LAWTON, OK (KSWO)- 38 years have passed since the worst tornado outbreak Texoma has ever seen, but to many it feels like just yesterday.
On April 10th, 1979 a total of 8 tornadoes ripped through Texoma, killing 56 people, injuring thousands and leaving more than 20,000 families homeless. One twister, an F4 tore through Wichita Falls, Texas and an F3 tornado hit Lawton.
Former Lawton Fire Lieutenant Randy Britton says it was one of the scariest days of his life and something he'll never forget. He says he can still drive around town and vividly remember the damage, which houses were destroyed and who all he helped that day.
"We kind of felt like it was going to be that kind of day," said Britton. "You get that feeling."
It was a cloudy, windy and humid afternoon in Lawton on April 10th, 1979. Randy Britton had a few friends over and was aware Lawton was under a tornado watch, but didn't expect what was about to come.
"I'm standing on my front porch and I could actually see the tornado coming down," said Britton.
He didn't think twice before jumping in his car as the tornado sirens went off. He headed to work at the central fire station, put on his gear and heard on the scanner.
"Dispatch, we've got houses in the road at 6th street and Washington and I said Oh dear," said Britton
A series of eight tornadoes ripped through Texoma that day.
"It was a pretty traumatic looking scene," said Britton. "It destroyed a lot of houses and we were very fortunate it didn't kill more people."
When Britton got the scene, he first saw people on the ground asking for help because they were injured and debris everywhere.
"There was several houses torn apart and it was ironic," said Britton. "There would be one house torn to pieces and the one next to it would be relatively unscathed."
He had to move fallen trees so people could get out of their cellars and also stop pipes from leaking gas meters. He worked all night to help the community, but says he will never forget how shaken he was when going through debris.
"I was just afraid of what I was going to find," said Britton. "I didn't want to find some terrible things down there, which we did find some of that, but I was just apprehensive of what it was going to be like."
Although it was a dark day for Texoma, one no one will ever forget, Britton says that day changed him because of the people he met and how thankful they were just to be alive after the storm. He hopes to meet them again someday.
"I'm glad I got to help you and I hope you're doing fine and for the people that saw it and was in it, they remember it, they have their own memories," said Britton. "I'm glad you're not hurt or worse."
Thankfully, we haven't seen a tornado like that tear through the area since, and for 20 years, that natural disaster was the most expensive the nation had ever seen, causing over 400-million dollars in damages. That was until the Moore tornado struck on May 3rd, 1999.