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Severe storms bring weak tornado to Smithville area

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  • Article Image Alt Text
    The tornado that touched down near Smithville, as seen from the Smithville Crawford Municipal Airport. Photos courtesy of Robert Tamble
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Some of the damage caused by last week’s tornado near Smithville. Photo courtesy of Scott Saunders Jr.

A severe storm last week moving through Bastrop County and surrounding counties spawned a couple of confirmed tornadoes in the region, one of which touched down between Smithville and Bastrop.

Last Tuesday morning, May 12, a line of thunderstorms moved north through Central Texas, including Bastrop County.

At 8:39 a.m., the National Weather Service Austin/San Antonio (NWS) issued a significant weather advisory for central Caldwell and southwestern Bastrop counties until 9:30 a.m. after Doppler radar tracked a strong thunderstorm eight miles southeast of Lockhart moving northeast at 30 miles per hour. The advisory warned of half-inch hail, wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour, torrential rainfall and frequent cloud-to-ground lightning with this storm.

At 9:05 a.m., NWS issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Caldwell, southeastern Hays, south central Travis and southern Bastrop counties until 10 a.m. due to severe thunderstorms observed via radar along a line from near Martindale to 12 miles northwest of Luling, moving northeast at 20 miles per hour. This warning also predicted large hail, damaging winds and continuous cloud-to-ground lightning, as well as torrential rainfall that could lead to flash flooding.

Then, the NWS issued the first tornado warning that morning involving Bastrop County at 9:08 a.m. when radar-indicated rotation was detected in the southwestern corner of the county and in the northeastern portion of Caldwell County. The severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located nine miles east of Lockhart, moving northeast at 20 miles per hour.

Another tornado warning was issued at 9:37 a.m. for south central Bastrop and west central Fayette counties when a storm capable of producing a tornado was located near Cistern, 14 miles northwest of Flatonia, moving northeast at 20 miles per hour.

Shortly after at 9:40 a.m., NWS issued yet another tornado warning for central Bastrop County as the storm continued to move north. Emergency management confirmed a tornado on the ground near Cedar Creek, ten miles southwest of Bastrop, moving north at 30 miles per hour.

A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for north central Caldwell and central Bastrop counties at 10:01 a.m. until 11 a.m. after severe thunderstorms were located along a line from near Lockhart to near Bastrop, moving northeast at 15 miles per hour. The warning predicted 60 mile-per-hour wind gusts and penny-sized hail. The cities impacted included Lockhart, Bastrop, Cedar Creek, Rockne and Red Rock. At 10:12 a.m., another severe thunderstorm warning was issued to include more of eastern Bastrop County, as well as south central Lee County, until 11 a.m. This warning included Smithville, Paige and Rosanky.

Another tornado warning was issued at 10:18 a.m. for east central Bastrop, south central Lee and central Fayette counties after a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located over Smithville, moving northeast at 20 miles per hour. Yet another tornado warning was also issued at 10:19 a.m. for central Bastrop County after a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located near Cedar Creek, seven miles southwest of Bastrop, moving northeast at 15 miles per hour. A third tornado warning was issued at 10:35 a.m. for southeastern Bastrop and west central Fayette counties after a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located over Rosanky, nine miles southwest of Smithville, moving northeast at 20 miles per hour.

Then, another tornado warning was issued at 10:40 a.m. until 11:15 a.m. for east central Bastrop and south central Lee counties after a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located seven miles south of Paige and seven miles north of Smithville, moving northeast at 20 miles per hour.

At 10:48 a.m., the NWS issued a tornado watch for much of the south central Texas region, including Bastrop County and 13 other counties, until 5 p.m.

Then, a tornado warning was issued for eastern Bastrop and south central Lee counties at 10:53 a.m. when a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located near Smithville, moving northeast at 20 miles per hour.

Finally, a tornado warning was issued for east central Bastrop and central Lee counties at 11:25 a.m. when a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located near Paige, ten miles west of Giddings, moving northeast at 20 miles per hour.

That afternoon at 12:54 p.m., the NWS issued a significant weather advisory for east central Caldwell, southeastern Bastrop and west central Fayette counties until 1:45 p.m. as Doppler radar tracked a strong thunderstorm near Rosanky, 14 miles south of Bastrop, and moving east at 25 miles per hour.

On Wednesday, the NWS released information about the two confirmed tornadoes that touched down in McMahan and Smithville on May 12.

The first tornado, which touched down at 9:09 a.m. near the intersection of FM 86 and County Road 713 in McMahan in northeast Caldwell County, was described by the NWS as a “weak and short-lived” tornado with an estimated peak wind speed of 85 miles per hour. This wind speed makes it an EF-0, the lowest rating of EF-0 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale for tornadoes. According to the NWS public statement, the small tornado moved north across an open field before hitting a residence, where tree damage and roof damage to a barn was observed. The tornado then dissipated to the north of the property, ending at 9:11 a.m. The McMahan tornado traveled 0.73 miles with a maximum path width of 20 yards.

The second tornado, called the Smithville tornado, was also rated as a weak EF-0 tornado with an estimated peak wind speed of 80 miles per hour. The tornado began at 10:54 a.m., forming just south of the Colorado River near Smithville on FM 2571, the NWS public statement said. There, it produced tree damage and some visible wind damage to a few residences along FM 2571. The tornado then moved northeast and crossed Hidden Shores Road, where more tree damage was observed, then crossed the river before dissipating near the intersection of Highway 71 and Kellar Road, ending at 11:01 a.m. The Smithville tornado traveled 2.6 miles with a maximum path width of 20 yards.

During a tornado warning, the NWS advises people in affected areas to avoid windows and move to a basement or an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Those who are outdoors, in a mobile home or in a vehicle should move to the closest substantial shelter and protect themselves from flying debris.

The NWS also issued a flood advisory on Tuesday afternoon at 12:45 for Bastrop, Caldwell and Lee counties and parts of Guadalupe, Hays and Travis counties. The advisory said between one and three inches of rain had already fallen, and it predicted that the area could see an additional one to three inches, leading to minor flooding.