SPC Stats

Path length: 6.2 miles

Width:  400 yards

Fatalities:  2

Injuries:  266

Rating:  F4

Parish:  Bossier

13 tornadoes were recorded during the early morning hours of December 3, 1978.   The strongest was an F4 tornado that developed at 1:50am CT in the Central Park area of Bossier City, LA.  It moved northeast crossing I-20 and then affecting businesses and homes along Benton Road and Airline Drive.  

Per Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes, the tornado developed near the point where an F2 tornado on April 17, 1978 ended.

The tornado destroyed Meadowview Elementary School.  Several 700 lb. I-beam structures were carried several hundred feet.  

On La Don Drive, there were two fatalities.  An automobile was tossed into a home killing sisters Jana Lynn and Lisa Renee Currington, ages 8 and 13 who were sleeping. 

The National Guard Armory was destroyed as well as the Northwest Louisiana State School.  The tornado lifted near Red Chute Bayou. Over $100 million in damage resulted from this tornado.  

Following the event, Ted Fujita, with colleagues Robert Abbey and James McDonald surveyed the damage. Working with Official-in-Charge Ernest Ethridge of the National Weather Service, an extensive areal and ground damage survey was completed.  

Via NWS Shreveport: Overview of the Bossier City tornado track. Colors indicate the tornado's intensity. (Modified from Fujita, 1979.)

From Fujita’s preliminary report after the survey:  “From a meteorological and engineering point of view, the Bossier City tornado has provided us with new knowledge on tornado winds:

  • “The infrared temperature and the area of the parent cloud were not as signifiant as that of other clouds in the squall line.”
  • “The six I-beams which supported the roof of the Meadowview Elementar School became airborne.  The I-beam missiles, each weighting 700 lbs (300 kg), became lodged in the ground or house after traveling up to 350 m (1100 ft) from original locations.”
  • “The tornado was characterized by a high-core and a fast tangential velocity.  In the Meadowview area, the core radius was reduced to 15 m (50 ft) while the maximum tangential velocity was estimated to be over 150 mph.”
  • “A 40 mph translations motion of the tornado will induce peak winds lasting only one to two seconds.  Most of the structural damage must have bene completed within such a short time.”  

Storm Data Entry

Bossier City was the hardest hit with 75 homes and 51 businesses destroyed or suffering heavy damage with hundreds more with minor to moderate damage.  1500 persons were left homeless.  Of the 266 injured, 64 were serious.  The two fatalities were two sisters killed when a car was thrown into the bedroom where they were sleeping. 

Additional Details from the NWS Shreveport Summary of the Event

The Bossier City tornado was spawned from a supercell thunderstorm which developed in Deep East Texas ahead of a squall line. No tornadoes were reported with the supercell as it moved from Deadwood, Texas and across Southwood High School, Pierremont Mall, and the VA Hospital in Shreveport. However, wind equipment at the National Weather Service, located at the Greater Shreveport Municipal Airport (as it was known at the time), recorded a 52 mile per hour wind gust during the passage of the supercell.

The tornado initially developed in the Central Park area of Bossier City, almost directly across the Red River from the VA Hospital around 1:50 AM. 

The tornado crossed Interstate 20 just west of the Barksdale Boulevard interchange.  It continued moving northeastward, affecting businesses and residences along Benton Road and Airline Drive, before briefly moving into the more sparsely populated area east of Airline Drive and north of US-80.

From there, the storm moved into the Meadowview region of Bossier City. Parts of Meadowview Elementary School were destroyed, as wind speeds around 260 mile per hour carried several 700 pound I-beam structures several hundred feet before being firmly planted into the ground. Two fatalities occurred in a home on La Don Drive, when the tornado thrust an automobile into a bedroom where two sisters were sleeping.

The National Guard Armory was then destroyed. Moving across Interstate 220 near the Shed Road Interchange, the tornado destroyed the Northwest Louisiana State School prior to affecting homes in the Stockwell Place and Carriage Oaks region of Bossier City. The tornado lifted just north of this region, near Red Chute Bayou.

Tornado Path

SPC coordinates:  Start: 32.5 / -93.75     End: 32.57 / -93.68

Note:  The starting point is in Caddo Parish.  In the official record, only Bossier Parish is listed.

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

Photos from the NWS Shreveport Summary

National Weather Service-Longview, TX, radar image at 1:581m CST. The red circle highlights the supercell thunderstorm. A tornado is on the ground at this time in Bossier City.
Two girls sleeping in beds in the upper left house were killed by a car which fell onto them.
Airline Drive area. Pointed roof of the Whataburger is left untouched. Estimated upper F3 to lower F4 winds.
The south wing of Meadowview Elementary School.
Destruction at the Best Western Bossier Inn. View from the ground.
One of several 700-pound I-beams stuck deep into the ground by the tornado.
Former Official-in-Charge Ernest Ethridge surveying tornado damage with Dr. Ted Fujita.

Videos

Channel 12 Footage.  Around :40, some audio, turn it up a bit. 

Newspaper Clippings

Discrepancies:

We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the December 1978 Storm Data Publication and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:

Path Length:

  • SPC/NCDC have a 6.2 mile path length.
  • Grazulis and Storm Data have a length at 8 miles.

Parishes in Path:

  • Grazulis includes Caddo Parish in path.
  • The starting latitude and longitude given by the SPC for the path places the start point in Caddo Parish.
  • Remaining sources only list Bossier Parish.

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