Top 10 Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles Weather Events of the Decade (2000-2009).

The National Weather Service in Amarillo has compiled a list of the Top 10 weather events that have impacted the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles over the past decade. The list is somewhat subjective but we did use a simple formula to rank these events. Our decision was based on four main factors:
1.    Did the event cause a significant impact to the persons within the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles (fatalities, injuries)?
2.    Did the event cause economic or property loss?
3.    Was the event rare, historic or set records?
4.    Did the event cover a large area within the Panhandles or last for a prolonged period of time?
From these four main criteria, we decided upon these ten events listed from the highest impact to the lowest.
1.    The March, 2006 Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles Wildfires (Link to Event).
            This event rated very high on each of the four criteria. Prolonged dry conditions combined with strong winds to create perfect conditions for grass fires especially with the dormant vegetation in place. In fact, the largest wildfire in Texas history occurred between the 12th and 18th of the month.  Two separate fires merged into what became known as the East Amarillo Complex which burned parts of Hutchinson, Gray, Roberts, and Hemphill counties.  Both fires started when power lines were knocked down by strong winds.  Nearly 1,000,000 acres of land were burned in a 24 hour period.  This was the most acerage burned in 24 hours than in any other wildfire in United States history.  Aside from the grassland burned, the fire destroyed over 100 structures, 80 vehicles, and around 1,000 miles of fence line. Unfortunately, 12 people were killed as a result of the wildfires including 1 fire fighter.
2.    The March, 28th 2007 Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles Tornado Outbreak (Link to Event).
            During the evening hours of March 28th into the early morning hours on the 29th, a total of 15 tornados occurred within the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles.  Three of these tornados were rated as EF3’s.  This single day outbreak set a daily and monthly record for the most tornadoes ever recorded in March.  Sadly, three people were killed during the March 28th outbreak. Two of the fatalities occurred in rural Beaver County near the town of Elmwood when an EF2 tornado struck and destroyed their home.  The third fatality occurred southeast of Canadian, Texas when an EF3 tornado destroyed their home.
3.    The May 15th, 2003 Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles Tornado Outbreak (Link to Event).
            The worst tornado outbreak on record occurred across the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles occurred on May 15th, 2003. In all, 26 tornados were reported, one F2, four F1's, and the remainder rated F0. The first tornado of the day touched down at 4:12 pm near Boise City, OK.  The final tornado of this outbreak touched down 2 miles south of Kelton in Wheeler County at 11:07 pm.  Over a million dollars in damage occurred across the Panhandles, with the most significant damage reported in Wheeler & Dallam Counties in the Texas Panhandle and in Texas County of the Oklahoma Panhandle.
4.    The March, 2009 Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles Blizzard (Link to Event).
            Clearly, the main story of 2009 was the historic blizzard which began on March 26th and finally ended early in the morning on the 28th. Most of the major highways, including Interstate 40, throughout the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles were shut down during the blizzard. In addition, Follett, Texas set an all time state of Texas 24 hour snowfall record when they received 25 inches of snow. Also, Slapout, Oklahoma, which is in the southeast portion of Beaver County, received 27 inches of snow during the event. Amarillo ended up with 11 inches of snow which ranked this event as the 5th largest snowfall during the month of March. Wind speeds during the blizzard rose to nearly 50 mph causing wide spread white out conditions.
5.    The December 29th, 2006 Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles Winter Storm (Link to Event).
            This event is affectionately known as the Northwest Panhandle Glacier event since measurable snow lingered on the ground for over a month. Up to 18 inches of snow fell in parts of the northwest Texas and western Oklahoma Panhandles. The combination of very strong winds and low visibilities resulted in blizzard conditions in these areas and caused snow drifts of up to ten feet!  Across the remainder of the Panhandles, a mix of freezing rain, freezing drizzle and rain showers coated most of the region in a sheet of ice.  Many residents lost power and road closures with stranded motorists were common in the western Panhandles.
6.    The April 21st, 2007 Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles Tornado Outbreak (Link to Event).
            There were multiple high impact events in 2007. The April 21st, tornado outbreak received national media attention when the town of Cactus, Texas took a direct hit by an EF2 tornado. Fourteen people were injured in Cactus but fortunately no fatalities resulted from this outbreak. There were a total of thirteen tornados during this event which set a record for the most tornados in the month of April during a 24 hour period.  Over 300 homes and businesses were either damaged or destroyed during the event.
7.    June 21st, 2004 Amarillo Hail Event (Link to Event).
            This event was limited in areal coverage, but clearly led to significant economic loss. On June 21st, a record breaking hailstorm struck Bushland and the western portions of Amarillo. Hail bigger than softball size caused over $200 million in damage to thousands of homes, businesses and automobiles. This was the costliest weather event in Amarillo’s history and the 6th costliest weather event in Texas history. In addition to the hail, at least 7 tornadoes were confirmed in Potter and Randall counties from the storm. The tornadoes destroyed one home and damaged several others. Despite the widespread damage, only one injury was reported.     
8.    May 23rd, 2007 Northeast Panhandles Tornado and Flood Event (Link to Event).
            The last significant tornado outbreak in 2007 occurred on May 23rd. Fourteen tornados were reported during the event which mainly impacted the northeast Texas and eastern Oklahoma Panhandles. Two of these tornados were rated as an EF2. Fortunately, there were no significant injuries or fatalities resulting from this event. However, the tornados were only half the story. Heavy rain caused the Wolf Creek to flood in Ochiltree and Lipscomb Counties. The water remained above flood stage for nearly 4 days.
9.    December 26th, 2000 Texas Panhandle Heavy Snow Event.
            A strong storm system moved across west Texas producing heavy snowfall across all of the Texas Panhandle. Snowfall amounts ranged from six to eight inches in the extreme northern and western Texas Panhandle. The heaviest snow fell across the southwest to northeast Texas Panhandle. There were reports of ten to twenty inches of snow in this region including nearly twenty inches in the city of Amarillo. Numerous car accidents with injuries were reported due to the heavy snow and more than two hundred vehicles became stranded along U.S. Highway 287 between Amarillo and Dumas. The Amarillo International Airport was closed due to the heavy snow as well.
10.     July, 2001 Heat.
            July was very hot and very dry! The 83.9° average daily temperature for the month made it not only the 2nd hottest July on record, but also the 2nd hottest month on record as well.  The temperature reached or surpassed 100 degrees on 13 days, which is the most 100 plus days Amarillo has recorded in any month.  Six daily records were either tied or broken. The average high temperature during the month was 98.4° which was the highest average high temperature ever recorded in July (2nd highest for any month). July 2001 was also the driest July on record as only 0.04 inches of rain was recorded.

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