A List of Top Weather Events of the Last Decade
(2000 - 2009)

Ten years of the new millennium have passed, and during that time several significant weather events have impacted south central Nebraska and north central Kansas.  The National Weather Service Office in Hastings, NE identified a Top 10 list of extreme weather events ranging from severe weather to winter weather, to hydrological conditions.  The list in no way could encompass every memorable event, and the events identified, along with their order, are entirely subjective.  The rankings start at number ten and work down to number one, and many of the events include links to a web story or additional information.


10. Swath of Large Hail:  June 12, 2002 

 
Map of the swath of large hail through the area. Hail damage to a Buffalo County patrol car. One of the many large hailstones, placed by a handheld for comparison.

Lots of large hail!  A wicked severe thunderstorm ripped across Buffalo and Kearney counties, dumping hail larger than softballs and causing approximately 100 million dollars in damage. As the severe storm rolled across Buffalo county, it moved southeast along Highway 40 through Amherst, near Riverdale, and eventually into the city of Kearney.

In excess of 6,000 structures required roof, window, and siding repairs, and in some cases, the hail stones penetrated the shingles, sheeting, and interior ceiling drywall. One person reported an 8 inch diameter hole in their roof. One home owner alone sustained $60,000 in damage, with another home owner reporting hail stones landing on the living room couch after falling through the roof. Over 3,000 automobiles were severely damaged. One local auto dealership experienced damage to almost 300 cars on the lot. Hundreds of windows were lost on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Eight police cruisers were damaged. Fifteen people were treated for minor abrasions and released from the local hospital. Several hailstones measured 5 inches in diameter throughout the county, and there were unconfirmed reports of melon sized hail near Amherst.

In Kearney County, extensive damage was noted in the Minden area, with 4.5 inch diameter hail reported in the city. The most damage occurred at the greenhouse facility which grew tomatoes. The glass structure was no match for the softball size hailstones, where 2,500 panes of glass were broken, including about 60 percent of the roof panes. Shards of glass penetrated the tomatoes and forced the expulsion of the product for safety reasons. Crop damage was widespread throughout the county as over 22,000 acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa were severely damaged or destroyed. The storm then continued south and produced more crop and property damage in parts of Webster and Franklin counties.


9. Central Nebraska Flooding:  May - June 2008

Street flooding in Cozad. Looking south at flood waters running over Highways 81/92 west of Osceola. Flooding along Davis Creek in Osceola.

Multiple rounds of rain!    Thunderstorms, day after day, produced widespread heavy rainfall, which saturated the ground and caused areas of flooding.  Three day rainfall totals from May 22nd through May 24th ranged from over three inches to over seven inches across much of central Nebraska and Kansas.  Cozad received a whopping 7.25 inches, which flooded areas in and around town.  The rainy weather continued into the month of June which exacerbated the flood conditions.   June 4th brought another significant heavy rain event of 4 to 7 inches, with the heaviest rain falling in portions of Polk, Merrick, Nance and Howard Counties.  Water covered Highways 92 and 81 near Osceola, and the Davis Creek overran its banks.  The Plum Creek flooded in Nance County and water flowed over Highway 22 between Fullerton and Genoa.  In Howard County flood waters topped Highway 11 west of Saint Paul.  The 28 day stretch from May 9th through June 5th broke records for being the wettest period in Grand Island, Hastings, and Kearney.


8. Tornado Outbreak:  May 22 - 24, 2004

A landspout dots the landscape south of Ruskin on May 24th. A tractor picked up and hurled on top of an unfortunate vehicle. A tornado spotted northwest of Byron on May 24th.

Numerous tornadoes!  One of the worst severe weather outbreaks in recent years struck the Hastings county warning area during the afternoon and evening hours of May 22, as no less than 17 different tornadoes rolled across the area. In Thayer County, an F2 tornado traveled eight miles and damaged six farmsteads.  One house was hit by the tornado and damage was so severe, the owners had to burn the 120 year old home.  The tornado that exited Thayer County moved across a part of southeast Fillmore County.  The F1 tornado struck one farmstead and disloged the house from its foundation.  In Clay County, a tornado touched down on Highway 74 just west of Fairfield, and was rated F1.  Storm chaser's wind equipment recorded a wind gust just over 105 mph.  In Furnas County, a tornado (F1) traveled three miles in the southeast part of the county.  One farmstead sustained damage to several outbuildings, and farther down the road, a tractor and six row planter were overturned on top of a car. 

Overall that night, dozens of homes were damaged and a few completely destroyed. More than 250 center irrigation pivots were damaged or destroyed in south-central Nebraska alone. Large hail and strong straight-line winds of up to 80 mph also wreaked havoc on the region. Several million dollars in property damage was reported. Hundreds of power poles were snapped resulting in dozens of miles of downed electrical line.

