North Texas Daily

Tracking the history of twisters in Denton

Tracking the history of twisters in Denton

Tracking the history of twisters in Denton
July 08
14:43 2014

Steven James // Staff Writer

April 3, a massive storm hit Denton County, damaging many peoples’ vehicles and homes. Several people were injured. Many residents in North Texas ran for cover as tornadoes hit the ground and giant pieces of hail crashed through windows.

Though no tornadoes hit the city of Denton, great damage was done to UNT, including the destruction of an entire section of West Hall.

The making of a tornado

In order for tornadoes to form, the atmosphere in a certain area must be unstable.

Even though some powerful tornadoes have hit mountainous areas, most hit lower areas because mountains are high elevation and have cooler air than most other geographical regions.

The U.S. has the most tornadoes of any country per year, with an average of 1,253. Most tornadoes in the U.S. are in Tornado Alley, rougly defined to be between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains, and stopping in North Texas.

Texas has an average of 125 tornadoes per year, the most of any state in the U.S. The mixture of high elevation and plateau land and the constant temperature changes in the air are two of the main reasons why tornadoes occur as often as they do.

“First thing’s first, tornadoes can occur anywhere in the country,” Weather Underground head of meteorological operations Shaun Tanner said. “The temperature difference between the cold and warm air is what drives tornadoes to form.”

Tornado intensity is measured by the Fujita Damaging Tornado Scale, which uses F0- F5. F0 tornadoes have wind speeds of less than 73 mph and normally only do small damage to buildings and trees. F5 tornadoes have wind speeds of 261-318 mph and indicate catastrophic events, including the destruction of entire sections of cities and many casualties.

Tornados of the past

In the history of Denton County, tornadoes have usually hit farm homes.

The city of Denton has not had many tornadoes hit the ground. Most tornadoes in Denton County have only hit surrounding cities, such as Little Elm and Corinth.

Kim Cupit, curator of collections for the Office of History and Culture, grew up in Denton County. She said that whenever tornadoes would hit, they would only affect the outer parts of the county and the city of Denton would not even get rainfall.

While in high school, she took classes at UNT. There were days when she was not allowed to leave because of inclement weather, but Denton would not get even an inch of rain.

“They tend to go around us, rather than through us,” Cupit said.

Some of the county’s most destructive tornadoes occurred in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

One of the most powerful tornadoes to hit Denton County was in 1918, when a tornado touched down on April 15 and continued moving until the next day. Five people were killed and two more people were injured. Trees were uprooted and $8,000 worth of damage was done to Aubrey High School.

Another extremely destructive tornado incident was when four tornadoes hit the ground on Feb. 27, 1945.

A more recent tornado hit during the April 3 storm. Even though that tornado missed Denton, a hailstorm accompanied the tornado, damaging many buildings and destroying part of West Hall.

Public tornado safety measures

Tornado season tends to begin near the end of winter and ends in the middle of summer.

Denton Fire Department emergency management coordinator Michael Penaluna said that the city of Denton has procedures in place for when severe weather hits.

There are different levels of the city’s emergency management procedure. The smaller the number, the more dangerous the weather.

Level 4 means that the storm has not hit Denton yet, but that local authorities should be prepared. Level 3 means the storm has hit, but there is no severe damage yet. Level 2 means that people should seek shelter and all local government departments are involved.

Level 1, which indicates a catastrophic event, has never happened. Penaluna said if a Level 1 storm were to ever hit, that Denton would have to seek help from other cities.

He also said that people can register to be on the CodeRed System, which alerts people with phone calls when severe weather is about to hit.

“Turn around, go back,” Penaluna said. “Know what to do when the sirens sound.”

The Denton Fire Department has training exercises every May to prepare for major catastrophes. The simulations are made to look as real as possible.

UNT emergency administration and planning students play victims in these exercises. The students’ parents also participate in the exercises.

“People really need to prepare themselves well ahead of time,” Tanner said. “They need to pay attention to authorities before a tornado outbreak is expected to begin and prepared to protect lives and property.

“If you ever find yourself in a tornado warning, you need to seek immediate shelter. If in a bathroom, get into a bathtub. It’s a good idea to wear a helmet as well.”

Penaluna said that Denton has an emergency plan for severe weather incidents, including when tornadoes form.

“We’ve got a history of it, we know it’s going to happen, there’s nothing we can do to stop it from happening, but we can help lessen the impacts of it, and be ready to respond when it happens,” Penaluna said.

He also said the fire department and other city departments have training and public information programs to help lessen the amount of casualties.

“You can sit around the table and talk about it all you want to, but it’s not until you get into the field that you say, ‘Well, that didn’t work like we thought it was going to,’” he said. “It’s generally a safe place to be, but bad things do happen occasionally. People, they don’t need to be scared, they just need to be prepared.”

Feature Illustration by Jake Bowerman

About Author



Related Articles


No Comments Yet!

There are no comments at the moment, do you want to add one?

Write a comment

Write a Comment

The Roundup

<script id="mcjs">!function(c,h,i,m,p){m=c.createElement(h),p=c.getElementsByTagName(h)[0],m.async=1,m.src=i,p.parentNode.insertBefore(m,p)}(document,"script","");</script>

Search Bar

Sidebar Thumbnails Ad

Twitter Feed

North Texas Daily @ntdaily
THE DOSE: Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’ is a frustratingly enjoyable mess🖋: @OberkromJadenRead more:
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
NEWS: Inflation puts pressure on local restaurant owners🖋: McKinnon Rice 📸: @anthonyrubesRead more:
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
OPINION: Customer satisfaction should not come at the expense of employee sanity🖋: @Iauriee 🖼:Cuinn CornwellRead more:
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
ARTS & LIFE: CVAD gallery hosts Congolese artist's first solo gallery🖋: Hana Musa 📸: @JohnAndersontxRead more:
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
OPINION: Universities should support their students' abortion rights🖋: Hana Musa 🖼: @jasperbeeeRead more:
h J R

Sidebar Bottom Block Ad

Flytedesk Ad