April 16, 2009 Severe Weather


Howard County Tornadoes Martin County Tornado


Howard County Tornadoes

On Friday, April 17, the National Weather Service in Midland conducted a damage survey that occurred across the northern portions of Howard county during the evening of Thursday, April 16.

During the late afternoon and evening of Thursday, April 16, scattered to numerous thunderstorms developed across portions of west Texas, and moved northeastward across the area. Some of these thunderstorms exhibited supercellular characteritics, and resulted in the development of several significant tornadoes and large hail across portions of the Texas Permian Basin.

The following is not a comprehesive mapping of all tornadoes that developed across the WFO Midland area Thursday, but rather the results and evaluation of the three most significant tornado tracks, as found in our post-event damage survey conducted over portions of Martin and Howard counties. The tracks indicated on the map are the approximate path that these tornadoes took based on damage found by the WFO Midland post-event survey team. In many cases, the most significant damage was found just to the right of the indicated path.

On Thursday evening, a National Weather Service employee reported a brief tornado approximately 7.25 miles south southeast of Tarzan near Farm to Market 1212. Based on radar data, this brief tornado touchdown was from the same supercell thunderstorm that eventually produced the Howard County tornadoes later in the evening. Along County Road 17, the National Weather Service survey team found tornado damage that is believed to be from the beginning stages of the first Howard County tornado. Along this road, a large tank was damaged and two power poles were snapped. Each of these fell to the east southeast, which suggests that the initial tornado formation was directly to the west in a nearby field.

Farther to the north along County Road 17, a radio tower (approximately 80 feet in height) was bent from near its mid point to the ground. Based on the size and strength of of the tower, this is indicative of high-end EF1 damage - a high end "weak" tornado - with winds estimated at just over 100 mph. As the tornado moved northeastward, a small storage shed was pulled from the ground and tossed approximately 30 yards (high end EF0 damage). While the tornado crossed Farm to Market Road 2230, west of Fairview and Highway 87 (Lamesa Highway), it snapped two power poles near the ground. Eye witness reports estimated the width of the tornado at greater than 1/4 mile wide. Power pole damage along County Road 21 just north of FM2230 confirmed this estimate, with the tornado width estimated at approximately 500 yards. Pole damage at this location, with the poles sheared at their bases, were that of low end EF2 damage - the lower end of strong tornado intensity based on the enhanced Fujita scale. The NWS survey team did not find a conclusive crossing point on Highway 87. Thus, primary indications are that this tornado dissipated in a field west of Highway 87 near Fairview, then rapidly re-developed east of Highway 87.

East of Highway 87, the second Howard County tornado travelled east northeast, along and just to the north of Farm to Market 2230. This resulted in 20 distribution poles and 8 larger transmission power poles being snapped by strong northwest to north winds. This damage was also that of EF2 intensity on the tornado intensity scale - with winds estimated in the 115-125 mph range. The tornado then weakened to EF0 intensity as it began to move northeastward before finally dissipating just south of the community of Luther.

Google Earth Image showing area of damage north of Big Spring, Texas

Click the image above to explore the damage further using Google Earth.
Click here to view a preliminary storm report.

storm damage showing large tank blown down

This tank was damaged and fell to the east.

storm damage showing a radio tower bent down to the ground

A radio tower estimated at 80 feet in height was bent in half due to high winds

photo showing the contents of a storage shed that was destroyed

A 12'x10' storage shed anchored 2-3 feet in the ground was destroyed due to high winds and tossed east northeast approximately 30 yards.

photo showing downed power poles

This marked the southern extent of power pole damage where the tornado crossed County Road 21.

photo showing a large transmission power pole

This location marked the eastern extent of power pole damage east of Highway 87 along Farm to Market Road 2230. The transmission poles were located farther to the east than the distribution poles. While much larger than the distribution poles, they were also made of wood.




Martin County Tornado

The other tornado track investigated by the survey team occurred in Martin County. A residence along Farm to Market Road 3033 sustained EF0 type tornado damage as a tornado moved just to the northwest of thier location. The tornado eventually began to track more east northeastward - paralleling Ranch Road 846. As the tornado crossed County Road 7 along the Martin and Howard County line, it intensified to EF1 intensity - snapping two power poles. The tornado eventually crossed into northwest portions of Howard County, dissipating just southwest of the community of Knott.

While not investigated in a formal survey, other EF0 type tornado damage was noted in the Vincent area, as well as near Lake J.B. Thomas.

Google Earth Image showing area of in eastern Martin county

Click the image above to explore the damage further using Google Earth.

storm damage showing a damaged storage shed

A small storage shed was damaged and blown approximately 20 yards to the east.

storm damage showing a trampoline wrapped around a tree

Also, a trampoline was wrapped around a nearby tree. The home appears to have sustained some wind damage as well, with damaging west winds.

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