You are at: Weather History » Weather Events » April 10, 1979 Tornado Outbreak » TX Storm Data

Texas Storm Data for the Red River Valley
Tornado Outbreak of April 10, 1979

North Texas Storm Reports
Note: The damage estimates are based on 1979 dollars and have not been adjusted for inflation and the current year.
Date Time
LST
Length
of Path
Width
of Path
No. Of Persons Estimated Damage Character
of Storm
Killed Injured Property Crops
Introduction

Three very intense thunderstorms produced an outbreak of killer tornadoes and large hail in western north Texas and southern Oklahoma, including the Wichita Falls and Vernon areas. A fourth thunderstorm produced a small and brief tornado near Iowa Park, in Wichita County. The following reports of severe weather occurred with these storms in north Texas.

Location: Truscott Area, Knox County
4/10 2:50 pm     0 0 ? ? Hailstorm

Tornadic thunderstorm #2 produced 1.5 inch diameter hail in the Truscott area. This thunderstorm was just south of, and paralleling, tornadic storm #1's northeastward movement.

Location: Crowell Area, Foard County
4/10 2:53 pm     0 0 ? ? Hailstorm

Tornadic storm #1 dropped 1.5 inch diameter hail, producing roof damage in Crowell.

Location: Foard County
4/10 3:05 pm
3:28 pm
23 150 0 1 5 3 Tornado
& Hail

The first known tornado, which developed beneath the southwest portion of thunderstorm #1, touched down 2 miles south of Foard City in extreme southern Foard County. The tornado moved 23 miles to the northeast, destroying or damaging several rural homes 6 miles south and 6 miles east of Crowell and near Rayland. Telephone poles, barns, and some farm equipment were also destroyed by the tornado. The tornado dissipated at 3:23 pm in extreme northern Foard County between Rayland and the Pease River. Hail to 1.5 inches in diameter fell north of the tornado track.

Location: Foard and Wilbarger Counties
4/10 3:20 pm 37 880 11 67 7 ? Tornado,
Hail &
Windstorm

The second tornado, also from thunderstorm #1, formed 2 miles north of Thalia in Foard County. This tornado touched down 1.5 miles southeast of the first tornado, which was still on the ground at 3:20 pm. The tornadoes traveled as a pair for 5 miles, with the second tornado continuing into Wilbarger County at about the time the first tornado ended near the Pease River.

The Wilbarger County tornado moved along and just north of Highway 70 in the Lockett area, causing heavy farm and home damage. The tornado became a killer as it crossed Highway 70 about 1 mile north of Lockett. Mrs. Cecilia Neason of Thalia died when her car was thrown about 200 yards off of the road into a pasture. Automobiles were also to play a major role in many of the tornado deaths later in the afternoon.

After striking the Lockett area, the tornado continued its northeastward movement toward Vernon. Photographs from Vernon show that the approaching tornado was very wide, appearing as a giant, boiling cloud on the ground. Tornado spotters had difficulty indentifying the storm at first because of its massive size. However, tornado sirens were blown several minutes prior to the storm, an action that alerted many residents to the approaching danger. Fortunately the tornado just missed the business district, but dealt a crippling blow to southern and eastern Vernon after entering the town at about 3:45 pm.

In southern Vernon, a multi-block residential area was destroyed, with some of the worst damage on Gordon and Atlanta Streets. At least three people were killed in their homes within this area. The tornado then moved into east Vernon where the Sands Motel, Canton cafe, a truck stop, Mechants Motor Freight, and Cardinal Equipment Building Company were all demolished. The Wilbarger Exhibit Building and the Texas Highway Department Warehouse were also destroyed.

Seven people were killed when the tornado swept a number of cars and trucks off Highway 287. The cars were nothing more than compacted masses of twisted metal after being blown off the road. After killing 10 people in Vernon and 1 in Lockett, the tornado crossed the Pease River killing a number of cows on the north bank. The tornado entered Oklahoma several miles west of the confluence point of the Pease and Red Rivers.

In its wake, the tornado left $27,000,000 in damage, with other damage coming from large hail and strong straight-line winds in the Vernon area. The tornado was on the ground for 26 miles in Texas and 11 miles in Oklahoma, with thunderstorm #1 producing three additional tornadoes in Oklahoma.

