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Eyes on the Skies: The Worst Storms

By: Bob French Email
By: Bob French Email

Over the years, the ever-present threat of severe weather has cost people their lives and their livelihoods. In the last two decades alone, strong storms have made a major impact on the Brazos Valley.

December 29, 2006
Just two months ago, a pair of tornadic storms cut across Brazos and Madison Counties. One hit College Station.

"It looked like it just sat down in the parking lot," said Coleman Watson from Quality Used Furniture. "Things were blowing in every direction. It wasn't like the wind was blowing any one way. Things were just circling and blowing around. We began to move away from the door. The pressure pulled our ceiling down and blew our doors open."

Fortunately, there were no major injuries, but preliminary damage estimates are in the millions.

The Madison County tornado was even stronger, with several injuries, as well as major damage.

"Sometimes, you think it'd be neat to see a tornado up close or be in a tornado alley," Watson said. "It's not. When you're there, it's not any fun, and I don't care if I see another one again."

April 27, 1990
Seventeen years ago, a spectacular tornado formed over the Brazos Bottom, and it was seen by thousands in the Brazos Valley, including at Olsen Field as the Aggie baseball game was rained out.

But west of campus struck a textbook twister, one that moved mainly over farmland. Had it been seven miles further east, it would have slammed into Bryan/College Station.

It did touch down again near Navasota, causing considerable damage at Camp Allen.

November 15, 1987
Just a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, a Sunday afternoon turned tragic for many Brazos Valley families.

One tornado struck near Caldwell, causing two deaths and nearly $2.5 million in damage. Another tornado struck near Normangee, taking three lives. Each tornado demolished homes and trees along a seven-mile path.

"Normangee seems to be a tornado alley," said one Leon County survivor. "They come through here quite frequently."

"By the time we got down on the floor, it felt like a big old vacuum cleaner," said a Caldwell resident who went through the storm. "It just took the whole roof and everything."

May 13, 2004
Tornadoes may make the biggest headlines, but the deadliest of all weather hazards is flash flooding. Residents of Hearne can testify how quickly conditions can change.

"In 20 minutes, we had water in the house," said Larry Blackmon, who went through one of Hearne's most memorable events. "Within another 30 minutes, we were fighting for our lives. I looked up at the windows and I saw six inches of water on my window, and I knew we were in trouble."

On May 13, 2004, 17 inches of rain fell in under six hours, producing widespread flooding and washing out bridges. Miraculously, there were no fatalities, but flash flooding remains the number one killer among weather hazards, followed by number two, lightning.


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