Weather service says last week’s storm brought tornado

Report says cyclone carried 85-90 mph winds, traveled some 2.7 miles

From Staff Reports

March 25, 2008 - Despite extensive damage from a major thunderstorm that hit Hopkins County last week, at that time the National Weather Service said there was no confirmation of any tornadoes in the area as a result of the weather event.

But after a closer look, the weather experts have come to a different conclusion.

�Based on eyewitness interviews and the damage track characteristics, it appears a weak tornado moved across this area,� wrote Gary Woodall, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth, in a report on a survey of the storm�s aftermath.

The storm cells which whipped through the area on Tuesday, March 18, brought heavy winds and more than 4 inches of rain, with the hardest hit areas on the north side of Hopkins County. Roads were left impassable by the deluge of precipitation, and trees and utility poles were felled by the fury of the storm.

On Friday, National Weather Service staff surveyed the damage from the storm.

�The first damage was observed west of State Highway 19 along the northbound part of County Road 4761,� Woodall wrote in his report issued Monday. �Damage to trees and a shed was noted in this area. Several trees were snapped, and power line damage occurred along Highway 19 between County Road 3620 and County Road 4508.�

The most significant damage occurred along County Road 4508, located about two miles north of Sulphur Springs between SH 19 and FM 3236

�Several homes experienced roof damage,� Woodall noted. �A barn was damaged and a shed was destroyed. Debris from the shed struck a light pole and combined with the wind to bend it to the ground.�

Two other county roads just to the east and north of CR 4508 also saw significant turbulence.

�Along FM 3236 and County Road 4510, a semi-trailer was blown over, and trees were snapped in this area,� Woodall reported. �Additional trees were damaged north of County Road 3510, east of FM 3236.�

Based on the damage assessment, NWS meteorologists believe a tornado with a “low EF-1 rating” on the Enhanced Fujita Scale moved through the area.

The Enhanced Fujita Scale is an update of the original scale developed in 1971 by T. Theodore Fujita at the University of Chicago. The enhanced scale, like the original, is a set of wind estimates — not measurements — that are calculated based on the damage a tornado leaves behind.

The scale ranges from EF0, with three-second wind gusts of 65 to 85 miles per hour, to EF5, with wind speeds estimated at more than 200 miles per hour.

An EF1 rating indicates estimated wind speeds of 86 to 110 mph, strong enough to cause moderate damage such as peeling off the surfaces of roofs, pushing mobile homes off their foundations and even overturning them.

Maximum winds in the County Road 4508 area were 85-90 mph, according to the National Weather Service’s findings, and the tornado cut a swath that was roughly 70 yards wide and traveled approximately 2.7 miles.

While storm cells, like all Texas weather, carry unpredictable behavior, the one that hit Hopkins County last week was “a quite unusual event,” according to Woodall.

�Eyewitness reports suggested that the tornado occurred along or just behind the cold front that moved through,� Woodall wrote. �This is a typically unfavorable location for a tornado.�

The cyclone also apparently developed before, not during, the height of the storm.

�Radar and eyewitnesses also suggest that the storms along the front were not strong � again not typical of a tornado,� Woodall reported. �More significant storms and rainfall began well after the damage occurred.�

The weather service is also examining the effects of the storm on the western end of the county, Woodall stated.

�We�re still working to nail down exactly what happened, and when, south of Cumby,� Woodall wrote in the report on the storm.

Ultimately, he added, the event is a reminder for everyone in North Texas to review their severe weather plans.

�Severe weather threats can sometimes appear very quickly,� said Woodall, who is frequently one of the NWS trainers of weather spotters in Hopkins County. �Therefore, we must all instinctively know what to do and how to respond if a threat materializes.�

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