Location: Wilbarger and Wichita Counties
4/10 3:55 pm 64 880 1 0 4 ? Tornado &
Hailstorm

The tornado, fostered by thunderstorm #2, was in its formative stages about the time thunderstorm #1 and the Vernon tornado were crossing the Red River. First indications of tornado damage were near Harrold, which is about 16 miles southwest of Vernon. Two Oklahoma University meteorology students photographed the large tornado, which descended from a rotating wall cloud under the southwest flank of the severe thunderstorm.

The tornado moved across Highway 287, killing one person 200 yards west of the Texas Farm Road 1763 overpass. An official from the Texas Department of Public Safety stated that a woman had left her car to take refuge under the wheels of a semi-trailer truck when the tornado approached. She was killed when the tornadic winds caused the truck wheels to roll over her. The accident occurred on level ground, and was not the result of faulty brakes.

The tornado continued moving northeast, and caused light damage before entering Wichita County about 5 miles northeast of Harrold. Additional light rural damage occurred in the miles of Wichita County that the tornado covered. The half-mile wide tornado crossed the Red River into Oklahoma about 9 miles north-northeast of Electra. The path length was 9 miles in Texas and 55 miles in Oklahoma. About the time the tornado was developing at Harrold, thunderstorm #2 produced 1.5 to 3 inch diameter hail 7 miles west of Harrold.

Location: Seymour and Maybelle Area, Baylor County
4/10 4:49 pm
5:12 pm
11 300 0 0 4 0 Tornado
& Hail

Thunderstorm #3 produced this tornado, which moved from the extreme northeast side of Seymour to about 2 miles north-northeast of Maybelle. National Severe Storm Lab storm chasers photographed the tornado, which formed beneath the southwest flank of the severe thunderstorm. The storm intercept teams noted that the tornado developed from a rotating wall cloud in the Seymour area.

Several brief touchdowns in Seymour resulted in scattered roof damage and one overturned truck. After moving northeast of Seymour, the tornado intensified. Photographs indicated that it was a large, cylindrical tornado with a well organized debris cloud. Fortunately, the tornado moved through rural areas and did not affect any housing at this stage. The twister did level a number of telephone poles along Highway 283, before dissipating just east of Highway 283 near Maybelle. Residents of Seymour reported that the tornado was preceded by very heavy rain and hail almost 2 inches in diameter.

Location: 8 miles WSW Iowa Park, Wichita County
4/10 5:08 pm short narrow 0 0 0 0 Tornado

Thunderstorm #4 dropped a small and brief tornado near Rocky Point, which is 8 miles west-southwest of Iowa Park. The tornado was observed by an Amateur Radio storm spotter. No damage resulted from the twister. At 5:08 pm, thunderstorm #4 was situated to the northeast of thunderstorm #3.

Location: Archer, Wichita and Wilbarger Counties
4/10 5:15 pm
5:45 pm
    0 0 ? ? Hailstorm

After producing the Seymour tornado, thunderstorm #3 moved northeast, dropping large hail in mostly rural areas of northwest Archer, southeast Wilbarger and southwest Wichita Counties. Golf ball size hail was reported 7 miles west of Iowa Park at 5:43 pm and baseball size hail occurred in the Holliday area of Archer County at the same time.

Location: Archer, Wichita and Clay Counties
4/10 5:50 pm - 47 1320 42 1740 8 0 Tornado

The tornado began of the southwest flank of thunderstorm #3 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 JCPenney store collapsed while other stores sustained light to moderate damage. No one was killed and only several major injuries occurred among the appoximately 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 Highway 281, the twister then struck the Sun Valley neighborhood and destroyed additional homes, apartments, and businesses on the south side of Highway 287. A large number of cars were smashed and some people were killed along 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 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 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 $400,000,000 (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 most damaging single tornado in history (as of 1979) continued into Clay County, resulting in no deaths, but 40 additional injuries. About $15,000,000 of damage occurred as the tornado destroyed homes immediately south of 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 thunderstorm #3. Also, tornado survivors said that some golf ball 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.



USA.gov is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.