El Nino, 1970 before the tornado and again this Spring

BY Cary Allen | email and By James Clark | email

(This is one in a series of special reports on the 1970 Lubbock Tornado)

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – There is one big coincidence between this spring and the spring of 1970.  It's called El Nino, which is a short hand term for warmer than average water in the Pacific Ocean.  So we have to ask: could it happen again?

26 people died on May 11th, 1970 or the days that followed.  Fifteen-hundred more were injured.  Ten-thousand or more cars were damaged , and more than 1,000 homes were destroyed;  nearly 9,000 other houses were damaged.

So with 1970 and 2010 both being El Nino years, does that mean we're in for a repeat?

"Actually with El Nino or La Nina, either one, researchers don't agree whether or not there is a distinct variation in tornado activity based on the El Nino phase," says Meteorologist Steven Cobb with the Lubbock office of National Weather Service.

So there's some controversy. "But statistical research does show that there is a marked decrease in tornado strength during El Ninos in the Southern Plains."

Cobb says El Nino tends to move tornado activity further to the north and east of Lubbock.  So El Nino would actually be good.  That means the target is off our back, right?


Mark Hannah with the Insurance Council of Texas came to Lubbock in early May to talk about insurance rates, but he also provided us with some great information about tornadoes.

Hannah provided us with two maps that show Lubbock gets more than its fair share of tornadoes.

Ninety tornadoes have hit somewhere in Lubbock county between 1950 and last year.  For Hale County that number is 122 tornados.

So, here's the bottom line.  El Nino or not we have to be prepared for severe weather every year.  Staying prepared is perhaps the best way to honor the legacy of those 26 lives lost on May 11th, 1970.

Copyright 2010 KCBD. All rights reserved.