May 22, 1987 began like any other day in West Texas, by the end of the day the small town of Saragosa would almost be wiped off the map by an F4 tornado.

According to Wikipedia, the area was issued a severe thunderstorm watch at 3:45 p.m. 4 hours later a tornado warning was issued for Reeves County at 7:54 p.m. and broadcast on Midland/Odessa TV stations in English and Spanish and radio stations also broadcast warnings in both languages.

The small town of Saragosa was not equipped with sirens and did not have its own police or firefighters.

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The majority of the community had gathered for a graduation ceremony for preschoolers inside Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Those people would be alerted to the tornado by a parent, who arrived late to the ceremony and interrupted the proceedings to alert the crowd that the tornado was already bearing down on the west side of town.

About 100 people were present for the ceremony and that is where the majority of deaths would occur when the church could not withstand the magnitude of the tornado and collapsed killing 22 of the 100 people present. 30 people total would perish in the tornado.

Saragosa was set up as a town where Mexican-American agricultural workers would live in what can only be called dilapidated shacks, most of those houses would not be rebuilt but those that were rebuilt were mostly government-style housing.

Most of the surviving residents relocated to Pecos and surrounding farming communities after the Saragosa tornado.

The Saragosa tornado, with 30 fatalities, was the deadliest tornado in the United States during the 1980s and the deadliest storm in Texas since the Wichita Falls tornado in 1979.

The Saragosa tornado was also declared the 9th deadliest tornado in Texas between the Zephyr tornado in 1909 and the Lubbock tornado in 1970.

As devastating as it was, the Saragosa tornado would become the #2 news story of 1987 in the Midland/Odessa area behind the rescue of Baby Jessica that happened later that year in October.

Click here to see photos from the Saragosa tornado courtesy of the Midland Reporter-Telegram.

 

 

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