Title image.
Overview Meteorology Photos Event Map

OverviewPhoto of a tornado near Plainview by Gene Moore.

The late afternoon and evening of June 6th, 1989 proved unsettling for some South Plains area residents as a pair of destructive supercell thunderstorms generated very large hail, heavy rains and five tornadoes over parts of the region.  Despite damage to some structures near Plainview and also in rural sections of Crosby County, accurate forecasts and advance warnings from the Weather Forecast Office (WFO) in Lubbock likely contributed to the minimal number of injuries and lack of fatalities from these destructive storms.

Around 4 PM CDT, the first severe thunderstorm had developed west of Olton, TX and steadily matured into a supercell as it moved eastward toward Plainview.  This supercell produced a long swath of very large hail up to 3 inches at times.  While in his squad car, a Plainview police officer suffered minor injuries from broken glass after baseball size hail shattered his windows.  The same supercell storm also produced four tornadoes; three of which occurred on the south and southeast outskirts of Plainview.  The strongest of these was rated F2 after it caused heavy damage to grain mills, adjacent homes and outbuildings just southeast of the Plainview city limits; but fortunately no injuries occurred.  As this supercell continued east into Floyd County, it gradually weakened at which time a new and more significant supercell was found exiting eastern Lubbock County.

This latter supercell produced a very large and long-lived F3 tornado that moved east-southeast across the entire length of Crosby County in about 30 minutes.  This tornado was said to have begun as a tall column of slow rotating dust three miles south of Lorenzo.  Bob Kleyla (Lubbock TV meteorologist at the time) observed this tornado at close range and stated "it intensified into a very large multiple vortex tornado within five minutes".  This massive tornado churned east-southeast crossing the intersection of Highways 40 and 651 and continued across White River Reservoir before finally dissipating eight miles west of Spur.  Some eyewitness accounts indicated that as many as three smaller tornadoes were rotating about this wedge tornado at times.  Every farm building, fence, tree, and power pole in this tornado's path sustained total damage.  A cross-country transmission tower was heavily damaged by this tornado.  Fortunately, no injuries occurred from this significant tornado.


Meteorology

By the afternoon of the 6th, the atmosphere became very supportive for severe thunderstorms ahead of a dryline that extended from the Texas Panhandle south to the Big Bend region.  Aloft, a strong jet stream up to 120 mph was situated over the northern South Plains ahead of a disturbance exiting the Colorado Plateau.  Moistening south winds in the low levels resulted in a sharp dryline by the afternoon across the western South Plains.  CAPE (as sampled by the 00Z Amarillo RAOB) was around 3,000 J/kg, with locally greater amounts over the South Plains where dewpoints were higher.  Ample low-level wind shear as shown in the Amarillo hodograph resulted in 0-3 km storm relative helicities in excess of 200 m2/s2 .  Such values are typically sufficient for low-level rotation and tornado production.  This favorable pattern for severe weather was well anticipated at the Severe Local Storms Center (SELS) in Kansas City, MO.  By late morning, SELS had upgraded much of the South Plains to a moderate risk for severe thunderstorms, including a risk for tornadoes.  This was later followed by a Tornado Watch valid from the afternoon through the early nighttime.  The Lubbock WFO issued several timely tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings and greatly benefited from real-time storm spotter reports.

Map of winds at 250 millibars.
Map of heights and winds at 500 millibars. Map of winds and moisture at 850 millibars.
250mb wind isotachs (shaded).
500mb heights and winds 40 knots. 850mb moist air (green) and dryline.


Surface weather map at 4 PM.        Skew-T and hodograph from Amarillo at 7 PM.
4 PM CDT regional surface analysis with an overlay of the forthcoming tornadoes.

 

7 PM CDT Skew-T and hodograph from Amarillo. Note the ample low-level wind shear.


Photos

Photo of the last of 3 tornadoes near Plainview.
Photo of the last of three tornadoes near Plainview.  This photo was taken by George Matthews around 5:08 PM.

                    

Photo of a damaged grain bin near Plainview.F2 damage to a grain tower southeast of Plainview.  Photo by Justin Weaver.

Photo of a damaged house near Plainview.F2 damage to a home southeast of Plainview.  Photo by Justin Weaver.

Photo of a wedge tornado south of Crosbyton.  An impressive view of the long-lived F3 tornado in Crosby County.  This photo was taken by Bobby Thurman at 6:50 PM looking northward from Farm-to-Market Road 651 south of Crosbyton.  A storm survey later determined this tornado was up to 900 yards wide.


Map of Tornadoes and Severe Hail

Map of all tornadoes and hail.

USA.gov is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.