1997 Central Texas tornado outbreak

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1997 Central Texas tornado outbreak
1997 Central Texas tornado outbreak radar 2048z.png
WSR-88D imagery of storms across Central Texas at 3:40 pm (CDT) on May 27, 1997
Type Tornado outbreak
Duration May 27, 1997
Tornadoes confirmed 20 confirmed
Max rating1 F5 tornado
Duration of tornado outbreak2 6 hours, 2 minutes
Highest winds
Largest hail 4.50 in (114 mm)
(in Bell and Falls counties)
Damage >$126.6 million (1997 USD)
Casualties 28 fatalities, several injuries
Areas affected Central Texas

1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale

2Time from first tornado to last tornado

The 1997 Central Texas tornado outbreak was a deadly tornado outbreak in Central Texas that occurred on May 27, 1997. The storm produced 20 total tornadoes, including multiple in the vicinity of Austin, Texas. The outbreak was particularly noteworthy for spawning the Jarrell tornado - one of the fiercest and most destructive F5 tornadoes ever recorded, which caused 27 deaths.

At its peak, the Jarrell tornado was 3/4 of a mile wide and tracked across the ground for 7.6 miles (12.2 km), inflicting beyond catastrophic damage in parts of Jarrell, Texas while killing 27 people.[1][2] All 27 deaths caused by the tornado occurred within one subdivision of Jarrell - a neighborhood called Double Creek Estates. All 38 of Double Creek Estate's well-built homes were completely dismantled, swept away, and reduced to nothing more than concrete slabs. Trees in the area were completely shredded and debarked, and grassy fields in the area were scoured to a depth of 18 inches.[2] Many tornado researchers, after reviewing aerial damage photographs of Double Creek Estates, considered the Jarrell storm to be the most violent tornado they had ever seen in terms of damage intensity.[3]

In addition to the Jarrell tornado, the May 27th outbreak produced one additional F4 tornado, three additional F3 tornadoes, and 15 tornadoes of F2 magnitude or weaker.

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 supercells and subsequent tornadoes to move from the northeast toward the southwest, which is exceptionally unusual. Also unusual on this day was the low wind shear and extreme atmospheric instability.[2]

Confirmed tornadoes[edit]

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
0 6 6 3 3 1 1 20
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 2 mi (3.2 km) 75 yd (69 m) $75,000 Several large trees were uprooted and a mobile home was destroyed. [4]
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 0.2 mi (0.32 km) 40 yd (37 m) N/A Tornado reported by sheriff deputy caused no damage. [5]
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 3.7 mi (6.0 km) 150 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. [6][7]
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 0.2 mi (0.32 km) 50 yd (46 m) N/A Weak tornado remained stationary for much of its existence before dissipating. [8]
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 1.4 mi (2.3 km) 275 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. [9]
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 0.2 mi (0.32 km) 40 yd (37 m) N/A Brief tornado with unknown damage. [10]
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 0.5 mi (0.80 km) 50 yd (46 m) N/A Brief tornado uprooted several large trees. [11]
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 2.4 mi (3.9 km) 100 yd (91 m) $20,000 Initially stationary tornado that began to quickly track towards the south-southwest, destroying trees and damage several structures. [12]
F2 N of Jarrell Williamson 30°53′05″N 97°35′38″W / 30.8848°N 97.594°W / 30.8848; -97.594 (Jarrell (May 27, F2)) 2025 – 2033 2 mi (3.2 km) 200 yd (180 m) N/A First of two tornadoes that preceded the Jarrell F5 tornado. [13]
F2 NW of Jarrell Williamson 30°52′05″N 97°36′11″W / 30.868°N 97.603°W / 30.868; -97.603 (Jarrell (May 27, F2)) 2035 – 2039 0.5 mi (0.80 km) 150 yd (140 m) N/A Second of two tornadoes that preceded the Jarrell F5 tornado; classified as a multi-vortex tornado. [14]
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 0.5 mi (0.80 km) 50 yd (46 m) N/A Brief tornado uprooted large trees. [15]
F5 W of Jarrell Williamson 30°50′24″N 97°37′05″W / 30.84°N 97.618°W / 30.84; -97.618 (Jarrell (May 27, F5)) 2040 – 2053 5.1 mi (8.2 km) 650 yd (590 m) $40.1 million 27 deaths – See section on this tornado [16]
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 0.2 mi (0.32 km) 40 yd (37 m) N/A Brief tornado caused no damage [17]
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 9.2 mi (14.8 km) 200 yd (180 m) $70.1 million See section on this tornado [18][19]
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 0.2 mi (0.32 km) 20 yd (18 m) $5,000 Brief tornado with minimal damage. [20]
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 5.6 mi (9.0 km) 440 yd (400 m) $15 million 1 death – See section on this tornado [21]
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 3.5 mi (5.6 km) 60 yd (55 m) $5,000 Trees and power lines were knocked over. [22]
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 0.2 mi (0.32 km) 20 yd (18 m) N/A Tornado remained over open country. [23]
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 0.7 mi (1.1 km) 30 yd (27 m) N/A Tornado remained over open country. [24]
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 1 mi (1.6 km) 40 yd (37 m) N/A Tornado remained over open country. [25]

