On the evening of Thursday, April 26 a tornado struck the South side of Apache Plaza. Some people believe that the Tornado was truly the beginning of the the end for the mall.
My own story...
On the night of the tornado my friend Randy Matthes and I were in JC Penney's, shopping for an Edison High School choir tour which was heading out the next day. It was an overcast night, but neither of us knew of any tornado warnings. Randy wanted to head over to Connco shoes, so we started to leave Penney's, walking towards the central court. What happened next seems like less than a minute in my memory: we heard the sirens, and then the lights went out. We heard a loud noise from the other end of the mall, much like the sound of a train. Some clothes got whipped around, people started screaming, and I made a beeline for the exit. Had I known this was a tornado I would have stayed away from glass doors! As I got closer to the North exit of Penney's, the glass doors suddenly swung open and shattered. At that point I darn near crapped my pants, but instead I dove behind the nearest cash register until things got quiet.
After a few seconds I heard a faint voice from the shoe department. "Jeff...? You OK..?" It was Randy, hiding by the shoes. It wasn't until then that people started talking about a tornado. We had heard that Country Club got clobbered pretty hard, and that there were 15-20 injuries. JC Penney's management escorted us to their basement stairs until we got the green light to find our cars in the parking lot. Some people had smashed windows, others had cars tipped upside down. My parent's car was unscratched.
Here are some photos and clippings of the Tornado's aftermath. Thank you to Apache Plaza for contributing these articles and photos from their archives. If anyone else has photos of the tornado aftermath in their collection please contact me!
The south end of the mall got hit the hardest, as seen in this exterior picture. (Sent in by Susan Luke)
This photo shows the damage to the roof of Connco Shoes, where Randy and I were headed when the tornado hit the mall.
This graphic photo shows the destruction inside the mall, where the Carousel Snack Bar had been severely damaged. (Sent in by Susan Luke)