NATURAL DISASTER STUDIES

Volume Three

SARAGOSA, TEXAS, TORNADO

MAY 22, 1987 AN EVALUATION OF THE WARNING SYSTEM

Prepared by:

Benigno E. Aguirre,

Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas (senior author)

Walter A. Anderson,

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service Forecast Office, Lubbock, Texas

Sam Balandran,

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, Southern Region Headquarters, Fort Worth, Texas

Brian E. Peters,

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, Southern Region Headquarters, Fort Worth, Texas

H. Max White,

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, Southern Region Headquarters, Fort Worth, Texas

For:

Committee on Natural Disasters

Division of Natural Hazard Mitigation

Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C. 1991



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NATURAL DISASTER STUDIES: SARAGOSA, TEXAS, TORNADO NATURAL DISASTER STUDIES Volume Three SARAGOSA, TEXAS, TORNADO MAY 22, 1987 AN EVALUATION OF THE WARNING SYSTEM Prepared by: Benigno E. Aguirre, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas (senior author) Walter A. Anderson, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service Forecast Office, Lubbock, Texas Sam Balandran, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, Southern Region Headquarters, Fort Worth, Texas Brian E. Peters, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, Southern Region Headquarters, Fort Worth, Texas H. Max White, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, Southern Region Headquarters, Fort Worth, Texas For: Committee on Natural Disasters Division of Natural Hazard Mitigation Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1991

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NATURAL DISASTER STUDIES: SARAGOSA, TEXAS, TORNADO NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Frank Press is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Robert M. White is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Samuel O. Thier is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Frank Press and Dr. Robert M. White are chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 90-63997 International Standard Book Number 0-309-04435-9 A limited number of copies of this monograph are available from: Committee on Natural Disasters, HA 286 National Research Council 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20418 202/334-3312 Additional copies are available for sale from: National Academy Press 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20418 202/334-3313 1-800-624-6242 Printed in the United States of America S-287

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NATURAL DISASTER STUDIES: SARAGOSA, TEXAS, TORNADO NATURAL DISASTER STUDIES An Investigative Series of the Committee on Natural Disasters The Committee on Natural Disasters and its predecessors, dating back to the committee that studied the 1964 Alaska Earthquake, have conducted on-site studies and prepared reports reflecting their findings and recommendations on the mitigation of natural disaster effects. Objectives of the committee are to: record time-sensitive information immediately following disasters; provide guidance on how engineering and the social sciences can best be applied to the improvement of public safety; recommend research needed to advance the state of the art in the area of natural disaster reduction; and conduct special studies to address long-term issues in natural disasters, particularly issues of a multiple-hazard nature. EDITOR Riley M. Chung National Research Council EDITORIAL BOARD Dennis S. Mileti, Chairman Colorado State University Fort Collins Arthur N. L. Chiu University of Hawaii at Manoa Honolulu Joseph H. Golden National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Washington, D.C. Dale C. Perry Texas A&M University College Station Norbert S. Baer New York University New York Hanna J. Cortner University of Arizona Tucson Wilfred D. Iwan California Institute of Technology Pasadena William J. Petak University of Southern California Los Angeles Earl J. Baker Florida State University Tallahassee Peter Gergely Cornell University Ithaca, New York Ahsan Kareem University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, Indiana Robert L. Schuster U.S. Geological Survey Denver, Colorado SPONSORING AGENCIES Federal Emergency Management Agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Science Foundation

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NATURAL DISASTER STUDIES: SARAGOSA, TEXAS, TORNADO INVITATION FOR DISCUSSION Materials presented in Natural Disaster Studies often contain observations and statements that inspire debate. Readers interested in contributing to the discussion surrounding any topic contained in the journal may do so in the form of a letter to the editor. Letters will be reviewed by the editorial board, and if considered appropriate, printed in subsequent issues of Natural Disaster Studies.

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NATURAL DISASTER STUDIES: SARAGOSA, TEXAS, TORNADO COMMITTEE ON NATURAL DISASTERS (1987–1990) NORBERT S. BAER, Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, New York EARL J. BAKER, Department of Geography, Florida State University, Tallahassee ARTHUR N. L. CHIU, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu HANNA J. CORTNER, Water Resources Research Center, University of Arizona, Tucson JOHN A. DRACUP, Civil Engineering Department, University of California, Los Angeles DANNY L. FREAD, National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Silver Spring, Maryland PETER GERGELY, Department of Structural Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York JOSEPH H. GOLDEN, Chief Scientist Office, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Washington, D.C. WILFRED D. IWAN, Department of Earthquake Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena AHSAN KAREEM, Civil Engineering Department, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana DENNIS S. MILETI, Department of Sociology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins JOSEPH PENZIEN, Department of Civil Engineering, University of California, Berkeley DALE C. PERRY, Department of Construction Science, College of Architecture, Texas A&M University, College Station WILLIAM J. PETAK, Institute of Safety and Systems Management, University of Southern California, Los Angeles ROBERT L. SCHUSTER, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, Colorado RANDALL G. UPDIKE, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia Staff RILEY M. CHUNG, Director BARBARA BODLING, Editor SUSAN R. MCCUTCHEN, Administrative Assistant SHIRLEY J. WHITLEY, Project Assistant

