50th Anniversary of the April 3, 1964 Wichita Falls F5 Tornado

April 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the April 3, 1964 Wichita Falls F5 tornado and the 35th anniversary of the April 10, 1979 Wichita Falls F4 tornado. The Wichita Falls area has been visited by tornadoes many times over the course of its history. The following table includes data and summaries from the tornadoes that occurred in the area since the late 1800's. Tornado F-scale ratings prior to 1950, as well as most tornado data are referenced from Significant Tornadoes, 1680-1991 by T. P. Grazulis. Tornado data and F-scale ratings for tornadoes from 1950 to the present are referenced from NWS records.

Tornadoes in or near Wichita Falls, Texas (1880-Present)

SPC
ID #
Date Time
(CST)
Path
Length
(miles)
Path
Width
(yards)
F-Scale Killed Injured County Path
  05/23/1888 2200 10 200 F2 0 0 Wichita 6 W Wichita Falls

May 23, 1888 - A tornado moved northeastward and passed 6 miles west of Wichita Falls during the evening of May 23, 1888. Barns were destroyed and livestock was killed, including horses on two farms. (This tornado was documented and rated F2 by Tom Grazulis in his book, Significant Tornadoes.)

  03/31/1892 1930 1 100 F2 0 3 Wichita Iowa Park

March 31, 1892 - A tornado hit parts of Iowa Park where a house was moved 30 feet and destroyed, injuring 3 occupants. This tornado was part of a widespread outbreak of tornadoes that occurred in the Great Plains area including the states of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. (Documented and rated F2 by Grazulis.)

  04/24/1923 1945 5 100 F2 0 0 Wichita 3 SWW Burkburnett

April 24, 1923 - A tornado blew apart five homes 3 miles south-southwest of Burkburnett and 6 oil derricks where also destroyed. The tornado moved to the north-northwest during its life before lifting 2 miles from Burkburnett. (Documented and rated F2 by Grazulis.)

  06/06/1936 1720 4 440 F2 0 2 Wichita Near Wichita Falls

June 6, 1936 - A tornado touched down at 5:20 PM CST and moved southeastward over a path of 440 yards wide by four miles long caused damage of $50,000 in Wichita Falls and injured two people, although one person may have been hurt due to a lightning strike. (Documented and rated F2 by Grazulis. Other data was found using U.S. Weather Bureau records.)

  06/06/1936 1730 2 100 F2 0 0 Wichita NE edge of Wichita Falls

June 6, 1936 - This tornado moved south into the northeastern edge of Wichita Falls, and was associated with the same parent supercell thunderstorm  that produced the earlier tornado near Burkburnett. A small home was swept away in the affected area, and factories and warehouses were unroofed. (Documented and rated F2 by Grazulis.)

  06/06/1936 1900 6 100 F2 0 1 Wichita Burkburnett

June 6, 1936 - A "double twister" was observed by a large gathering of people in Burkburnett as it moved southwest and struck the southwest edge of the city. The brick building at the water works plant was heavily damaged, and a woman sufffered a broken back when her home was destroyed 3 miles south of Burkburnett. (Documented and rated F2 by Grazulis.)

  03/27/1939 1900 10   F2 0 0 Wichita/ Clay NNW of Wichita Falls

March 27, 1939 - This tornado touched down north-northwest of Wichita Falls and moved northeastward into Clay County. The tornado detroyed 2 homes north-northwet of Wichita Falls, and damaged 3 homes near Thornberry. The tornado just missed two busloads of students who were returning from a game in Burkburnett. (Documented and rated F2 by Grazulis.)

51-2 04/20/1951 1510 1.5 17 F2 0 0 Wichita Near Wichita Falls

April 20, 1951 - A small, brief tornado touched down near Wichita Falls and was accompanied by light hail. No fatalities or injuries occurred. (Rated F2 by the NWS.)

51-3 05/09/1951 1700 5 33 F2 0 0 Wichita Iowa Park - near Wichita Falls

May 9, 1951 - A supercell thunderstorm produced a small, narrow tornado that moved east-northeastward along a 5-mile path from Iowa Park to near Wichita Falls. Widespread downburst winds and hail brought damages of $200,000 to the town of Iowa Park alone. No fatalities or injuries occurred. (Rated F2 by the NWS.)

