Wichita Falls, Texas Tornado of April 10th 1979 – Terrible Tuesday

FYA: This Tornado was one of many that struck during the Red River Valley Tornado outbreak of the 10th April 1979…

…We will be producing a separate article on this outbreak in due course. You can find more out on the Wichita Falls, Texas (TX) storm itself here.

The F4/EF-4 Tornado that struck Wichita Falls, TX formed several miles southwest of the city in Archer County, travelling over mostly open land.

When the Tornado turned east-northeast, it entered Wichita County – damaging a handful of rural homes, string of high voltage towers.

Moving into the city of Wichita Falls, the Tornado first struck Memorial Stadium and McNiel Junior High School, severely damaging both buildings (#1 on the damage path diagram below).

Damage path diagram credit: National Weather Service (NWS)

The Tornado’s formation and its movement towards the stadium and high school was captured on camera by Wolfgang Lange from the front of his apartment complex (#2 on the damage path diagram) – see in the photos below.

After capturing the last photo of the Tornado, Lange retreated to the complex’s laundry room and hid between heavy commercial washers and dryers. Luckily, he only suffered minor injuries.

Northeast of Lange’s apartment complex, on the first street of houses, a man by the name of Robert Molet also captured the Tornado on camera as it approached (#3 on the damage path diagram) – see in the photos below.

Unlike Lange’s view, as you can see in the above photos, Molet did not have an unhindered view of the Tornado – did not immediately recognise the F4/EF-4 wedge.

Molet stood in his backyard driveway and captured the destruction of the above mentioned apartment complex and the beginning of his neighbourhood being destroyed.  

Molet carried on taking photos until the wind blew him into his garage. Although, his house was completely destroyed, Molet escaped with only minor injuries – protecting him from the worst of the winds and debris.

The first deaths caused by Tornado were recorded at the already mentioned apartment complex and adjoining housing area.

Continuing east-northeast, the Tornado severely damaged commercial buildings along Southwest Parkway, including total devastation of the Southwest National Bank Building except its vault (#4 on the damage path diagram).

North of Southwest Parkway, the F4/EF-4 wedge destroyed many homes in the Western Hills (DR). Further eastward, many houses in the Faith Village were destroyed, Ben Milam Elementary School was severely damaged (#6 on the damage path diagram).

The Tornado was captured on camera from the south of the city by Pat Blacklock – see in the photos below (#5 on the damage path diagram).

 As you can see in the last few photos above, the gust front/strong west winds to the south of the Tornado can be seen producing waves on Lake Wichita – kicking up spray from the lake.

As the F4/EF-4 wedge crossed Kemp Boulevard, a number of commercial business were destroyed – resulting in several deaths. The Tornado’s most destructive winds missed the Sikes Senter Shopping Mall to the south, but a handful of stores were damaged.

Photo credit: UNKNOWN

Beyond the above mentioned shopping mall, the Tornado crossed a greenbelt area, “skirted” Midwestern State University on the south side – severely damaging more housing additions.

From the Ligon Coliseum of the University, Professor Joe Henderson captured the Tornado on camera (#7 on the damage path diagram) – see in the photos below.

The F4/EF-4 wedge was also captured on camera by Troy Glover from the roof of the Bethania hospital (#8 on the damage path diagram) – see in the photo below.

Photo credit: Troy Glover

A number of people tried to outrun the Tornado as it crossed the south side of the city by getting in vehicles and driving east of Southwest Parkway – north on US Highway 281 and east on US Highway 287.

The Tornado blew many of those vehicles off the above mentioned highways, resulting in numerous deaths.

The F4/EF-4 wedge took the lives of forty two people in Wichita Falls, twenty five deaths were vehicle related and sixteen of the twenty five deaths got in vehicles to outrun the Tornado.

Before leaving the east side of the city, the Tornado destroyed the Sun Valley housing area, the Sunnyside Heights Mobile Home Park and several large commercial businesses including the Levi Strauss Plant – iconic jean maker.

Northeast of Wichita Falls, the Tornado trekked into Clay County. Not only did it enter a different county, it changed its appearance.

