They call it "Tornado Alley". It is a broad swath of land in the central U.S where serious tornado activity happens every year.  The worst areas are Central Oklahoma and Texas right up into Nebraska and Kansas.  As you can see from this map, produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) San Angelo, technically, is not in "Tornado Alley"  That doesn't mean we don't have tornados.


Chart: FEMA
Chart: FEMA


Tornados are rated on the Fujita Scale. In 1953, an F4 tornado tore through San Angelo. That means winds could have topped 260 miles an hour.


F NumberFastest 1/4-mile (mph)3 Second Gust (mph)EF Number3 Second Gust (mph)EF Number3 Second Gust (mph)
5261-318262-3175200-2345Over 200

Graph via NOAA

According to the National Weather Service, the May 11, 1953 tornado killed 13 people and injured 159. The path was 20 miles from 17 miles west northwest of San Angelo, into the city and the Lake View section. The tornado resulted in damage or destruction of 519 homes, 19 businesses and 150 cars. A school was hit, but only minor injuries were reported as students sought shelter before the storm arrived.

Since,1950 Tom Green County has recorded 52 tornados. Three of those caused fatalities.  The last deadly tornado to strike the region was in 1984 near Orient.  The last reported tornado activity occurred on Saturday, May 22, 2019 when tornados ripped through San Angelo and Ballinger. One of them devastated the Bradford area and was on the ground for 8.6 miles.

A dangerous tornado in tornado alley

Because tornados don't happen every year in San Angelo, many people tend to think they're not that much of a threat.  Because very strong tornados can occur and no doubt will occur in the future, it is a good idea to be prepared. Remember to check your family's emergency supply kit. Make sure you have First Aid supplies and all the things you will need if you should be out of power for awhile.

Ready for disaster - checking off the items on the emergency preparedness form

Make sure your family has a NOAA weather radio which can send an alarm day or night to warn you of a tornado warning.  These radios can be purchased for as little as $20 and will send a loud audible warning should your family need to be alerted.

Supercell thunderstorm in USA's Tornado Alley
Graham Moore

Once you've been alwerted that a tornado is bearing down on your location you should:

  • Go to a safe shelter immediately, such as a basement, storm cellar or small interior room on the lowest level of a sturdy building.
  • Stay Away from Windows or doors and outside walls
  • Do not go under an overpass or bridge.  You're safer in a low flat locations.

It never hurts to be prepared.  We are fortunate that we experience tornados much less often than many locations nearby.  Don't let that lure you into a false sense of security.

Smiling family on front lawn of a house
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