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Episode 34: May 27, 1997 Jarrell Tornado

May 24, 2017|

On Episode 34 of Tornado Talk, we detail the events of May 27, 1997.   Several tornadoes are spawned by a massive supercell in Central TX.  One of the most violent tornadoes on record hits part of Jarrell, TX.  It is rated F5 with estimated peak winds of 260 mph.  27 people lost their lives all...

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

I asked about one of nature's most fascinating phenomenon to share your tornado story with us by email Jenin Dan act tornado talk dot com. Yeah and dance at a tornado Dockett got content. Now meteorologist. Jennifer near Moore and Dan Holliday tornado Todd is on May 27 in 1997. I don't really think this today even still realize. How strongly the storm was. This F five tornado because of the slow move that was over. You need to give him a home for about a 182. It's about three minutes I realized something had happened and Gerald that I couldn't seem. From where a war so I just knew that they were sending every ambulance but this time empirical generally everybody that was in the double creeks and states that were hit by that tornado died until I got the wrong. Extremely gathering to celebrate it thinks. I'm. Undefeated and beat Indy hole. And the pain of losing four loved ones at a massive F five tornado is still as Roth for Linda morning as it was the day it happened. A total of 27 people perished in Gerald taxes on the 27 day of may in 1997. For Linda and others they wonder why anyone had to die when there was so much advance warning. After all a tornado was moving so slowly there is plenty of time to seek shelter but the twisters slow movements actually became their reasons so many didn't survive. We wanted to learn more and understand what happened when he unique series of circumstances. Altered the atmosphere is so called rules. Gerald may have suffered the most damage and loss of life but there were other central Texas communities shell shocked by a tornado producing super cell that afternoon. That is where it all started yeah. She produce severe storms and tornadoes the atmosphere needs moisture and instability. Just what felons to place early that Tuesday morning. I got up Tuesday morning the 27 one out about 630 to get the newspapers. Out of the yard and I wrote I was struck by the extreme. Heat and humidity at that hour it was a oppressive she's. Very high humidity dropped. I know I later learned that the that the viewpoint was in those 7778. Degrees Fahrenheit burning that's. What you respect down on the host the Corpus Christi or Galveston you don't expect that in the hunt and and so I and I knew. That if we had storms later that day that they were gonna have a lot of energy to feed on. That is a long Curtis he was the assistant chief of the volunteer fire department in Belton Texas and would be chasing storms that day he says is a real job was first assistant district attorney in bell county. Before I like to go to work I did a quick. Services analysis and found that there was. Stalled boundary of some sort premiere for words. To western boys go west to tumble west of Austin then on out into the hill country. I didn't know what that boundary was rather than let it was drier air in the west and there's extremes more urine he is that he. And that boundary basically didn't move all morning it just would sitting there out of the winds aloft work we do remember looking at out patterns upper air earth observation from Del Rio which used. For over a 150 cured my house to the southwest. And they're 7 AM foundations that morning. Had over 5000. Fuel. Kate. That would be extreme in the afternoon. So so I knew the atmosphere would really charged up but I also knew the winds aloft work week. And week Lancelot to a push any storms along at a slower than average pace that ingredient would play a devastating role in what was to come that afternoon. Bruce Thomas was also watching the weather closely. Today he's the national spokesperson for middle and weather radio in 1997. He was a meteorologist at Casey Ian TV and temple Waco Texas. Bruce a line Curtis were friends he gave Lana called that morning. And I said laudable to be in this class in the investment class that I signed up for down in total taxes from. Around noon so want that day. And to call me if let's see he's got going tonight head on to work as we sill like it was going to be a severe weather dates. However under this class so I drove down to the class and that was an old Lincoln Town Car has served up. Pocket 1990. Lincoln Town Car that my mother at all life giving mr. you know security concern and it's an old car 200000 miles on it. Belichick's class and I told the teacher. The not to be rude but I said if this phone rings I need to do have to take the call because it means is that weather coming. As such with the flow is stable we would do the class of about 45 minutes into the class of phone rings. And I picked it up attempt to call in alarms said it'll just thunderstorms are brought up. The only way I can describe this cloud that is it will look like an atomic bomb had gone. There was a came along members that was just