8 A Meteorological Re-Analysis of the 9 April 1947 Higgins-Glazier-Woodward Tornado

Monday, 5 November 2012
Symphony III and Foyer (Loews Vanderbilt Hotel)
Justyn D. Jackson, NOAA/NWS Amarillo, TX, Amarillo, TX; and B. Kendrick and T. Spencer

The sixth deadliest tornado in U.S. history occurred on 9 April 1947 and impacted the Texas Panhandle and northwestern Oklahoma. The long-track tornado is most notoriously known as the Woodward, Oklahoma tornado, but the tornado first developed in the northeastern Texas Panhandle. The tornado not only destroyed the small Texas Panhandle communities of Glazier and Higgins, but it also claimed the lives of 17 in Glazier and 51 in Higgins. During the morning and early afternoon hours of Wednesday, 9 April, the meteorological events that would unfold by the late afternoon and evening may not have been synoptically evident. For much of the day, the Panhandles remained shrouded in stratus within the cool sector of a mid-latitude cyclone centered over New Mexico. By the middle and late afternoon hours, an approaching 500 hPa trough rapidly advanced a warm front poleward, placing much of the Panhandles in the cyclone's increasingly unstable warm sector. The high potential buoyancy in the warm sector and strong deep layer wind shear with the approaching upper trough created a favorable environment for supercell thunderstorms. The synoptic and mesoscale environments that contributed to this historic tornado were reanalyzed here in an effort to increase forecaster awareness of a rare and atypical meteorological pattern for the region; a pattern that has been associated with violent southern High Plains tornadoes.
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