1997-05-27: Jarrell, TX F5


Feb 17, 2014
Why should the NWS take this into account on a general basis? Like I said, this event was an exception to the rule as far as most tornado events go.

Not as a rule but in these cases if possible esp in rural areas where little chance of congestion
I don't see how this should be suddenly pinned on them. For this case in particular, the survivability rate within the core of the tornado's path was very low, but that rarely applies even in the strongest tornadoes.
Aug 2, 2009
Cabot, AR
There's absolutely no way the NWS nor anyone else would or should advise people to get in their cars and flee a tornado. That's just completely irresponsible and dangerous. For one thing, there's no way to tell the intensity of a tornado while it's in progress, so the idea that you'd only make such a recommendation when there's a "slow-moving F5" is flawed from the start. For another, 99% of the time you're much safer sheltering in your home than getting into your car. Even a weak tornado can seriously injure or kill you in your car, while the majority of people survive in their homes even if they're struck by an EF5. Jarrell was an extreme aberration - in fact, it's the only tornado I can think of in which the survival rate in the core of the path was zero - and it would be deeply misguided to base any sort of policy on that.

But even if we ignore all of those things, what's going to happen when you tell people that they can't survive in their homes and they need to flee? Traffic jams, car accidents, and mass panic. The odds are pretty good that that'd be worse than the tornado itself, especially when you end up with potentially hundreds of people (or more?) stuck in their cars on crowded roads with a violent tornado bearing down on them. That's a good recipe for mass fatalities.
Unless you are the amazing Calvin Kaskey!

calvinkaskey said:
There are lots of weak short lived tornadoes that aren't recorded. Ne pa had 4 tornadoes in an area of maybe a 6th or less of the area of pa. There were two in my county in N.Y. last year, one wasn't reported. I got 10 full minutes of tornado video in eastern NC last year. I might have gotten another tornado in W.V. but I got lost. I hit several tornado warnings in extreme southern Ohio, I might have seen something but I went into the woods, instead of being in an area of high visibility where I was at the time of the warning. You also don't have to go out west to get 70 mph winds from a t-storm or large hail. I was chasing two years ago and my house got hit with golfball-sized hail and I live in N.Y. lol. Two years ago I also got a video of what looks like an intense f-2 funnel cloud in N.Y.
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Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
Staff member
Oct 7, 2008
Westminster, CO
I read it was moving like 5 MPH. It explains why the damage was so bad.

I was gonna make a thread asking why this storm moved West, but.. it looks like the answer is muddy and uncertain.
It actually moved southwest. This was because the updraft was anchored to a dryline/cold front and there was insufficient flow to push it off the boundary (not to mention the fact that if the winds were strong enough to push it off the boundary, a tornado of that strength may have never materialized).

Mike Z

Sep 11, 2017
Northeast USA
Piece of information I found interesting about that day.

"As the thunderstorm’s updraft developed, its rapid acceleration helped to pull in vast quantities of hot, muggy air near the surface. The air raced in toward the center of the storm before being violently propelled upward, creating such a contrast in speed and direction with the air above that the storm began to produce its own wind shear. The resulting local shear, or storm-relative helicity, generated rotation parallel to the ground called horizontal vorticity. This rotation was soon ingested into the storm itself, where the vigorous updraft tilted it vertically and began to spin. A supercell was born."

- https://stormstalker.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/jarrell/
Mar 4, 2010
Bryan, TX
There is now a video showing the formation of the Jarrell tornado in its entirety. It was shot from a distance and it is not a continuous shot, but it is as good a view of the formation as we are likely to get. It was posted to YouTube in January 2018. The video was shot by Don Svadlenak, Holland Texas Justice of the Peace.

The video I linked above is an excerpt from a presentation by Waco TV station KCEN about the May 27 1997 outbreak. The video is introduced at the 22:54 mark.