straight up in the year. It was mid day in central Texas and already an explosive storm was under way. Blunt said he called his office elect and now he went to be back for the rest of the afternoon so he did storm chase. After grabbing a sandwich at home and the Kia went dating he could find online. The storms turn severe. Because I was monitoring like oh department of public safety. I dispatcher was looking for any unity any unit in the vicinity of western argue it so I have reported a tornado or need somebody checked yeah. Yeah. Haitian National Weather Service has issued a tornado warnings. So I called bird's. So okay so DPS is reporting our tornado western Hewitt. You need to go right now Albers. And I asked him do you want me to call land his wife. I settle on a caller sounds but it depends on mother had a minute I'm getting in the car right now and I got an old Lincoln Town Car. And I opened it up. Trash so we get. Got to the station and the car smoked. And you know why don't talk about this great offer. So. Well my wife and she got. The baby my daughter and herself in the bathtub but their parents. In the first tornado touched down about two miles from my house. In the stores removed himself. Removing. Opposite direction issued generally considered tornado. Most stoning has been forced to east and this was in south southwest. Casey MTV would begin its wall to wall weather coverage would Bruce Thomas on the air for the rest of the afternoons coming out of here let's moving out towards interstate 35 meanwhile long Curtis was on the move to see the first tornado of the day between Lorena and Hewitt. I saw it it was around 1151 point in the afternoon and I eventually. Flow lose to withstand. A mile of that because it was moving extremely slowly the tornado passed. About a mile south of me and I saw I destroy a mobile home and damage site built out. So as soon as this bit deflated I went down to see if if anyone was injured if I could be of any help. And about the time that I got to hear the local volunteer fire department arrived and and so lots where Freddie didn't go someplace else. Lunch goes to head back to Dallas County the super cells find another twister that would be on the ground for nearly four miles it began helping country on south side farm to market road. Just over a mile and a half east southeast of needy Texas. The storm traveled south southwest sitting across down around him for a home and a barn were destroyed another homeless damage just to the north. When he just moody taxes. We actually had we called sky cam. And this was a fairly new saying it TV in the late in mid to late ninety's is to have a camera on topping your station where you can take time lapse pictures. Well when the tornado came just a few miles west of the TV station is truly should have showed us. What hysterical and south southeast like the original warning from the weather service's tornado went south southwest. We've videotaped the tornado on the ground doing right by the TV stations competing homes and and we were alive and they had been superimposed. Use a chrome Richie over. The tornadoes hitting these houses and this was one of the first times. I think in America. In TV history may be that you had to live tornado hitting Holmes with the TP win the man standing there talking about it. While this historic day was unfolding. I'd nine year old weather enthusiast was watching TV at his home in Bruce bill Eddie taxes. And the TV and aren't and we were just watching there's. Circulation and now nearly movie of course you know I'm kind of worried about that. That's Smart ass like he graduated from Texas tech university in 2017. With a degree in atmospheric science wind energy and psychology. But on May 27 1997. He was a wide eyed child seeing a tornado for the first time that twister would cause asked three damage. It is member working harder and journalists assists. Just heard you know cloud going from. Burned early all the way into the guardian and pulling out. Anything in the past you know ordered apple and just something that strong can cause tumors damage it's just kind of mesmerized me. In the meantime. I managed to get back. Ahead of the but at some distance before it dissipated seven miles northwest Detroit which are in northern belts out. I got fueled up. Pitted on background. Ordered belt and onstage Howard street seventeenth. There were there are reports of a tornado developing. At Morgan's point and I was. A little south and east of Morgan's point Sandra. Turned off of highway 317. In belt on and one out toward Belden life. And as our traveling west. Before I got to where I could see. Back towards Morgan's point there was a tornado well ahead of me. That we later determined probably was on the fourth river reservation military reservation and here's another undocumented this then the record. As for miles west northwest development but it was never investigated because that's. Military reservation and it's not an olive trees and grass and things like that. Another tornado that began six and a half miles north of Felton net Morgan's point on the north side of bill Blake continued moving south southwest. They kept going to just missed high