The 10 Worst Tornadoes in the History of Texas

Tornadoes, also known as twisters, are a natural event that can cause catastrophic devastation. Although watching a tornado from a distance is a fascinating sight, being in the path of a tornado is something that anybody would try to avoid. Unfortunately, many people live in areas that are regularly hit by tornadoes during tornado season, and some places are more affected by these than others. One state that has been hit many times by tornadoes is Texas, as this state lies in a part of the United States known as Tornado Alley because of the number of tornadoes that have hit the area. While some of these have caused minimal damage, others have caused millions of dollars in damage and led to multiple injuries and fatalities. Here are the 10 worst tornadoes in the history of Texas.

10. The Jarrell Tornado in 1997 – 27 Fatalities

According to Weather.gov, the tenth worst tornado in Texas was the Jarrell tornado that hit the state on May 27, 1997. This was the last confirmed F5 tornado to hit Texas, and it killed 27 people and injured a further 12. Hundreds of cattle were also killed in this devastating event, and 40 homes were destroyed. This was an unusual tornado as its path headed south-southwest. It led to the revival of studies into the role that gravity waves play in the initiation of thunderstorms.

9. The Saragosa Tornado in 1987 – 30 Fatalities

Touching down two miles from Saragosa on May 22, 1987, this tornado killed 30 residents and injured 121 more. It measured half a mile wide and destroyed 80 percent of the town. It traveled for more than three miles before the devastation came to an end. Many of those killed were attending a graduation ceremony at Guadalupe Hall. They were predominantly parents who had tried to shelter their children.

8. The Zephyr Tornado in 1909 – 34 Fatalities

On May 30, 1909, the Zephyr tornado touched down close to the town of Zephyr. It began just before midnight and had destroyed three large sections of Zephyr by the early hours of the morning. The majority of the 34 deaths caused by this F4 tornado were in the residential areas of the east and south areas of the town. A further 70 people were injured. 70 homes, two churches, several businesses and a high school were destroyed by this tornado. Very little is known about the path of this tornado, only that it was the eighth worst tornado in the history of Texas.

7. The Karnes-Dewitt Tornado in 1930 – 36 Fatalities

This tornado occurred on May 06, 1930 which was the same day as the Frost tornado. However, these were two separate events. The tornado touched down approximately three miles from Kennedy in Karnes County and moved east-northeast towards Runge and close to Nordheim. There were numerous poorly constructed homes along the path of the F4 tornado, and these offered very little protection to those inside. Therefore, the damage was significant. 36 people were killed and a further 70 were injured. Almost all the structures in the path of the tornado were destroyed, leaving many people homeless following this natural disaster.

6. The Frost Tornado in 1930 – 41 Fatalities

This tornado also took place on May 06, 1930 but was a separate tornado to the Karnes-Dewitt tornado. Of the two, the Frost tornado was the worst as 41 people were killed and 200 were injured. It first touched down in Bynum in Hill County, and then travelled across Navarro County. 25 of the fatalities lived in the town of Frost, hence the name of this tornado.

5. The Wichita Falls Tornado in 1979 – 42 Fatalities

This tornado is one of the most famous to have hit Texas due to the significance of the damage it caused. 42 people were killed, but a staggering 1700 were injured. 20,000 people were left homeless as the tornado destroyed more than 3000 homes. It also caused significant damage to many important structures, such as the Memorial Stadium and McNeil Junior High.

4. The Glazier-Higgins-Woodward Tornadoes in 1947 – 68 Fatalities

Texas Hill County says that this tornado traveled across three states. It began in Texas on April 9, 1947, and measured more than a mile wide. Although the number of fatalities in Texas was 68, the tornado killed 181 people and injured 970 people across all three states.

3. The Rocksprings Tornado in 1927 – 74 Fatalities

It came as a surprise when this tornado hit Texas on April 12, 1927, because the area that it hit is well south of Tornado Alley. The F5 tornado touched down just miles from Rocksprings in Edwards County and measured almost one mile across. In addition to killing 74 people, this tornado also injured 205, which was approximately one-third of the population in the area where the tornado struck. Originally, the town had 247 buildings, but 235 of these were destroyed in the tornado.

2. The Goliad Tornado in 1902 – 144 Fatalities

With 144 fatalities, this Tornado was equally as devastating as the tornado that ranks in the first position. However, it caused 250 injuries, which is significantly less than the Waco tornado. For this reason, the Goliad tornado ranks in the second position. This event took place on May 18, 1902, and it first touched down close to Berclair. The F4 tornado was an eighth of a mile wide and hundreds of buildings were destroyed.

1. The Waco Tornado in 1953 – 144 Fatalities

The worst tornado in the history of Texas is the Waco tornado, which occurred on May 11, 1953. According to Wikipedia, 144 people were killed and 597 people were injured. The tornado damaged more than 1000 homes, with 600 of these destroyed. It was one-third of a mile wide and it ripped up 2000 vehicles in its path. Some of the survivors of this event had to wait for more than 14 hours for rescue. Many had no home to which they could return.


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