Destruction in Wichita Falls, Texas, after the tornado
|Duration||April 10–11, 1979|
|Tornadoes confirmed||59 confirmed|
|Max rating1||F4 tornado|
|Duration of tornado outbreak2||2 days|
|Casualties||58 fatalities, approximately 100 injuries|
|Areas affected||Midwestern and Southern United States|
|1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale 2Time from first tornado to last tornado|
The 1979 Red River Valley tornado outbreak was a tornado event that occurred on April 10, 1979, near the Red River Valley. It is noted for the F4 tornado that hit Wichita Falls, Texas, and is commonly referred to as "Terrible Tuesday" by many meteorologists. Additional ones were reported across the Southern Plains as well as in the Mississippi River Valley on April 10–11, 1979.
A tornado is a rapidly rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the Earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. The windstorm is often referred to as a twister, whirlwind or cyclone, although the word cyclone is used in meteorology to name a weather system with a low-pressure area in the center around which, from an observer looking down toward the surface of the earth, winds blow counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern. Tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes, and they are often visible in the form of a condensation funnel originating from the base of a cumulonimbus cloud, with a cloud of rotating debris and dust beneath it. Most tornadoes have wind speeds less than 110 miles per hour (180 km/h), are about 250 feet (80 m) across, and travel a few miles before dissipating. The most extreme tornadoes can attain wind speeds of more than 300 miles per hour (480 km/h), are more than two miles (3 km) in diameter, and stay on the ground for dozens of miles.
The Red River, or sometimes the Red River of the South, is a major river in the southern United States of America. It was named for the red-bed country of its watershed. It is one of several rivers with that name. Although it was once a tributary of the Mississippi River, the Red River is now a tributary of the Atchafalaya River, a distributary of the Mississippi that flows separately into the Gulf of Mexico. It is connected to the Mississippi River by the Old River Control Structure.
Wichita Falls is a city in and the county seat of Wichita County, Texas, United States. It is the principal city of the Wichita Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Archer, Clay, and Wichita Counties. According to the 2010 census, it had a population of 104,553, making it the 38th-most populous city in Texas. In addition, its central business district is 5 miles (8 km) from Sheppard Air Force Base, which is home to the Air Force's largest technical training wing and the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program, the world's only multinationally staffed and managed flying training program chartered to produce combat pilots for both USAF and NATO.
A deepening low pressure system formed in Colorado as a warm front lifted north pulling warm, moist, unstable air. There was strong upper level dynamics all coming together to produce strong tornado-producing supercells. In the early afternoon hours, three supercell thunderstorms formed. They moved northeastward, and as a trio spawned families of tornadoes. These supercells caused the most damaging tornadoes of the outbreak.
Colorado is a state of the Western United States encompassing most of the southern Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains. It is the 8th most extensive and 21st most populous U.S. state. The estimated population of Colorado was 5,695,564 on July 1, 2018, an increase of 13.25% since the 2010 United States Census.
A warm front is a density discontinuity located at the leading edge of a homogeneous warm air mass, and is typically located on the equator-facing edge of an isotherm gradient. Warm fronts lie within broader troughs of low pressure than cold fronts, and move more slowly than the cold fronts which usually follow because cold air is denser and less easy to remove from the Earth's surface. This also forces temperature differences across warm fronts to be broader in scale. Clouds ahead of the warm front are mostly stratiform, and rainfall gradually increases as the front approaches. Fog can also occur preceding a warm frontal passage. Clearing and warming is usually rapid after frontal passage. If the warm air mass is unstable, thunderstorms may be embedded among the stratiform clouds ahead of the front, and after frontal passage thundershowers may continue. On weather maps, the surface location of a warm front is marked with a red line of semicircles pointing in the direction of travel.
The first tornado formed near Crowell, Texas, at around 3:05 p.m. About 35 minutes later, the first killer one of the outbreak ripped through Vernon and killed 11 people. Then the supercell spawned one that killed three people in Lawton, Oklahoma. The second supercell spawned one that moved 64 miles (103 km).
Crowell is a city in Foard County, Texas, United States. It serves as the county seat, and the population was 948 at the 2010 census, down from 1,141 at the 2000 census.
