The Jarrell, TX Tornado of 27 May 97

Three Views of a Historic Weather Event

Shortly before 3:45 pm CDT on 27 May 97, a violent tornado struck portions of Jarrell, TX, killing 27 directly, and doing damage officially rated F5 on the Fujita Scale -- the most extreme level of tornado damage. This tornado blew some houses completely off the foundations and swept away the disentegrated remains. It also scoured asphalt from roads, killed and dismembered hundreds of cattle, stripped bark from trees and uprooted them, and bounced vehicles for up to half a mile from their parking places.

Satellite and radar images of the thunderstorm that produced this tornado, each at about the time the tornado was leaving Jarrell, are shown above. On the reflectivity image, a well-defined "hook" echo is visible; radar storm-relative velocity imagery (not shown) depicted a deep mesocyclone at the time the tornado was moving through Jarrell. Note the small cell just southwest of the Jarrell storm; this was one of several in the lifespan of the entire thunderstorm complex which formed farther southwest along the boundary, distinctly separate from the main storm -- then merged with it and became the primary storm itself. This process is known as discrete propagation and can be seen in the animated radar loop linked below.

Developing showers and thunderstorms, extending southwestward along the boundary from the main storm, are also evident on the visible satellite imagery. In addition, a faint gray arc moving southwestward across central Texas was possibly a gravity wave produced by a thunderstorm complex earlier that morning over eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas. The first thunderstorm of the Jarrell complex began where the arc intersected the low level boundary. This has renewed discussions among many meteorologists about the possible role of gravity waves in formation of severe thunderstorms.

A complete set of SPC radar and satellite imagery for the event is online in the form of animated gifs (NOTE: these files are large!), with text explanation:

Radar Reflectivity Loop - 475K Animated GIF

Vis Satellite Loop - 3.7 MB Animated GIF

A tornado watch from SPC had been in effect since 1:15 pm, and a tornado warning from NWS New Braunfels since 3:30 pm. [See text windows below.] Still, many of the people killed and injured had taken shelter properly within their dwellings but still did not survive because of the obliteration of those homes.

SPC Tornado Watch valid for Jarrell area

EWX Tornado Warning valid for Jarrell area

Other Jarrell Tornado Links

Damage Picture Set by Sam Barricklow

Event Summary from NWS New Braunfels

Texas A&M observational and research page

Center for Disease Control report

QuickTime Movie of the Tornado from Discovery and Texas A&M (2.5 MB)

Satellite & Radar Imagery from NCDC

Satellite Imagery Analysis from Colorado State Univ. - CIRA

Storm chaser account by Lon Curtis

Tornado & damage photos from SkyLink (Austin)

USA Today news story

Morbidity and Mortality Report from Texas Dept. of Health

Past Cool Images from SPC

::::: Hurricane Opal (1995) near peak intensity :::::

::::: Hurricane Bertha (1996) north of Puerto Rico :::::

::::: Isolated Supercell associated with Hurricane Bertha :::::

::::: Convectively Induced Vort Max Indicated by Radar :::::

::::: California Wildfires: A Satellite View :::::

::::: Severe Hailstorm along a Gravity Wave :::::

::::: Radar Depictions of Outflow Boundaries :::::

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