Sixty one years ago was a day the people of Kopperl, Texas will never forget, it likes their town existed in a purgatorial time warp.
On June 15, 1960, a really strange weather event struck an area near Kopperl, a small town in Texas on the shore of Lake Whitney in North Texas–about fifty miles southwest of Fort Worth. The event, a midnight heat burst caused by a collapsing thunderstorm, is the best guess that meteorologists can come up with to explain it.
It started out as a typical June night in Kopperl, with mild, cool breezes, then shortly after midnight, temperatures rising from about 94° to 140° in minutes, suddenly a tremendous wind arose to over 75 mph over a wide area ravaging the landscape. People were so frightened that all thought the Armageddon had finally come to scour the Earth of its filthy sinners.
This burst of hot air completely damaged crops in the zone and caused radiators in automobiles to boil over. A store in the area lost its roof. Trees were knocked over.
People awakened when their air conditioners went out as power failed. Suddenly, their houses were sweltering saunas. They rushed outside, thinking their houses must be on fire. They found that the air outside was scorching. It was hard to breathe. Lightning flashed. They thought the world was coming to an end. Parents wrapped their terrified children in wet sheets to keep them cool. The next morning, farmers found that their corn that had been green the day before was cooked on the stalk. Ranchers found their young cotton fields burned to a crisp. Leaves on trees, shrubs, and plants were burned as if there had been a freeze.
The Satan’s Storm wasn’t the apocalypse. Today we know what Kopperl citizens experienced, scientists call it a heat burst.
It happens when airtransported high in the atmosphere by a thunderstorm comes crashing back to earth in a downdraft. Most downdrafts are cool in nature, cooled byevaporating rain. But in a heatburst, there is no rain, and the airheats rapidly by compression, rises at 5.5 degrees F as it descends.The air can warm by over 100 degrees F. It rushes outward when itstrikes the ground, much as any downburst. Most result in a 20 degree Frise in temperature. The Kopperl downburst was an extreme event, oneof the worst heatbursts ever recorded.