52-3 03/17/1952 1930 n/a 33 F1 0 0 Wichita 5.5 SSW Wichita Falls Airport

March 17, 1952 - A small, weak tornado touched down about 5 miles south-southwest of the Wichita Falls Airport where some buildings were unroofed and smaller buildings blown down. No fatalities or injuries occurred. (Rated F1 by the NWS.)

53-20 08/11/1953 1900 n/a 880 F2 0 0 Wichita/ Clay Wichita Falls and Suburban Areas

August 11, 1953 - This summertime tornado touched down at 7:00 PM CST in Wichita Falls and moved northeastward through the suburbs of the city. Several homes were demolished, and a number of barns were partially destroyed. Small buildings were damaged or destroyed, and roofs, signs, oil field derricks and tanks were damaged. Fortunately, no one was killed or injured by the tornado. (Rated F2 by the NWS.)

55-62 05/26/1955 0138 1.3 33 F2 0 0 Wichita Near Wichita Falls

May 26, 1955 - A small tornado touched down briefly at 1:48 AM CST, moved northeastward along a narrow, 1-mile path and demolished a "washateria" and produced severely damaged several utility poles, business structures, homes, and trees. This tornado was part of an outbreak of tornadoes that occurred on May 25-26, 1955 across the southern Great Plains, and included the deadly F5 tornadoes at Blackwell, OK and Udall, KS. (Rated F2 by the NWS.)

58-10 04/02/1958 1755 16 333 F3 1 14 Wichita/ Clay Wichita Falls - near "Deandale"

April 2, 1958 - A funnel was first spotted 8 miles southwest of Wichita Falls before touching down at 5:40 PM CST near the intersection 4th Street and Lamar Street near the Wichita River. The twister moved east-northeastward across the northern part of the city, and continued into Clay County before lifting at 6:10 PM CST near the town of Dean. A total of 2 homes were completely destroyed with 31 homes and 17 mobile homes being damaged. In addition, many businesses, cars, trees, windows, TV antennas, and power poles incurred damage. One man was killed at a dairy farm in Dean. A total of 2 people were seriously injured along the tornado?s path, but most of injuries people received were minor.

The tornado was preceded by strong winds, and then followed at once by heavy rain and hail, which covered a 200-square mile area. Hail ranged in sizes "from mothballs to pineapples." Radar warnings and alerts from the Weather Bureau office were credited with saving many lives. According the Weather Bureau from the time, "The large funnel alternately dipped and soared, and was followed by trailer funnel, 2 funnels touched ground; witnesses reported spotting a third." (Rated F3 by the NWS.)

58-72 11/17/1958 0715 5 200 F2 0 0 Wichita Near Iowa Park - 4 W Wichita Falls

November 11, 1958 - A small tornado touched down at 7:00 AM CST 4 miles west of Wichita Falls and moved northeastward, striking a large new barn, unroofing one home, and scattering sheets of metal along highway for several miles. No injuries or deaths occurred during this tornado. (Rated F2 by the NWS.)

However, widespread high winds from the parent supercell thunderstorm also produced extensive damage in the Wichita Falls, Iowa Park and Burkburnett areas. In the Wichita Falls area, damage occurred to ~75 homes, 15 trailer homes, high school, and numerous outbuildings. A 368-foot radio antenna and 2 others antennas were blown down, and multiple power lines were downed. At the Iowa Park Fairgrounds, wind damage covered a 4-block area. Extensive wind damage to about 100 homes and outbuildings occurred in Burkburnett where two 40-foot smoke stacks were also toppled. A tool shed was blown away, trees uprooted, and utility poles damaged, and the Pontiac Company building was destroyed. A total of 10 people received injuries due to the high winds.

61-25 04/08/1961 1600 3 33 F2 0 2 Wichita Near Kamay - Wichita Valley Airport - Sheppard AFB

April 8, 1961 - A small tornado formed near Kamay at 4:00 PM CST, moved northeast across the Wichita Valley Airport, and then moved into Sheppard AFB. Prior to its touchdown, a funnel was first observed about 10 miles to the west-southwest. Wind gusts to 100 mph were observed at the observation site. A large number of roofs were damaged at the air base, and buildings at the Wichita Valley Airport also sufferered roof damage.

