska, south of Omaha. All marching towards Iowa, the towering, exploded storm cells continued to drift north-eastward, imbedded with thunder and lightning, wind, large hail, and heavy precipitation. Omahans continued to wearily watch the skies.

Meanwhile, a strange calm was reported in a rural area of Iowa in the vicinity of the South Omaha Bridge, just south of Council Bluffs (a city directly across the Missouri River from Omaha). Within that airy hush, a black funnel percolated from the sky. The Council Bluffs Civil Defense sirens were sounded at approximately 4:07 p.m. Two minutes later, at 4:09 p.m., REACT observers spotted another funnel. This time, the peculiar cloud hung over northern Sarpy County in Nebraska, near the communities of Springfield, Papillion, and La Vista – all just south-southwest of Omaha. Seconds later, another sighting came from Check Point Indian in Nebraska, near Gretna. Between the scattered sightings and sirens, a look-this-way-no-that-way action was occurring. Five minutes later at 4:14 p.m., the National Weather Service issued a verbal tornado warning for the three-county Omaha area, although the sirens were not yet sounded.

With the media’s first word of warning, thousands of people heeded, by heading for their basements and small interior halls and closets. Traffic in Omaha reduced dramatically, and most industry and commerce came to a halt, as the storm’s “bear cage” section – an intense area of heavy rain and hail that often precedes a tornado – moved through town. Mutual of Omaha, the city’s famous insurance company, sealed up their offices downtown and would not allow the release of its employees. Ten miles west of downtown, officials at the Westroads Shopping Center also restricted people from leaving. The entire city remained poised, alert and ready.

Ten minutes passed. The sky above looked bizarre and threatening – swirls of black, grey, and green hues, a palette of tones that seemed to penetrate everything that afternoon. Beneath the great storm tower, a rotating wall cloud hung heavy over the landscape, indicating a grandiose circulation in the heavenly formation. An eerie, humid stillness had cast a spell over the land. Not a single branch – nor single leaf – moved. In those frozen trees, birds stopped chirping. Within residences, cats reportedly prowled restlessly and cried, and tropical fish burrowed into sand at the bottom of aquariums. On the ground, everything seemed hushed and frozen, quieted by this strange oppression. Contrastingly, in the far west, the sky looked warm and peaceful – clouds glowing gold in the sun, on the backside of the storm. But, the storm wasn’t over yet; above, the atmosphere continued to be filled with spooky animation – ghostly flashes of lightning and booming thunder, clouds caught in odd sprints of rapid motion, oozing with ominous colors: A true show of meteorological wonder.


Think Piece 7

This week through research, visiting a museum, and dreams I’ve been having, I have learned a lot. The first thing being that I am extremely scared of tornadoes! The second being that I really don’t know as much as I thought I did about my heritage and history of where I live now. Fortunately, this project has helped me realize how much I didn’t know, and has helped me to learn more.

            Through the research and interviews I have conducted, I have learned little bits of information. Not only have I learned about the natural disaster I am researching, but I have learned about Nebraska, and the communities within Nebraska. The tornado of 1975 shaped communities that it affected, but also communities it didn’t. Nebraska doesn’t have many natural disasters happen in these times other than tornadoes, so it is very interesting to me to see how different communities react to natural disasters of any level. After looking at newspaper clippings after the 1975 tornado, everyone in the city was helping strangers and taking in families that lost everything. It makes me so proud to know that I come from a community like that. It is also interesting to me how everything else may be put aside once tragedy strikes. Differences and misconceptions are left behind to come together.

            After visiting the Nebraska History Museum, what stuck out the most to me was the exhibit on Native Americans. I have Native American in me, and I’ve known that since I was little. Unfortunately, I am unsure what tribe I am from, but I have always wondered. Everything in that exhibit inspired me to really ask family and find out where exactly I came from. I will find out someday soon. When I got in the museum, the Native American exhibit immediately caught my eye. I read about each of the specific tribes, how and what they traded, and what they lived off of. I could never imagine using every piece of a bison for tools, clothes, and food. To know that that is my heritage is somewhat intimidating. We take so much for granted now. Then, that made me think about what all we take advantage of, and don’t realize we have until it’s gone. I’m sure the people that were affected by the 1975 tornado never realized everything they had until they lost it all. I remember my mom talking about a well- known family that had 3 boys that attended Benson. She said that they came from good money and had a beautiful home. After the tornado, they had nothing but each other. To me, that is the most beautiful disaster ever. It is so heart-wrenching because everything is taken away from them, but they realized all they really needed was each other.

            I had a dream last night that brought to my attention that I have been spending too much time on natural disasters. I think there has somehow been a tornado in every single one of my dreams for the last two weeks, and the fact that I wake up scared leads me to believe that research is the most experience I would like with tornadoes. I never knew that I was so scared of them, but I guess never having experienced one is probably the scariest thing; frightened by the unknown.

            I have started writing for this project already. The funny thing is that my introductory paragraph I wrote in my sleep, right after my nightmare about a tornado. This paper will be very interesting but I love everything that I am learning about where I come from.


