Top Ten Deadliest Tornadoes in Texas (since 1900)

NUMBER ONE - THE WACO TORNADO - MAY 11, 1953

The deadliest tornado in Texas history struck shortly after 4 pm on the day after Mother's Day in 1953. It touched down north of the town of Lorena and began moving North-Northeast toward Waco. On a radar screen at Texas A&M University, the tornadic storm developed a hook shaped echo. Nearly 1/3 of a mile wide, the massive F5 tornado crossed Waco on a path that ran almost south to north, killing 114 persons and injuring 597. It destroyed around 600 homes and other buildings and damaged over 1000, including 2000 vehicles. Some of the survivors had to wait up to 14 hours for rescue.

NUMBER TWO - THE GOLIAD TORNADO - MAY 18, 1902

The second deadliest tornado in Texas killed 114 persons,the same as Waco, but is rated number two since with 250 injuries, it injured fewer people. It is believed to have touched down just before 4 pm near Berclair, about 15 miles southwest of Goliad, and moved on a track toward the northeast. About 1/8 of a mile wide, the F4 tornado crossed the San Antonio River southwest of Goliad and moved into the town. Most of the deaths occurred in the west part of Goliad, where hundreds of buildings were destroyed.

NUMBER THREE - THE ROCKSPRINGS TORNADO - APRIL 12, 1927

The third deadliest tornado in Texas history, like the first and second, occurred well south of what is generally considered Tornado Alley. This F5 tornado touched down 3 miles to the northwest of Rocksprings, in Edwards County, and moved toward the southeast. Nearly 1 mile wide as it crossed Rocksprings, it destroyed 235 of the 247 buildings in the town. It killed 74 people and injured 205, almost 1/3 of the population. Clearing Rocksprings, it continued southeastward at least 35 miles and perhaps as far as 65 miles.

NUMBER FOUR - THE TRI-STATE TORNADO - APRIL 09, 1947

The fourth deadliest tornado in Texas history also moved through western Oklahoma and dissipated near St. Leo, Kansas. Part of a family of deadly twisters, it touched down 5 miles northwest of Pampa and crossed just northwest of Canadian, nearly parallel to US 60. It's funnel was reported at times to be between 1 and 2 miles wide. Just before crossing into Oklahoma, it destroyed the town of Glazier and most of the town of Higgins. It killed 17 and injured 40 in Glazier and 51 persons were killed, 232 injured in Higgins. Final totals across three states were 181 killed and 970 injured.

NUMBER FIVE - THE WICHITA FALLS TORNADO - APRIL 10, 1979

One of the most infamous of Texas Tornadoes, this huge F4 first touched down about 3 miles northeast of Holliday, a town lying southwest of Wichita Falls, where it damaged homes and businesses. Crossing into Wichita Falls, it severely damaged Memorial Stadium, followed by Mc Neil Junior High, and then entered the residential part of the city. It damaged a shopping center and numerous vehicles, then proceeded across US 287 where it destroyed additional vehicles. At times it was a mile and a 1/2 wide. It continued northeast from Wichita Falls, past the Red River and into Oklahoma where it dissipated north of Waurika. It killed 42 people in Wichita Falls, 25 of those deaths were vehicle related. It caused over 1700 injuries, destroyed over 3000 homes and left 20,000 homeless.

NUMBER SIX - THE FROST TORNADO - MAY 06, 1930

This F4 tornado touched down near Bynum, in Hill County, crossed into Navarro County east of Mertens, struck the town of Frost, where it killed at least 25 persons. Continuing toward the northeast, it caused additional deaths south of Rankin, south of Bardwell. It then crossed into Ellis County and killed citizens of Ennis. Its total death toll was 41, with over 200 persons injured.

NUMBER SEVEN - THE KARNES-DEWITT TORNADO - MAY 06, 1930

Tornado number 7 occurred on the same day as the Frost tornado. It touched down 3 miles northwest of Kenedy in Karnes County. Moving to the east-northeast, it crossed 3 miles south of Runge and dissipated 3 miles south of Nordheim. Along its path, this F4 tornado encountered numerous weakly constructed homes and shelters that provided little safety. This is the reason for a death toll as high as 36 with 60 injuries.

NUMBER EIGHT - THE ZEPHYR TORNADO - MAY 30, 1909

Tornado number 8 formed somewhere close to the town of Zephyr, in Brown County, near midnight and destroyed large parts of the town during the early morning hours, leaving little to view except vacant lots. Not much is known of the tornado path, except that most deaths occurred in the residential areas on the south and east sides of the town. Rated an F4, the tornado damaged nearly 50 homes, 6 businesses, 2 churches, and a high school. It killed 34 and injured 70.

NUMBER NINE - THE SARAGOSA TORNADO - MAY 22, 1987

Tornado number 9 touched down 2 miles southwest of Saragosa in Reeves County, and moved northeastward for 3 miles. 1/2 mile wide as it crossed over Saragosa, the F4 tornado destroyed more than 80% of the town, killed 30 residents and injured 121. 22 of the deaths occurred at the Guadalupe Hall where a group had gathered for a children's graduation ceremony. Most of these deaths were among the parents and grandparents who shielded children from the debris with their bodies.

TORNADO NUMBER TEN - THE JARRELL TORNADO - MAY 27, 1997

The Jarrell tornado is the last confirmed F5 tornado in the state of Texas. This tornado followed an unusual path, moving to the south-southwest and has revived studies on the role of gravity waves on thunderstorm initiation. This storm killed 27 persons (injuring 12 more) and hundreds of cattle. More than 40 homes were completely destroyed, some of which were completely removed from their foundations.

HONORABLE MENTION - THE LUBBOCK TORNADO - MAY 11, 1970

The Lubbock tornado formed over the southwest corner of the city and touched down just south of the downtown area. It tracked toward the northeast near US 87, just east of the Texas Tech campus, and continued for 8 miles before lifting. It destroyed over 1000 homes and apartment units, 10,000 vehicles and over 100 aircraft. It killed 26 persons and injured 500. This tornado was studied and mapped in detail by Professor Fujita, and was an important key in the development of his Fujita Scale. It was rated F5 on this scale.

Other Tornadoes Since 1900 that have caused more than a dozen deaths in Texas, according to 'Significant Tornadoes' are:
Date Counties Deaths Injuries F-rating
July 5, 1905 Montague 18 40 4
April 26, 1906 Clay,Montague 17 50 4
April 8, 1919 Collin,Fannin 18 60 4
April 9, 1919 Henderson,Van Zandt 17 60 4
April 9, 1919 Cook,Camp,Titus 24 100 4
April 8, 1922 Runnels,Coleman,Callahan 12 90 3
May 4, 1922 Travis 12 50 4
May 14, 1923 Howard,Mitchell 23 250 5
May 9, 1927 Collin 19 100 4
May 9, 1927 Dallas 15 40 4
March 30, 1933 Angelina,Nacogdoches, San Augustine 13 150 3
February 8, 1935 Leon, Houston 12 70 2
June 10, 1938 Callahan 14 40 5
January 4, 1946 Anderson 15 60 4
March 13, 1953 Haskill,Knox 17 60 4
May 11, 1953 Tom Green 13 159 4
May 15, 1957 Briscoe 20 80 4
April 18, 1970 Swisher,Briscoe,Armstrong,Donley,Gray 17 41 4

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