Finger on the Weather

Kansas tornadoes ignored the rules Monday night

A tornado caused this damage near Maple City in rural Cowley County Monday night. It was rated an EF-1 with peak winds of 107 mph.
A tornado caused this damage near Maple City in rural Cowley County Monday night. It was rated an EF-1 with peak winds of 107 mph. Courtesy photo

Tornadoes don't need perfect conditions to develop — and they can take wildly unpredictable paths once they touch down.

Monday night offered a fresh reminder of both truths in southern Kansas, where seven tornadoes formed from an erratic thunderstorm and later the leading edge of a squall line.

That's nearly twice as many tornadoes as were initially reported Monday night.

Most of the tornadoes were produced by a "deviant" supercell tornado in Cowley County, said Ken Cook, meteorologist in charge of the Wichita branch of the weather service.

The storm drifted to the southeast — the opposite direction storms commonly track in the spring and early summer. It produced two EF-2 tornadoes, with winds of 118 and 120 mph, near Maple City east of Arkansas City.

Both tornadoes stayed in rural areas, knocking down power poles. One rolled a camper and heavily damaged outbuildings and trees on a farmstead, though there were no reports of injuries from the storms.

"There could have been" injuries and substantial damage, Cook said, because the tornadoes were strong enough for that to happen.

The tornadoes formed even though there was little rotation, or shear, in the atmosphere, Cook said. The air in southern Kansas was unstable enough to make up for what was missing, he said.

Once the storm approached the Oklahoma state line, it stopped and began being pulled north by low pressure connected to the squall line, Cook said. Two more tornadoes — both EF-1s, with winds of 98 and 107 mph — touched down late in the evening.

Most of the tornadoes took strange paths, including one that went north, northwest and then west right along a county road. Another moved straight east on a county road and then almost straight north along another county road — as if it were a vehicle on a journey.

"Not all tornadoes come from the southwest to the northeast," Cook said. "You really need to be informed of what’s going on and take safe shelter" when storms threaten.

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