Late-May 1957 tornado outbreak

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Late-May 1957 tornado outbreak
TypeTornado outbreak
DurationMay 24–25, 1957
Tornadoes confirmed37 confirmed[1]
Max rating1F4 tornado
Duration of tornado outbreak225 hours
DamageUnknown (at least $650,000)
Areas affectedCentral and Western Great Plains
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale 2Time from first tornado to last tornado

The late-May 1957 tornado outbreak occurred from eastern New Mexico to Oklahoma, western Arkansas, southern Kansas, eastern Colorado, and southeastern Wyoming on May 24–25, 1957. 37 tornadoes touched down over the area, most of which took place across northern and western Texas, in addition to southern Oklahoma. The strongest tornado was rated at F4 status south of Lawton. Unusually, some tornadoes touched down during the early morning hours, whereas most Plains tornadic systems are nocturnal.[2] Four deaths were attributed to the tornadic activity. The tornado outbreak was related to the arrival of a strong shortwave trough.[3]

Meteorological synopsis[edit]

An upper-level trough moved over the central United States. Subsequently, a tornado outbreak took place over portions of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Oklahoma on May 20. Cold upper air temperatures and marginal low level moisture produced severe weather across the southern and central Great Plains. On May 21, this shortwave trough and a deep surface low produced an additional violent (F4)[1] tornado in Minnesota, while tornadoes killed 15 people in Missouri. On May 22, another area of low pressure was centered over southwest Oklahoma in attendance with a front, which extended from central New Mexico to Missouri. A weakening Pacific cold front dissipated near Del Rio. In Texas, low-level moisture, originating from the Gulf of Mexico, remained abundant during the four days that preceded the May 24 outbreak.[2] Eventually, lifted index values increased to -10, which correlated with surface-based CAPE values near 3,500 j/kg.[3] On May 23, dewpoints rose across western Texas, and temperatures reached 77°F in the warm sector. On May 24, high moisture levels surged into southeastern New Mexico on both sides of a warm front. A new surface low-pressure area also developed over New Mexico.[1][2] Later, fog developed northward to Amarillo, in tandem with exceptionally high dew points. The tornadoes that occurred formed along and just north of the warm front.[2]

Confirmed tornadoes[edit]

37 5 10 11 7 3 1 0

May 24[edit]

