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Last Map Update: Wed, Apr. 17, 2024 at 10:23:51 am CDT

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Breezy southwesterly winds will help bring warmer temperatures to the region today with high temperatures in the upper 80s to lower 90s.
Temperatures will be on the decline after today with below normal temperatures expected Friday through the weekend. Showers and thunderstorms will also return to the region Friday night and persist through Sunday morning.

 

 

 

Local Weather History For April 17th...
1970 (17th-18th): A very rare nighttime outbreak of tornadoes struck populated centers in the Texas Panhandle and South
Plains region causing extensive damage and claiming the lives of 23 people. What made this nighttime outbreak so unusual
was that some of the tornadoes occurred during fog, at times dense, and were accompanied by very little lightning making
nighttime spotting almost impossible. The weather for much of the afternoon over the region did not immediately suggest a
pattern that was favorable for such a historic event as abundant fog and low clouds prevailed with temperatures only in
the 50s and 60s. However, observations in central Texas revealed unusually moist air for late April with dewpoints near
70° channeling northwest into West Texas on gusty southeasterly winds. An east-west oriented warm front began
surging north into the South Plains by late afternoon at which point a dryline in southeast New Mexico erupted with
scattered supercells. Although additional weather data is sparse for this event, it is believed that at least one of these
supercells tracked northeast all the way into the southern South Plains after sunset at which point the first violent
tornado touched down in Whiteface before striking Whitharral. The Witharral Postmaster said "The tornado was not the
usual funnel shape, but more like a rain cloud. It hit Whitharral like a ball of fire, lighting the entire town with
electricity picked up when it hit power lines". This half-mile wide F4 tornado caused 20 injuries and $2M in damage
in Whiteface alone with four injuries and $700,000 damage reported in Whitharral. A testament to the instability and wind
shear in place, this tornadic storm also produced giant hail to four inches in diameter. Additional significant tornadic
supercells developed late in the night near Lazbuddie, Cotton Center and Tulia. All of these were recorded as long-tracked
F4 tornadoes with the Lazbuddie tornado perhaps the most significant of them all (from a meteorological perspective) in
that it was on the ground for just over two hours from Lazbuddie all the way into the northeast Texas Panhandle where the
city of Pampa suffered 10 injuries and damage to 20 homes. In reality, this tornado may have been comprised of a series of
dissipating and developing tornadoes throughout its lengthy path; however, more recent outbreaks have confirmed that such
long-lived single tornadoes are indeed possible. The Cotton Center tornado was observed to feature a companion tornado
one-to-two miles away near the start of its path. This F4 tornado caused considerable damage to the southwest and
northeast areas of Plainview where nearly every structure was leveled with some homes swept clean leaving only a concrete
slab. Forty people were injured and two killed in Plainview alone. This tornado followed a nearly perfect straight line
northeast into Silverton where a 14 year-old girl was killed. Interestingly, eyewitness accounts in Plainview stated that
there was little noise associated with this tornado when it struck and that it was completely hidden from view due to
thick fog and little lightning. Near Silverton, this tornado deposited two 50-foot tall tanks of grain 1/4 mile from their
origin and a massive 1.5 million bushel tank was moved 50 feet. Farther north, the Tulia tornado fortunately began
northeast of the city; however, in similar fashion to the other tornadoes, this cyclone moved northeast in a straight line
passing northwest of Clarendon before dissipating north of McLean. Tragically, 15 people were killed west-northwest of
Clarendon, most of whom lived in mobile homes at the Sherwood Shores resort community at the Green Belt Reservoir. Here
alone, 172 mobile homes were completely destroyed. This tornado also blew several tank cars off the railroad tracks near
I-40. The exact number of tornadoes from this outbreak is unknown; largely due to the unusual time of this event and the
lack of comprehensive storm damage surveys at the time. Considering the magnitude of this outbreak, it is likely that
several more tornadoes occurred than only the four recorded in the official 1970 Storm Data publication. Interestingly, on
more than one occasion eyewitnesses reported multiple funnel clouds in the vicinity of some of the main tornadoes;
however, it was never determined if any of these funnels became tornadic. Not adjusting for inflation, this entire
outbreak exceeded $10M in property losses. Just three weeks later, another violent nighttime tornado would occur on the
South Plains; this time in the city of Lubbock. Much of the significance of the April 17th outbreak would soon be
overshadowed by the Lubbock F5 tornado.