Vernon is a city in Wilbarger County, Texas, United States. It is the county seat, and as of the 2010 Census had a population of 11,002.
The city of Lawton is the county seat of Comanche County, in the State of Oklahoma. Located in southwestern Oklahoma, about 87 mi (140 km) southwest of Oklahoma City, it is the principal city of the Lawton, Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area. According to the 2010 census, Lawton's population was 96,867, making it the fifth-largest city in the state.
The third supercell was the one that formed the Seymour and Wichita Falls tornadoes as part of a three-member tornado family. The first one formed near Seymour at around 4:53 pm. The storm spawned a second one and moved through the south and east sides of Wichita Falls at around 6:00 pm. The third member of the family formed near Waurika, Oklahoma, at around 8:00 p.m.
Seymour is a city in and the county seat of Baylor County, Texas, United States. The population was 2,740 as of the 2010 Census.
A tornado family is a series of tornadoes spawned by the same supercell thunderstorm. These families form a line of successive or parallel tornado paths and can cover a short span or a vast distance. Tornado families are sometimes mistaken as a single continuous tornado, especially prior to the 1970s. Sometimes the tornado tracks can overlap and expert analysis is necessary to determine whether or not damage was created by a family or a single tornado. In some cases, such as the Hesston-Goessel, Kansas tornadoes of March 1990, different tornadoes of a tornado family merge, making discerning whether an event was continuous or not more difficult.
Waurika is the county seat of Jefferson County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 2,064 at the 2010 census, a 4.36 percent decrease from 2,158 at the 2000 census.
The Wichita Falls tornado formed in Archer County and moved northeast and damaged a few rural homes and high voltage towers. It rapidly intensified as it entered the city near Memorial Stadium by McNiel Jr. High on Southwest Parkway, which was located to the west of Wichita Falls at approximately 6:07 p.m. damaging both structures severely. Hail the size of golf balls preceded the touchdown and continued for approximately 15 minutes. It then became calm before the winds began to pick up.
Archer County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, its population was 9,054. Its county seat is Archer City. The county was formed in 1858 and later organized in 1880. It is named for Branch Tanner Archer, a commissioner for the Republic of Texas.
|All deaths were tornado-related,|
The massive wedge tornado, which was at its maximum 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide, cut a 2.5-mile (4.0 km) swath of destruction through the south side of town, leveling everything in its path. It destroyed an apartment complex near the beginning of its path. It also took its first lives there. It later destroyed a restaurant, the majority of Sikes Senter, the major mall, and another apartment complex where it took more lives. Neighborhoods all along Southwest Parkway were leveled and nothing but debris and destruction remained.
A number of people tried to flee as the tornado moved along U.S. Highways 281 and 287. Roughly half of the 46 people killed were killed in their cars. It then moved into Clay County and changed its appearance to display a multiple-vortex structure. There were at times 5 separate vortices visible within the tornado. It inflicted additional damage south of Dean and Byers, but no more fatalities occurred. It crossed into Oklahoma where additional damage occurred before it dissipated.
U.S. Route 281 is a north–south United States highway. At 1,875 miles (3,017.5 km) long it is the longest continuous three-digit U.S. Route.
U.S. Route 287 (US 287) is a north–south United States highway. It is 1,791 miles (2,882 km) long. It serves as the major truck route between Fort Worth and Amarillo, Texas, and between Fort Collins, Colorado, and Laramie, Wyoming. The highway is broken into two segments by Yellowstone National Park, where an unnumbered park road serves as a connector.
Clay County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, its population was 10,752. The county seat is Henrietta. The county was founded in 1857 and later organized in 1860. It is named in honor of Henry Clay, famous American statesman, Kentucky Senator and United States Secretary of State.
