june 8, 1966 remembered on ktwu


KTWU revisits the stories and memories of the tragedy with "JUNE 8" THE TOPEKA TORNADO.

Hear the reactions – then and now – from those who were there including Bill Kurtis, national television journalist who was the local Topeka TV news anchor warning the public that night, “For God’s sake, take cover!”; former Topeka mayor Chuck Wright, who tells how he cried as he surveyed the damage; Dr. Jay Antle, Professor of History at Johnson Community College, explains the facts behind the legend that safety from a tornado would be provided by Burnett’s Mound; James B. Taylor, Emeritus Professor from the University of Kansas, author of the book,"Tornado: A Community Responds to Disaster"; and Dr. Irvin C. Rosen, Menninger Clinic, identifies the psychological aspects and the defining events of the tragedy.

Filled with rare interviews and archival pictures, the stories of June 8, 1966 that live in the hearts and minds of those touched on that fateful day are revisited in this dynamic new documentary for television.


The events of June 8, 1966 had a dramatic effect on the career of Bill Kurtis ( see photo above ). Kurtis, who had a brief career in broadcast journalism before attending Law School at Washburn, occasionally filled in at WIBW TV, the only commercial television station in Topeka in 1966. Kurtis was called in to substitute for another newscaster and arrived at the station just as the first tornado watch was broadcast. Kurtis was the on-air broadcaster for several hours during the crisis and the footage was utilized nationally. The exposure would have dramatic and unexpected effects on his life and career. Although he had accepted a position with a Wichita law firm, his national exposure led to offers in television that would combine his legal and journalism skills. From a legal correspondent in Los Angeles, to anchorman in Chicago to co-host of the CBS Morning News to head of his own television production company, Bill Kurtis’ now famous weather warning broadcast in Topeka that night set the stage for a long and highly successful broadcast television career.


Bill Kurtis tells his personal tornado story in the KTWU television documentary, "JUNE 8" THE TOPEKA TORNADO.