Former KVUE reporters remember covering the 1997 Jarrell tornado

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Judy Maggio and Carolyn Mungo reflected on their time covering the devastating F-5 tornado that killed 27 people.

JARRELL, Texas — So many people across Central Texas remember where they were when the F-5 tornado hit Jarrell, Texas, 25 years ago. We checked in with some former KVUE reporters who were on the ground right after the tornado struck.

If you watched KVUE News during the ’80s and ’90s, you might recognize Judy Maggio. But Maggio was, and is, much more than a news reader. At heart, she’s a reporter — and a good one.

Like many reporters who covered the biggest local news story of 1997, Maggio spent a lot of time away from the anchor desk back then to report on the people devastated by the storm and dedicated to helping rebuild their shattered community.

“The community spirit. I mean, you just saw people helping their neighbors, picking up what they could of what the storm left behind. But in a lot of places, there wasn’t a lot. So what people did was open up their homes to give their neighbors shelter,” Maggio said in a recent interview with KVUE.

Another former KVUE journalist remembers the Jarrell tornado, too. Carolyn Mungo is now a television executive in Dallas. In a recent interview with KVUE, she recalled the strength of the young people whose friends died in the tornado.

“I talked to a lot of kids who they knew had probably lost some of their best friends, but they allowed us to put microphones on them. And they wanted to talk,” Mungo said.

“I’ve covered a lot of news,” she added. “I was a reporter for 20 years. And I will never forget coming up on North I-35 and looking off to, really, nothing. And as we got on the ground closer, seeing livestock wrapped around utility poles. And the silence. There was no sound.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it. The devastation is hard to describe,” Maggio said. “And you had entire neighborhoods where the only thing left was the slab of the houses there. Usually, when you see tornado damage, you see the roof is blown in, the garage was ripped off the house, a tree is tumped over. But you don’t see an entire neighborhood lifted off the slab and sucked up into a funnel cloud. But that’s what happened with that F-5 tornado in Jarrell.”

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