STORM TRACK: May 31, 1986 (Volume 9 Issue 4)

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By Tim Marshall

What a day for south Texas! A broken line of severe thunderstorms developed ahead of a fast moving cold front on the afternoon of February 6, 1986. Storms raced northeastward at 40 mph. One storm near Tomball, Texas will go down in history as a "mega- supercell" producing four tornadoes, dozens of microbursts, and an 8 mile wide, 100 mile long swath of golfball-size hail.

The editor spent three days mapping the damage scene. Tornadoes ranged between F-1 and F-3 in damage intensity. The worst damage was from a mile and a half wide microburst which struck Hooks Airport. This was the largest private airport in the country before the storm. Near Rt. 149, eyewitnesses at the Treeline Golf Course reported tennis ball-size hail. The 18 hole course immediately became about a 1000 hole course. Golf greens were dented to the point where accurate putting became impossible. (Par 4 quickly became Par 72.)

Hail sizes and direction of fall were obtained from eyewitnesses and impact marks on fences and trees. Within two miles of tornado, hail whipped by 60 mph mesocyclone winds broke windows, dented mailboxes, damaged vehicles and roofs. One women told me she arrived home during the height of the storm. Hail pummeled her car; the sound was quite deafening. She decided to run to the front door, only a few feet away. She received three swollen areas an her head when hit by large hail. Gouge marks on fences nearby measured over 2 inches in diameter.

The local power company mentioned that a series of power poles were downed north of Katy. My investigation revealed that this was a 500 ft. wide, 8 mile long tornado path. Only two buildings were in the tornado path. Damaged brick and metal buildings at the Tiffany Marble Company and Westile Brick Company was F-2 intensity. The tornado traversed several miles of open rice fields before dissipating.

The second tornado formed north Cypress, Texas. This tornado downed numerous pine trees and traveled northeastward across Rt. 149. Damage was scattered along a 200 ft. wide, 2.5 mile long path. The most intense damage occurred along Rt. 149 where several metal buildings were demolished indicating about F-2 intensity. A local car dealership to the north of the path had every vehicle on display damaged from hail. The sign in front of the showroom read "Dimpled Darlings-Big Discounts".

The third tornado formed southwest of Hooks Airport and moved northeastward. Pine trees were snapped in a 200 foot wide path. Damage to homes was minor, with some roof shingle and decking loss. As the tornado crossed Boudreaux Road, the path became ill-defined. A nearby mobile home park was heavily damaged with more than a dozen homes destroyed. All the damage in the park was scattered northwest as a powerful microburst occurred. Adjacent to the park was Hooks Airport. The airport sustained heavy damage to hangars and aircraft. Several hundred small aircraft were flipped over or became airborne. A larger DC-3 coasted into a nearby lake. Damage patterns diverged across the airport indicating a powerful microburst, and not a tornado as the media mentioned, caused the damage. Estimated wind speeds from the damage was about 110 mph which fit nicely between the takeoff speeds of the small aircraft which became airborne and larger aircraft which only moved. An eyewitness at the airport reported seeing a wall of precipitation hit just as the wind picked up.

About a mile north of the airport, damage was observed along a 200 ft wide, three mile long path. It was not clear whether this was a continuation of the previous tornado or a separate fourth tornado. Several homes along Boudreaux Road sustained minor roof damage, and a number of detached garages were flattened. Tree and other minor damage was observed all the way to the Montgomery County Line. This was quite a record storm for the Houston area.


Tomball, TX storm: What is left of Boudreaux Trailer Park.

Tomball, TX storm: One of several airplane hangars which collapsed at Hooks Airport.