The Mayfest Storm: May 5, 1995
Storms Affecting Tarrant and Dallas Counties
During the late afternoon of May 5, 1995, a large cluster of severe storms approached the DFW Metroplex. These storms produced extremely large hail, damaging winds, and heavy rainfall as they passed over Tarrant County. The hail swath included the bank of the Trinity River where the outdoor festival, Mayfest, was in progress. The storms caused an estimated $2 billion in damages in Tarrant and Dallas counties. This event remains one of the costliest hail storms in history.
The storms struck Mayfest at 7:10 pm, where over 10,000 people were caught in the open with little shelter. Hail up to the size of softballs fell, resulting in over 400 injuries. There were no fatalities at the festival, although 60 people suffered serious injuries requiring hospitalization.
As the storms moved eastward, intense rainfall affected portions of Tarrant and Dallas counties. Rainfall rates approached 2.25 inches in 15 minutes over Dallas County and numerous reports of flash flooding were received. More than 350 cars sustained weather-related damage, including hail and water damage.
One person died in western Tarrant County when he drove into a swollen creek. Fifteen people died in Dallas County. Several of the victims drove into high water and were swept away by floodwaters. Two individuals fell into high water and drowned. Four other deaths were also reported in Dallas County, including two lightning-related fatalities and two others due to a heavy-rain induced roof collapse.
Community Planning and Preparedness
The Mayfest storms changed the way in which the local emergency management community and the National Weather Service communicate and collaborate to prepare for hazardous weather. As a result of these storms, the Tarrant County Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (R.A.C.E.S.) is now located on-site at outdoor events in and around Fort Worth to relay weather information and provide emergency support.
In the 20 years since the Mayfest storms, National Weather Service offices across the country have strengthened their partnerships with the emergency management community. Here in North Texas, the National Weather Service in Fort Worth provides hazardous weather briefings to emergency managers and public safety officials several days in advance of high-profile, high-attendance events.
Springtime brings plentiful sunshine and outdoor activities ranging from festivals to sporting events and other recreational activities. However, mostly sunny skies can give way to rapidly developing thunderstorms in some situations. Thunderstorms producing tornadoes, damaging winds, and large hail can occur throughout the year, but are most common in the spring months.
The National Weather Service works closely with the local media and emergency management community to plan and prepare for hazardous weather. However, you should take personal responsibility to keep your family safe. Pay close attention to weather forecasts. Be prepared to implement your safety action plan if watches or warnings are issued for your area.
Flash flooding is the number one weather-related killer, followed closely by lightning. Never drive into a water covered roadway. Do not allow children to play near creeks or streams since rapidly flowing water can continue to rise for several hours after the rain has stopped. Lightning can strike many miles away from the heavy rain and hail. As a general rule, move indoors when you first hear thunder and allow 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder before heading outside. Hailstones and gusty thunderstorm winds can also be deadly.
If you are attending an outdoor festival or event, look for areas that can be accessed quickly if hazardous weather approaches. The best option is to seek shelter in a sturdy building, but vehicles can provide some safety from hail, winds, and lightning. You may also wish to look online for the event’s emergency action plan or ask event organizers.
NOAA All Hazards Weather Radios provide 24-hr access to hazardous weather information from your local National Weather Service office. Portable radio models, with prices starting at $30, allow you to stay up to date with the latest weather information when you’re on the go. For more information on NOAA All Hazards Weather Radios, visit http://www.weather.gov/nwr/.
NWS Storm Data – May 1995, Volume 37, Number 5
NWS Natural Disaster Survey Report: The Fort Worth-Dallas Hailstorm/Flash Flood of May 5, 1995. NWS Southern Region Headquarters. November 1995.
Special thanks to:
Sam Barricklow, K5KJ
Greg Patrick, NWS Southern Region Headquarters
Gary Woodall, NWS Memphis
Above: Radar imagery from 6:44pm on May 5, 1995 shows the intense supercell west of Fort Worth moving east.
Above: Radar imagery from 6:56pm shows a close-up of the Mayfest supercell centered west of Benbrook. The pink and darkest red colors represent radar indications of large hail with this storm. The storm impacted the Mayfest festival at 7:10pm.
Above: At 7:25pm, the Mayfest supercell storm was affecting much of the city of Fort Worth. The squall line to the west of the supercell storm was moving rapidly east and would eventually merge with the supercell. The resulting cluster of severe storms would later move into Dallas County.
Above: At 8:12pm, the large, intense cluster of storms was beginning to move east of Fort Worth, but was affecting DFW Airport and the western side of the city of Dallas. Two inch diameter hailstones and wind gusts up to 70 mph were reported just east of DFW Airport.