Deadliest Tornadoes in Texas History

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Tony Maples Photography


Tornadoes can be fascinating to see from a distance, in a picture, far away from the storm. However, if you have ever had to deal first hand with a twister, you know that things can turn deadly at the blink of an eye and the losses that incur can be devastating. Take a step back in time to take a look at twelve of the deadliest tornadoes that took place right here in Texas.

12. The Lubbock Tornado, May 11, 1970

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Making NOAA’s Honorable Mention list, this deadly F5 tornado ripped through Lubbock, killing 26 people and injuring 500. It destroyed over 1,000 homes and apartments, 10,000 vehicles, and over 100 aircraft.

11. The Jarrell Tornado, May 27, 1997

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This F5 tornado took a strange path while unleashing chaos on Jarrell, TX. Instead of moving eastwardly, it moved south-southwest destroying more than 40 homes. The storm killed 27 people and injured 12. Farmers lost 100s of heads of cattle as a result of the storm.

10. The Saragosa Tornado, May 22, 1987

Deadliest TornadoesPhoto: Storyboard & Script

Measuring at a half a mile wide, this F4 tornado destroyed over 80% of the town. There were a total of 30 fatalities, 22 of which took place at a children’s graduation ceremony in Guadalupe Hall. There were 121 residents left injured.

9. The Zephyr Tornado, May 30, 1909

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This F4 tornado snuck up on residents close to midnight, destroying a good portion of this town. 34 people were killed and 70 were injured. 50 homes were destroyed as were 6 businesses, 2 churches, and a high school.

8. The Karnes-Dewitt Tornado, May 6, 1930

Deadliest TornadoesPhoto: Dave Hickey

Occurring the same day as the infamous Frost tornado, this F4 tornado ripped apart a good number of poorly constructed homes and killed 36 people. In addition, there were 60 people injured.

7. The Frost Tornado, May 6, 1930

Deadliest TornadoesPhoto: Blues All Kinds

Crossing into several counties, this F4 tornado was determined to destroy, killing a total of 41 people and injuring 200 during its journey. The tornado touched down in Hill County near Bynum, crossed into Navarro County where it demolished the town of Frost, then moved onward to Ellis County where it struck Ennis.

6. The Wichita Falls Tornado, April 10, 1979

Deadliest TornadoesPhoto: Research History

One of the most massive F4 tornadoes in history, the Wichita Falls tornado tore through the city with a path that reached a mile and a half wide. It began its journey in Holliday, move northeast to Wichita Falls, crossed Highway 287 and the Red River, then moved into Oklahoma. The storm killed 42 people, injured 1,700, and left 20,000 people homeless.

5. The Glazier-Wiggins-Woodward Tornadoes, April 9, 1947

Deadliest TornadoesPhoto: Amarillo Globe News

With a varying width of 1-2 miles wide and crossing three states, it’s no wonder this twister is considered one of the deadliest tornadoes in Texas history. Its path began in Texas, five miles northwest of Pampa, then moved into Oklahoma, and finally into Kansas. Before it moved into Oklahoma, the twister tore through the towns of Glazier and Higgins, killing 68 people and injuring 272. The death toll across all three states was 181, and there were 970 people left injured.

4. The Sherman Tornado, May 15, 1896

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Estimated to have had winds of over 260 mph, this F5 tornado completely uprooted the town of Sherman, making this one of the deadliest tornadoes reported prior to 1900. This tornado took the lives of 73 people. The Houston Street Bridge was demolished, most of the homes were destroyed, and the trunk lid of a car was found 35 miles away.

3. The Rocksprings Tornado, April 12, 1927

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This F5 tornado ended the lives 74 people and injured 205. This was nearly a third of the town’s population. Out of the town’s 247 buildings, 235 were destroyed by the twister’s mile-wide path. It is estimated the stormed continued on for nearly 65 miles.

2. The Goliad Tornado, May 18,1902

Deadliest TornadoesPhoto: Timothy Hughes Rare and Early Newspapers

The Goliad tornado seemed to have a case of “little man syndrome”. It was a small tornado, only an eighth of a mile wide, but don’t let its size fool you. The F4 twister killed 114 people, injured 250, and destroyed 100s of buildings, making this one of the Texas’ deadliest tornadoes.

1. The Waco Tornado, May 11, 1953

Deadliest TornadoesPhoto: Houston Chronicle

Can you imagine having to wait 14 hours to be rescued? That’s exactly what happened to Waco residents on the day after Mother’s Day in 1953 when an F5 tornado set its sights on the city of Waco. The path of the twister was a third of a mile wide, destroying 600 homes and buildings, damaged 1,000 more, and around 2,000 vehicles. 114 people died this day, and 597 were injured.