May Marks 54 Years Since the Devastating ‘Flood of 1968′ in Midland [PHOTOS]
May 9, 1968, was a day like any other in Midland, but by mid-morning things took a turn, and "The Flood of 1968" as it would become known, would stay in the minds of those that lived through it forever.
Longtime Midland resident and former writer for the Midland Reporter-Telegram, Jimmy Patterson, wrote an article about it on what was then the 45th anniversary in 2013.
In the article, he had a recount of the day from another longtime Midlander Jack Swallow, he recounted the day like this: “I remember they were planting trees out front of Midland High School. Even though it was raining like crazy, at the youth center, across Illinois (Avenue), they were serving lunch that day. I remember we were all standing in the trophy room at the front of the school watching the rain come down. We were dumbfounded. We watched two guys take off running toward the youth center. They had dug the holes for those trees but hadn’t put the trees in them yet, and all of a sudden you saw these two guys who were running for the youth center just disappear. Both of them had hit the holes and went down and the water was over their heads.”
The Midland Reporter-Telegram remembered it like this: “Traffic was brought to a standstill in many sections of the city as streets were turned into torrential rivers, running floorboard high on parked cars. The Hotel Scharbauer lobby was ankle deep in water and the basement of the County Courthouse where several offices are located was flooded and the water still rising about 1:30 p.m.” (The Hotel Scharbauer used to be located downtown where the DoubleTree is now.)
I remember my mom talking about the sky being so dark that at 9 a.m. the street lights had come back on and she worked downtown as a switchboard operator and had to put her feet up on another chair because the water was ankle deep where she was working.
Just like West Texas always is, the storm devastated Midland but Odessa was not affected at all and most reports say that it barely sprinkled in Odessa, so when rescues were needed for people caught in the floodwaters, Odessa first responders came over and helped out Midland's first responders.
I was only 2 years old at the time so I do not remember much about it at all, but after seeing the pictures of the flood, I am glad that I don't remember.
Oddly enough as devastating as the flood was, there was only one death reported, H.D. Neighbors, a salesman from Lubbock was killed when his car was washed off of Highway 80 at Midland Drive and was washed under the highway where the car got lodged and water was up to the main highway.
According to the National Weather Service in Midland, the official rainfall on May 9, 1968, was 5 inches in less than two hours, but it was reported that downtown Midland unofficially got 7-8 inches.