61-98 07/21/1961 1759 0.2 525 F1 0 0 Wichita Wichita Falls (3 SE Airport)

July 21, 1961 - A small, weak tornado touched down briefly in the eastern part of Wichita Falls, about 3 miles from the airport. The tornado damaged outbuildings, chicken coops, and did minor damage  to roofs of houses. The tornado moved eastward, was a visible as a column of dust that extended from the ground to the base of its parent thunderstorm, and was probably a landspout tornado. The tornado was associated with a line of thunderstorms that produced very heavy rains in the Wichita Falls area.

62-21 04/26/1962 2245 3 100 F3 0 13 Wichita Sheppard AFB

April 26, 1962 - This tornado initially touched down at10:45PM CST on the Sheppard Access Road near Sheppard AFB, damging several cars, and destroying a a 100 x 30 foot metal building at a motor company. The tornado cut through a field and went into a housing addition on the southwest edge of Sheppard AFB. Approximately 30 houses in the addition were damage with some houses suffering extensive damage.

Moving into the air base proper, the tornado destroyed 5 unoccupied 2-story barracks, damaged a hanger, power installations, transfromer station, paint shop, and the base's 10-story control tower. All but one of the 12 large glass windows in the tower were blown out, and control tower personnel had only abandonded their tower posts 4 minutes before. No fatalities or serious injuries occurred, but 13 people were treated for minor injuries, mostly as a result of flying glass.

The strongest wind measurement logged on the USWB equipment located 1 mile south of the air base was a 55-knot peak gust. The tornado moved northeastward as was described as a "dirty green funnel." Lighter damage occurred outside of the AFB and no hail was observed.

64-8 04/03/1964 1435 5 500 F5 7 111 Wichita NW Wichita Falls (FM-369/ Seymour Highway)- Sheppard AFB

April 3, 1964 - A violent tornado struck the northwest section of Wichita Falls and Sheppard Air Force Base, killing 7 persons and injuring 111 other people. The tornado first touched down at 2:35 PM CST north of the intersection of Farm Road 369 and Seymour Highway. It moved northeastward across U.S. Highway 287 into the Sunset Terrace addition, and then crossed the Red River Expressway (U.S. Highway 277) into the Lincoln Heights addition and eventually Sheppard Air Force Base. The awesome "freight train like sound" was audible from the Weather Bureau Airport Station. Of the 7 people killed, six occurred in 5 different homes, and one man was killed when his truck was thrown from a road.

Property damage in the affected areas included 225 homes destroyed, with 50 homes suffering major damage, 200 homes incurring minor damage, and 16 other building receiving major damage. Damage to city property totaled $5 million while Sheppard AFB had $10 million in damages. Along the 5.6-mile-long tornado path, the area of total destruction was 100 to 200 yards wide with lesser damage occurring up to 500 yards in width. The tornado was eventually rated F5 and was the first violent tornado on record to strike the Wichita Falls area. (Rated F5 by the NWS.)

73-17 03/03/1973 1800 0.1 10 F0 0 0 Wichita Wichita Falls (near Midwestern University)

March 3, 1973 - The Wichita Falls police department reported a small tornado touching down briefly in the vicinity of Midwestern University. Minor damage occurred to some fences and the area. Hail to 1.75 inches was also reported south of the city.

74-20 04/20/1974 1630 0.5 100 F1 0 0 Wichita Wichita Falls (5 ENE NWS Office)

April 20, 1974 - A small tornado touched down briefly 5 miles northeast of the Nationa Weather Service office. One piece of farm equipment was destroyed and damage occurred to fences and trees.

77-12 04/16/1977 1706 2 75 F1 0 0 Wichita W of Wichita Falls

April 17, 1977 - A "freak tornado" moved from east to west across a 2-mile path in the western sections of Wichita Falls. The tornado originated from a weak thunderstorm with a radar top of only 16,000 feet. The long, slender tornado was milky white in appearance and was accompanied by a loud roar. The storm occcurred in a largely uninhabited area, but heavily damaged a barn  by unroofing it and buckling two of the barn walls outward. Galvanized roofing and 2x4 rafters from the barn were thrown  along a 100-yard path for 3/4 of a mile.

