Texas and Oklahoma Panhandle

Top 10 Weather Events of the 20th Century

(as prepared by the staff at the National Weather Service in Amarillo)

1. Dust Bowl (1930 to 1939)

  • Longest period of heat and drought in the Panhandles and much of the U.S. Plains.
  • 5 of the 10 warmest years (average annual temperature in Amarillo) occurred in the 1930's.
  • The 1930's remain the driest decade on record in Amarillo.
  • Dust drifted to roof tops of homes, and buried farm equipment.
  • Surface visibility often reduced to zero during the height of the duststorms.
  • Astronomical economic losses, especially to farmers and ranchers.
  • Thousands of Panhandle residents relocated, 3.5 million nationwide, as a result of the Dust Bowl years.

 

2. April 9, 1947 White Deer/Glazier/Higgins Tornado

 

  • Completely destroyed the town of Glazier, nearly destroyed Higgins.
  • Responsible for 68 panhandle deaths, 272 injuries, $1.5 million in damage.
  • Only documented F5 tornado in the panhandles.
  • Reported as being 1 to 2 miles wide at times along its path.
  • The tornado or a family of tornadoes remained on ground for 5 hours, 20 minutes on a path from White Deer, TX to St. Leo, KS.

3. March 22-25, 1957 Blizzard

  • Worst spring blizzard on record.
  • Responsible for 11 panhandle deaths, numerous injuries, $6 million in damage.
  • Texas Panhandle reported 30 ft drifts; Oklahoma Panhandle reported 15 ft drifts.
  • 10 to 20 inches of snow reported across the panhandles.
  • 20 percent of the panhandles cattle population was lost in the storm.
  • Huge drifts stranded thousands of motorists, including snowplows attempting rescues.
  • True white out conditions, with visibilities reduced to zero at times.

 

4. Great Ice Storm (November 23-25, 1940)

  • Considered the worst ice storm in the nation through 1940.
  • Freezing rain (heavy at times) or drizzle fell for 2 ½ days.
  • Ice formed around power lines, 2 inches in diameter, and 6 inches in circumference, and weighed 13 lbs per linear foot.
  • Huge trees split in half and downed trees littered residential sections of Amarillo and Canyon.
  • Thousands of power poles and wires were down.
  • Communications in the panhandles failed completely for up to 3 days.
  • Complete power failure in Amarillo/Canyon for 3 days.
  • Amarillo city water supply failed for 3 days.

5. April 6-8, 1938 Blizzard

  • Known as the 84-hour blizzard.
  • Occurred across the eastern half of the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles.
  • 8 deaths, 7 in Pampa, 1 in the Oklahoma Panhandle.
  • 10 to 20 foot drifts.
  • Sustained winds of 77 mph reported in Pampa at midnight April 7.
  • True white out conditions, with visibilities reduced to zero at times.
  • All transportation was brought to a standstill.

 

6. 1995 Tornado Outbreak (including the Pampa tornado)

  • Over 70 tornadoes reported across the panhandles for the season, the most ever.
  • 20 tornadoes reported on June 8th across the panhandles, the most ever reported in one day.
  • F4 tornado hit the industrial section of Pampa, destroying or damaging 200 homes and 50 businesses.
  • 7 injuries, fortunately no deaths.
  • Pampa tornado resulted in $30 million in damage which is the costliest tornado on record.
  • Total tornado damage for June 8 exceeded $40 million, and for the entire season the total surpassed $60 million.

7. April 17-18, 1970 Tornado Outbreak

  • Tornadoes affected 9 counties across the south central portion of the Texas Panhandle during the 2-day event.
  • 17 panhandle fatalities in the Clarendon and Greenbelt Reservoir area.
  • At least 66 injured.
  • Hundreds of cattle killed or injured.
  • Damage exceeded $8 million.

 

8. February 1-8, 1956 Snowstorm

  • Largest "unofficial" snow totals occurred in the Panhandles.
  • 43 inches fell in Vega, 24 inches in Hereford, and 14 inches in Amarillo.
  • 23 deaths, numerous injuries.
  • Longest continuous snowfall: snowed continuously for 92 hours in some locations.
  • All modes of transportation were brought to a standstill.
  • Hundreds of cattle died due to the storm.
  • Feed and supplies for cattle had to be airlifted in.

9. May 15, 1949 Amarillo Tornado

  • F4 tornado that moved along the south side of Amarillo and then on to the airport.
  • 200 homes damaged or destroyed.
  • 7 fatalities, 82 injured.
  • $5 million in damage.
  • Costliest tornado to hit Amarillo.
  • All time max wind of 84 mph was clocked at the NWS office at English Field (Amarillo International Airport).

 

10. (tie) Feb 1-15, 1905 and Dec 29, 1978 - Jan 11,1979 Arctic Outbreaks

 

  • Average high during cold wave: 21 (1905 outbreak) and 20 (1978-79 outbreak).
  • Average low during cold wave: 4 (1905 outbreak) and 5 (1978-79 outbreak).
  • Average temperature during cold wave: 13 for both.
  • Coldest max temperature: -2 (1905 outbreak and all-time record) and 6 (1978-79 outbreak).
  • Coldest min temperature: -15 (1905 outbreak).
  • Coldest wind chill: -43 (1905 outbreak) and -45 (1978-79 outbreak).
  • Longest continuous period of below freezing temperatures; 13 days, 5 hours: (1978-79 outbreak).
  • Coldest month on record with an average monthly temperature of 24.7: (1978-79 outbreak).
  • Number of days max temperature 20 degrees or colder: 7 (1905 outbreak) and 6 (1978-79 outbreak).

HONORABLE MENTION 10

(IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)

  • February 2-5, 1964 Blizzard
  • 17.5 inches of snow in Amarillo, 26" in Borger, 21" in Panhandle.
  • Fritch Tornado Outbreak (June 27, 1992)
  • F4 tornado, 1 mile wide, destroyed/damaged 1360 homes, 7 injuries.
  • February 21-22, 1971 Blizzard
  • 1 to 2 feet of snow, roads closed for 2 days, 12 ft drifts, high cattle losses.
  • March 23, 1987 Blizzard
  • 1 to 2 feet of snow, 12 ft drifts, 3 injuries, thousands of motorists stranded.
  • Summer Heat Wave of 1953
  • 26 days 100+ (most ever), 7 record high temps stand today, 108 on 6/24.
  • December 1983 Arctic Outbreak
  • 7 days temps fell below 0, 9 record lows stand today, 13 days below 32.
  • Summer Heat Wave of 1998
  • 23 days 100+, 2 consecutive days at 108, 8 consecutive days over 100.
  • June 16, 1969 Amarillo hailstorm
  • Costliest hailstorm - $20 million damage to homes, autos, and crops.
  • Canyon Flood (May 26, 1978)
  • 10 inches rain in 90 minutes, 4 deaths, 15 injured, 123 homes damaged.
  • January 28-30, 1999 Winter Storm
  • $8.5 million damage, 50,000 lost power - some for days , All travel ceased.


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