Space City Rewind: November 1992 Tornado Outbreak

Summary of Tornadoes

Data from NOAA’s November 1992 Storm Data product, Volume 34, Number 11

Wharton County (1-3)
3 tornadoes. All recorded as F-1 intensity between 1:30 PM and 2:15 PM. 0 injuries. Several barns destroyed by the first two twisters, and a vacant house destroyed by the third.

Kelliwood/West Houston Tornado (4)
F-2 tornado at 2:20 PM. Traveled from the western edge of Westheimer Road near Katy/Fulshear and moved  NNE into Kelliwood. Over 100 homes damaged or destroyed and around 11 people were injured. Around a dozen aircraft and hangar destroyed at West Houston Airport as the tornado continued across northwest Harris County. Total path length was around 25 miles.

Pecan Grove Tornado (5)
An F-1 tornado that touched down around 2:40 PM caused roof damage to nearly 80 homes in Pecan Grove near Richmond in Fort Bend County.

Thompsons, Fort Bend County (6)
A barn, outbuildings, and numerous large trees were damaged or destroyed as an F-1 tornado touched down in Thompsons (south of Sugar Land) at 2:45 PM.

Hobby Airport Tornado (7)
This tornado touched down around 3:10 PM, damaging about 6 homes in the northern section of Pearland. It lifted as an F-1 tornado into Harris County damaging numerous roofs of commercial and apartment buildings. It dissipated before making it to Hobby Airport, but was noted by the weather observer there.

Lake Houston Tornado (8)
Around 3:20 PM, another tornado touched down at the northeast tip of Lake Houston and moved northeast into Liberty County. Damage to trees allowed it to be classified as an F-3 tornado. The storm did damage to houses in Tarkington before it ended near Romayor, TX. The tornado traveled 32 miles and injured one person.

East Side/Denver Harbor Tornado (9)
Also at 3:20 PM, an F-2 tornado moved from near Hermann Park across Houston’s near-east side into Denver Harbor. It damaged over 600 buildings and injured 6 people.

Channelview Tornado (10)
The strongest of the tornadoes on November 21 touched down around 3:27 PM near I-10 and Beltway 8, grew to be a mile wide, and caused F-4 damage in Channelview. Around 1,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and 15 people were injured. Several farms and mobile homes were damaged as the tornado lifted into Liberty County, injuring one more person. The tornado finally dissipated after romping for 30 miles.

Polk County Tornado (11)
An F-2 tornado moved through Segno in Polk County around 4:12 PM, damaging barns and trees.

East Harris County Tornado (12)
The same storm that produced the East Side tornado produced another one in far eastern Harris County between I-10 and US-90 at 4:15 PM. The storm continued into Liberty County, where there was minor damage. The tornado was rated an F-1, and it dissipated after about 4 miles.

Texas City Tornado (13)
A brief F-0 tornado occurred in Texas City as the squall line shifted east. Some trees were down and some windows were blown out.

Jasper County Tornado (14)
Around 6 PM, an F-1 tornado occurred near Buna in Jasper County, ripping off some roofs and blowing out some windows.

Sources & Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Lance Wood, the Science and Operations Officer at NWS Houston for taking the time to answer my questions and to provide numerous images that have been shared throughout the story. He was able to dig up some really neat imagery from that event which would have been challenging to find otherwise.

Also a thank you to the staff at the Fondren Library at Rice University for helping me source the Houston Chronicle and Houston Post on microfilm. That resource will be a great help for future Space City Rewind topics.

Key sources used throughout:

Houston Chronicle editions November 21-November 26, 1992, Microfilm Collection, Fondren Library at Rice University

Houston Post editions November 22-November 26, 1992, Microfilm Collection, Fondren Library at Rice University

U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Natural Disaster Survey Report: “The Widespread November 21-23, 1992 Tornado Outbreak: Houston to Raleigh and Gulf Coast to Ohio Valley.” November 1993. Retrieved: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015032484829;view=1up;seq=1

Tim Marshall. Cluster Tornado Outbreak in Houston, Texas. Storm Track, January/February 1993. Retrieved from: http://stormtrack.org/community/threads/1992-11-21-southeast-texas.19612/

Guerrero, Hector and William Read. “Operational use of the WSR-88D during the November 21, 1992 Southeast Texas Tornado Outbreak.” Preprints, 17th Conference on Severe Local Storms 4-8 October 1993, St. Louis, MO

Posted by Matt at 9:30am CT on Monday

18 thoughts on “Space City Rewind: November 1992 Tornado Outbreak

  1. Matt B

    My wife and I will always remember that day! We were married at St. Paul’s UMC on that blustery Saturday. Celebrating our 24th anniversary today.