 Interview with Roger Humphries

  1. Where were you at the time the tornado hit?

I was at work at the post office on 84th St. I was a mailman at the time, so I was packing all the mail up for the following day before I got off work. The warnings started while that was going on, and we were unable to leave, we started to go into lockdown because they weren’t exactly sure when the tornado was coming.


  1. What kind of warning did weather channels put out before the tornado?

Well, the warnings started at about 3 I think. They were saying there was going to be a tornado, but they didn’t know when. They were unsure of its path at that point because no weather service is really about to tell that.


  1. What were you most worried about when the warnings came out?

I was most worried about where my family and my wife were. I tried to connect with them, but that’s what everyone in the city was doing so it was hard to get the phone call to go through. I was worried about not being able to get home. When the warnings first started it was kind of like chaos everywhere. Everyone was trying to figure out what was going on and how they were going to find their families. That kind of got me worked up.


  1. How were you and your family affected by the tornado?

The tornado came down 84th street, so while we were ok, my car was flipped and destroyed. Fortunately, my family was ok and they were able to get to safety whether that was at home or at work. I was able to reach then after the tornado, but I was unable to reach them before.




  1. Did you know anyone that lost anything in the storm?

Many of my friends lost homes. Also, most of the people I worked with lost something or had some sort damage done to property. Some of my coworker’s houses were literally down the street from where they actually lived. Some had cars that they found a mile away. The scariest part was the fact that one of my friends cars was found a mile away, with no license plates, and the only way he could tell it was his was by the post office sticker in the window showing that he worked at the post office on 84th.



  1. What was the atmosphere like after the storm?

It was very odd. People were just walking in the middle of streets and walking over to random families to help pick up trash. It was not sunny but you could tell the sun was trying to come out behind all of the clouds. It was hard to breathe outside because the air was very thick. It was very quiet outside, but it seemed so loud because of everything that had just happened.

Food For Thought?

Think Piece 6

            This week we have been discussing Egan a lot. I see many similarities between Egan and the way he talks about the storm, and the people I have been interviewing about my community natural disaster. There is a similarity in how these natural disasters affected their communities too. It is mind blowing to think of the concrete details in each situation and focus the rest of the story around that.

            First off, in the tornado of 1975, many people were left with nothing but rubble for homes and businesses. The way that Egan spoke of the Dust Bowl, it was the same way. People couldn’t even go outside because the weather and sand in the air was so bad, but they had nowhere else to go because their homes were filled with the same dust and sand. The tornado of 1975 kept people busy cleaning up after its destruction, weeks after it hit, just like the Dust Bowl that had people scared and precautious for months after storms hit.

            I did find some differences in the two natural disasters. Egan mentioned that the Dust Bowl killed many people from children to adults. They died of “dust pneumonia” or suffered long term effects from it, and the storms themselves suffocated many people stuck in the middle of them. Also, many people starve to death because of the impossibility of planting their crops and growing anything to feed their family.  My community disaster only killed 3 people, but destroyed just as much property as the dust storms. However, the tornado did not cause as many long term effects as the Dust Bowl did.

            The concrete detail that I pulled out of Egan’s book so far was when he spoke of the, “300 tons of sand” that was lifted and sprayed over the Great Plains. That just blows my mind. To imagine having to battle that, or seeing that dust cloud outside your house, waiting to engulf everything you own, just kills me. Every time I picture the Dust Bowl now, I just envision these huge clouds of sand raining down on everything in its path. I remember when I used to go to my brother’s baseball games and standing next to the field. On a windy day, the sand and clay from the field would just blow in your eyes and mouth and nearly suffocate you because it made the air so thick. That was just from a little infield, and Egan talks about 300 tons! I don’t know how anyone survived that.

            The concrete detail that I pulled out of the 1975 tornado interview was that someone’s personal bill from 144th St. blew all the way to my mom’s house on 48th. The tornado was a little over a mile wide and I can’t fathom the type of winds that brought on. Every time I think of the tornado now, I picture the bill flying through the tornado and landing in my mom’s backyard. Again, it is surprised that only three people lost their lives. I do believe though, if the houses during the Dust Bowl had basements or shelters in the ground, it may have helped them. Then again, it also may have become their grave because of all the sand that just absolutely buried everything. Six foot fences weren’t even seen after the Dust Bowl according to Egan, so a basement or underground shelter may not have been the best idea for survival.

            This week I have realized after reading Egan’s book, how similar natural disasters may be, and how we may just be repeating history. The hardest part to understand is the fine details, and why all of the things happened that did. Why did the Dust Bowl start in the first place, and why did the tornado hit Omaha on that day? If we know what has happened in the past, we may try to prevent it in the future.



First Interview

Interview with Debra Wiese-Righter


  1. Where were you at the time the tornado hit?

I was at Benson, where I went to high school, and we got out at 3pm and that’s when the warnings started. My two brothers and I rode home together. We lived on 48th Brown St. at the time. So we were there when the storm hit.


