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The Strangest Storm In Texas

  • Thread starter Steve Miller TX
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Steve Miller TX

An excerpt from "Texas Weather" by Harold Taft and Ron Godbey, copyright 1975:

Shortly after midnight on the morning of June 15, 1960, under clear skies and otherwise normal conditions, a damaging, scorching northwest wind struck terror and near disaster to a 25-mile stretch across the northwest side of Lake Whitney for nearly 3 hours.

It was like any other Texas night in mid-June. The temperature was in the 70's, the stars were out and a light breeze was blowing. There had been some lightning earlier, but no one paid much attention to it. The without warning....it struck. A searing blowtorch-like wind hit hit with speeds estimated at 80-100mph, and the temeprature jumped from near 70 to 140 degrees!!!

The Mooney Village Store lost the roof and was badly damaged. The interior was smashed and loaves of bread and canned goods blown from the shelves. The strong winds smashed down a huge tree at the home of Mrs. Vergie Moon, near the damaged store. She said it took three people to keep the wind from blowing down her front door. The D.L. Downeys took refuge in their storm cellar, which was soon filled with neighbors seeking shelter from this quite unusual and frightening storm.

The heat and searing wind were stifling. Mothers wrapped their crying babies in wet sheets and towels to protect them from the intense heat. Fire sprinkler systems were set off, car radiators boiled over and panic-striken women were crying, thinking the end of the world had come.

The cotton field (picture) of rancher Pete Burns was scorched by the hot wind. It was an average stand of cotton which he had plowed on Tuesday. The wind and the heat carbonized it, leaving only a few burnt stalks standing. Corn fields in the area, green when the sun went down Tuesday evening, were scorched and wilted at sunup Wednesday.

No one knows for sure how hot it was, but the thermometer outside the Charley Riddle Bait & tackle Shop in Kopperl, jumped from near 70 degrees at midnight to 100 degrees in just a few minutes and the highest was 140 degrees. There was nothing wrong with the thermometer. It was working all right the next day and if anything was reading a little low.

The event would have gone undocumented except for veteran cameraman Floyd Bright who, hearing the incident the next morning, recorded it all on film.

As to what happened....edited for brevity

Scattered thunderstorms had earlier been detected on radar but they disappeared off the scope shortly before midnight. Weather observations at Waco showed a temperature at midnight of 87F.

It may be that the downward thrust of air (downdraft) continued even after the rain shaft dissipated. in doing so, it would heat at a rate of 5.5F for every 1000 feet.

The downward force of this air from the old dried-up thunderstorm must have been fierce, for heated air tends to rise, not fall. The bases of the thunderstorms that night were 8-10K feet. If the air temperature in the dissipating cloud at a height of 20K feet was 20-25F, then the falling air would be heated by compression another 100F by the time it reached the ground and this added to the initial temperature would be close to the 140F observed.

Except for the film story on file at the television station in Fort Worth, there is no other record of this most unusual Texas storm.
 
140F....somehow I think not. Although this does sound like a definite heat burst type of situation. As a storm collapses, the winds can pick up in excess of 100+ miles an hour (happened here in Tulsa earlier this summer) and the temperature can spike dramatically. I've seen instances in SW OK where the temperaure will jump 10-20 degrees...being 80-90 around 10pm and jumping to over 100F. I think heat bursts tend to happen mostly in the summer.

Like I said, I think parts of this story have been way exagerated. But still cool...or hot...
 
Just curious about this, but I have a book in my collection titled Texas Weather. It says Second Edition, Revised, and the author is George W. Bomar. It is copyrighted 1983 and 1995 by the University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.

Considering the title, is this book a revised version of the one you have, or is it a different book altogether? If it is revised, why did the authorship change?
 
Interesting and good story; I'm not going to whip out my thermo books and determine the conditions necessary to get a temp rise of 70 deg, but I'll just make a bet the temp jumped in the 110-115 range instead of the 140 deg range.

I wonder if a heat burst could break a state's all-time record high, maybe some of us will start chasing heat bursts during the summer with thermometers in hand to get that data!!!

Simon
 
Just curious about this, but I have a book in my collection titled Texas Weather. It says Second Edition, Revised, and the author is George W. Bomar. It is copyrighted 1983 and 1995 by the University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.

Considering the title, is this book a revised version of the one you have, or is it a different book altogether? If it is revised, why did the authorship change?

If I'm not mistaken, they are indeed separate books. This one is written by two TV station meteorologists...one of which, Harold Taft, was a true legend around these parts as the "world's greatest weatherman". It was published by "England and May" out of OKC. It's a very interesting book detailing all aspects of Texas Weather including a curious section about "Neutercanes" which as I read in the book I think are hybrid tropical systems. The end has a tutorlai on reading weather charts, symbols, definitions, conversion tables, etc. There's even a few cool tornado pictures in there that I don't remember seeing before. This was the first "real" weatherbook I read when I was a kid and Harold Taft was my hero. :) So, it has a level of sentimental value to me.
 
Interesting and good story; I'm not going to whip out my thermo books and determine the conditions necessary to get a temp rise of 70 deg, but I'll just make a bet the temp jumped in the 110-115 range instead of the 140 deg range.

I wonder if a heat burst could break a state's all-time record high, maybe some of us will start chasing heat bursts during the summer with thermometers in hand to get that data!!!

I thnk one of the fallacies I see is that the calculation includes adding the existing surface temperature. Using the 5.5F/1K feet rule and a parcel descending from 20,000 feet, I get 110F. But what I'm curious to know, and hopefully someone more versed in thermodynamics more than I can explain, what amount of compressional warming, if any, needs to be weighed in the calculation?

Plus, throw in all of the other heat bursts, some of them extremely intense, that have been measuerd with temps only nearing 100F at best (please correct me if anybody knows otherwise) and it seems to me 140F is pretty extreme....esepcially with a bait shop thermometer and nobody mentioned in the story actually monitoring it.

The record temperature for Texas is 120F set back in 1936. So, I think it would be tough if not impossible (that's always dangerous to say when talking about mother nature..lol) to break with a heat burst. that's my thought anyway.

I need to make an effort one day to track down and get a copy of the news video that was made. It would be interesting to see the actual damage.
 
The best heat burst I've ever seen reported was the one from Pierre SD in June 1989 where the temperature rose to 104 during the early morning hours, while the dewpoint temp fell to the lower 30s. Of course the temp didn't even rise 20 degrees during this heatburst. See this page for more information...

http://wxman256.home.att.net/fcst/wf-pt8h.html
 
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