1979-04-10 Wichita Falls

Jun 9, 2005
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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.

Darrin Rasberry

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.
Jan 29, 2004
Canton, Ohio
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.
Oct 19, 2007
Weatherford, TX
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)
Dec 18, 2003
Lubbock, TX
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!
Apr 23, 2006
Flower Mound, TX
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
Nov 23, 2005
San Antonio, TX
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.



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.

Greg Higgins

Oct 10, 2006
Fort Worth, Texas
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!
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Feb 15, 2005
Broken Arrow, OK
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.

C. Colin B

Mar 26, 2019
Keller, 76248
Growing up in WF, I was at work on this ‘Terrible Tuesday’. Already having been in 2-3 tornadoes by age 26 - and with earlier reports of tornadoes in Seymour and Vernon - my eyes were to the sky.
Work was at the corner of 360 (SW Parkway) & Kemp Blvd, so looking west down that long flat road, presented a front row viewing spot to the developing storm coming in due west of my location.
As this was before any spotter training days, I was ignorant of some of the key indicators I know now. But it was obvious from years of storm watching, there was something different and wrong about this storm. I didn’t know of inflow, updraft or rain free bases. But I knew rotation. I knew wall cloud. And somehow I knew there was a reason to stand outside of work and keep watching this storm develop.
One of the most vivid mental pictures was to the left of what I now know was a strong updraft tower of grey clouds, was this beautiful open space of bright blue sky with white cumulonimbus clouds protruding to the south, from behind that grey tower. The stark difference in the beauty of the white puffy clouds and bright blue sky against the menacing grey storm was surreal.
But the peace & beauty of the moment quickly disappeared as I saw the first small funnel dip downward. Then there were 2. Then 3 or more dancing down & up and around the lowered clouds now brewing to the west. I broke my gaze, turning my head to alert other workers inside. When I turned back to the storm, the dancing ‘faries’ were now engulfed by a monster, wedge tornado in contact with the ground....... part 1
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Oct 10, 2004
Madison, WI
Hard to believe we're coming up on the 40th Anniversary of this outbreak. I think it was this, Woodward, Dallas (1957) and Pond Creek, OK (1991) being in all the tornado history books and/or home videos that got it in my head that early April is more active in the southern Plains than it really is.

Mike Potts

Feb 15, 2022
Antelope, Texas
Very late reply here...
I was 8 years old on April 10 and in many ways it still seems like it just happened. My family and I had a front row seat to the tornado, we were living on the southwest side of Lake Wichita and could see the whole event. My Mom and Dad watched the initial formation and Mom kept calling me to come look, but I was busy with a book. When I finally did go to the back porch, it was just starting to move into the city, just a massive greyish/black, boiling monster, the sound was just awe inspiring. I asked Dad why all those birds were flying around it and he solemnly said, "No son, those are parts of houses." About the time it got just due north of our location, it either took a little jog to the right or grew and that was all it took for Mom to scoop up my sister and I and make Dad head for a shelter that was on our neighbors property about a 1/4 mile down the road, so I missed the last half of it tearing through town. We never actually went into the shelter and Dad turned our car around as soon he saw it was heading out of town. We drove in to town looking for a family friend that Dad had called to warn, his house was directly in the path and had no shelter. Dad had managed to get him on the phone and tell him the tornado was headed their way, the friend looked outside and said he couldn't see anything but just a black cloud then the line went dead. We found him, his wife and 2 kids in his work truck on Southwest Parkway about a half mile from where their house had been. Thankfully they only suffered cuts and scrapes, but the truck had a body lodged under it. We later found out it was a teenager who was riding his bike home. Funny thing is, I vividly remember picking our way though the debris down Southwest Parkway, driving on the median, the looks on our friends faces, but I cannot recall that kid no matter how hard I try. I guess my 8 year old brain just decided that part wasn't worth recording. We now live on 281, about 20 miles north of Jacksboro and I work at the hospital there, and my mind flashed back to 1979 as I was driving in to work through the damage path just 30 minutes after the tornado had passed through.
Apr 23, 2010
The film made the thing look even more evil. Camcorders make the night look hideous with old sodium and mercury vapor lights when COPS first came on and are best for true crime…but film cameras are best for tornadoes and horror films.
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