A severe thunderstorm early in the morning on October 9th, 2018 near Del Rio, Texas caused flooding wains, damaging winds, small hail, and even possibly a tornado. While most of Del Rio - especially the north side of town - did not catch the brunt end of the storm - neighborhoods on the east side of town and the Laughlin AFB area took a direct hit of the storm's fury.
Del Rio International Airport received 2.83 inches of rain from the storm - heavy, but not uncommon in severe storms. Laughlin AFB, however, less than 10 miles east of the Del Rio airport, received 5.25 inches from the same storm, causing widespread flooding and halting pilot training for the day due to excessive water on the runways and taxiways.
Additionally, small hail was reported across much of southern and eastern Del Rio as well as Laughlin AFB - mostly pea to marble size - and Laughlin AFB recorded a brief 72 mph wind gust (nearly hurricane force) while Del Rio Airport recorded only 40 mph.
The National Weather Service (NWS) did issue a severe thunderstorm warning for the storm, indicating damaging winds and large hail. A Flash Flood Watch was also valid during the time of the storm, accounting for the heavy rain.
As the storm crossed the border from Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, the NWS also promptly issued a Tornado Warning indicating that a tornado was imminent or already occurring.
This was likely due the "hook" shape of the storm, similar to the one seen in the image above. This hook shape is a result of strong rotation within the thunderstorm's updraft region and can lead to tornadic activity. Since tornadoes are often too small to be seen by weather radars, special indications from the hook on the weather radar will trigger meteorologists to disseminate a Tornado Warning.
While this storm did show weak signs of rotation as it crossed the border, a much more robust, defined hook presented as the storm positioned itself just east of Laughlin AFB on the Kinney County side of Sycamore Creek that would certainly raise the eyebrows of any meteorologist (the image above).
So, was there a tornado? None confirmed. In order to confirm a tornado, it must be either observed or damage or path carved by the tornado must be observed. Since no definitive path or damage has been reported that could be attributed to tornadic activity, no tornado can be confirmed.
It's unlikely that anywhere within Val Verde County - including Del Rio or Laughlin AFB - experienced a tornado due to somewhat weak rotation of the storm overhead. Just east, however, a much more significant rotational signature was noted along the western reaches of Kinney County near Sycamore Creek and extending to just south of the Foyt Ranch along the Highway 90. If a tornado did occur, it would have most likely been within this region.
For a loop of the entire storm from Del Rio to near Brackettville, see the below video.
Dan Schreiber is a freelance meteorologist with experience