As seen in the photos below, captured by Winston Wells, the Tornado became multivortex (#10 on the damage path diagram). At one time, the F4/EF-4 wedge displayed as many as five satellite vortices. 

At this stage of its life, the Tornado did extensive damage just south of Dean and near Byars, destroying a significant number of rural homes, but thankfully causing no deaths.

The grief and devastation caused by this Tornado is almost unthinkable

This particular type of Tornado event is unheard of! A violent Tornado tearing through an eight mile section of a city.

In addition to the forty two deaths caused directly by the F4/EF-4 wedge, three more people died of heart attacks/illnesses during the stress of the Tornado’s life. The number of reported injuries approached almost eighteen hundred however additional injuries were never recorded.

In 1979 dollars, total property damage in the city was estimated at four hundred million.

Over three thousand homes were destroyed and another were damaged. One thousand apartment units/condominiums were destroyed and another one hundred and thirty were damaged.

Around one hundred and forty mobile homes were destroyed, two schools were obliterated and eleven others suffered significant damage. Over one hundred commercial businesses were destroyed, some of which were large businesses/manufacturing – including Levi.

That concludes our in-depth overview of the Tornado. Now, relive the Tornado in videos below.

Tornado captured on camera in Brazos County, Texas

A Tornado has been captured on camera in Brazos County, Texas – just north of Bryan to be precise – watch in the video below.

Video credit: Ryan Ullmann

The video was captured by Ryan Ullmann on the day the Tornado struck – yesterday, 24th April.

However, the video was posted by CBS Austin on their official Facebook account.

Find a photo of the above Tornado below.

Navigating to a Tornado – With Google Maps

Pecos Hank is a genius when it comes to producing content like this. In the video below, watch Hank navigating/tracking close to a large Tornado using Google maps.

The description for the above video can be found below.

“Tracking close to a large tornado using google maps.  Tornado forming and caught on tape with up close footage.”

Hank posted the video on his official YouTube account yesterday – 5th April. Again, we highly recommend that you subscribe to his channel.

Dominator 3: A storm chasing vehicle with one sole purpose…

… To intercept Tornadoes.

It’s quite possibly one of the most fascinating things you’ll see driving down the highway, and it has one sole purpose…

…To intercept Tornadoes! This is the Dominator 3 (Dom 3). The Dom 3 is a storm chasing vehicle which is based on a Ford – super duty – truck.

It’s used by a handful of chasers, including AccuWeather’s extreme meteorologist, Dr. Reed Timmer.

Designed to withstand an EF-5 Tornadoes, packing two hundred mile per hour wind speeds. The Dom 3 is literally used for intercepting Tornadoes.

The exterior of the vehicle is armoured platted. On top of the vehicle are several weather instruments, used to aid in a chaser and gather more data – including rockets.

Credit: AccuWeather

The rockets – which can be seen in the above screen capture – will carry multiple sensors into the air.

The interior of the vehicle is also COMPLETELY DECKED OUT! In the below quote, Dr Timmer explains the some of the functionality of the vehicle.

“This is the cockpit of the Dominator 3, here you can see the real time display of wind speed and direction from the roof-mounted anemometer. So as we get close to the Tornado or even inside severe weather, we can report how strong those winds are.”   

Reed Timmer, AccuWeather extreme meteorologist.

The most active & dangerous part of Tornado season is upon us!

The 1st April marks the start of what is typically the most active & dangerous three-month period of the year for Tornadoes in the U.S.

Significant Tornadoes can happen in any month, as “we saw in early March” when twenty three lives were lost in the EF-4 Lee County, Alabama Tornado.

However, history illustrates April, May and June are the months with the highest potential of having both the greatest number of Tornadoes…

… and the most intense Tornadoes in  a given year.

During nineteen years (1998 – 2017), the U.S averaged one thousand two hundred and thirty nine Tornadoes – which were crammed between April and June.

May has seen the most Tornadoes each year, an average two hundred and seventy nine.

Followed by June and April – which average around two hundred and thirteen + one hundred and ninety two Tornadoes per year.

