The May 29th Dust Storm
David Floyd/WCM - NWS Goodland, KS
radar gust front image


 The radar image at the right shows a cluster of thunderstorms (yellow and red cores) over extreme NW Kansas.  These storms moved northeast into Nebraska with large hail and strong winds, but the main event was the development and rapid eastward progression of a large thunderstorm outflow, which surged over 100 miles southeast of the original thunderstorm complex.  Seen on radar as a thin blue line (highlighted), this outflow produced gusts of 65 to 85 mph in Sherman County (Goodland), and 50 to 70 mph further east.  Winds continued to gust near 60 mph for a 3 hour period after the initial outflow passed by.  Radar was likely detecting a combination of the dirt cloud thrown high into the air by the outflow, as well as insects.  

 The pictures below show two dust storms, the top image was taken February 21, 1935, and the bottom image May 29, 2004.  The similarity is striking, with the main difference being that the image from 1935 was in black-and-white.


1930's dust bowl picture2004 Dust storm picture

 The moisture content of the topsoil in NW Kansas was quite low by the end of May.  Afternoon temperatures frequently topped 80 degrees during the month, and only two days of significant rainfall were reported prior to the 29th.  This was a major contributor to the rapid visibility drop and the ensuing traffic accidents.  Although subsequent rainfall during the summer and early fall months has helped this situation by replenishing topsoil moisture, NW Kansas is still struggling to climb out of a 3-year drought. 



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