school in Belton Texas band and went across lake Belton which is a big reservoir. Outside a temple Texas and Austin, Texas and bell county the county north to Gerald. And it picked up finish in trough should add a little official in the parking lot of the high school. So when people came out of the high school had the official on top of their cars. And it's just little things like that did you hear about after these tornado as it sits just perhaps leave me issue. And so this whole event keeps unfolding my friend Lon Curtis is following the storm photographing it calling me calling into the TV station. And that led me to. The west side of Belgians and I took a on the market rode out to still house hollow little more where there is another damn what the road across it I'm going across the damn. And and in mar. Peripheral vision and I'm looking at the road across some damage across Sudan and see a formal immediately ahead Irving until the last call cloud. And I looked down in the spillway area below the dam and are great big. Pecan tree limbs being long into the air that tornado was literally right there behind a day out. At Morgan's point a twister did ask three damaged. As one damage at the still house Colin damned. This time was approximately 305 in the afternoon. A small thin tornado touchdown less than a mile west to buy 35 near prairie dealt taxes but within moments. Everything changed. And there was a new tornado two or three minutes after I left very Dell I look back and there is a multi vortex tornado. That is in Williamson county north of Jerel and my heart sank to that point. Even other residents in Gerald saw what was coming they couldn't fat and how their community was about to be changed forever. More after the break the tornado talk podcast was born out of a labor of love in the spring of 2016. Each episode we dig deep to bring you fascinating stories about how tornadoes have affected the lives of every day folks. So far there have been 34 episodes if you haven't heard them all we invite you to subscribe on iTunes so you can receive them the moment they are released. And if you take just a few seconds to give tornado talk a review on iTunes and let us know once you've posted it we will send you a pair of tornado Todd who sees. Absolutely free. Thank you for your support from the team a tornado talk and tornado it's. Feel at home. It initially touched down to the north and Gerald about three miles. And you lose and we stage I would estimate about them and mastery. That's doctor Don green and urology professor at Baylor University he's been teaching their since 1979. Doctor drains forensic studies on what happened in Jarrell are documented worldwide. As a tornado moved closer to Jerel and decimated cotton field a lifting up several inches of soil then it roared across a wheat field pulling the crop up by history's. Beyond that was Campbell's field. The Islam at all or worse something like a 125. And head of cattle. Half of them were never found the candle lit work filmed for the most part had been picked up them. Bounce terrain around they all had broken legs and interestingly. This year support each had been sewn into their hide that is used to almost like stitching. Back at the TV station Bruce Thomas had a network of spotters informing viewers of the danger looming in Jerel. Or. And all of relevant. We ham radio operators on the storm. Radio going back. From Cheryl as it was coming into town it was. Four different borders he's. We're getting around the simple point associated with the lowering from the cloud based and I took up a position on who they eat out of I 35 under in Gerald thinking that that the that the community that. Count itself was probably gonna get hit the tornado passed. Just west. This central part of of the small town of Gerald it got very large doesn't always does sound of the tornado. I would compared to. Like being up real close to Niagara Falls there with the more and and the tornado winds becoming marine lab and I could not get that bit of a hill what could not seen that there was some division. Immediately in the path of the corner and. School had just gotten out here and all the children home tomorrow homes. And you slow moving F five tornado. Going five miles an hour just ground up this neighborhood. Double creek estates neighborhood. Basically. It killed everybody who Russian wandered to survivors once famous survive because. They're they were Mexican American family and her husband was a Mason he sees it as a bricklayer. And he had built a tornado hit. Under their house. Where they are warm and two ladies and I wanna say three or four kids got a that this will tornado hit him coldly like concrete little for themselves if they survived. One lady who was blown out of her house shoes that are bad so it was sound like in a tree and she survived. But generally providing that was in the double creeks and statements that were hit by that tornado died. It also needed any injuries there was interest in this and we're just very few injuries. All fatalities. And a lot of research was done and asked which on this and it was because it was so slow. It looked good a pile of debris sitting on the on the concrete