Photo of the devastating 1979 Wichita Falls, Texas "wedge" tornado (copyright Pat Blacklock) before it hit the city, killing 42, injuring 1,700, leaving 20,000 local residents homes (roughly 1/4 the town's population at the time). The F4 tornado (winds estimated from 207-260 mph.) was on the ground for 47 minutes. Warnings were issued 30 minutes before the tornado hit the city, causing many residents to get into their cars and try to make it home to be with family. More than half the fatalities were people stranded in their cars, stuck in traffic when the tornado passed overhead. The 5th worst tornado in Texas history renewed efforts by the National Weather Service to warn Americans to avoid vehicles during tornado events (the risk of injury and death rises exponentially in a car or truck). Wichita Falls is observing the 30th anniversary of the tornado today, April 10, 2009.
The full text of the article is here.
Click here for a comprehensive USA Today article on the Wichita Falls tornado.