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The Waco Tornado

An Analysis of the Worst US Tornadoes


This tornado hit Waco, Texas on the 11th of May, 1953. That morning dawned hot and muggy across much of Texas and by 9:30 a.m. there were storms moving in and creating a strong outflow boundary. Tornadoes began occurring in other parts of Texas by mid-afternoon, and at approximately 4:10 p.m. the tornado touched down just southwest of Waco. From there, it began to move to the north-northeast.

Those that were there on that day, and those that helped pick up the pieces after, judged the tornado to be over 1/3 of a mile in width. It was also raining very heavily at the time that the tornado came through, making it more difficult to see the coming twister and therefore try to get to safety. After the tornado cut a swath through Waco it continued to move to the north-northeast and finally dissipated, leaving a 23-mile long path of destruction in its wake.

Almost 600 people were injured in the Waco tornado, and 114 were killed. People that had been trapped by the tornado waited up to 14 hours for rescue and bodies were often not located in the rubble for several days. The twister, rated an F5 on the Fujita scale, damaged over 1000 homes and businesses and completely destroyed over 600 more, as well as damaging or destroying 2000 vehicles. The cost of the Waco tornado was $41 million in 1953, which would equal over $310 million in today’s dollars.

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