1997 Central Texas tornado outbreak

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1997 Central Texas tornado outbreak
WSR-88D imagery of storms across Central Texas at 3:40 pm (CDT) on May 27, 1997
Date of tornado outbreak: May 27, 1997
Duration1: 6 hours, 2 minutes
Maximum rated tornado2: F5 tornado
Tornadoes caused: 20 confirmed
Highest winds: 121 mph (194 km/h)
(at Kelly Air Force Base)
Largest hail: 4.50 in (114 mm)
(in Bell and Falls counties)
Damages: >$126.6 million (1997 USD)
Fatalities: 28
Areas affected: Central Texas

1Time from first tornado to last tornado
2Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita Scale

The 1997 Central Texas tornado outbreak was an unusual tornado outbreak in Central Texas which occurred on May 27, 1997. The F5 tornado that struck the town of Jarrell, Texas killed 27 people out of 1319 residents.[1] The tornado was 3/4 of a mile (1.2 km) wide and tracked across the ground for 7.6 miles (12.2 km).[2] Double Creek Estates, a subdivision of Jarrell, was literally wiped off the face of the earth with all 38 homes and several mobile homes destroyed.[2]

Meteorological synopsis[edit]

In the early morning hours of May 27, a large mesoscale convective complex developed over Eastern Oklahoma and Western Arkansas. A "gravity wave" or outflow boundary was generated by this system and stalled out over Central Texas. This was oriented from the northeast to the southwest, causing the movement of the supercells later on to be to the southwest, along with most of the tornadoes, which is extremely unusual. Also unusual on this day was the low wind shear and extreme instability.[2]

Confirmed tornadoes[edit]