At the end of the outbreak, 54 people lost their lives in Texas, three were killed in Oklahoma and one was killed in Indiana. The Wichita Falls tornado alone killed 42 people and caused $400 million in damage ($1.78 billion in today's dollars). The tornado cut a path 8 miles (13 km) through the city, with significant devastation.
|F#||Location||County / Parish||State||Start Coord.||Time (UTC)||Path length||Max width||Summary||Refs|
|F0||S of Crosbyton||Crosby||TX||1908||2 miles (3.2 km)|
|F0||E of Plainview||Hale||TX||1938||0.1 miles (160 m)|
|F2||SW of Foard City to S of Rayland||Foard||TX||2105||22.1 miles (35.6 km)||Homes were unroofed and barns were destroyed.|
|F4||SE of Rayland, Texas to NE of Davidson, Oklahoma||Foard (TX), Wilbarger (TX), Tillman (OK)||TX, OK||2120||39.7 miles (63.9 km)||11 deaths – Large wedge tornado struck the town of Vernon, where numerous homes and businesses were destroyed including a cafe, motel, and truck stop. 7 of the deaths occurred when vehicles were thrown from US-287. Tornado crossed into Oklahoma, destroying 3 homes and damaging 5 others. Caused $27,000,000 in damage and injured an additional 67 people.|
|F0||SE of Thalia||Foard||TX||2120||2.5 miles (4.0 km)|
|F2||Harrold, Texas to Marlow, Oklahoma||Wilbarger (TX), Wichita (TX), Tillman (OK), Cotton (OK), Comanche (OK), Stephens (OK)||TX, OK||2155||74.1 miles (119.3 km)||1 death – Large wedge tornado moved through Texas and Oklahoma. Eight planes were destroyed at an airport near Grandfield, and a home in the area lost its exterior walls. A grain elevator was destroyed in the Hulen area, and homes were damaged in Pumpkin Center and near Walters. Fatality occurred when a woman took shelter underneath a semi-truck, which rolled over her when the tornado struck.|
|F2||N of Hollister||Tillman||OK||2205||9.2 miles (14.8 km)||Three houses were destroyed and several others were damaged.|
|F1||N of Faxon||Comanche||OK||2235||7.1 miles (11.4 km)||A mobile home was destroyed in the Faxson area, resulting in two serious injuries. Other homes in the area were damaged. Tornado left suction vortex marks in open fields.|
|F2||NE of Seymour||Baylor||TX||2249||10.4 miles (16.7 km)||Tornado damaged roofs, telephone poles, trees, uprooted shrubs and overturned a truck, but remained over open country while at peak intensity. Tornado was well documented on film and by NSSL storm researchers.|
|F3||Lawton area||Comanche||OK||2305||4.5 miles (7.2 km)||3 deaths – Strong tornado struck Lawton, destroying over 116 structures, and damaging over 330 others. Unanchored homes were completely swept from their foundations. One of the fatalities occurred when a car was tossed from a road.|
|F1||SW of Iowa Park||Wichita||TX||2308||0.1 miles (160 m)|
|F4||SW of Wichita Falls to E of Waurika, Oklahoma||Archer (TX), Wichita (TX), Clay, Jefferson (OK)||TX, OK||2350||46.9 miles (75.5 km)||42 deaths – See section on this tornado|
|F1||Wichita Falls area||Wichita||TX||0000||2 miles (3.2 km)||Second, much weaker tornado in the area.|
|F2||S of Noble||Cleveland||OK||0040||2 miles (3.2 km)||Two barns were damaged.|
|F2||E of Bellemont||Pottawatomie, Lincoln||OK||0045||4.6 miles (7.4 km)||Two trailers were destroyed, and three homes were damaged. One person was injured.|
|F2||SW of Noble||Cleveland||OK||0050||1.5 miles (2.4 km)||A mobile home was destroyed.|
|F1||Hays area||Ellis||KS||0130||0.5 miles (0.80 km)||67 yd (61 m)|
|F3||W of Pruitt City||Carter||OK||0155||12.8 miles (20.6 km)||Severe damage in the Pruitt City area. 44 homes and mobile homes were damaged or destroyed. Several vehicles, including a bus, were flipped and tossed.|
|F0||W of Oakland||Pottawatomie||OK||0205||0.2 miles (320 m)|
|F2||SW of Novice||Runnels, Coleman||TX||0317||9.6 miles (15.4 km)||Large tornado destroyed several barns and scattered debris over a large area.|
|F3||SW of Talpa to N of Coleman||Runnels, Coleman||TX||0330||25 miles (40 km)||Homes and barns were ripped apart.|
