Deadly Tornadoes are Often Unwelcome Visitors to the Lone Star State

Tornadoes over Texas have left a legacy of death and destruction over the past 50 years. The violent clashes of cold springtime storms with warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico often produce extreme outbreaks of large and destructive storms known as supercells. Some of the most dubious by-products of these intense storms are deadly tornadoes.

One of the deadliest tornadoes in recent Texas weather history affected Jarrell, Texas on May 27, 1997. This violent F5 tornado killed 27 people and injured 12. It swept a path 7.6 miles long and approximately 1,320 yards wide through a residential subdivision of Jarrell. The tornado was also credited with destroying 30 permanent homes, eight mobile homes, and three businesses.

Another deadly tornado affected the town of Saragosa on May 22, 1987. The violent F4 tornado killed 30 people and injured 121. The path of strewn damage by the tornado was 3 miles long and approximately 1,000 yards wide. Sixty-one homes were destroyed, approximately 85 percent of the town.

One of the most destructive tornadoes in recorded weather history affected Wichita Falls, Texas on April 10, 1979. This violent F4 tornado was responsible for killing 45 people and injuring over 1700. The tornado damage path was 47 miles long and around 1,300 yards wide. The storm left 20,000 people homeless and destroyed nearly 3,100 homes.

May is the most active month for tornadoes to strike in Texas. Between 1950 and 1995, 1,802 tornadoes were reported during the month of May. April is the next active month, reporting only half as many as may, with 923 tornadoes.

As Texas heads toward the peak months in the annual tornado cycle, a few safety tips could prove to be life savers when twisters threaten. If you find yourself in a home or building, move to a basement shelter. If such a shelter is not available, find an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under sturdy furniture. Stay away from windows. Watch for flying debris. Finally, if you are in a mobile home, leave and seek shelter.