Finger on the Weather

50 tornado reports in Kansas in a week

The EF-4 tornado that churned through Dickinson County on Wednesday night. (May 25, 2016)
The EF-4 tornado that churned through Dickinson County on Wednesday night. (May 25, 2016) Courtesy photo

Kansas has logged 50 tornado reports this week, as the peak of tornado season lives up to its heritage.

Among those reports is the damaging EF-4 that churned for 26 miles through Dickinson County on Wednesday night. That slow-moving tornado, which grew to a half-mile wide, was on the ground for about 90 minutes and was so powerful its roar could be heard by residents two miles away.

“There are several homes that the foundation was the only thing that was left,” said Bryan Baerg, a meteorologist with the Topeka branch of the National Weather Service.

Through Thursday, tornadoes had been reported somewhere in the Sunflower State for five of the past six days. But Baerg said conversations with survivors detected no indication that they felt like the state was under siege from Mother Nature.

“It’s late May, so it comes with the territory” in Tornado Alley, Baerg said.

The actual number of tornadoes to touch down over the past week in the state is unclear, weather officials say, because some reports may be multiple views of the same tornado. Weather officials were still out assessing damage paths around Kansas on Friday, meaning more tornadoes may be added to the total.

The most important number to emerge from this week, Baerg said, is 0. There have been no deaths from all the tornadoes, he said.

Two people were critically injured in a tornado Tuesday evening near Dodge City, according to the Kansas Adjutant General’s Office.

In general, people had plenty of warning and took appropriate precautions, Baerg said.

Good fortune also played a role:

▪ The large tornado in Dickinson County, which reached maximum speeds of 180 miles an hour, just missed Chapman even as it tore through numerous homes in rural areas.

▪ An EF-3 tornado that was up to 3/4 of a mile wide with winds of 125 miles an hour skirted the western edge of Dodge City as it moved north and then northwest on Tuesday night.

▪ Another massive tornado Tuesday in southwest Kansas stayed in rural areas yet still caused enough damage to warrant an EF-3 rating with winds of 136 miles an hour.

Twin tornadoes in Edwards County not far from Lewis are drawing a closer look from weather officials. One rotated clockwise, like almost all tornadoes in the Northern Hemisphere, but the winds in the other tornado spun in the other direction.

“You don’t see an anti-cyclonic tornado very often,” said Larry Ruthi, meteorologist-in-charge of the Dodge City branch of the weather service.

Most tornadoes with that feature are weak and short-lived, he said. But Tuesday night’s tornado south of Lewis was on the ground for more than five miles and had sustained wins of 115 miles an hour, earning an EF-2 rating.

“That’s very unusual,” Ruthi said.

While showers and thunderstorms are possible through most of the Memorial Day weekend and early next week, forecasters say the severe weather threat will be minimal compared to this past week.

“The potential for significant tornadoes is considerably less,” Ruthi said.

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