The 10 Strongest Tornadoes in Texas History

Texas, known for its vast landscapes and dynamic weather, has experienced some of the most powerful and devastating tornadoes in U.S. history. From the infamous Waco tornado of 1953 to the deadly Jarrell tornado of 1997, the Lone Star State’s encounters with these fierce natural phenomena have left indelible marks on its history. Here’s a look at the ten strongest tornadoes that have struck Texas, based on their intensity, destruction, and impact.

The 10 Strongest Tornadoes in Texas History

1. Waco Tornado (May 11, 1953)

The Waco tornado remains one of the deadliest in Texas history. This F5 tornado cut a path through downtown Waco, causing extensive damage and resulting in 114 fatalities and 597 injuries. With wind speeds estimated over 260 mph, it obliterated buildings and left a lasting scar on the community.

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2. Jarrell Tornado (May 27, 1997)

The Jarrell tornado is notorious for its extreme intensity and tragic impact. Classified as an F5, it flattened the Double Creek Estates neighborhood, causing 27 fatalities. The tornado’s slow-moving nature and incredible strength turned homes into rubble and left profound devastation in its wake.

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3. Goliad Tornado (May 18, 1902)

One of the earliest recorded deadly tornadoes in Texas, the Goliad tornado struck with little warning, killing 114 people and injuring over 200. This F4 tornado decimated much of the town, and its path of destruction underscored the vulnerability of early 20th-century communities to such violent storms.

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4. Rocksprings Tornado (April 12, 1927)

The Rocksprings tornado was an F5 storm that virtually destroyed the town. It killed 72 people and injured 205, leveling 235 of the town’s 247 buildings. The sheer force of this tornado remains a stark reminder of nature’s destructive potential.

5. Lubbock Tornado (May 11, 1970)

This F5 tornado hit Lubbock with devastating effect, resulting in 26 fatalities and over 1,500 injuries. The tornado caused approximately $250 million in damages, equivalent to nearly $1.7 billion today, making it one of the costliest tornadoes in U.S. history.

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6. Wichita Falls Tornado (April 10, 1979)

Part of the “Terrible Tuesday” outbreak, this F4 tornado caused 42 deaths and over 1,700 injuries. It inflicted massive damage on the city of Wichita Falls, destroying thousands of homes and leaving a lasting impression on Texas tornado history.

7. Tri-State Tornado (April 12, 1927)

Another catastrophic event in 1927, the Tri-State tornado wreaked havoc in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Although primarily an Oklahoma event, it started in Texas, contributing to the extensive damage and high fatality count across multiple states.

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8. Amarillo Tornado (May 15, 1949)

This F4 tornado tore through Amarillo, resulting in 7 deaths and numerous injuries. The tornado demolished homes and buildings, causing significant destruction over a large area and highlighting the severe weather risks in the Texas Panhandle.

9. San Angelo Tornado (May 11, 1953)

On the same day as the Waco tornado, San Angelo also faced an F4 tornado. This storm caused 11 deaths and extensive damage to the city, further marking May 11, 1953, as one of the most tragic days in Texas weather history.

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10. Gerald Tornado (May 29, 1982)

The Gerald tornado, an F3 storm, struck near Dallas, resulting in 9 fatalities and significant destruction. While not the most powerful on this list, its impact on the densely populated areas underscored the ongoing threat of severe weather to urban regions.

What City in Texas Has the Worst Tornadoes?

Waco is often cited as having experienced some of the worst tornadoes in Texas history, particularly due to the devastating F5 tornado in 1953 that resulted in 114 deaths and extensive damage to the city.

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What Is the Record for Tornadoes in Texas?

Texas holds the record for the most tornadoes of any state in the U.S. On average, Texas experiences around 140 tornadoes per year. The highest recorded number of tornadoes in a single year was 232 in 1967.

What Was the F4 Tornado in Texas?

The Wichita Falls tornado on April 10, 1979, was an F4 tornado that caused 42 deaths and extensive damage, particularly notable for its impact on the city and the large number of injuries and destroyed homes.

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Was the Jarrell Tornado an F6?

No, the Jarrell tornado was not an F6. It was rated as an F5 tornado. The F6 rating does not officially exist on the Fujita scale, which maxes out at F5.

Where in Texas Has No Tornadoes?

The southwestern part of Texas, including cities like El Paso, generally experiences fewer tornadoes compared to other regions of the state. This area is less prone due to its arid climate and mountainous terrain.

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How Many F5 Tornadoes Have Hit Texas?

Texas has experienced a total of six F5 tornadoes. These are among the most powerful and devastating tornadoes, with wind speeds exceeding 260 mph.

Has There Ever Been an F6?

No, there has never been an F6 tornado. The Fujita scale, which measures tornado intensity, only goes up to F5. The Enhanced Fujita Scale, which replaced the original in 2007, also only goes up to EF5.

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What Part of Texas Sees the Most Tornadoes?

North Texas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth area, sees the most tornadoes. This region is part of “Tornado Alley,” which experiences frequent and severe tornado activity due to its geographic and climatic conditions.

What Was Texas’s Worst Tornado?

The Waco tornado of May 11, 1953, is often considered the worst tornado in Texas history. It caused 114 fatalities, injured nearly 600 people, and resulted in massive destruction to downtown Waco, making it one of the deadliest and most damaging tornadoes in Texas history.

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Conclusion

Texas’s experience with these powerful tornadoes highlights the state’s vulnerability to severe weather and the importance of preparedness. Advances in meteorology and improved warning systems have undoubtedly saved lives, but the stories of these ten tornadoes serve as a sobering reminder of nature’s raw power and the enduring need for vigilance and resilience.

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