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The Storm of 2003 (July 21-22, 2003)


It was truly the worst storm our fair city had ever seen. They called it a microburst. They say a microburst can be even more devastating than a hurricane because it can effect a wide area simultaneously.

The storm occurred over a two day period. The wind blew the first day. This was a twisting wind that caused the trees to be whipped around, first in one direction then another. The beautiful old Oak trees our city is known for were either literally ripped out of the ground, or if they were lucky, simply had their tops torn off. Many of our old, beautiful streets now look like that of a new sub-division–devoid of foliage.

After the first day of wind, the rain came the second. A massive rain flowed down the hillsides like small rivers because the drainage could not handle the torrent. The water joined up at the base of the valley devastating the homes and buildings near the river. Every block I drove throughout the entire city was devastated.

I was extremely proud of our city during the week of the storm. The Oil City emergency personnel were magnificent throughout the week. Almost immediately, personnel were out placing detour signs, stop signs at corners without lights or directing traffic in the middle of the storm. Shelters were setup, food was made available. And how can you forget the local Salvation Army and Red Cross. Everywhere I drove, neighbors were out helping neighbors. Some who had hot water, because they had natural gas, were sharing their showers with those that didn’t.

When I drove through the dark business district the first night, I became very concerned about looting as there were no lights, electricity for the bank alarms, police nor national Guard that I could see. Amazingly, it was reported at the end of the week there was not one report of looting, vandalism or theft. In fact, the amount of crime for the first five days plummeted to one call. This request concerned a fight at a local gas station in Franklin were a driver attempted to crowd into the gasoline line. Power down town Oil City was restored on the third day while my mother-in-law went six days without it.