  2. Timothy

    Brings back memories that had been filed away. Yet another reason for reliving these events. Not only for new residents for obvious reasons, but also for longer time residents as well. Certainly not sensationalism, but a gentle poke that things do happen and what we can do to raise our odds of survival.

    Though not directly personally affected, I was a public school teacher of a sixth grade campus that served Pecan Grove at the time. The damage to a Randall’s grocery store (Jones Rd and West; now an HEB) was within a mile of the homestead.

    Excellent job of reporting. Looking forward to future installments.

  3. Justin L.

    I was just a 13-year-old middle school kid from Sterling Green South in Channelview when this happened (ironically, we were nearer the Kelliwood tornadoes — shopping far from home at West Oaks Mall — when we first learned about what was going on), but I credit the entire experience — and especially helping many of our fellow church members with damaged and destroyed homes in the Sterling Green subdivision — with developing my interest in weather that now makes me appreciate this blog so much.

  4. nat

    I am looking forward to future articles in your retrospective series.

    In ’92 I was a student at Rice working late in the library on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. I remember it was around 3PM and I looked east from the 3rd floor lounge and saw the blackest sky I have ever seen before or since, moving west. Decided to get out and go home before I might be stuck in thunderstorms.

    There wasn’t much weather on my way home, just some rain and wind. However later that day and for the next week the media were full or reports of the local tornadoes that had hit so severely just before the holiday.

    PS I remember this also because there was really no forewarning. I was a weather radio fan at the time and recall it was strange that there was no NWS warning for what seemed to be such bad weather coming in. For a few years afterward, local radio and tv went overboard and exaggerated almost any threat of bad weather. That’s how I remember it. Took them years to shake this habit and now we have in my opinion situations in which the media either exaggerate the danger, or overlook it almost completely.

    1. Matt

      Thanks for sharing your story!

      It’s interesting, as the post-storm analysis really commended the NWS for adequate warnings and good lead time (actually, amazingly good for the early 90s). I wonder why that happened. Maybe there was a transmitter issue…will have to go back and see.

  5. Susan

    I, too, was a Rice student at that time. I remember that we were playing Navy that afternoon, and if Rice won, we would have our first winning football season in who knows how many years. The game was paused in the third quarter while the tornadoes passed by, but it was not cancelled. Morning heat gave way to a wet, cold afternoon. [I learned to recognize that pattern, but at that time I had been living in Houston for about three months.] The field was drenched, as was the audience. Both the MOB and the Navy band moved undercover during the pause, and they played impromptu concerts until the game resumed. The atmosphere at Rice Stadium was festive and unworried.I knew that windows were blown out downtown, but I had no idea of the widespread severity of damage until much later.

    Rice did beat Navy that afternoon.

  6. Lindsey

    Thank you for this well-researched and informative article. Fascinating – and a good reminder not to let our guards down when it comes to severe storms.

  7. Sharon

    I very much appreciate the research and reporting that went into this story & look forward to more retrospectives on Houston’s wild weather.

  8. Matt Grubbs

    I truly enjoyed reading this.

    I’ve always remembered the TV images of the planes flipped upside down at the West Houston airport.

  9. Chris Yardley

    That was my gold Jeep Cherokee on the front page. If I am not mistaken that same pic was on USA Today as well.
    I ran next door and called 911 at Little Ceasars.
    Me and many of my friends were working sacking at Randall’s. It was a extremely busy Thanksgiving shopping day.

  10. Sheri

    We lived on the corner of South Silver Green and MacClesby when this storm hit. We heard warnings for Wharton and Waller County, but that seemed so far away. I remember looking out the window and wondering what all the fuss was about because it was barely sprinkling and no wind. Then I saw a small dark wispy cloud (like a puff of smoke) just over the rooftops, moving really fast. I called my husband to the window so he could see the strange cloud and as soon as he got to the window, we saw the transformers blowing up behind us in Sterling Green South. That’s when we saw the tornado – we raised the living room window where we stood, grabbed the 2 dogs and made it almost to the hall before the windows started blowing out. Our garage was ripped off the house, nothing left but a pile of bricks and the roof was lifted and set back down crooked. Our washer and dryer ended up in the middle of the street and someone’s mattress was tangled in our tree. Our neighbor had a 2×4 stuck in the engine of his truck and we found clothes that didn’t belong to us in the living room. We couldn’t eat much for 2 days because our throats were so swollen from all the insulation we breathed. The Salvation Army served breakfast in our backyard for a couple days afterwards and the news stations set-up next to the house. Until I read this article, I didn’t realize we were dead-center of the path. Gave me chills, remembering. To this day I still don’t understand why it wasn’t raining or the wind wasn’t blowing – it was just an overcast afternoon.

    1. Matt

      Thanks for sharing your story. I was wondering if we’d hear some first-hand accounts from readers on this eventually. Really incredible. I’m glad you were able to escape without being too seriously hurt.

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