Confirmed
Total
Confirmed
F0
Confirmed
F1
Confirmed
F2
Confirmed
F3
Confirmed
F4
Confirmed
F5
20 6 6 3 3 1 1
List of confirmed tornadoes – Tuesday, May 27, 1997[nb 1]
F# Location County Start Coord. Time (UTC) Path length Max width Damage[nb 2] Summary Refs
F2 W of Lorena McLennan 31°23′N 97°19′W / 31.38°N 97.32°W / 31.38; -97.32 (Lorena (May 27, F2)) 1821 – 1833 70002000000000000002 mi (3.2 km) 700175000000000000075 yd (69 m) $75,000 Several large trees were uprooted and a mobile home was destroyed. [3]
F0 Eddy area McLennan 31°18′N 97°15′W / 31.30°N 97.25°W / 31.30; -97.25 (Eddy (May 27, F0)) 1844 – 1847 69992000000000000000.2 mi (0.32 km) 700140000000000000040 yd (37 m) N/A Tornado reported by sheriff deputy caused no damage. [4]
F3 E of Moody McLennan, Bell 31°16′N 97°21′W / 31.27°N 97.35°W / 31.27; -97.35 (Moody (May 27, F3)) 1846 – 1859 70003700000000000003.7 mi (6.0 km) 7002150000000000000150 yd (140 m) $150,000 A home and a barn were destroyed after the tornado initially touched down in open terrain. Two vehicles were also displaced by several hundred feet, and numerous trees were uprooted. [5][6]
F0 WNW of Belton Bell 31°05′N 97°32′W / 31.08°N 97.53°W / 31.08; -97.53 (Belton (May 27, F0)) 1916 – 1927 69992000000000000000.2 mi (0.32 km) 700150000000000000050 yd (46 m) N/A Weak tornado remained stationary for much of its existence before dissipating. [7]
F3 N of Belton Bell 31°10′N 97°28′W / 31.17°N 97.47°W / 31.17; -97.47 (Belton (May 27, F3)) 1927 – 1945 70001399999999999991.4 mi (2.3 km) 7002275000000000000275 yd (251 m) $900,000 A marina was destroyed on the northern shores of Lake Belton, with over 100 boats capsizing. Ten homes along the same shore sustained severe damage, and a number of trees were destroyed. [8]
F1 SW of Belton Bell 31°01′N 97°32′W / 31.02°N 97.53°W / 31.02; -97.53 (Belton (May 27, F1)) 1950 – 1958 69992000000000000000.2 mi (0.32 km) 700140000000000000040 yd (37 m) N/A Brief tornado with unknown damage. [9]
F1 Blooming Grove area Navarro 32°06′N 96°43′W / 32.10°N 96.72°W / 32.10; -96.72 (Blooming Grove (May 27, F1)) 2005 – 2010 69995000000000000000.5 mi (0.80 km) 700150000000000000050 yd (46 m) N/A Brief tornado uprooted several large trees. [10]
F1 NW of Prairie Dell Bell 30°54′N 97°35′W / 30.90°N 97.58°W / 30.90; -97.58 (Prairie Dell (May 27, F1)) 2007 – 2025 70002400000000000002.4 mi (3.9 km) 7002100000000000000100 yd (91 m) $20,000 Initially stationary tornado that began to quickly track towards the south-southwest, destroying trees and damage several structures. [11]
F2 N of Jarrell Williamson 30°50′N 97°37′W / 30.83°N 97.62°W / 30.83; -97.62 (Jarrell (May 27, F2)) 2025 – 2033 70002000000000000002 mi (3.2 km) 7002200000000000000200 yd (180 m) N/A First of two tornadoes that preceded the Jarrell F5 tornado. [12]
F2 NW of Jarrell Williamson 30°49′N 97°37′W / 30.82°N 97.62°W / 30.82; -97.62 (Jarrell (May 27, F2)) 2035 – 2039 69995000000000000000.5 mi (0.80 km) 7002150000000000000150 yd (140 m) N/A Second of two tornadoes that preceded the Jarrell F5 tornado; classified as a multi-vortex tornado. [13]
F1 S of Dawson Navarro 31°52′N 96°43′W / 31.87°N 96.72°W / 31.87; -96.72 (Dawson (May 27, F1)) 2036 – 2040 69995000000000000000.5 mi (0.80 km) 700150000000000000050 yd (46 m) N/A Brief tornado uprooted large trees. [14]
F5 W of Jarrell Williamson 30°46′N 97°37′W / 30.77°N 97.62°W / 30.77; -97.62 (Jarrell (May 27, F5)) 2040 – 2053 70005099999999999995.1 mi (8.2 km) 7002650000000000000650 yd (590 m) $40.1 million 27 deaths – See section on this tornado [15]
F0 SW of Hubbard Hill 31°49′N 96°50′W / 31.82°N 96.83°W / 31.82; -96.83 (Hubbard (May 27, F0)) 2050 – 2053 69992000000000000000.2 mi (0.32 km) 700140000000000000040 yd (37 m) N/A Brief tornado caused no damage [16]
F3 N of Cedar Park Williamson, Travis 30°33′N 97°49′W / 30.55°N 97.82°W / 30.55; -97.82 (Cedar Park (May 27, F3)) 2105 – 2115 70009199999999999999.2 mi (14.8 km) 7002200000000000000200 yd (180 m) $70.1 million See section on this tornado [17][18]
F1 NW of Four Points Travis 30°24′N 97°51′W / 30.40°N 97.85°W / 30.40; -97.85 (Four Points (May 27, F0)) 2115 – 2115 69992000000000000000.2 mi (0.32 km) 700120000000000000020 yd (18 m) $5,000 Brief tornado with minimal damage. [19]
F4 W of Lakeway Travis 30°22′N 98°01′W / 30.37°N 98.02°W / 30.37; -98.02 (Lakeway (May 27, F4)) 2150 – 2150 70005599999999999995.6 mi (9.0 km) 7002440000000000000440 yd (400 m) $15 million 1 death – See section on this tornado [19]
F1 N of Kyle Hays 30°01′N 97°52′W / 30.02°N 97.87°W / 30.02; -97.87 (Kyle (May 27, F1)) 2238 – 2245 70003500000000000003.5 mi (5.6 km) 700160000000000000060 yd (55 m) $5,000 Trees and power lines were knocked over. [20]
F0 S of Utopia Uvalde 29°31′N 99°32′W / 29.52°N 99.53°W / 29.52; -99.53 (Utopia (May 27, F0)) 0000 – 0003 69992000000000000000.2 mi (0.32 km) 700120000000000000020 yd (18 m) N/A Tornado remained over open country. [21]
F0 NW of Sisterdale Kendall 29°59′N 98°45′W / 29.98°N 98.75°W / 29.98; -98.75 (Sisterdale (May 27, F0)) 0030 – 0032 69997000000000000000.7 mi (1.1 km) 700130000000000000030 yd (27 m) N/A Tornado remained over open country. [22]
F0 NE of Moore Frio 29°04′N 99°00′W / 29.07°N 99.00°W / 29.07; -99.00 (Moore (May 27, F0)) 0120 – 0123 70001000000000000001 mi (1.6 km) 700140000000000000040 yd (37 m) N/A Tornado remained over open country. [23]

F-5 Jarrell tornado[edit]

House foundation swept clean by the tornado at the Double Creek Estates.

Initially a weak pencil-like tornado near the Bell-Williamson County line, the funnel rapidly intensified into a 3/4 mile wide multi-vortex storm at around 3:45 pm CDT. Its first damage occurred three minutes later at 3:48 pm CDT in the northwestern portion of Jarrell striking Double Creek Estates, sweeping away the entire neighborhood. It moved to the south-west, which is unusual for tornadoes in North America. It later entered a wooded area before dissipating after damaging numerous trees.[2] Another unusual feature of this tornado is that there was no clear "hook echo" in the radar, which is usually visible in strong tornadoes. Grass and soil in fields near Jarrell were ripped out of the ground to a depth of 18 in (46 cm), reducing lush fields of grass into wide expanses of mud. When the tornado crossed county roads outside Jarrell, it tore a 500-foot (152 m) length of asphalt from the roads.[2] About 40 structures were completely destroyed by the tornado and dozens of vehicles were rendered unrecognizable after being thrown great distances, some more than half a mile. Some of the vehicles were pulverized into many pieces and strewn across fields, and others were simply never found.[24] A steel frame recycling plant was completely obliterated, with nothing left of the structure but the foundation and a few mangled steel beams. Telephone poles in the area were snapped off at the base and splintered, and trees in the area were completely shredded and debarked.[24] Many researchers, after reviewing aerial damage photographs of Double Creek Estates, considered the Jarrell storm to be the most violent tornado, in terms of damage intensity, that they had ever seen.[25] Many of the homes in the tornado's path were well-constructed and bolted to their foundations, but the tornado left only the slab foundations, and there was no debris left throughout most of the area.[26] The debris from the destroyed homes was finely granulated into small fragments, and scattered for long distances across the countyside. Several entire families were killed in the tornado, including all five members of the Igo family and all four members of the Moehring family.[27] The tornado's slow movement combined with the high winds is the reason why the tornado was so destructive. The tornado also picked up a lot of loose soil, giving it a sandblasting effect on the houses. Only one person was seriously injured and less than a dozen people suffered minor injuries after the tornado, a testament to the small probability of survival in the Double Creek neighborhood.[28]

