Tornadoes touch down in Oklahoma

A tornado touches down near El Reno, Okla., on Friday, May 31, 2013, causing damage to structures and injuring travelers on Interstate 40.

Omaha World Herald | Chris Machian

TEMPLE — A tornado can be spawned at any place, anytime of day, anytime of the year. However, March is considered the start of tornado season in Texas.

Tornadoes are the most violent of all atmospheric storms, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Central Texas is included in what is routinely called Tornado Alley, which runs north to northern Iowa and from central Kansas and Nebraska east to western Ohio. It is an area where super cells routinely form and often produce EF2 or larger tornadoes, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

Very few tornadoes happen in the morning, but usually happen from 2 to 7 p.m. in Tornado Alley, according to weather experts.

Texas has had its share of deadly tornadoes, with Waco, Goliad, Rocksprings and the Tri-State tornado topping the list, according to NOAA.

The 10 deadliest tornadoes all happened in April and May.

The Waco tornado was May 11, 1953. It struck just after 4 p.m. on the day after Mother’s Day, according to the National Weather Service. It moved north-northeast and was almost one-third mile wide. It was an F5 tornado that killed 114 people and injured 597. The tornado destroyed about 600 homes and buildings. Some survivors waited up to 14 hours to be rescued.

The Goliad tornado on May 18, 1902, killed 114 people and injured 250. It touched down just before 4 p.m. and moved northeast. It was about one-eighth of a mile wide and was an F4 tornado.

The F5 Rocksprings tornado happened April 12, 1927. It was nearly a mile wide as it crossed Rocksprings, killing 74 people and injuring 205 — about one-third of the town’s population.

The fourth deadliest tornado moved into western Oklahoma and died out near St. Leo, Kan. It was part of a group of twisters and it touched down five miles northwest of Pampa and ran almost parallel to U.S. Highway 60. The funnel was reported to be between one and two miles wide.

It destroyed Glazier and most of Higgins, killing 17 and injuring 40 in Glazier and killing 51 and injuring 232 people in Higgins. By the time the death count was tallied for the three states, 181 people died and 970 were injured.

Closer to home, the Jarrell tornado on May 27, 1997, came in 10th on the list of deadliest tornadoes. This tornado was unusual because it moved from south to southwest. It killed 27 people and injured 12. More than 40 homes were destroyed and some were completely removed from their foundations.

Texas tornado statistics

Texas comes in first in tornado-caused damage, according to, a database that provides statistical comparisons of the states. According to the database, Texas experiences almost $2 billion annually in tornado damage.

When compared by frequency per square mile through 1995, Texas ranked 10th in frequency, 16th in fatalities and 21st in injuries.

About 132 tornadoes happen every year in Texas, according to the Texas Almanac. A total of 8,007 funnel clouds reached the ground in Texas between 1951 and 2011.

Texas came in 11th in the United States in the density of tornadoes, with an average of 5.7 tornadoes per 10,000 square miles per year.

The largest tornado outbreak came with Hurricane Beulah in September 1967, according to the Texas State Historical Association. During a five-day period, 115 tornadoes were recorded. On Sept. 20, 67 tornadoes were reported — a single-day record in Texas.

The Historical Association also recorded the following data:

  • Most tornadoes in single month — 124 in September 1967.
  • Most tornadoes in single year — 232 in 1967; second highest was in 2005, with 223 tornadoes.
  • Worst outbreak in spring — 1982 with 123 tornadoes in May.
  • Highest number of tornadoes per month — May with 39.38.

Weather warnings

A tornado watch means to watch the sky because weather conditions are favorable for tornadoes, said Thomas Pechal, Temple Fire & Rescue spokesman.

Meteorologists from the NOAA Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., issue such notifications, as well as tornado warnings.

A tornado warning means one has been sighted on or near the ground, Pechal said.

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