slabs. It's that everything had been removed from the concrete slabs in a few instances. You can see. So who are vinyl that'd been glued down on the stay on the kitchen floor. And there that was about yeah me scratch marks in the final on the foundations and look in the direction that tornados this traveling. The scratch marks were from life collapsed he indicating they see. Tornado had destroyed in remove their homes. Along the leading edge of the tornado. And fortunately I and many of the children were at home. In some instances parents came home to feed their children. I'd be. Who would not want to describe who's so small. Bodies would not be impact. Know that it people likened it to being put into a Cuisinart. Because it just chopped everything in this small little piece. It wasn't like they were big pieces of finals left everything was grounded into small pieces. So that's pretty graphic but it is what I have to. As a double creek estates about forty structures were totally destroyed. All 27 deaths associated with the Gerald tornado occurred at double creek after passing through the tornado and it across county road 309. And into a heavily wooded area cedar trees this is where a total destruction from the F five tornado went ends. One Curtis was in Williamson county where yet another tornado tore through parts of Cedar Park Texas. Bear a church trucking company and an Albertson's grocery store were damaged a historic train located on the north side of county road 180 just to be east of US 183 was in the direct path of the tornado. The engine remained on the track. But a coal tender converted to hold diesel fuel and weighing about 65000. Pounds was flipped over and thrown a short distance. That resulted in F three damage. Another strong tornado more than 400 yards wider ripped through her analysis valley staying on the ground for more than five and a half miles. It began on Lake Travis destroying nearly all of the water craft. One person was killed the man's mobile home was demolished in his vehicle tossed several hundred feet as a tornado continued churning south homes in the hazy hill subdivision were heavily damaged or destroyed. The tornado caused F four damage. Back in Cedar Park lawn Curtis was listening to the news of what had happened. Still unaware of how hard Gerald had been hit. So I'm I'm sitting there your. In my pick up I have a I had a police scanner I am listening to the department of public safety. Dispatcher in Austin. But it's. It's weird about big thank you we appreciate it. I'm thinking OK well they'll be Cendant help out here to see your park and what I'm hearing is every. I would throw unit that checks on the frequency is told. Go to Carol we have a command post being setup go to bureau. And I realized at that point something has happened and Gerald that I couldn't see. The more I watch I didn't know how bad it was I just knew that they were also old. Sending every ambulance they satirical. Frankly I sat in my truck and had a bigger and got to sort of tried to take in everything that this happened that was. Well that was there before clock so between a little after one and a little after four. I've seen a whole lot of tornadoes. Some of the big some of them small hand. I didn't find out. Even the beginning of what has happened in and share all until I got back I had to go through bureau along interstate. The initial death tolls thirtieth Jerel but it new ocean forest on the 27 or assistant. Goes through and figure out. It was human or honor her animal remains. It was just that bad English that terrible situations. The tornadoes movement speed was unusual doctor Don green says it caused this F five tornado to be much different from the F five they hit New Castle in parts of Norman Oklahoma on May third 1999. And. How could one tornado. Have such a highly validate while another tornado equals strings. Allow most of the people to survive. And my analog Vick could explain their spirit is something like go on more. In the case of Oklahoma that tornado was born in the proper direction from southwest to northeast. But it was born over a brick through here homes you know solidly built. Which was also true as well. The double creek estates in Gerald book in this case. The boy in the proper direction the forward velocity was about 35 miles per hour. And so by comparison. Ichiro would be an example. If you were a lot more it's kind of like. Stopping. Believing a lot more at rapid speed to your highest RPM. And easily get a drink a lemonade or something and in the a lot of wars just sitting here. Churning the Oklahoma City tornado. Would be an example squares a year moving forward it normal velocity. The other similarity between what happened in Oklahoma City and Cheryl is that both communities had been hit by a tornado before and nineteen. 