|F1||SE of Comanche||Comanche||TX||0550||0.1 miles (160 m)|
|F2||S of Energy to W of Hico||Comanche, Hamilton||TX||0550||24 miles (39 km)||Barns were destroyed and homes sustained roof damage. A woman was injured when her truck rolled into the ditch in which she was taking cover.|
|F1||Mineral Wells area||Palo Pinto||TX||0556||0.1 miles (160 m)|
|List of reported tornadoes – Wednesday, April 11, 1979|
|F1||NE of Southmayd||Grayson||0206||0.1 miles (160 m)|
|F2||N of Athens||Henderson, Van Zandt||1610||13.3 miles (21.4 km)|
|F2||Sulphur Springs area||Hopkins||1612||8.3 miles (13.4 km)|
|F1||NW of Hainesville||Wood||1702||0.1 miles (160 m)|
|F0||N of Oakland||Pottawatomie||0205||0.2 miles (320 m)|
|F1||NE of Allen||Pontotoc||0601||3 miles (4.8 km)|
|F2||NW of Kingston||Marshall||0705||0.1 miles (160 m)||A trailer and three barns were destroyed.|
|F0||W of Beland||Muskogee||1000||0.1 miles (160 m)|
|F2||SW of Eagletown to W of Big Fork (AR)||McCurtain, Sevier (AR), Polk (AR)||1715||42 miles (68 km)||3 people were injured in a mobile home near the beginning of the path. Major damage in the Grannis area. Six homes, 19 trailers, and an elementary school were destroyed, where 4 students were injured. Two homes were also destroyed near Wickes. Tornado injured a total of 20 people and caused $1,750,000 in damage.|
|F2||E of Hattieville||Conway||1310||5.4 miles (8.7 km)||Six barns and two homes were destroyed. Other homes, barns, and outbuildings were damaged.|
|F1||W of Mountain View||Stone||1442||8.7 miles (14.0 km)|
|F2||Prairie Grove area||Washington||1602||11.1 miles (17.9 km)|
|F2||NE of Bodcaw||Nevada||2010||0.5 miles (0.80 km)||Three homes were destroyed and others were damaged.|
|F2||SW of Guy||Faulkner||2015||3 miles (4.8 km)||Several buildings were torn apart and a cemetery was damaged. Caused $190,000 in damage.|
|F2||E of East End to NE of Lonoke||Saline, Pulaski, Lonoke||2100||40.3 miles (64.9 km)||Several trailers were destroyed. Damage also occurred to machinery, homes and outbuildings.|
|F1||NE of Fryatt||Fulton||2145||0.5 miles (0.80 km)|
|F1||W of Beebe||White||2150||6.5 miles (10.5 km)|
|F2||NE of Crossett||Ashley||2210||10.4 miles (16.7 km)||Tornado caused $3,500,000 to the downtown business district in Hamburg. Second tornado to strike Hamburg in three days.|
|F2||NW of Black Rock||Lawrence||2235||2 miles (3.2 km)||Caused over $300,000 in damage to homes, barns, and a rock crushing plant.|
|F2||E of McGehee||Desha||2315||3.6 miles (5.8 km)||Homes and businesses were torn apart in the McGehee area. Caused a total of $449,000 in damage.|
|F0||W of Hurley||Stone||1310||0.1 miles (160 m)|
|F3||W of Sterling to E of Licking||Douglas, Texas||1500||35.4 miles (57.0 km)|
|F0||SW of Bakersfield||Ozark||2115||2.7 miles (4.3 km)|
|F1||NE of Libertyville||St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve||2330||8.5 miles (13.7 km)||A concrete block building was destroyed, and another was partially destroyed. A home was badly damaged, losing a large portion of its front side. Two barns were also destroyed and scattered across a field.|
|F2||Liberty to SE of Barnesville||Clay, Clinton||0100||20.1 miles (32.3 km)||Several homes and businesses, a mobile home park, a church, and a school were damaged. Three barns were destroyed as well. 5 bus passengers were injured when they took shelter in a ditch, only to have the bus roll onto them.|
|F1||NW of Colby||Thomas||2100||0.1 miles (160 m)|
|F1||N of Topeka||Shawnee||2300||4.1 miles (6.6 km)|
|F1||SW of Homer||Claiborne||2100||2 miles (3.2 km)|
|F0||S of Sweetwater||Buffalo||0000||0.5 miles (0.80 km)|
|F1||NW of Roundaway||Coahoma||0005||0.5 miles (0.80 km)|
|F2||NE of Columbus||Lowndes||0900 (04/12)||7.7 miles (12.4 km)|
|F2||S of Dycusburg to W of Bellville||Crittenden, Webster, Henderson||0150||36 miles (58 km)||Tornado tore a large section of roof from an elementary school near Robards. 5 people were injured when trailers were overturned.|
