Extensive research on The April 10, 1979 Severe Weather Outbreak by Don Burgess of the National Severe Storms Laboratory reveals 10 incredible facts that remind us why it will be forever known as that Terrible Tuesday..
1. 13 tornadoes touched down in northwest Texas and southwest Oklahoma.
2. The majority of those tornadoes were spawned by just 3 individual supercell thunderstorms.
3. The first and northern most supercell produced a tornado around 3:05 pm south of Crowell, TX. The same storm produced another tornado around 3:40 PM that destroyed the southeastern portion of Vernon, TX causing 10 deaths. The storm then crossed the Red River to produce three more tornadoes. It produced a 5th and final tornado in Lawton, OK, killing 3.
4. The Vernon, TX tornado was rated F-4 on the Fujita Tornado Intensity Scale. The Lawton, OK tornado was rated an F-3.
5. The second supercell thunderstorm produced a violent tornado that stayed on the ground for 64 miles. It started near Harrold, TX then hit portions of Grandfield, OK and continued northeast and dissipated southwest of Marlow, OK.
6. The third, southern most supercell, produced a tornado near Seymour, TX. As the storm moved northeastward, it produced another tornado that would eventually track through Wichita Falls.
7. The Wichita Falls tornado caused over $400 million in damage, making it the most expensive US tornado on record until the Moore, OK tornado on May 3, 1999. As of today, it is ranked as the 10th costliest. As of 2015, The Joplin, MO tornado on May 22, 2011 is the costliest at $2.8 billion.
8. 45 people died in the Wichita Falls tornado. 25 of those deaths were vehicle related. 16 of those 25 vehicle related deaths were from people leaving their homes to escape the tornado. 11 of those 16 people’s homes were untouched by the tornado.
9. After extensive engineering analysis, it was determined that the winds necessary to cause the most intense damage observed like that of McNiel Junior High School were within the F-4 range.
10. As deadly as the Wichita Falls tornado was, it could have been much worse had it not been for the aid of storm spotters in the field reporting the tornado, advanced warnings from the National Weather Service, and the time the tornado hit the city. Many schools were on Easter break. Had McNiel Junior High been fully occupied during the tornado, it is assumed that many more injuries and deaths would have likely occurred.