TROPICAL STORM FRANCES TORNADO OUTBREAK

September 11-12, 1998

Original Research by Robert B. Darby* (1998), Forecaster
Additional/Updated Research & Information (2009) by Sam Shamburger, Forecaster

Tropical Storm Frances Tornadoes

OVERVIEW

On September 11th and 12th, 1998, ten tornadoes occurred in Southwest Louisiana in association with Tropical Storm Frances, which made landfall on the morning of September 11th along the Central Texas coast south of Matagorda Bay. Atmospheric conditions remained favorable for tornadic development well after the tropical storm had moved inland. The tornadic cells formed in the heavy rain bands that moved onshore from the Gulf of Mexico. Below is a map of Southwest Louisiana showing the tornado locations in Jeff Davis, Acadia, Evangeline, Allen, Lafayette, St. Landry, Rapides, and Vermilion Parishes. Tornadoes marked in black occurred on September 11, 1998, and tornadoes marked in blue occurred on September 12, 1998.

Five tornado warnings were issued by the National Weather Service on September 11, 1998, with four out of the five verifying with actual tornado touchdowns. All of the tornadoes were radar indicated by WSR-88D in Lake Charles. Lead times on the warnings ranged from 2 minutes to as high as 34 minutes. This gave residents time to seek shelter from the tornadic storms. Many Basile residents interviewed after the tornado stated they knew the storm was coming well in advance. Fortunately, only a few minor injuries were reported.

Lake Arthur Tornado

DATE:  9/11/98 RATING:  F1
TIME:  1055 AM PATH LENGTH:  1 mile
PARISH:  Jefferson Davis PATH WIDTH:  10 yards
STATE:  Louisiana DAMAGE:  $75,000

DAMAGE:  The tornado 4 miles west of Lake Arthur was the first tornado, occurring around 1055 AM CDT. One small home near the lake was totally destroyed, down to the concrete slab (see damage pictures below). Debris from the home was strewn over a half mile to the northwest. Luckily, no one was home at the time, so there were no injuries. A large house next door had several windows blown out due to the high winds. NWS Lake Charles issued a Tornado Warning for this storm at 1049 AM, and a follow-up Severe Weather Statement at 1130 AM.

RADAR IMAGES:

Base reflectivity taken near tornado touchdown
Base reflectivity taken near tornado touchdown

Associated storm relative velocity product
Associated storm relative velocity product

DAMAGE PHOTOS:

Home totally destroyed (fog partially obscuring photo)
Home totally destroyed (fog partially obscuring photo)

Part of the roof was lodged into the ground over half a mile away
Part of the roof was lodged into the ground over a 1/2 mile away

Midland Tornado

DATE:  9/11/98 RATING:  F0
TIME:  518 PM PATH LENGTH:  2 miles
PARISH:  Acadia PATH WIDTH:  10 yards
STATE:  Louisiana DAMAGE:  $5,000,000
FATALITIES:  0 INJURIES:  2

DAMAGE:  The Midland tornado was the second tornado of the day, which caused significant damage to the town of Midland. At approximately 518 PM CDT, the tornado touched down south of town, moving northwest through the community. The hardest hit was the high school, which had sections of the roof completely torn off. Several smaller structures around the school were also destroyed. Approximately 12 homes sustained some type of damage. Estimated losses to the school alone is projected to be up to 3.5 million dollars. This is the same tornadic storm that continued northwest and hit the city of Basile on the Acadia / Evangeline Parish line. NWS Lake Charles issued a Tornado Warning for Acadia Parish at 511 PM, and a follow-up Severe Weather Statement at 535 PM.

RADAR IMAGES:

Base reflectivity taken near tornado touchdown
Base reflectivity taken near tornado touchdown

Associated storm relative velocity product
Associated storm relative velocity product

DAMAGE PHOTOS:

Barn destroyed near Midland school
Barn destroyed near Midland school

Damage to school gymnasium roof
Damage to school gymnasium roof

Basile Tornado

Basile Tornado Map
DATE:  9/11/98 RATING:  F1
TIME:  556 PM PATH LENGTH:  5 miles
PARISH:  Acadia/Evangeline PATH WIDTH:  20 yards
STATE:  Louisiana DAMAGE:  $2,000,000
FATALITIES:  0 INJURIES:  3

DAMAGE:  The Basile tornado struck the south side of the city at approximately 556 PM CDT. This tornado originated from the same tornadic storm that hit the Midland area in Acadia Parish. The tornado moved through the center of town before dissipating in some fields northwest of the community. The worst damage occurred to the middle school wing at the high school, where the roof was torn off. An additional 25 homes and businesses also received some form of damage from the tornado. Preliminary estimates put losses around one million dollars to the Basile area. NWS Lake Charles issued a Tornado Warning for Acadia Parish at 511 PM, and a Tornado Warning for Evangeline Parish at 545 PM.

RADAR IMAGES:

Reflectivity - 9 minutes before touchdown
Reflectivity - 9 minutes before touchdown

Corresponding storm relative velocity product
Corresponding storm relative velocity product

Reflectivity near tornado touchdown
Reflectivity near tornado touchdown

Corresponding storm relative velocity product
Corresponding storm relative velocity product

DAMAGE PHOTOS:

Basile School building looking Northeast / roof destroyed
Basile School building looking Northeast / roof destroyed

Debris piled up to be taken to the dump
Debris piled up to be taken to the dump

Another view of the school / walkway destroyed
Another view of the school / walkway destroyed

Barn totally destroyed / another barn flattened nearby
Barn totally destroyed / another barn flattened nearby

Part of roof from a large barn wrapped around tree
Part of roof from a large barn wrapped around tree 

Tree completely blown over near Basile
Tree completely blown over near Basile

Oakdale Tornado

DATE:  9/11/98 RATING:  F0
TIME:  615 PM PATH LENGTH:  1 mile
PARISH:  Allen PATH WIDTH:  10 yards
STATE:  Louisiana DAMAGE:  $10,000

DAMAGE:  This tornado occurred at 619 PM CDT, 4 miles south of Oakdale on highway 165 between Oakdale and Oberlin. This is also the same tornadic circulation that produced the Basile and Midland tornadoes earlier that evening. The public reported the tornado briefly touched down in a field, causing damage to nearby trees. No significant damage or injuries were reported. NWS Lake Charles issued a Tornado Warning for this storm at 545 PM, a follow-up Severe Weather Statement at 602 PM, and another follow-up Severe Weather Statement at 622 PM.

RADAR IMAGES:

Base reflectivity taken around tornado touchdown
Base reflectivity taken near tornado touchdown

Associated storm relative velocity product
Associated storm relative velocity product

Acknowledgments: The author would like to thank Roger Erickson (Warning Coordination Meteorologist) and Steve Rinard (Meteorologist in Charge) for the tornado damage pictures and formal storm survey of Tropical Storm Frances.

*Author's current affiliation: National Weather Service, Tulsa OK


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