I Wonder: Austin tornadoes




Posted on May 6, 2011 at 4:09 PM

Updated Friday, May 20 at 4:41 PM

Has a tornado ever hit Austin?

In light of the recent devastating storms across the South, I thought I would find out if Austin has ever been directly struck by a tornado.

As it turns out, tornadoes have touched down in Travis County more times than I would have guessed. According to the NOAA Satellite and Information Service, a total of 61 tornadoes have been recorded since 1950. KVUE Chief Meteorologist Mark Murray tells me that year is when reliable record keeping began.

Murray also says the only time a tornado has been right in downtown Austin was in 1922, before record keeping started. Two tornadoes known as the “Twin Tornadoes” ripped through Austin on May 4 that year. What began as one funnel cloud eventually turned into two that tore through town. Parts of East Austin, Travis Heights, and St. Edward's University were just a few of the areas hit. The second twister went through the University of Texas campus, Deep Eddy, and Oak Hill. When the destruction was complete, 13 people were dead and 44 were injured, according to the City of Austin's website.

Another notable storm occurred in 1980 when Hurricane Allen spawned three tornadoes in the Austin area. Murray says one of the tornadoes hit near the old Robert Mueller Airport. Damage from that storm is listed at a $250 million, making it the most damaging tropical tornado ever recorded in the United States. You can see a 1980 KVUE News story about this tornado in the player above.

So what are the chances another tornado will hit us? Murray says he has calculated that “the odds of a tornado directly impacting any one spot in Central Texas in a given year are about one in 17,000.”

You can find the complete list of the last 61 tornadoes to hit Travis County by clicking here. Then select “Texas.”  On the next screen, under “County,” select” Travis.”  Under “Event Type” select “Tornado.”  Hit “List Storms.”  That will bring up the list. Clicking on each link will bring up details of the storm. 

Tune in to KVUE News Nightbeat at 10 p.m. Friday, May 13, when KVUE meteorologist Albert Ramon takes a special look at the unforgettable 1980 tornado.

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