List of confirmed tornadoes
Time (UTC)
Path length
New Mexico
F2 E of Melrose to SE of Bellview Curry 1100 36.5 miles (58.7 km) This tornado may have developed between 3:30–4:30 a.m. (MST),[2] though it was first noted at 5:00 a.m. MST. It may have formed in Roosevelt County. Some barns were destroyed. This event may have consisted of a sequential series of tornadoes; therefore, it may have constituted a tornado family. At least six funnels may have been involved.[4]
F2 S of Bovina to Bushland area Parmer, Delta, Randall, Potter 1630[4] 70.1 miles (112.8 km) Buildings were destroyed on the grounds of eight farms near Friona, and homes near Black were also damaged. Funnel clouds instigated traffic accidents in Hereford, injuring three people. Several funnels were reported from Clovis, New Mexico, to the Amarillo area.[4]
F0 N of Enochs Bailey 1719 0.5 miles (0.80 km) Rural power poles and electrical wires sustained damage.[5]
F0 Hereford area Deaf Smith 1730 1 mile (1.6 km) The tornado was originally observed near Hereford, where it produced no damage.[5] A separate funnel cloud was observed northwest of Wildorado around 11:17 a.m. (1717 UTC). The funnel may have also developed in Death Smith County. The sighting occurred in rural areas.[2]
F3 Olton area Lamb 1838 1.9 miles (3.1 km) 77 homes were destroyed in Olton. The southern section of the town received the most severe damage. Rural farm buildings, located southwest and northeast of Olton, were also destroyed. Three injuries were attributed to the tornado; however, residents were informed by advance warnings.[4]
F3 Tahoka area to NE of Ralls Lynn, Lubbock, Crosby 1900 37.3 miles (60.0 km) Roof damage affected 100 buildings in Tahoka. In Wilson four homes received damage. Buildings also incurred roof damage in the Robertson area. In Savage, twelve homes were destroyed or unroofed. Two homes and two barns were destroyed west and north of Ralls. The damage patterns suggest that the event was a tornado family. One source cites a path length of 50 miles (80 km), which differs from official records.[4]
F0 NW of Halfway[5] Hale 1900[5] 0.5 miles (0.80 km) Houses, barns, and trailers were destroyed. The tornado also caused livestock deaths. The tornado formed from the same storm that produced the Olton tornado.[4][5]
F? Cotton Center area to SW of Plainview[2] Hale 1930 10.5 miles (16.9 km) One home, located north of Cotton Center, was shifted 100 feet (30 m) off its foundation. Three homes were unroofed or destroyed near the termination of the path. Nine homes also received minor damage. Four funnel clouds were reported nearby.[4][2]
F0 W of Cliffside Potter 1950 0.3 miles (0.48 km) Brief touchdown. Continuation of the Bushland tornado family.[5]
F3 WNW of Midland to Lenorah area[4] Midland, Martin[4] 2030[4] 30 miles (48 km)[4] About 50 power poles were downed near State Highway 158. The funnel stalled for 20 minutes prior to the resumption of northeast movement. Farm houses were reportedly destroyed northwest of Stanton. In Lenorah, five homes were impacted, but only one home was destroyed. Two or three tornadoes may have been present in this tornado family.[4]
F2 NNW of Midland Martin 0028 2 miles (3.2 km) Another tornado touched down and remained over sparsely populated areas.[2] One source disputes the F2 rating.[4]
F? SW of Seymour Baylor 0230 unknown A tornado was observed to move southwest.[5]
F1 NW of Durant Bryan 1640 0.1 miles (0.16 km) 20 boat stalls and several boats were mangled.[5]
F1 S of Davidson to N of Frederick Tillman 2230 9.7 miles (15.6 km) Farms were extensively damaged. Utility lines and power poles were downed.[5]
F4 Cookietown area to SE of Lawton Cotton, Comanche 2330 21.6 miles (34.8 km) 4 deaths – Two couples were killed when their homes were destroyed. The swath of F4 damage occurred south of Lawton. About 12 homes were destroyed, and 70 cattle were killed. One car was transported for 100 yards (0.05 miles). Although the vehicle crashed in a pond, the driver was not injured.[4] The tornado completely destroyed several farms.[2] The tornado dissipated southeast of Lawton.[4]
F2 SW of Wynnewood to SE of Pink Garvin, McClain, Pottawatomie[4] 0000 30.8 miles (49.6 km) One of the outbreak's most damaging Oklahoma tornadoes affected Wynnewood and surrounding environs.[6] The tornado originated southwest of Wynnewood and destroyed one barn. Subsequently, the tornado was elevated as it passed through Wynnewood. An oil refinery experienced damage. The funnel destroyed a school, four homes, and several barns southeast of Pauls Valley. The funnel may have remained aloft until it encountered Wanette and destroyed frame buildings.[4][6] The final report of damage was a destroyed barn northwest of Macomb. Official records list a maximum intensity at F2 status, while another source claims that the tornado attained F3 intensity.[4]
F0 Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge Comanche 0200 0.1 miles (0.16 km) Tornado observed in a remote, mountainous area.[5]
F2 W of Marlow Stephens 0300 0.1 miles (0.16 km) A tornado struck the Denton community west of Marlow, killing 100 turkeys and destroying a barn and a "brooder house" on a farm. A bus was thrown into a ditch, but the passengers were uninjured. Nearby farms also reported extensive damage, and a farmhouse was destroyed.[4][5]
F1 SW of Purcell McClain 0300 0.1 miles (0.16 km) A tornado unroofed a barn, blew down trees, and damaged outbuildings on a farm.[5]
F1 Quapaw/E of Picher Ottawa 0400 1 mile (1.6 km) A tornado caused minor damage in Quapaw and destroyed a mining derrick east of Picher.[5] An EF4 tornado also hit the Picher area in 2008.
F2 Duncan area Stephens 0425 2.5 miles (4.0 km) A tornado struck downtown Duncan, breaking tree branches, almost destroying a $5,700 (1957 USD) trailer home, and damaging TV antennae.[5]
F0 NE of Morris to N of Boynton Okmulgee, Muskogee 0425 10.8 miles (17.4 km) A tornado was reported on the ground near Morris and Boynton.[5]
F0 NE of Vernon Okmulgee 0543 0.1 miles (0.16 km) A tornado was reported by highway patrol 12 miles (19 km) southeast of Henryetta.[5]
F0 SW of Checotah McIntosh 0545 0.1 miles (0.16 km) A tornado was sighted, but no damage was reported.[5]
F1 N of Yoder Goshen 2100 2.5 miles (4.0 km) Numerous funnel clouds and/or tornadoes were reported, but only one touchdown was confirmed. A tornado damaged farm buildings near Yoder and destroyed a trailer home south of Torrington.[5]
F? NW of La Junta Otero 2130 unknown A small outbuilding was lifted up and set down.[5]
F1 N of Burlington Kit Carson 2200 0.4 miles (0.64 km) A small tornado destroyed a chicken coop 9 miles (14 km) north of Burlington.[5]
F1 E of Pierce Weld 2200 4 miles (6.4 km) An empty farmhouse was destroyed, along with haystacks and farm machinery. The tornado hit 4 miles (6.4 km) east of Pierce.[5]
F1 W of Pierce Weld 2200 0.1 miles (0.16 km) An empty farmhouse was leveled. The tornado struck 1 mile (1.6 km) west of Pierce.[5]
F1 SW of Belle Plaine Sumner 2305 0.1 miles (0.16 km) A brief tornado touched down and then lifted.[5]
F0 SE of Mulvane Sumner 0400 0.1 miles (0.16 km)
F? Baxter Springs Cherokee 0400 unknown
F? WNW of Grant Perkins 0130 unknown Tornado reported.[5]
Sources: NCDC Storm Events Database, SPC Storm Data, Significant Tornadoes 1680–1991: Chronology and Analysis of Events by Thomas P. Grazulis