|F2||SW of Boonville||Vanderburgh, Warrick||0200||10 miles (16 km)||1 death – Moved from the east side of Evansville to north of Boonville. A shopping center and a lumber yard were damaged. 1 person was killed and two others were injured when the tornado struck a mobile home park.|
|F0||Dickson area||Dickson||0500||0.3 miles (480 m)|
|F1||Florence area||Lauderdale||0530||0.5 miles (0.80 km)|
|Source: Tornado History Project - April 11, 1979 Storm Data Grazulis (1977)|
The Tri-State Tornado of Wednesday, March 18, 1925 was the deadliest tornado in United States history. It was also the most exceptional tornado during a major outbreak of at least 12 known significant tornadoes, spanning a large portion of the Midwestern and Southern United States. This one tornado alone inflicted 695 fatalities, more than twice as many as the second deadliest, the Great Natchez, Mississippi Tornado of May 7, 1840. The 151 to 235 mi track left by the tornado was the longest ever recorded in the world, as it crossed from southeastern Missouri, through southern Illinois, then into southwestern Indiana. Although not officially rated by NOAA, it is recognized by most experts as an F5 tornado, the maximum damage rating issued on the Fujita scale.
The second Palm Sunday tornado outbreak occurred on April 11–12, 1965, in the Midwest U.S. states of Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, with 47 tornadoes. It was the second-biggest outbreak on record at the time. In the Midwest, 271 people were killed and 1,500 injured. It was the deadliest tornado outbreak in Indiana history, with 137 people killed. The outbreak also made that week in April 1965 the second-most-active week in history, with 51 significant and 21 violent tornadoes.
The 1947 Glazier–Higgins–Woodward tornadoes were a series of related tornadoes spawned by a single supercell that swept through Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas on Wednesday, April 9, 1947. Most of the damage and all the deaths are still blamed on one large F5 tornado, known as the Glazier–Higgins–Woodward Tornado, that traveled nearly 125 miles from Texas to Oklahoma. This event was often compared to the Tri-State Tornado, because it was originally thought to have left a 219-mile path, but it is now believed to have a been part of a family of eight or nine tornadoes.
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The April 1920 tornado outbreak was a multi-day severe weather event that affected the Southeastern United States on April 19–21, 1920. The most intense portion of the outbreak occurred on the morning of April 20. At least seven tornadoes affected the American U.S. states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee, six of them rated violent F4s on the Fujita scale. At least one of them may have attained F5 intensity, though this is uncertain. The tornado outbreak killed at least 243 people.
This page documents notable tornadoes and tornado outbreaks worldwide in 1973, but mostly features events in the United States. According to tornado researcher Thomas P. Grazulis, documentation of tornadoes outside the United States was historically less exhaustive, owing to the lack of monitors in many nations and, in some cases, to internal political controls on public information. Most countries only recorded tornadoes that produced severe damage or loss of life. Consequently, available documentation in 1973 mainly covered the United States. On average, most recorded tornadoes, including the vast majority of significant—F2 or stronger—tornadoes, form in the U.S., although as many as 500 may take place internationally. Some locations, like Bangladesh, are as prone to violent tornadoes as the U.S., meaning F4 or greater events on the Fujita scale.
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Omaha, Ne. (1975)
| Costliest U.S. tornadoes on Record|
April 10, 1979
Bridge Creek, Moore & Oklahoma City (Metro), Ok. (1999)