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1997 Central Texas tornado outbreak
Date of tornado outbreak: May 27, 1997
Duration1: 13.5 hours
Maximum rated tornado2: F5 tornado
Tornadoes caused: 20 confirmed
Damages: >$190 million 2005 USD
Fatalities: 29
Areas affected: Central Texas

1Time from first tornado to last tornado
2Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita Scale

The 1997 Central Texas tornado outbreak was an unusual tornado outbreak in Central Texas which occurred on May 27, 1997. The F5 tornado that struck the town of Jarrell, Texas killed 27 people out of 1319 residents[1]. The tornado was 3/4 of a mile (1.2 km) wide and tracked across the ground for 7.6 miles (12.2 km)[2]. Double Creek Estates, a subdivision of Jarrell, was literally wiped off the map with all 38 homes and several mobile homes destroyed[2].


Meteorological synopsis

In the early morning hours of May 27, a large Mesoscale Convective Complex developed over Eastern Oklahoma and Western Arkansas. A "gravity wave" or outflow boundary was generated by this system and stalled out over Central Texas. This was oriented from the northeast to the southwest, causing the movement of the supercells later on to be to the southwest, which is extremely unusual. Also unusual on this day was the low shear and extreme instability.[2]

Confirmed tornadoes

20 6 6 3 3 1 1
List of confirmed tornadoes - May 27, 1997
Time (UTC)
Path length
F2 W of Lorena McLennan 1821 2 miles
(3.2 km)
The tornado severely damaged several mobile homes and one frame house.[3]
F0 N of Eddy McLennan 1844 0.2 miles
(0.32 km)
Brief tornado with no damage
F3 Moody area McLennan, Bell 1846 3.7 miles
(5.9 km)
It did extensive damage to trees, destroyed a house and a barn, damaged another small house, and tossed a car and a pickup truck several hundred feet.[2]
F0 NW of Belton Bell 1916 0.2 miles
(0.32 km)
Weak tornado with no damage
F3 W of Temple Bell 1927 1.4 miles
(2.2 km)
The tornado caused significant damage to structures around Lake Belton. 10 homes had severe damage and 100 boats were destroyed.[2]
F1 SW of Belton Bell 1950 0.2 miles
(0.32 km)
Brief tornado with unknown damage
F1 N of Blooming Grove Navarro 2005 0.5 miles
(0.8 km)
Damage limited to trees
F1 Prairie Dell area Bell 2007 2.4 miles
(3.8 km)
Damage to several structures and numerous trees
F2 SW of Prairie Dell Williamson 2025 2 miles
(3.2 km)
First of three tornadoes touching down near the Jarrell area.
F2 W of Jarrell Williamson 2035 0.5 miles
(0.8 km)
Second of three tornadoes touching down near the Jarrell area
F1 S of Dawson Navarro 2036 0.5 miles
(0.8 km)
Damage limited to trees
F5 Jarrell area Williamson 2040[4] 5.1 miles
(8.2 km)
27 Deaths A weak pencil-like tornado touched down near the Bell-Williamson County line, the funnel rapidly intensified into a 3/4 mile wide multi-vortex storm at around 3:45 PM CDT. The tornado continued on before destroying and sweeping away many of the buildings in Double Creek Estates. As the tornado continued it ripped asphalt off the roads. The tornado pulled dirt and grass up from the ground about 18 in off the ground before dissipating near a wooded area outside Jarrell. Jump to section on this tornado
F0 SW of Hubbard Hill 2050 0.2 miles
(0.32 km)
Brief tornado with no damage
F3 Cedar Park area Williamson, Travis 2105 9.2 miles
(14.7 km)
1 Death This tornado produced relatively minor damage before moving into Cedar Park. The tornado devastated the downtown area of Cedar Park, specifically an Albertson's Grocery Store. The tornado then moved into the Buttercup Subdivision, severely damaging some homes. One man died here of cardiac arrest while waiting out the tornado in his pickup truck, his death was not counted in the total.[2]
F1 SW of Anderson Mill Travis 2115 0.2 miles
(0.32 km)
Brief tornado preceding the main Lake Travis tornado.
F4 S of Lake Travis Travis 2150 5.6 miles
(9 km)
1 Death The tornado initially caused major damage to a marina on Lake Travis. The tornado then severely damaged a reinforced concrete building containing a telephone switching center. It then completely destroyed a stone house, leaving the foundation bare. It then moved into the Hazy Hills subdivision, destroying several homes and mobile homes. This tornado killed one man while he was either blown from his mobile home or truck while attempting to seek safe shelter.[2]
F1 Kyle area Hays 2038 3.5 miles
(5.6 km)
Damage to trees and power lines
F0 S of Utopia Uvalde 0000 0.2 miles
(0.32 km)
Brief tornado with no damage
F0 NW of Sisterdale Kendall 0030 0.7 miles
(1.1 km)
Brief tornado with no damage
F0 E of Moore Frio 0120 1 miles
(1.6 km)
Brief tornado in open country
Source: Tornado History Project - Storm Data for May 27, 1997

F5 Jarrell tornado

Initially a weak pencil-like tornado near the Bell-Williamson County line, the funnel rapidly intensified into a 3/4 mile wide multi-vortex storm at around 3:45 PM CDT.

Its first damage occurred three minutes later at 3:48 PM CDT in the northwestern portion of Jarrell striking Double Creek Estates. It later moved into a wooded area before dissipating after damaging numerous trees.[2]

Grass and dirt in fields near Jarrell were ripped out of the ground to a depth of 18 in or (50 cm). When the tornado crossed county roads outside Jarrell, it ripped 500 feet (150m) of asphalt off the roads.[2]

About 40 structures were completely destroyed by the tornado and dozens of vehicles were lifted in the air and tossed, some thrown more than half a mile. Many researchers, after reviewing aerial damage photographs of Double Creek Estates, considered the Jarrell storm to be the most violent tornado, in terms of damage intensity, that they had ever seen. Most of the homes in the tornadoes path were well-constructed and bolted to their foundations, but even so the tornado left only the slab foundations.[5] Several entire families were killed in the tornado, including all five members of the Igo family and all four members of the Moehring family.[6]

There were 27 human fatalities in the Double Creek subdivision. In addition, about 300 cattle were killed by the storm.

About 10 minutes prior to the main event, eye-witnesses spotted additional tornadoes north and west of Jarrell.[4]

See also


External links



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