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(Another) Texas Tornado

Although it’s tornado season, the only twister I want to see is on the big screen! On May 11, 1953 the twisters that destroyed several Texas cities were not CGI; they were all too real.

By 9:30 am, a muggy spring morning was taking shape across much of central and eastern Texas where temperatures were in the mid-70’s. During the afternoon hours, scattered storms developed where one supercell produced a tornado in San Angelo, Texas. This F4 tornado created a 20-mile path which resulted in the destruction of 519 homes, 19 businesses and 150 cars. In addition, it killed 13 and injured 153 people.

As that storm dissipated, another storm was developing in southwest McLennan County (Texas). Around 4:10 pm a tornado touched down near the town of Lorena… and then moved toward Waco. This tornado was almost 1/3 of a mile wide and wreaked havoc through the downtown Waco area. Eyewitness reports stated the rain was so hard it was difficult to see the twister coming (and take any type of safety action).

This twister left a 23-mile-long path of destruction, killed 114 and injured 597 (making it the deadliest tornado in Texas since 1900). Striking the downtown area at the end of the work day, many were unaware of the impending weather (and unable to seek appropriate shelter). The destruction was so extensive, some survivors waited up to 14 hours to be rescued! 200 vehicles were damaged. 600 homes and businesses were destroyed and 1,000 were damaged. Total monetary damage topped $41 million (which equates to over $487 million in 2021 dollars).

As a result of these deadly twisters, Texas A&M University (and the US Weather Bureau) organized the Texas Tornado Warning Conference in June 1953. Here they discussed tornado warning procedures and weather radar. The purpose of this conference was to use all available resources from the federal government, academic communities, and private sector to devise an efficient tornado warning system. The outcome was improved communications between numerous agencies, an early development of the SKYWARN storm spotter program, and a national radar network.

As always, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to spend here with us. Have a wonderful rest of your week!

Article published on May 10th, 2023 by Laurel Governal

HLEW Weather Rewind

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