89. There was a tornado. That move right up on interstate 35 well a mile or 3000 Gerald you're not allergic north of Jerel. At like 415430. In the morning in the in the middle of the night. And there was I believe one or two fatalities. Out of that and and so. The terrible had to recover from that. Priscilla king was a release center volunteer following the 1997 tornados and Gerald. She feels like to community has had its share. A suffering the second time. Read this and this little community. Who knows how did. Hold together and got a lot of mistrust and her friends and don't forget to ask ask me. And it just makes you wanna. Stay busy and it's something. Don't want this don't make it any easier for Linda Moore and she lost her brother keys and his wife Cindy and her two nephews and Eric and Ryan. They lived in a manufactured home that was completely destroyed nothing remained but the foundation and. Hi America. Tornado I was living in Colorado. Now and I got power. Here to check there a day or so later. And now I'm. Boy. That was system. And that. We weren't allowed to go anywhere near the subject that you may have and bear it and blocked off here and he can understand why. So we are America. Church. Are going to be some. Families who were waiting for notification. Where it is Gallagher at its arch. So one mile line family member and we see they're not a situation. And you see they master don't want to say don't work. Done 27 victims had to be I'd get hot. So they've body and a refrigerator try. To maintain and on. And around. We were glad they only to be notified. Because I didn't secret decapitated. And any number that big process of elimination and trying to recognize the body they were hard to recognize and opulent and Matt. And then around. He took a long time to get that notification two or three days and there's not a day goes by now mounting a black brown and god and. I think of that horrible death. But also foreign and that one. In the Carol alt. Priest Thomason a staffing KC EM TV decided to take a tragedy for that late May Day and find a way to raise money for victims and survivors. We put together this was like our behalf for 200 media. If the whole coverage. The recovery. The funerals. Just everything solved and on this VHS tape we produced Sam's Club gave us the tapes for free and some gutting the house down in Houston dubbed a ball for free. The B when you and we did and we sold out in the they are two and we and so we took that was twenty dollar donation and then I can remember guy crying. When I get it checked. But top Texas categories are trying to guard. To. Distorted ever truly great. Point and like that before. He came to the TV station Q but check. Some. Pete lost council and in Moody's Moody's Texas which is just west of the TV station. You know it wasn't just Gerald yet there are a whole bunch of people hit that date just Gerald shortly no doc it's. Is Jay Bruce and his wife and residing Kansas City. His job at middle and allows him to spread the word to residents across the country of how important it is to have a no weather radio. He's even built a safe room in his home in the event that something like Jerel would ever strike again. Would tell people for years after that on television here in Kansas City it is your personal. Responsibility. To do what is right for you in this that means getting your car. If you don't have a safe place to take shelter and driving. To a shelter for driving away from the tornado. That is your personal option but just what she's she's a whole bunch of people dying. That too accurate price possibly. And they were able to survive and then you know. I became a big advocates for tornadoes safer exactly that you hit it made me a believer but she's not only need a warning. No weather radio television now apps and Smartphones. But you also need a safe place to go when there's a tornado truck. And having those two things. Probably well in the survived to lead them. For months and months after that sort of tornado happens. You know we couldn't go to a restaurant and confirmed checked. So. People were very thankful for we did press. They're affectionate I felt like I did my best I could do that day and into. I was or sorry that so many people die and it. They just adapted to shelter and that was the problem they knew the storm was coming vacancy tournament but just didn't have enough. Concrete and steel around him to do was stand slow moving. Past five tornado. And for Linda morning that's what hurts the worst witnesses told her he saw her brother and his wife standing outside of their double creek home. Watching this morning. Years later amended paramedic Ken. Suit jacket intermingled due time in my brother's bodies should tell me where he was actually down. I'm leaning line and on Monday until one could go home feeling and now. It is better just to let. You know imagine I guess. Do these troops hurt. Still according. Twenty years later. You might have been lobbed. Only gathering that celebration thinks. I'm. I do it should be in deep hole I didn't want to cure for a great thank you aren't. Think the thing from my heart. So we've just got a monarchy continue to irrigate Ryan didn't. Everyone I don't think he can not happen here. You can reach me. Tornado talk is written and researched and produced by Jennifer and there are more and Dan holidays. Audio courtesy of CNN that Casey DNA KX say MTV. We explore and investigate nature's most fascinating phenomenon on every episode of tornado talk. Catch up on past episodes I've been listening anytime online at tornado talk dot com.