Atmospheric Archive: Rare South Texas Tornado: April 24, 2007

 

                             The blue-roofed school is severely damaged and considered a total loss.

April 24, 2007: Rosita Valley, Texas (8 miles from Eagle Pass)
A super-cell thunderstorm formed west of Piedras Negras on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande (across from Eagle Pass, Texas). A large and devastating tornado struck the city of Piedras Negras from the west, killing three and injuring 87 more. It lifted into the clouds before crossing the river. The still-intense thunderstorm then crossed the Rio Grande around 7:00 pm and hit the community of Rosita Valley (8 miles from Eagle Pass) moments later.

Extreme straight-line winds from the storm (80 to 100mph) struck the town first. Roofs were partially lifted, siding was damaged, and trees were knocked over. Hail to the size of golfballs hammered the area, along with very heavy rain.

Then, another tornado formed. The first touchdown point on the Texas side was approximately 1/4 mile to the southwest of the Rosita Valley Elementary School (the building was not in use at the time). The vortex moved east-northeast, making a beeline toward the school. Along its path it damaged three more homes and destroyed a fourth. Damage to the three homes was rated EF-1 (86-110mph) with the destroyed home rated EF-2 (111-135mph). Then the tornado crossed Rosita Valley Road, destroying mobile homes and damaging homes and tossing the debris into the south and west sides of the Rosita Valley Elementary School building.

Damage was severe from the center of the school northeastward. This area indicated damage at the EF-3 (136-165mph) level. To the northwest of the school were two brick retail buildings; both were well-constructed. Outer walls were destroyed in each with damage to interior walls in one of the structures. This also suggested wind speeds near 140 mph and EF-3 level damage.

Finally, as the tornado left the school area, it cut through an area of houses. Most were swept off their foundations with many completely flattened. This damage suggested wind speeds approaching 150 mph, the highest speeds found at Rosita Valley. This was mid-range EF-3 damage.

In all, the tornado destroyed the elementary school, along with 116 homes. Another 180 homes and businesses sustained various amounts of damage, some severe.   It also devastated the community water treatment plant. There were seven deaths in Rosita Valley as a result of the tornado. Six of them were in mobile homes, including a family of five killed together in one trailer. They met their deaths as the structure was destroyed and propelled by the wind into the school.

The tornado was rated EF-3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale with a path width near one-quarter mile and a path length near four miles.  U.S. losses: Damage $80 million, 7 dead, 76 injured.  This super-cell thunderstorm produced one of the strongest and deadliest tornadoes to strike along the Rio Grande in many decades.   In fact, this is the only tornado ever documented as causing a fatality in Maverick County, Texas, and one of only a dozen tornadoes recorded for the county dating well back into the 1800’s.

Safe to say it was a very rare as well as tragic event for this part of south Texas.

 

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