79-43 04/10/1979 1750 47 1760 F4 42 1740 Archer/ Wichita/ Clay/ Jefferson OK 3 ENE Holliday- Wichita Falls- 4 E Byers- NNE of Waurika OK

April 10, 1979 - The tornado, which was part of a tornado outbreak in the Red River valley area, began at 5:50 PM CST on the southwest flank of its parent supercell thunderstorm about 3 miles east-northeast of Holliday. Witnesses say the several distinct, small vortices were visible during the formative stage of the tornado as it moved along the Fort Worth and Denver railroad into Wichita County. Two oil storage tanks were blown away and several homes were unroofed near Farm Road 2650 as the tornado approached Wichita Falls. Six cross-country steel transmission towers were destroyed just east of Farm Road 2650.

About the time the tornado entered town, it changed appearance, becoming one large black cloud of condensation and debris. The tornado was about a half-mile wide when it struck Memorial Stadium, snapping light standards and causing heavy damage to the field house. McNeil Junior High school was next in the path of the tornado and the school was severely damaged. The western portion of the school building was crushed by the intense winds.

The tornado then moved east-northeast into the Western hills neighborhood, south of Southwest Parkway. Several apartment complexes and many homes were destroyed, with several of the first deaths occurring in this area. The tornado expanded in size as it crossed Southwest Parkway, throwing automobiles about and leveling a number of businesses, including a bank and a fire station.

The twister was almost a mile wide when it entered the Faith Village neighborhood on the north side of the east-west oriented Southwest Parkway. Most of the homes in Faith Village were demolished. Ben Milam Elementary School was heavily damaged, as the cafeteria-auditorium was completely destroyed and exterior class rooms were pummeled by flying debris. The inner hallways would have been the only relatively safe shelter in the building. Surprisingly, very few fatalities occurred in Faith Village. Most people heeded the warnings and took shelter inside interior, small rooms in their homes. Most of the destroyed homes had some of these interior walls still standing after the tornado.

After moving out of Faith Village, the tornado flattened several businesses, including a restaurant, on Kemp Boulevard. Three people were killed in the restaurant. A number of people were also killed or injured in the parking lot of Sikes Senter (sic) Mall, also on Kemp Boulevard. Some of these people attempted to run to their cars from the mall.

Inside the mall, portions of the JC Penney store collapsed while other stores sustained light to moderate damage. No one was killed and only several major injuries occurred among the approximately one thousand shoppers who were in the mall. The mall was on the north side of the tornado path and appeared to escape the most violent winds. Near the center of the tornado and about a half mile south of the mall, a church was demolished with one person killed inside the building.

The tornado then crossed a short span of open fields before moving into the Colonial Park area. More widespread home destruction occurred in Colonial Park and several more apartment complexes were demolished. The heaviest damage in the apartments occurred in the second story of two-story buildings.

The tornado then swept through the Southmoor area, destroying homes and a shopping center. After crossing U.S. Highway 281, the twister then struck the Sun Valley neighborhood and destroyed additional homes, apartments, and businesses on the south side of U.S. Highway 287. A large number of cars were smashed and some people were killed along U.S. Highway 287. Some of these people had stopped their cars under an overpass on the highway, seeking shelter from the storm.

The tornado leveled a mobile home park on the north side of U.S. Highway 287, but residents had evacuated that area and no fatalities occurred in the park. The tornado then destroyed several industrial plants before moving into Clay County just south of TX State Highway 79.

The tornado was 1.5 miles wide as it passed through 8 miles of residential area in Wichita Falls. The intense damage averaged between one quarter and one half of a mile in width. Forty-two people were killed outright by the storm and 3 others died as a result of heart attacks.

Further statistics reveal that 25 of the deaths were auto-related. Sixteen of these 25 were people who entered their cars trying to evade the tornado. Eleven of the 16 people left homes that were not even damaged. Eight persons were killed outside, 4 were killed in homes or apartments, and 4 others died in public buildings. Seventeen hundred injuries were reported in Wichita Falls.

Total damage in Wichita Falls was estimated at $400 million (in 1979 dollars). Three thousand and ninety-five homes were destroyed and 600 were damaged. One thousand and sixty-two apartment units and condominiums were demolished and 130 damaged. In addition, 93 mobile homes were devastated. It is estimated that 5,000 families, consisting of almost 20,000 people, were left homeless in Wichita Falls.