May 25[edit]

List of confirmed tornadoes
Time (UTC)
Path length
F2 Coleman area Johnston 0605 1 mile (1.6 km) A new school was unroofed and damage was extensive to buildings and trees. Two funnels were seen.[5]
F1 W of Lehigh Coal 0610 0.1 miles (0.16 km) A tornado destroyed sheds and damaged a house and a barn.[5]
F1 S of Steedman to Allen area[4] Pontotoc, Hughes[4] 0615 11.5 miles (18.5 km) In Allen, a single home was unroofed and one barn was destroyed. There is a disparity between the ratings of the official database and Thomas P. Grazulis' Significant Tornadoes 1680–1991, of which the latter source lists a designation at F2 intensity.[4]
F0 Hot Springs Garland 1200 0.1 miles (0.16 km) Scattered damage occurred.[5]
Sources: NCDC Storm Events Database, SPC Storm Data, Significant Tornadoes 1680–1991: Chronology and Analysis of Events by Thomas P. Grazulis

Notable tornadoes[edit]

After a six-hour gap, two tornadoes developed near Bovina and Enochs. The former tornado moved northeast across Parmer County and traveled nearly 40 miles to a point west of Amarillo. It destroyed eight farms near Friona, while storm-associated funnel clouds caused injuries near Hereford. The second tornado moved east-northeast and lifted over northern Hale County. It dismantled 77 homes near Olton and caused $650,000 (1957 USD) in damages.[2] Subsequently, four tornadoes developed over the next three hours. One tornado, sighted around 11:17 a.m. (CDT), occurred 20 miles northwest of Wildorado. It remained over rural areas and inflicted no damage.[2] Officially, this tornado was not recorded in the National Weather Service database.[1] Another tornado, touching down around 1:00 p.m. (CDT), affected Lynn County. It formed near Tahoka, where roof damage occurred. The funnel skipped north-northeast. In Wilson, four homes incurred damage. Homes were demolished in Slayton, and twelve homes were destroyed in Savage. The event, comprising a tornado family, dissipated east of Cone.[2] Officially, the event is recorded as a single tornado. The strong tornado attained F3 intensity on the Fujita scale. Eventually, tornadoes affected seven states and caused four fatalities. Additionally, at least one undocumented tornado was reported southeast and east of Midland around 6:30–7:15 p.m. (0030–0115 UTC).[2] A brief tornado also may have touched down near Moore in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, breaking tree branches and windows.[5]


  • Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1.


  1. ^ a b c d Tornado History Project. "Tornado Map". Archived from the original on 2008-11-23. Retrieved 2007-08-29.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Jonathan D. Finch. "The May 24, 1957 Tornado Outbreak". Retrieved 2007-08-29.
  3. ^ a b Jonathan D. Finch. "Historical Tornado Cases for Lubbock Warning Area". Retrieved 2009-03-14.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Grazulis, p. 1008
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab "Storm Data and Unusual Weather Phenomena". Climatological Data National Summary. Asheville, North Carolina: United States Department of Commerce. 8 (5): 165–207. May 1957.
  6. ^ a b U.S. Department of Commerce (1957). Oklahoma Climatological Data: May 1957. U.S. Weather Bureau.