44th anniversary of 1970 tornado - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

44th anniversary of 1970 tornado


On the evening of May 11th, 1970, 44 years ago, a large tornado leveled homes, shattered lives and killed 26 people as it moved through the city of Lubbock after sunset.

On that mid-May day, the West Texas dryline, as it normally does, pushed east of Lubbock by mid-afternoon. However, as sunset approached, the dry-line shifted back westward, and into the city of Lubbock, bringing with it a moist, unstable, air-mass, ripe for thunderstorm development. Storms began to develop south of Lubbock shortly before 7 p.m., and within two hours, hail up to the size of grapefruits, wind gusts to 90 mph and two separate tornadoes had occurred, leaving the city of Lubbock in pieces.

In the aftermath, 26 people lost their lives, 250$ million dollars in damage was done - figured to be equal to $1.25 billion in 2005 dollars - and dozens of homes and businesses were destroyed.

However, the Lubbock tornado served as a focus for study by Ted Fujita, Ph.D., to produce the ‘F' rating scale and study the anatomy of these dangerous whirlwinds. This fateful day was also used as justification in the development of Texas Tech's own Wind Science and Engineering (WISE) Research Center, a facility that has garnered attention over the years for study and implementation of life-saving technologies.

May 11th ,1970, not only served as a focus for research and innovation, but also as a reminder. We live on the Texas South Plains, an area plagued by severe weather – drought, floods, winter storms, and dangerous tornadoes alike. It is vital to have a plan of action for when severe weather returns to your area.

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