This Day in Texas History:
Dallas Tornado Outbreak Devastates Oak Cliff
April 2, 1957
On April 2, a low pressure system was situated over the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles with a warm front stretching into central Arkansas and a cold front stretching into western Texas east of El Paso, Lubbock, and Amarillo. Temperatures on that day reached the 70s in northern Texas with dewpoints in the upper 60s to near 70 degrees Fahrenheit. A strong upper level jet, abundant instability in the atmosphere, and substantial wind shear provided additional fuel for the development of supercells across the region.
At around 3:00 PM CST, the first tornadoes touched down north of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area. At around 4:30 CST, a tornado touched down in southern Dallas County and traveled northward for about 45 minutes through the Dallas neighborhoods of Oak Cliff, Kessler Park, West Dallas and Love Field before lifting over Bachman Lake just after 5:00 PM CST. Ten people were killed and 200 others injured by the F3 tornado; damage was estimated at around $4 million (in 1957 dollars).
Nearly 600 structures were damaged including over 100 homes and a dozen apartment buildings. Some businesses and schools were also damaged but the Parkland Memorial Hospital was narrowly spared by the tornado as was the DallasLove Field Airport. Another tornado in Collin County north of the city also caused extensive damage.
The tornado was heavily documented and photographed by several eye-witnesses as it was clearly visible during most of its 17-mile path through residential and commercial areas of Dallas, up to near Love Field Airport. At that time, it was the most observed tornado ever recorded. A researcher from the Severe Weather Forecast Unit in Kansas City noticed that several old theories were proven false during the Dallas tornado. One of the theories was that all air and debris flow into the funnel and then upward, but on the outside edges of the funnel, debris and even people were lifted. WFAA-TV in Dallas produced a 30-minute documentary about the tornado roughly one week later.
Other killer tornadoes touched down in Lamar and Delta Counties in Texas, Marshall, Bryan and Murray Counties in Oklahoma and Smith County in Mississippi. 5 of the fatalities in Oklahoma were from the 2 F4 tornadoes that occurred during the outbreak. The activity shifted further east into the southern Mississippi River Valley as well as the Tennessee Valley on April 3 and the early hours of April 4 before activity ceased.
The April 1957 Dallas tornado outbreak was part of a deadly weather system that struck most of the Southern United States from April 2 to the early hours of April 4, 1957. The outbreak was most notable due to a tornado that devastated a densely populated portion of the Dallas Metropolitan area, while other deadly tornadoes struck portions of Mississippi, Texas, and Oklahoma. The two-day outbreak killed at least 19 across 3 states and spawned 50 tornadoes from Texas to Tennessee.