There were 27 human fatalities in the Double Creek subdivision. In addition, about 300 cattle were killed by the storm. About 10 minutes prior to the main event, eyewitnesses spotted additional tornadoes north and west of Jarrell.[29]

F-3 Cedar Park Tornado[edit]

Around the same time as the Jarrell Tornado, another strong tornado formed about 30 miles south in Cedar Park. The tornado formed about 3 miles north of the city causing widespread F-0 and F-1 damage. The tornado continued south until it reached the central business district where it did extensive damage to an Albertson's Supermarket destroying most of the store and severely injuring one person. The manager had put majority of the customers in the walk-in freezers, saving their lives. The tornado then continued south-southwest towards the Buttercup Creek subdivision where the tornado caused damage to 136 homes, all suffering between F-1 to F-3 damage. The tornado caused one indirect fatality, a man that died of a heart attack as he waited out the storm in his truck. The tornado then continued to move more southwest and finally dissipated about 1.1 miles away from the northern shore of Lake Travis. The tornado traveled 9.2 miles and had a maximum width of 250 yards

F-4 Lake Travis Tornado[edit]

About 45 minutes after the Cedar Park and Jarrell tornadoes, another strong tornado formed on the southern shore of Lake Travis. The tornado rapidly intensified to an F-3 tornado, causing damage to a marina on shore. Then it increased to F-4 intensity, severely damaging a reinforced building containing a telephone switch center and completely destroying a stone house, only leaving the foundation slab behind. The tornado then headed south for a brief period before turning southwest then turning west-southwest, heading towards the Hazy Hills subdivision in the Pedernales Valley in western Travis County. The tornado damaged the subdivision, causing mostly F-3 damage to 45 homes with some of those completely destroyed, showing F-4 damage. This tornado killed one person as he tried to outrun the storm. The tornado then exited the subdivision and dissipating after travelling 5.6 miles with a maximum width of 440 yards.

Overpass Traffic Jam[edit]

Numerous vehicles sought shelter underneath various overpasses as the tornado formed and strengthened, turning Interstate 35 into a virtual parking lot. Texas Highway Patrol worsened the traffic jam by stopping both northbound and southbound traffic in anticipation of the tornado moving southeastward and crossing the highway. Had the tornado abruptly changed direction, the death toll could have been much higher as nearly five miles of traffic and hundreds of people were trapped on the highway with no route of escape. However, the tornado moved parallel to Interstate 35 for nearly its entire lifespan in a south-southwestward direction, a very rare occurrence.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ All dates are based on the local time zone where the tornado touched down; however, all times are in Coordinated Universal Time for consistency.
  2. ^ All damage totals are in 2014 USD unless otherwise stated.

References[edit]

  1. ^ May 27, 1997 Severe Weather Event - National Weather Service Forecast Office - WFO, Austin/San Antonio, Texas
  2. ^ a b c d e http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/assessments/pdfs/jarrell.pdf
  3. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado West of Lorena, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  4. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado Near Eddy, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  5. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado East of Moody, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  6. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado Northwest of Troy, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  7. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado West-Northwest of Belton, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  8. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado North of Belton, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  9. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado Southwest of Belton, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  10. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado Near Blooming Grove, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  11. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado Northwest of Prairie Dell, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  12. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado North of Jarrell, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  13. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado Northwest of Jarrell, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  14. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado South of Dawson, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  15. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado West of Jarrell, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  16. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado Southwest of Hubbbard, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  17. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado North of Cedar Park, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  18. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado Northwest of Four Points, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  19. ^ a b National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado Northwest of Four Points, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  20. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado North of Kyle, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  21. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado South of Utopia, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  22. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado Northwest of Sisterdale, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  23. ^ National Climatic Data Center. "Storm Event Report for Tornado Northeast of Moore, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  24. ^ a b http://extremeplanet.me/2012/06/26/aerial-damage-from-the-f5-jarrell-tornado-the-most-intense-tornado-damage-ever-photographed/
  25. ^ [1]
  26. ^ Jarrell, Texas Tornado Damage - May 27, 1997
  27. ^ [2]
  28. ^ [3]
  29. ^ NCDC: Event Details

External links[edit]