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NATURAL DISASTER STUDIES: SARAGOSA, TEXAS, TORNADO Liaison Representatives WILLIAM A. ANDERSON, Earthquake Systems Integration, Division of Biological and Critical Systems, National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C. BRUCE A. BAUGHMAN, Hazard Mitigation Branch, Public Assistance Division, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Washington, D.C. FRED COLE, Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, Agency for International Development, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. ROBERT D. GALE (deceased), U.S. Department of Agriculture/Forest Service, Washington, D.C. EDWARD M. GROSS, Constituent Affairs and Industrial Meteorology Staff, National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Silver Spring, Maryland WILLIAM HOOKE, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Washington, D.C. PAUL KRUMPE, Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, Agency for International Development, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. J. ELEONORA SABADELL, Division of Biological and Critical Systems, National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C. GERALD F. WIECZOREK, Office of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Engineering, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia ARTHUR J. ZEIZEL, Office of Natural and Technological Hazards Programs, State and Local Programs and Support, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Washington, D.C. LAWRENCE W. ZENSINGER (alternate), Office of Disaster Assistance Programs, State and Local Programs and Support, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Washington, D.C.

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NATURAL DISASTER STUDIES: SARAGOSA, TEXAS, TORNADO Acknowledgments The authors would like to acknowledge the kind assistance of the residents and local authorities of Saragosa, who made this report possible.

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NATURAL DISASTER STUDIES: SARAGOSA, TEXAS, TORNADO Glossary of Abbreviations AFOS automation of field operations and services AP Associated Press AWIPS Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System CDT central daylight time DPS Department of Public Safety EBS Emergency Broadcast System EOC Emergency Operating Center LETS Law Enforcement Teletype System LI lifted index MDT mountain daylight time MIC meteorologist in charge NAWAS National Warning System NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NSSFC National Severe Storms Forecast Center NWR NOAA Weather Radio NWS National Weather Service NWWS NOAA Weather Wire Service PPI planned position indicator TSN Texas State Network UPI United Press International VIP video integrator processor WSFO Weather Service Forecast Office

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NATURAL DISASTER STUDIES: SARAGOSA, TEXAS, TORNADO Contents     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY   1  1   THE TORNADO AND ITS EFFECTS   5      Postdisaster Survey,   5      The Setting,   5      The Tornado,   6      The Damage,   9      The Warning System (or Absence of It),   9      Notes,   12  2   TORNADO PREPAREDNESS ACTIVITIES   13      Public Awareness Week,   13      Storm Spotter Training,   15      Hamfests,   15      Summary,   17  3   TORNADO WARNING ACTIVITIES   18      Warning Issuance from Various Sources,   18      Notes,   20  4   TORNADO WARNING DISSEMINATION   22      NOAA Weather Wire Service,   22      Law Enforcement Teletype System,   23      NOAA Weather Radio,   23      Emergency Broadcast System,   23      Television and the Cable System,   24      Radio,   25

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NATURAL DISASTER STUDIES: SARAGOSA, TEXAS, TORNADO      Sirens,   26      Pecos Department of Public Safety,   26      Pecos/Reeves County Emergency Management Office and Sheriff's Office,   27      National Warning System,   27      Summary,   27      Notes,   28  5   OBSERVATIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND CONCLUSION   29      Observations,   29      Recommendations,   31      Conclusion,   32      Note,   32     REFERENCES   33     APPENDIXES   35  A.   Summary of Deaths in the Saragosa Tornado,   35  B.   Eyewitness Account,   36  C.   Preparedness Activities Related to Reeves County, Texas, by NWS Midland,   39  D.   Meteorological Information on the Saragosa Tornado,   41  E.   Chronology of Releases on West Texas Weather Wire,   51  F.   Palestine, Texas, Tornado, November 15, 1987,   55

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NATURAL DISASTER STUDIES: SARAGOSA, TEXAS, TORNADO The Saragosa, Texas, Tornado May 22, 1987 An Evaluation of the Warning System

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