The amount of Tornadoes from April to June is not the only reason why it makes it such a dangerous time of year – their intensity is also a factor.

According to Dr. Greg Forbes of The Weather Channel, fifty eight per cent of all Tornadoes are rated EF3 or stronger (1950 – 2012) touched down in the above mentioned months – statistics revealed.

The percentage grows to sixty nine perfect – relating to EF-4 Tornadoes (1950 – 2012) or stronger. The EF5 rating has been applied to fifty nine Tornadoes dating back to 1950 – all but ten happened in April, May or June.

All Tornadoes significally pose a threat, however the most intense account for the higher number of deaths and damage.

Eighty three per cent of the deaths from the year 2000 to 2013 were from Tornadoes rated EF-3 or stronger, according to Forbes.

 Suffice to say eight of the ten worst U.S Tornado outbreaks happened in April or May. The reason why? Mostly due to the fact that upper echelon Tornado intensities are more likely in those months.

Furthermore, nine out of the ten worst separate Tornadoes were spawned during April, May or June.

Why are Tornadoes more common in spring compared to other months? Simple! The atmospheric elements come together more often this time of the year.

Outbreaks of Tornadoes tend to happen when a storm system is propelled by a strong southward dip in the jet stream punches into the Plains, Midwest and or south…

… This is accompanied by warm and humid air flowing northward out of the Gulf of Mexico.

The jet stream will provide deep wind shear and or changing wind speed and direction with height – supportive of rotating supercell thunderstorms.

If the wind shear strong in the first thousand feed near the surface, these supercell thunderstorms would more likely spawn Tornadoes.

Going on what has happened in the past, the greatest threat of Tornadic thunderstorms has shifted from the south into parts of the Plains and Midwest – migrates through April, May and June.

With that being said, we’re going to close this article. This post was inspired by The Weather Channel’s article which was posted several days ago – read here.

Spectacular up close video of an initial Tornado touch down

It may be an old video, but it’s a golden one. In the footage below, watch the initial touch down of a Tornado up close in Harrison County, Indiana.

If you look closely, you’ll be able to spot the multiple vortices. The video was captured  by  a neighbour of Patrick Koch back in 2018. 

Koch provided the following description with the video. 

“This video was taken by a neighbor on July 20, 2018 around 2 PM. Location is approximately 5 miles south of Corydon, Indiana. Corydon is a small town in Harrison County about 15 miles west of Louisville, Kentucky.

Update: This is the tornado that quickly grew and did major damage to the east after it formed in our subdivision – National Weather Service. “

News to us! Tornadoes form from the ground up…

FYI: This post was inspired by science mag’s 2018 article.

…We still don’t believe it – the video below proves it. 

The formation of Tornadoes has been completely knocked on its head. Measurements from Tornadoes in Oklahoma and Kansas seems to suggest these weather events first develop near the ground.

That’s country to the widely-known theory the winds of a Tornado develop many kilometres up in the clouds – only later to touch down on the ground.

Researchers studied four Tornadoes – including the El-Reno Tornado, which holds the record as the widest ever measured. 

The researchers noticed something particular when they compared radar measurements that tracked wind speeds with a number of photographs and videos of the El Reno Tornado taken by storm chasers.

The funnel was already on the ground minutes before the radar minutes before the radar data – roughly taken two hundred and fifty meters off the ground – recorded any rotation.

Just to find out, the researchers re-analysed the radar measurements taken near the ground.

A hilltop vantage point during the storm serendipitously allowed the team to scan close to the ground with the interfering effects of trees and telephone poles.”

Katherine Kornei, Science Mag

The researchers discovered rapid rotation near the ground before it appeared higher up – a pattern that was later confirmed in the three other Tornadoes.

These findings have significant implications for how forecasters issue Tornado watches/warnings – researchers suggest. 

Simply because forecasters often rely on measurements of wind speeds higher up in the clouds.

The reason why, the wind might be already swirling at dangerous speeds near the ground – “warnings might be late in the sounding the alarm for Tornado-strength winds.”

It’s suffice to say we still believe in the widely-known theory.