Path length: 65 miles
Width: 880 yards
County: Swisher, Briscoe, Armstrong, Donley, Gray
Per the SPC, 15 tornadoes occurred between April 17 & 18, 1970. Nine of those were in the state of Texas and four of the nine were rated F4. Per the Storm Data Narrative, the exact number of tornadoes is actually not known. “In some localities, four to five funnels were reported, but it is not known how many of these actually touched ground.” Officially, there were 9 recorded and we are looking at the last F4. It occurred very early in the morning on April 18.
This massive twister tracked 65 miles through parts of Swisher, Briscoe, Armstrong, Donley and Gray Counties. This tornado had a max width of 880 yards. 42 injuries and 16 fatalities were reported.
One of the hardest hit communities was the town of Clarendon.
Storm Data Narrative
Sixteen persons died and 42 others were injured as a result of a tornado which swept across the northwestern portion of Donley County, near Clarendon. Property damage caused by the tornado totalled $2.1 million. The tornado track, some 65 miles long, and one-half mile wide in places, began in Swisher County, about 15 miles northeast of Tulia, and stretched northeastward to near McLean in the southeast corner of Gray County.
In Swisher County, the tornado cut across farm and ranch land where it killed 10 head of cattle, injured 75 head, and caused total property and livestock losses of $100,000. In the northwest corner of Briscoe and the southeast portion of Armstrong Counties, the tornado cut across rough ranch land.
Near Clarendon, in Donley County, the tornado struck first in the Martin Community on US Highway 287 about seven miles west-northwest of the city. The home of Mr. and Mrs. Pete Land was completely demolished. The Bob Cole home, across the road to the west was unroofed. The Cole’s clock stopped at 2:01am. The tornado moved across US Highway 287 where it destroyed the Odell Osburn home. Mr. Osburn was killed and Mrs. Osburn was seriously injured.
The tornado continued in a northeasterly direction where it struck the Sherwood Shores resort community at Green Belt Reservoir, about 7 1/2 miles northwest of Clarendon. Here, 12 persons were killed by the tornado immediately and one child died later as a result of injuries to bring the death toll to 13 at Sherwood Shores. 35 others were injured at this resort community, which consisted almost entirely of mobile homes. George W. Howard, Vice President of Sherwood Shores, Inc., said 172 mobile homes were destroyed; Only one remained in the entire settlement. Howard estimated the damage at $1.3 million.
Through Sherwood Shores, the tornado path was 1/2 mile wide. The mobile home of Mr. and Mrs. Archie Pool on Highway 70 was in the direct path of the tornado. Mr. and Mrs. Pool both were killed, and their mobile home and its furnishings were blown away. The tornado continued northeastward through northern Donley County, damaging several farm homes, then crossed Interstate Highway 40 about four miles west of McLean in southeastern Gray County, where it blew several tank cars off the railroad tracks that parallel the highway. One tank car was blown on to the highway. In the vicinity of McLean, three farm homes were destroyed; 16 head of calves were killed; automobiles and farm machinery were damaged. About 60-75 miles of fencing were destroyed.
North of McLean, one cottage at San Spur Lake was destroyed and five others damaged. There were no injuries directly associated with the tornado in Gray County, but property losses totally $400,000. In the McLean vicinity, the tornado path varied from 350 feet to 1300 feet wide. Along the path of the tornado, losses to Greenbelt Electric Company, West Texas Utilities Company and telephone companies were heavy. The storm system, as measured by maximum radar echo tops, moved from southwest to northeast at a speed of 25 knots (29 miles per hour).
We gathered information for this event from the SPC & NCDC Databases, the April 1970 Storm Data Publication and Thomas Grazulis in Significant Tornadoes and found the following differences:
- Grazulis has no max width listed.
- Remaining sources list a max width of 880 yards.
- SPC/NCDC/Storm Data have a 65 mile path.
- Grazulis notes a family of tornadoes with path length of 70 miles.
- Grazulis has 41 injuries.
- Remaining sources list 42 injuries.
- Grazulis lists 17 fatalities.
- All other sources list 16 fatalities.
Great Tornado Outbreak of 1970 – Article by ABC Amarillo
Grazulis, Thomas P. (1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991: A Chronology and Analysis of Events. St. Johnsbury, VT: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. Page 1111.
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