The Top 10 Weather Events to Impact the South Plains Region of the 2000-2009 Decade
Meteorologists at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Lubbock Texas have produced a list of the top 10 weather events across the South Plains area from 2000 to 2009. Each meteorologist was asked to vote on which events they perceived as having the greatest impact (a subjective determination, taking into consideration such factors as fatalities/injuries, economic impact, duration, area/persons affected, etc) from the decade, and then the votes were counted and each event was ranked to determine the top 10.  Check and see if you agree with us - if you feel we've botched the rankings or left out an important event, let us know.

...and away we go!...

 #10: June 22, 2006.  A Haboob caused by a thunderstorm outflow moves across Terry County - causing a serious traffic accident.    [Link to Event].

     During the afternoon on June 22nd, a cluster of thunderstorms developed across the central South Plains. As storm updrafts collapsed and interacted with each other, a large outflow boundary developed and moved southwest across the central and western portions of the South Plains - producing strong winds and areas of blowing dust. The blowing dust lowered visibilities to near zero along U.S. Highway 82 in northeast Terry County, and contributed to multiple car accidents, resulting in a fatality and several injuries.

 #9a (Tie):   The Drought of 2003

    A long-term drought developed in 2003 as most of the region received far below average precipitation. Water supplies from area lakes dropped extremely low and conservation capacities of Lake Meredith, Mackenzie Lake, and White River Lake were near record low levels. The Lubbock International Airport received 8.83 inches of rain during 2003 making it the 2nd driest year on record in the Lubbock area since records began in 1911. This precipitation amount was 47 percent of the normal average annual rainfall for the area. Other locations that received notably low precipitation during 2003 included 7.82 inches in Morton (43 percent of normal), 7.91 inches in Muleshoe (48 percent of normal), 9.00 inches in Plainview (45 percent of normal), and 9.29 inches in Levelland (47 percent of normal).
    Crop damage estimates from across the South Plains, extreme southern Texas Panhandle, and Rolling Plains indicate that an estimated 800,000 bales of cotton were lost due to the drought in 2003. Most of this damage occurred to dry land crops during July and August.

 

 #9b (Tie):    The late 2005-early 2006 record dry spell at Lubbock International Airport
                       [Link to Event].

     No measurable precipitation fell at the Lubbock Airport between October 28, 2005 and February 2, 2006. This stretch of 98 days was the longest such dry spell recorded since records began in 1911.

 

 
#8:    The South Plains and Ralls tornadoes of May 5th 2005 [Link to Event].
     An outbreak of severe thunderstorms produced eight reported tornadoes on May 5th. The most damaging tornadoes occurred near the small communities of South Plains (an F2) and Ralls (an F3), in Floyd and Crosby Counties, respectively.
 
#7:    The Childress Macroburst of June 15th, 2008 [Link to Event].
     Sunday evening the 15th, an intense thunderstorm moved out of the southeast Texas Panhandle and across Childress county, bringing a wide swatch of damage from strong winds and wind-driven hail. The storm also was responsible for six minor injuries.
 
#6:    New Year's Day High Wind and Wildfire Outbreak 2006 [Link to Event].
    Very strong winds swept across the Texas South Plains and northern Rolling Plains New Year's day as an intense upper level storm system moved across the Texas Panhandle. Wind gusts in excess of 60 mph were common on the Caprock. Large fires were reported near the Lubbock Airport, near Levelland, and near Claytonville (in Swisher County).
 
#5:    The Childress Tornado of May 9th, 2006 [Link to Event].
    On Tuesday May 9 2006, thunderstorms developed along and just to the east of the Caprock escarpment and quickly became severe with damaging hail and high winds. As the storms moved east, a supercell produced a tornado which impacted the city of Childress with extensive damage to trees and significant damage to area structures-including the high school. The tornado was rated a F-2.
 
#4:    The Clovis Highway Storm of May 30th, 2001 [Link to Event-via the West Texas Mesonet].
    This long-lived severe thunderstorm developed in northeast New Mexico during the afternoon of the 30th. It then moved southeast through the South Plains roughly paralleling highway 84 all the way into the eastern Hockley and western Lubbock Counties, causing wind and hail damage all along its path. A 104 mph wind gust was reported at Reese Center. Hail piled up in streets and against fences and houses. The wind-driven hail also stripped leaves off trees. Damage was estimated at over $100 million to property and $70 million to crops in Lubbock and surrounding counties to the west and south.

Photo of a severe thunderstorm on May 30th 2001. Photo taken by Jason Branz

 
#3:    F2 Tornado hits the town of Happy on May 5th, 2002 [Link to Event].
    There were two tornadoes in northern Swisher County on the evening of May 5th. The first developed at 6:30 pm about 5 miles west of Happy. This tornado dissipated just west of Happy around 644 pm, after causing damage to power poles and fence post. A second tornado developed shortly after the first tornado dissipated. This tornado tore a 150-yard wide path across the southern part of the town of Happy. This tornado moved east and dissipated about 6 miles east of Happy. The second tornado resulted in 2 deaths and 4 injuries. The two fatalities occurred in a mobile home on the southeast side of town; the mobile home was rolled about 50 yards and destroyed. Four injuries also occurred in mobile homes that were in the same area.
 
#2:    The Olton and Tulia Tornadoes of April 21st, 2007 [Link to Event].
    During the afternoon and evening of Saturday, April 21st, the South Plains and Panhandle of West Texas were hit by an outbreak of severe thunderstorms. Between the hours of 5 and 6 pm, several thunderstorms developed across the western South Plains. One thunderstorm intensified and began to rotate as it moved northeast across Lamb County. Around 7 pm, this storm produced a tornado which touched down around Fieldton (southwest of Olton) and then moved just south and east of Olton, doing damage to several structures and equipment. The thunderstorm continued to move northeast across northeast Lamb, northwest Hale, southeast Castro and southwest Swisher Counties, producing a long-lived F2 tornado (along with hail up to the size of tennis balls) which caused major damage in the town of Tulia.
 

number one ranking image

And the #1 Event of the Decade:    The Record-setting Rainfall of September 11th, 2008 [Link to Event].
    From late on September 10th, to early on the 12th, numerous rain showers moved across the South Plains region. The coverage and intensity of the showers peaked on the 11th across the central South Plains. The area from Lubbock and Lynn Counties northeast to Hall and Childress counties were hit hardest as lines of heavy showers repeated tracked across this area. Lubbock received its highest ever 24 hour rainfall - 7.80 inches. Interestingly, the previous 24-hour record (5.82 inches) was set back in October of 1983 when the area was impacted by the remnants of Pacific Hurricane Tico. In Lubbock, the rainfall inundated the playa lakes, parks and streets across the city, and resulted in a number of flooded homes and flooded out vehicles.

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