F5 Jarrell tornado[edit]

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

The Jarrell tornado originally touched down as a weak pencil-like tornado near the Bell-Williamson County line. Its funnel rapidly intensified into a violent 3/4-mile-wide multi-vortex tornado at around 3:45 pm CDT.

Catastrophic damage occurred three minutes later in the northwestern portion of Jarrell. At 3:48 pm CDT it struck the Double Creek Estates neighborhood as a slow-moving wedge tornado, completely obliterating all 38 houses and killing 27 people in the neighborhood. Many of the homes in the tornado's path were well-constructed and bolted to their foundations, but the tornado left only slab foundations. The tornado was so violent that it left virtually no debris. The debris from the destroyed homes was either thrown several miles away or pulverized into small fragments and scattered for long distances across the countryside.[26] Several entire families from Double Creek Estates were killed in the tornado, including all five members of the Igo family and all four members of the Moehring family.[27] The tornado victims sustained such extreme physical trauma that recovery teams had difficulty distinguishing human remains from animal remains scattered throughout the area. Many of the human remains were never recovered at all.[28] Additionally, about 300 cattle were killed by the storm.

The tornado's very slow forward movement coupled with its extreme size were the primary factors as to why the damage it produced was so remarkably intense.

The tornado slowly moved toward the southwest, which is exceptionally uncommon for tornadoes in North America, and it eventually entered a wooded area before dissipating.[2] The tornado produced some of the most extreme ground scouring ever documented, as the earth at and around the Double Creek Estates was scoured out to a depth of 18 inches (46 cm), reducing lush fields of grass to vast expanses of mud. When the tornado crossed county roads outside of Jarrell, it tore away 500-foot (152 m) segments of asphalt from the roads.[2] About 40 total 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 blasted into many pieces and strewn across fields. Other vehicles were never found at all. Nearby vehicles that remained relatively intact were sandblasted down to their frames and completely caked with mud and grass.[29] A small-steel frame recycling facility was completely leveled, leaving nothing of the structure at all 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.[29] The tornado also picked up large amounts of loose soil as it deeply scoured the ground, producing a sandblasting effect on nearby houses and their occupants. In addition to the 27 deaths in Double Creek Estates, one person was seriously injured and less than a dozen people suffered minor injuries after the tornado.[30] It was so bad that when the sheriff came to see the damage, he didn't event think that there was anything there at all. Many researchers considered the Jarrell storm to be the most violent tornado, in terms of damage intensity, that they had ever seen.[31]

There were 27 fatalities, all in the Double Creek Estates neighborhood. Today, the neighborhood has been rebuilt, and Jarrell Memorial Park was constructed to honor the victims.

F3 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 F0 and F1 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 managers Larry Fore, Jerry Trigg and Jay Turney put the majority of the customers in the walk-in freezers, saving their lives. The tornado then continued south-southwest toward the Buttercup Creek subdivision where the tornado caused damage to 136 homes, all suffering between F1 to F3 damage. The tornado caused one indirect fatality, a man who 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

F4 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 F3 tornado, causing damage to a marina on shore. Then it increased to F4 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 F3 damage to 45 homes with some of those completely destroyed, showing F4 damage. This tornado killed one person as he tried to outrun the storm. The tornado then exited the subdivision and dissipated 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 Jarrell 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. ^ [1]
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ 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 Northwest of Four Points, 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 West of Lakeway, 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 North of Kyle, 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 South of Utopia, Texas". NCDC Storm Events Database. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  24. ^ 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. 
  25. ^ 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. 
  26. ^ Jarrell, Texas Tornado Damage - May 27, 1997
  27. ^ [2]
  28. ^ http://www.statesman.com/news/local/memories-town-and-its-tornado/cOYzIaxQ03XQRGTVHx36rO/
  29. ^ a b http://extremeplanet.me/2012/06/26/aerial-damage-from-the-f5-jarrell-tornado-the-most-intense-tornado-damage-ever-photographed/
  30. ^ [3]
  31. ^ [4]

External links[edit]