Category Archives: Tornadoes

Tornado season off to a slow start in the U.S.

As predicted in a story I wrote last month, the tornado season in the United States is off to a remarkably slow start.

According to the story on the website FiveThirtyEight, there had been only 70 tornadoes across the country through March 31. That’s less than half the average over the past 10 years of 170.

There has been only one tornado in Kansas so far this year: a weak, short-lived twister on the evening of April 2 in Elk County.

First tornado of the season in Kansas a meek one

Kansas recorded its first tornado of the spring late last week, but it wasn’t much to write home about.

The weak, brief tornado touched down in Chautauqua County on April 2. Joseph Tyree nonetheless managed to capture images of it, however, and he shared a couple with the Wichita branch of the National Weather Service.

The tornado touched down in a rural area and did no appreciable damage, however, so the weather service did not conduct a field survey or attach an F rating to it.

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Kansas tornadoes by the numbers in 2013

It was a quiet year for tornadoes across the country in 2013. In fact, the total was one of the lowest on record.

Kansas followed that trend. The 56 tornadoes logged last year was the fewest since 1994, according to the Kansas Adjutant General’s Office. Most of the tornadoes – 45 – touched down in May. The strongest was an EF-4 that just missed Rozel in central Kansas on May 18.

Fortunately, there was only one injury and no fatalities in Kansas from tornadoes last year.

There were 128 days between the first tornado of the year in Kansas – April 7 in Russell County – and the last: August 13 in Lane County.

There were 15 days with one or more tornadoes last year in Kansas. The day with the most tornadoes – 12 – was May 19, which also happened to be the day a large tornado touched down near Clearwater and moved northeast toward Wichita. It lifted shortly before reaching the city.

Throng flocks to national storm chaser convention

ChaserCon 2014 has attracted the largest turnout in its history, with more than 400 chasers flocking to Denver this weekend.

Among those scheduled to present are Mike Bettes of The Weather Channel, who will talk about his brush with death when he and his chase team were caught and rolled by the El Reno tornado on May 31.

The event will also include a tribute to Tim Samaras, one of the conference’s co-founders, who was killed by the El Reno tornado. It also killed his son, Paul, and chase partner Carl Young.

I’ll be writing stories for the Eagle and hopefully live-tweeting some of the more interesting sessions.

Schedules set for severe weather preparedness classes in Wichita area

Yes, it’s mid-January and we’ve seen no shortage of cold weather – or snow, for that matter.

But spring isn’t all that far away, as the arrival of severe weather preparedness classes demonstrates. The Wichita branch of the National Weather Service has released its schedule of classes. The classes are offered in each of the 26 counties of southeast Kansas that encompass the Wichita branch’s warning coverage area.

Sedgwick County Emergency Management has put together additional classes throughout Sedgwick County. Check each schedule to see which date is most convenient. The classes are free and are expected to last about two hours.

Death toll rises in Sunday’s tornado outbreak

The death toll from Sunday’s tornado outbreak in several states is up to 8, with several more victims in critical condition.

The Storm Prediction Center logged nearly 90 reports of tornadoes in 7 states – Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee – though the actual number of tornadoes will almost certainly be much lower due to multiple reports of the same tornado.

A preliminary survey of the tornado that struck Brookport, Ill., indicates the tornado was an EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, with maximum winds of 145 miles an hour. The tornado, which killed 3 people, was on the ground for 11.5 miles, according to the National Weather Service’s branch in Paducah, Ky.

That’s not the strongest tornado of the outbreak. A tornado that tore through Washington, Ill., was rated an EF4, with winds of at least 170 miles an hour. That tornado killed one person and injured dozens.

Another tornado that killed elderly siblings in the small southern Illinois town of New Minden has also been given a preliminary rating of EF4.

Sunday tornado latest reminder of one myth’s fallacy

Remember that old myth that tornadoes won’t cross rivers?

One of the tornadoes that touched down Sunday and struck Brookport, Ill., seemed to go out of its way to demonstrate the fallacy of the myth. A preliminary assessment of the tornado’s path indicates it crossed the Ohio River not once, but twice.

And it crossed the river going both directions.

The EF3 tornado is blamed for 3 deaths.

Weather officials have been saying for years not to count on myths to protect you when tornadoes threaten – and Sunday’s outbreak provided fresh evidence for their stance.

Can you spot the tornado in this photo?

Actually, there are no tornadoes in this photo of construction work on I-70 earlier this year in northwest Kansas. But when I saw the shot, my first thought was that some people would see the rain shafts in the background and mistake them for tornadoes.

When I mentioned this to Kansas Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Swartz in an e-mail, his reply was spot on: “Surely they’ll remark about the dedicated construction crew that isn’t fazed by an approaching twister.”

Tornado threat for central Kansas today

There’s a chance of tornadoes west of Wichita in central Kansas later today, the Storm Prediction Center reports.

While 5% may seem like a small figure, weather experts advise that anything above 2% is worth close attention. The elevated zone is roughly from Pratt to Dodge City and points north of there.

Today’s severe weather threat across the Great Plains

The Storm Prediction Center has posted a moderate threat for severe weather – including strong tornadoes – in most of western Iowa and a sliver of eastern Nebraska for today.

The slight risk zone extends as far south as the Texas/Oklahoma border and includes the Wichita metropolitan area.

The primary threats for the Wichita area will be damaging winds and hail – though forecasters say a tornado can’t be ruled out.