A look back at Terrible Tuesday, one of Texas’ deadliest tornado outbreaks

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Published 12:50 pm, Monday, April 10, 2017

On April 10, 1979, a series of deadly tornadoes broke out near the Texas-Oklahoma border.

Known as the Red River Valley tornado outbreak or “Terrible Tuesday,” 30 tornadoes ran rampant through the region, killing 58 people, 54 of them Texans.

One of the evening’s deadliest twisters struck Wichita Falls, Texas, where a category F4 tornado killed 42 people and left an 8-mile path of destruction through the city.

By the end of the event, the mile and a half wide tornado caused more than 1,700 injuries, destroyed more than 3,000 homes and left 20,000 people homeless. At the time, officials calculated the damages at $400,000,000, or $1.3 billion in today’s dollars. 

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Dr. Tetsuya Fujita, a storm researcher and creator of the the Fujita Scale — the scale which gives tornadoes an intensity rating between F0 and F5 — surveyed the twister’s damage in Wichita Falls and said it was “among the widest that he had ever seen,” according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report.

The same report, which examined the tornado event on its 30-year anniversary, noted a few lessons from the tragic day. 

The first was that fleeing a tornado in a vehicle can be more dangerous than sheltering in place. Twenty-five of the 42 deaths occurred in vehicles, many of them attempting to flee the tornado. In addition, the report also noted that “living in a major city does not diminish the risk of a tornado,” a myth the report says was dispelled by the damage caused to Wichita Fall’s metropolitan area.

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Nearly four decades later, Terrible Tuesday is Texas’ fifth deadliest and most recent tornado disaster.  

Click through above to see photos of Terrible Tuesday’s damage to areas of Texas and Oklahoma.

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