1979-04-10 Wichita Falls

Discussion in '1970s' started by Rob Satkus, Apr 8, 2009.

  1. Rob Satkus

    Rob Satkus Noob

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    NWS OUN has put up a nice page for the 30th anniversary of this monster:
    http://www.srh.noaa.gov/oun/wxevents/19790410/
    This was a little before my chasing started but it would be interesting to hear any stories any of you may have whether chasing it or living through it..or any of the other tornadoes that day.

    Rob
     
  2. John Cameron

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    April 10th, 1979 was also the first ops day for the SESAME Project, in which some light was shed on the influence of shortwaves in southern plains convective scenarios.
     
  3. Chris Lott

    Chris Lott Noob

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    I can't remember the name of the guy, but a survivor of that tornado gave a talk at TESSA this year. I remember him saying that you could tell something wasn't right that day, you could feel it that something was going to happen. He also talked about how quiet it was just before it hit. He, his brother and mother all survived.
     
  4. Chris Lott

    Chris Lott Noob

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    Someone had posted this before, but here is a link to the audio file from Skywarn spotters that were on that storm that day. Some of it is hard to make out, but if you listen close you can understand most of it.

    Windows Media audio file (.wma).
     
  5. Tim Vasquez

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  6. Darrin Rasberry

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    Thanks, Tim - I also noticed there's a nice surface chart the morning of this day in one of your handbooks. There's a Facebook memorial page going on for the anniversary for this, for those of you who use the service.
     
  7. Chris Hayes

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    The tornadoes that occured during the Red River Valley Outbreak all have that 'evil' look to them. The Wichita Falls tornado, with how black it was deffinately fits into that category. It would be kinda nice if digital cameras had an option to make your pictures have that "70s and 80s film look" to them. In some respects you just cant beat how the old style pictures look.
     
  8. John Cameron

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  9. Tim Vasquez

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  10. Steve Burre

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    Hard to believe it has been 30 years...I was on the NSSL team that day and Seymour was my first tornado (we never did really catch up with the storm as it headed into Wichita Falls)
     
  11. David Drummond

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    This was one of those events I like to think of when I see modern storm chasers downplaying the tornado potential because of low end moisture or "just in time" moisture. At 6 am that morning, the dewpoint in Wichita Falls was only 50F and you had to go in to Central Texas to get low 60s. http://www.srh.noaa.gov/oun/images/wxevents/19790410/figures/sfc04107911z.jpg

    While I was barely a teenager when this happened, I was keenly aware of what went on, as I had extended family that lived just blocks from the tornado path, and my cousin was a weather spotter there at the time (still is in fact). You can hear him on the spotter recording, WB5WJX Dale Cheek.

    That event was a pivotal inspiration for why I chase storms!
     
  12. Tim Marshall

    Tim Marshall Member

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    A big dissapointment

    April 10, 1979 - Around noon, storms developed along the Caprock with a tornado near Crosbyton. Unfortunately, I had classes at Texas Tech and Dr. Peterson and I didn't leave Lubbock until about 2 pm. Our target was Vernon. We had a difficult time driving due to very strong winds and low visibilities in blinding dust. There was no air conditioning in my vehicle so we had to leave a gap in windows -and choaked and choaked. Occasionally, I could see the tops of the Cb's to the east and they were quickly moving out of range. We decided to abort the chase and return to Lubbock -coated in dust. Dr. Peterson was part of the damage survey team but unfortunately I couldn't go with him as I had classes. TM
     
  13. Gene Moore

    Gene Moore Member

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    This turned out to be an overwhelming day even through we saw it coming and thought we were ready. Driving down the HE Baily Turnpike through the fog, drizzle and stratus of the late morning set the stage for a shock. Breaking out of the cool gunge into warm sunshine and blowing dust, what a thrill. Had I not changed plans from our normal route through Vernon we would have likely driven right into the tornado. Al Moller (retired from Ft Worth office) contends the tornado could be seen from the city looking SW and later produced some images. As with many tornadoes, what one person sees compared to another is all in the angles. We were sure the tornado had narrowed from what we saw well southwest of Vernon, which was a very wide suction spot tornado buried in the low overcast we just drove out of. Also the damage driving up highway 82 verified that, very spotty and extended about a quarter mile on either side of the road. We never got a good view of the tornado, only occasional orange (dirt) suction spots rotating around the outside. Then some debris started falling out of the sky. The largest item was a mattress. None of the Vernon shots turned out good enough to show the tornado, but we did get the cone Thalia tornado that was a few miles behind it on the flanking line. Later Fujita listed that damage as down burst activity. After skirting the west side of Vernon to avoid the main damage path (lots of injuries and 6 killed I believe) we turned south instead of running after that tornado. It hit Lawton hours later. In retrospect this was a good move, we would have never caught up. We drove through the open country damage path of the Harrold-Grandfield tornado, but missed it by a few minutes, then south to the 183/82 intersection. We photographed the Seymour tornado, watched the small Lake Kemp tornado with the NSSL crew and witnessed a large trunk funnel/tornado moving into southwest Wichita Falls. That most likely became the main Wichita Falls tornado, which we missed. When the day was done we had seen five tornadoes and did a decent job of photographing two of them, not great by today's standards. With the fast moving storms many of the shots were on the run and difficult to get, especially Vernon. Back then ISO 64 film was it and it wasn't uncommon for me to shoot tornadoes at 1/30 or 1/15 sec....thus some of the images are blurry, some were throwaways. Here is the link to my page on the day, there are some broken hyperlinks at the bottom of the page I need to fix. In retrospect those that left late were rewarded by driving into the Wichita Falls storm. Many that left early got overrun and out run by the system.

    http://chaseday.com/tornado-seymour79.htm
     
  14. Darren Stephens

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    Not sure but OUN has taken this information down.
     
  15. David Drummond

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    Looks like the NWS offices are all transitioning over to a CMS layout and it's breaking all incoming links (again).
     
  16. Matt Starkey

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  17. TerryWilliams

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    In Childress where I grew up, I remember how dark the sky was to the east, southeast that afternoon (I assume I was seeing the storm clouds from Vernon). For an 8 year old it was really scary to see those dark clouds. Also, my dad had to go to Wichta Falls that night after the tornado working with the gas company. He would never talk about what he saw as he worked there. I can't imagine what he saw personally.
     
  18. Dave Gallaher

    Dave Gallaher Member

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  19. Greg Higgins

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    A little late to this thread but for anyone that's interested, you can go to the Facebook page for the Wichita Falls tornado and look in the "files" section. I have scanned in every paper I can find and uploaded them into the files section. Some of the papers are fairly hard to find on the internet. Enjoy!
     
  20. KenMcWatters

    KenMcWatters Member

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    I recently noticed that on the NWS 1979 WF tornado page Multimedia link, they removed the link and info about the Skywarn audio recording. I wonder why, as that was a neat footnote to this story and a great way to promote Skywarn to this day.

    You can use Internet Archive to see the original page, see the following link: https://web.archive.org/web/20141027083229/http://www.srh.noaa.gov/oun/?n=events-19790410-multimedia

    However that archived page does not preserve the link to the audio recording itself. Since I happened to download it previously and keep a copy on my computer, I have uploaded it to my Google Drive account which should keep it available indefinitely. (It's too big to upload to the WF tornado Facebook page, although that is a great resource for other files.) Here is the direct link to the audio recording of Skywarn that day: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0MT-olxF5UQcUJNRGh6UVFPazQ/view?usp=sharing

    As a final note, the entire WF tornado page appears to be offline recently, along with some other weather event pages on the NWS OUN website. However I assume this outage is just temporary.
     

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