  1. What kind of warning did weather channels put out before the tornado?

Warnings started at 3, when school got out. They warned about a possible tornado coming that evening. They continued throughout the evening, and when we were at home, we were watching a TV show when my older brother yelled for us to get downstairs. We took a portable radio and a flashlight, but there weren’t a lot of places in our basement to hide or be protected.


  1. What were you most worried about when the warnings came out?

We weren’t really that worried at the time, because tornado warnings happen all the time but rarely ever do tornadoes actually happen. I guess our biggest fear was that our mom was still at work, and our baby sister was at day care. We were home alone with no one to call to be with us, and that was a pretty scary ordeal.


  1. How were you and your family affected by the tornado?

My family only had tree branches down here and there, but nothing major happened to our house. We were far enough away from where the tornado hit. There was still very high wind, rain, and hail that we could hear beating on the outside of our house, but nothing of ours was really damaged.




  1. Did you know anyone that lost anything in the storm?

Many of the people I went to school with lost everything. A lot of them lived around 72nd St. and that was where the tornado hit last. One family in particular had 3 boys that were well known for playing sports at Benson, and when they got home after school, their house was completely perpendicular to the foundation. Everything was just destroyed and they had nowhere to live for a very long time.


  1. What was the atmosphere like after the storm?

There was a kind of sulfuric atmosphere, like you could barely breathe, so heavy and humid. Benson didn’t have air conditioning.  Windows were open, but there was no air coming through. You could almost smell the lightening in the air. It was all very eerie.



  1. What was the one detail you specifically remember from that day?

The one detail from that day that really was astonishing to me was when my brothers and I went outside after the storm. We were walking around our backyard and found someone’s personal bill from a house on 144th St. That came a long way since we lived on 48th. That has just always stuck with me because that shows how powerful the storm was, and to think what happened to the family and house where the bill came from just sends chills down your spine.



  1. What was the aftermath of the tornado like?

It was just destruction everywhere. So much was just demolished. Houses on one side of the street were perfectly untouched, but on the other side of the street they were just rubble. They let us out of school for about two weeks after the tornado hit because they need able-bodied people to help clean up all the rubble everywhere. There were cars lying in the middle of the street, turn upside down, there were houses just pummeled, and buildings everywhere lost roofs and siding. Families took other families in that had lost everything to give them a place to stay.




My name is Camille. I am in English 150, and we are working on a writing project with community disasters, (hence the name of this site). I am doing my disaster on the tornado from 1975 that swept through Omaha, NE. I will be keeping this blog up to date with little things I find here and there about this disaster. Please comment if you have any questions, suggestions, or know anything that you would lke to share with me about my disaster. 🙂





Think Piece 5

            I have decided what my third writing project is going to be on. I decided that I am going to do my project on the tornado of 1975 that hit my hometown of Omaha, NE. I chose to do this tornado because I didn’t want to do a snowstorm, which is typical of Omaha. While writing my topic proposal, I was able to do some research on the tornado, and although it didn’t kill many people, I still believe it is a prevalent natural disaster.

The article I read on Monday, by Opie, really affected the way I look at natural disasters. Not only do I realize that a natural disaster doesn’t just come from nature, but it can be man-made, or just be a disaster to a distinct group of people. For instance, in the article, it talked about how government wasn’t looking out for family owned farms, and they were having to live off of $23,000 a year for a large family. I couldn’t even imagine living off such a small salary, especially with all the time and money for equipment that they put into their farms. That made me realize the whole situation was somewhat of a natural disaster to those farm families. There is nothing they can really do about getting a break from the government, because people just don’t understand what all is put into farming. From a biocentric viewpoint, “Farming is not like any other industry” (Opie 254). Farming is not a factory, everything is not just another motion, played out by people on payroll. Farming is so much more than that.

Thursday, February 16, 2012, I attended a lecture about water; where it goes, who is using it, etc. This lecture was very helpful to understand man-made disasters. As the speakers were saying, our demand for food and water supply to grow that food is becoming higher and higher, and will only continue to rise. If we do not do something to make agriculture more efficient, our resources for water may be gone in the near future. I found this very interesting, because although this is not yet considered a natural disaster, it may be sometime in the future when our water supply is no longer expandable. If we choose not to do anything to help this problem now, fully aware of what it may cause in the future, does that mean we, as Americans, deserve whatever natural disaster along these lines hits us?

Let me tie all of this together. We have natural disasters, like tornadoes, hurricanes, and snowstorms, that even if we know they are coming, we cannot stop them. They are literally NATURAL disasters. Then we have what may not be considered a natural disaster to one group of people, but may be to another group of people, such as family farms losing money. Lastly, we have man-made natural disasters that we are fully aware may happen in the near future, and we choose to do nothing about it. So how do we define a natural disaster? Well, there is no actual definition, but we are curious to find out exactly what it means from every particular angle.

I don’t think my topic for my project could have been a better fit because I know people who experienced the storm, lost homes, and had belongings destroyed. I am very excited to research more on everything about such a natural disaster in my home town.

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