Worst Tornadoes in Texas: Historys Deadliest Storms

June 4, 2024

Texas, frequently associated with its severe weather conditions, has a long history of experiencing devastating tornadoes. These natural disasters have left significant imprints on its landscape and communities. Here, we delve into some of the deadliest tornadoes in Texas history.

The Waco Tornado - May 11, 1953

Historical Significance

The Waco tornado remains the deadliest tornado in Texas history.

Details

Struck shortly after 4 pm, on the day after Mother's Day.

Path & Impact

Touched down near Lorena, moved North-Northeast toward Waco, crossing the town from south to north.

Casualties

114 deaths, 597 injuries.

Destruction

Destroyed around 600 homes/buildings, damaged over 1,000 structures and 2,000 vehicles. Some survivors waited up to 14 hours for rescue.

The Goliad Tornado - May 18, 1902

Historical Context

The Goliad tornado is the second deadliest tornado in Texas history, sharing the same death toll as the Waco tornado but with fewer injuries.

Details

It touched down near Berclair and moved northeast toward Goliad.

Destruction in Town

Primarily devastated the west part of Goliad, destroying hundreds of buildings.

Casualties

114 deaths, 250 injuries.

The Rocksprings Tornado - April 12, 1927

Details

Occurring south of Tornado Alley, the tornado touched down northwest of Rocksprings and moved southeast, spanning nearly a mile wide.

Impact on Rocksprings

It destroyed 235 of 247 buildings in the town, injuring or killing nearly a third of the population.

Casualties

74 deaths, 205 injuries.

Path Length

The tornado continued southeast for at least 35 miles, possibly up to 65 miles.

"A tornado damaged home in Forney, Texas" by Matthew T Rader is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/.

The Glazier-Higgins-Woodward Tornadoes - April 9, 1947

Multi-state Path

The tornadoes moved through Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

Scale & Path

With a funnel 1-2 miles wide, they destroyed the towns of Glazier and Higgins in Texas.

Casualties

17 deaths in Glazier, 51 in Higgins; the total across three states was 181 deaths and 970 injuries.

The Wichita Falls Tornado - April 10, 1979

Infamous Tornado

This tornado is known for its broad impact and high casualties.

Path & Damage

It touched down near Holliday, moving northeast through Wichita Falls, damaging key structures and homes.

Casualties & Homelessness

42 deaths (25 vehicle-related), over 1,700 injuries, destroyed over 3,000 homes, and left 20,000 people homeless.

Scale

The tornado reached 1.5 miles at its widest point.

The Frost Tornado - May 6, 1930

Path & Impact

The tornado touched down near Bynum, crossed several counties, causing extensive damage.

Casualties

41 deaths, over 200 injuries.

The Karnes-Dewitt Tornado - May 6, 1930

Crossed Counties

The tornado moved through Karnes, Runge, and Nordheim.

Impact

The high casualties were due to weakly constructed homes.

Casualties

36 deaths, 60 injuries.

The Zephyr Tornado - May 30, 1909

Time & Impact

Forming near midnight, the tornado destroyed much of the town of Zephyr.

Casualties

34 deaths, 70 injuries.

Destruction

Extensive damage to homes, businesses, churches, and a high school.

The Saragosa Tornado - May 22, 1987

Impact on Saragosa

The tornado destroyed 80% of the town.

Casualties

30 deaths, 121 injuries; the high casualty rate resulted from the tornado striking during a children's graduation ceremony.

Scale

It was 1/2 mile wide.

The Jarrell Tornado - May 27, 1997

Significance

This was the last confirmed F5 tornado in Texas.

Path & Study

It followed an unusual south-southwest path, leading to studies on gravity waves.

Casualties

27 deaths, 12 injuries.

Destruction

Over 40 homes were completely destroyed, some wiped from their foundations.

Animal Casualties

Hundreds of cattle were killed.

Comparative Analysis

While each of these tornadoes varied in path, scale, and impact, their destructive power underscores the necessity for improved weather prediction measures and stronger building codes. High-intensity tornadoes, categorized as F4 or F5, tend to result in higher fatalities and more extensive damage, revealing the importance of preparedness and resilient construction.

The human stories of survival, loss, and resilience define the legacy of these natural disasters. It is through these narratives and the lessons learned that communities can better prepare for future tornadoes, aiming to minimize casualties and destruction.

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Tornado Dave is the best place to learn more about severe weather and climate science. He's a veritable tornado of information, and he loves nothing more than educating others about the importance of being prepared for extreme weather events. Make sure to check in with Tornado Dave often, as he's always updating his blog with the latest news and information!
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