During the early afternoon hours of October 24, 2002, a thunderstorm produced a family of tornadoes that moved through the northwest portion of the city of Corpus Christi, Texas. Three tornadoes produced significant damage resulting in 26 injuries and 1 fatality. This event marked the first tornado related fatality in the history of the city. These tornadoes occurred in an area of the country where significant tornadoes are extremely uncommon. The thunderstorm that produced the tornadoes was relatively smaller in size in comparison to the large thunderstorms with rotating updrafts called supercells, typical in the plains states. But this "mini-supercell" thunderstorm developed a sufficiently strong mesocyclone or rotating updraft to form these tornadoes.
The three tornadoes were produced by the mini-supercell thunderstorm that moved just east of the Corpus Christi International Airport. The first report of tornado was about 9 miles south of the Corpus Christi airport at 119 PM CST. Radar data suggests the time of the initial tornado was likely around 110 PM CST. It was located just south of the London community near Farm to Market Road 43.
The tornado was estimated to be less than 50 yards wide, traveled through mainly open land, and tracked about seven miles before dissipating just southeast of the intersection of Old Brownsville Road and Padre Island Drive at approximately 128 PM CST. It did minimal damage during its nine minute existence and was rated an F0 on the Fujita Scale.
The next tornado formed four minutes later at 132 PM CST just to the east of where the first tornado had dissipated, near Navigation Boulevard and Old Brownsville Road. It moved northeast into the Del Mar College West Campus where the most extensive damage to property occurred. This tornado, which was rated as an F2 tornado, had a path length of 2 1/2 miles and was 100 to 200 yards wide. One fatality was directly associated with this tornado on the campus of Del Mar College.
The final tornado formed at 140 PM CST just south of Driscoll Middle School just as the second tornado was dissipating and became an F2 tornado as it damaged the H.E.B. grocery store and the U. S. Post Office on Leopard Street. Moving to the northeast, the tornado hit Refinery Row where it did significant damage to the Citgo Refinery before moving into Nueces Bay. The third tornado had the largest base at nearly 400 yards wide.
The October 24, 2002 tornadoes that hit Corpus Christi resulted in 1 fatality and 26 injuries (14 people were injured at Del Mar College). The tornadoes destroyed 4 single family and 15 multi-family homes. There were 73 single home and 21 multi-family units that received major damage, and a total of just over 115 other residential structures that received minor to slight damage. Additionally, there were 60 businesses that ceased operations because of the tornadoes and 15 other businesses that suffered major damage. Total damage was estimated at over $85 million.
Photos Courtesy Del Mar CollegeHere is a technical memorandum with much more detailed information about the evolution of the storm. A PDF reader is required.