Residents look back on 27th anniversary of Houston tornado outbreak

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Thursday, November 21, 2019
Residents remember 1992 deadly tornado outbreak
From west Houston to Channelview, residents look back on a deadly tornado outbreak that began in Houston and spread to 12 other states.

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- It happened during a 36-hour stretch between November 21 and November 23, 1992, the weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday.

During that short period of time, 13 states were struck by a rash of tornadoes that killed 26 people and injured another 638. Of the 95 tornadoes that occurred, 41 were rated F3 or "strong", while six of the tornadoes were rated F4 or "violent" on the Fujita scale measuring the severity of tornadoes. It was the worst November outbreak on record for the United States and it started in Houston.

Nina Hendee was at home preparing for an end of season soccer party for her daughter.

"I had two teenagers in the house and I yelled in my mom voice 'tornado' as loudly as I could, and by then it was quite loud," said Hendee, the west Houston resident. She and the children huddled under the stairwell. It was all over in just 45 seconds.

"All of the homes were destroyed in our neighborhood," she said. "One child was injured and that was just with stitches."

After striking the Kelliwood area, the twister moved northeast and struck the west Houston airport, destroying several hangers and totaling 21 airplanes worth over $3 million.

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"I've been sweeping those hangers since I was 6 years old and to see something you grew up with destroyed in a matter of split second was just heart wrenching," said Stacy Lesikar Martin of the customer service department at the West Houston airport.

Tim Marshall, a meteorologist and one of the nation's foremost experts on wind damage, did an in-depth study on the Houston tornadoes.

"I surveyed the tornadoes and the worst damage I saw was out at Channelview," said Marshall.

The tornado that tore through Channelview was one of six tornadoes to the Houston area that day. The tornado was given an F4 on the Fujita scale with winds close to 200 miles per hour, making it the strongest tornado to ever strike southeast Texas.

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A new high school graduate, Matt Hathorn, walked around his neighborhood to video tape the destruction.

"You had entire houses on the ground and then two houses, like, nothing wrong with them," said Hathorn. "And then a couple of houses on the ground like it would just pick and choose where it was going to," he said.

According to Marshall, November is considered to be the most active month for tornadoes in the Houston area and the statistic comes with a warning.

"We always think of tornadoes as something springtime. Well, you have to understand, Houston is far enough south that even in the wintertime, it is prone to severe weather," said Marshall.

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