The tornado continued into Clay County, resulting in no deaths, but 40 additional injuries. About $15 million of damage occurred as the tornado destroyed homes immediately south of TX State Highway 79, from Wichita Falls into the Dean and Petrolia areas. The tornado exited Texas about 4 miles east of Byers, uprooting over 200 trees along the Red River.

Dissipation of the tornado occurred northwest of Waurika, Oklahoma, bringing the path length to 36 miles in Texas, and 11 miles in Oklahoma. Minor wind damage and hail to 2 inches in diameter occurred north of the tornado track in Wichita Falls, in conjunction with its parent supercell. Also, tornado survivors said that some golfball size hail fell prior to and immediately after the tornado.

There is no doubt that hundreds of lives were saved by the news media and siren warnings. Amateur radio storm spotters turned in the first report of the storm, which allowed 5 to 10 minutes of valuable warning time. This followed an earlier warning at 5:08 pm, due to the Rocky Point tornado. Undoubtedly, this earlier warning and the afternoon Vernon tornado had primed the Wichita Falls populace to the threat of additional tornado activity.

94-2 02/21/1994 1501 0.5 13 F0 0 0 Wichita Near Sheppard AFB

February 21, 1994 - Thunderstorms developed in the western part of north Texas during the afternoon hours of February 21st and produced a small weak tornado, hail up to nickel size and damaging winds. A tornado on the gust front developed at 3:01 PM CST near Wichita Falls Municipal Airport and traveled east approximately 1/2 mile before dissipating near Sheppard AFB at 3:04 PM CST. No damage was reported from this small, weak tornado and it was rated F0. Thunderstorm winds blew a sheet metal roof off a horse barn just east of Sheppard Air Force Base, tore off part of the roof of a radio station 6 miles southwest of Wichita Falls, tore a patio roof off a house in Wichita Falls.

  06/16/1997 2035 0.7 60 F1 0 0 Wichita 5 SE Burkburnett

June 16, 1997 - A survey conducted by a National Weather Service meteorologist confirmed that an F1 tornado touched down briefly about 5 miles southeast of Burkburnett (or 1.5 miles north of the north end of Sheppard AFB). One mobile home was completely destroyed on Bobby Point Road, prompting an F1 rating. Several other mobile homes in the area sustained minor damage, and homes to the east on Carriage Lane also received minor damage. Maximum path length was about 3/4 mile and the width was 50 to 60 yards.

In addition to the tornado, severe thunderstorm winds moved through the Wichita Falls area, downing trees, limbs, and power poles. One tree near a house fell onto a power line, causing an electrical surge that set the kitchen of the house on fire. A furniture warehouse was also destroyed when severe winds tore the back wall and roof off of the building. At Sheppard Air Force Base, winds up to 70 mph tore countless limbs from trees and knocked out windows on some base housing units. High winds in Burkburnett toppled several large trees and damaged limbs, signs, and fences throughout town. Also, the second story of the press box at the high school football stadium was blown off and scattered across the playing field.

  04/10/2001 2346 4.5 100 F1 0 0 Wichita Wichita Falls (4 SSW - 1 E center of town)

April 10, 2001 - This tornado developed on the south side of Wichita Falls at 11:46 PM CST, a short distance from Lake Wichita. Most of the damage the tornado produced was minor, consisting of downed trees, fences and signs, however near the junction of US Highway 281 and US Highway 287, a machine shop composed of sheet metal sustained significant damage to the walls and frame when the roof was pushed upward, allowing the walls to cave in slightly. Also nearby, about 10 utility poles were snapped near the top with debris falling on fences and other sheet metal buildings. The maximum F-scale rating was F1, however most damage was rated F0.

In addition to the tornado which developed near Wichita Falls, sustained winds of 35 to 45 mph from the southeast with gusts near 60 mph developed across western north Texas during the mid-evening of the 10th and persisted through much of the night.

  05/30/2001 1830 0.2 15 F0 0 0 Wichita 6 SW Wichita Falls

May 30, 2001 - This tornado was observed at 6:30 PM CST by three people over northern portions of Lake Wichita, or 6 miles southwest of Wichita Falls. The tornado dissipated in two minutes and caused no damage.



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