63 years ago, a tornado destroyed 200 homes, killed 15 and injured 50 in El Dorado

Greg Williams
Butler County Times Gazette
Skelly Elementary School in El Dorado after a tornado swept through a residential area in the southwestern part of town

On June 10, 1958, a violent F4 tornado, with a path length of nine miles, struck the southwest part of El Dorado. The tornado devastated a new subdivision where around 200 homes were destroyed, killed 15 and injured 50. 

The tornado formed in clouds and immediately hit ground seven miles west and two miles north of El Dorado. The of travel was estimated at about 30-mph and had golf-ball sized hail, which fell for a distance of a half-mile on either side of the tornado path.

Two hundred homes, many houses trailed and an elementary school was destroyed or badly damaged. The City had four main electric trunk lines severed and 97 telephone poles destroyed. These alone were a loss of $55,000 and affected 441 families.

El Dorado's Susan B. Allen Memorial Hospital was quickly filled to capacity. Due to the lack of lights, doctors sent the critical cases and those with bone fractures to Wichita hospitals.

Portable generators were sent from Wichita by the Boeing Company and McConnell Air Force Base. National Guard units delivered mobile searchlights, which provided emergency lighting at the hospital.

The next day, El Dorado began to rebuild and they started with Skelly Elementary School. The school cost $250,000 and it was going to cost about the same to repair in time for classes to start in the Fall. 

Along Towanda Avenue, a dozen bulldozers and power shovels crunched through the remnants of 259 demolished homes. Hundreds of trucks hauled the debris away. More than 2,500 volunteers and crews were working in the area helping with clean up. About 750 National Guardsmen with heavy equipment were on the scene.

Now, every June 10th at 5:45 p.m., the Rotary Club and the El Dorado community gather for a memorial ceremony at Graham Park. Recognizing the 63 year anniversary of the tornado, remembering those who lost their lives and how the community came together to rebuild El Dorado.