Tornadic activity then made a return to the area on May 24th. As a cold front sliced across south-central Nebraska, a supercell thunderstorm developed along the front and moved southeast across Nuckolls and Thayer counties. The supercell became a prolific tornado producing storm, with almost a dozen tornadoes reported. With rainfall from the thunderstorm limited to a small area, the tornadoes were visible throughout the region by spotters, storm chasers and the public. At one point, three tornadoes were on the ground at one time in southwest Thayer county, one of which severely damaged two farmsteads.  In Nuckolls County, a tornado (F1) south of Ruskin destroyed five grain bins and broke several power poles.  The damage was strewn over a two mile stretch.  In Thayer County, a tornado (F1) damaged two farmsteads north of Byron.  At the first farm, the roof was torn from the house and the garage sustained significant damage.  At the second farm, damage was confined to metal buildings, grain bins and farm machinery.  At one point, this was the largest of the three tornadoes on the ground at one time.


7. Widespread Flooding & Damaging Winds/Hail:  May 11, 2005 

Aerial view of the Wood River Diversion on the south side of Grand Island, NE. Aerial view of flooding along the Highway 281 corridor in Grand Island, NE.  Downtown Hastings, NE.  Hail up to the size of baseballs fell for 20 minutes.  
 
Copious rain, flooding and hail!  Thunderstorms ravaged a large part of south central Nebraska with hail, high winds, and torrential rainfall which led to catastrophic flooding.  During the evening and early morning hours, 4 to 12 inches of rain fell from Dawson County east to York County.  At Kenesaw and Wood River, over 11 inches of rain was measured.  The city of Grand Island set a rainfall record for a single event with 7.21 inches of rain.  Statistically, this event was a 100 year rain and flood event for the area.  In Wood River, 12 people were evacuated due to rising water.  In Wood River, it was estimated every structure in town sustained some sort of storm damage as wave after wave of severe thunderstorms pounded the town.  In Grand Island, 36 homes were evacuated.  Flooding was rampant over the west and northern parts of the city while the Prairie, Silver and Moores Creeks flooded.  The Wood River near Alda (which had been dry for three years) tied a record river crest of 12.2 feet early in the morning on May 12th.  In York County, emergency rescues, one by helicopter and one by air boat were made to retrieve stranded people trapped by flood waters southeast of Waco and near McCool Junction.  Flood damage was in the tens of millions of dollars, with 12 to 15 million dollars occurring in Hall County alone. 

As flooding rains soaked the region, large hail, high winds and one tornado pounded south central Nebraska.  Hastings was particularly hard hit as baseball size hail and high winds belted the city for about 20 minutes.  Literally thousands of vehicles and homes sustained damage, especially on the east side of town, including the downtown area.  Damage was estimated at 40 million dollars.  Thirty-three people left their homes for shelter provided by the city.  In Wood River, a tornado (F0) clipped the south side of town.  In Merrick County, two Union Pacific trains derailed due to high winds. 

Hall and Adams counties were declared Federal Disaster Areas. 


6. Record Setting Snowfall:  March 18-21, 2006
 

Hastings CWA snowfall totals. Map showing snowfall totals across the entire state of Nebraska.

Snow piled up - setting records!  An intense winter storm system brought record snowfall to the region on the first day of spring. The snow began to accumulate the morning of the 19th and continued into the early morning hours of the 21st. When the storm had finally passed, snowfall amounts ranged from 8 to 10 inches along the Kansas/Nebraska border to 25 to 30 inches in the Ord and Greeley areas. Greeley reported an all time record 30 inches of snow, and numerous locations north of Highway 6 broke all time snowfall records.  Winds of 25 to 35 mph blew during the storm and caused some drifting of the snow.  Most all roads, including Interstate 80, businesses and schools closed. School began to reopen on the 22nd. A few shelters opened, mainly in towns along the interstate to house stranded motorists.


5. Tornado Outbreak: May 29, 2008

Hangar and aircraft damage at the Kearney Airport. Destroyed water tower in Jewell, KS. Metal barn 1 mile south of Aurora, NE south of Hwy 34.

Tornadoes - in and around cities!  An outbreak of severe weather occurred during the late afternoon and evening hours as thunderstorms spawned several tornadoes from near Elwood to north of York.  In Kearney, two tornadoes caused damage in the city.  The strongest tornado (EF2) started in the northwest part of the city and damaged an apartment complex.  It took part of the roof off of the complex, blew out a wall and stacked a couple of cars in the parking lot  The tornado moved east, damaging trees in Harmon Park and took part of a roof off of a building near the hospital.  At the Buffalo County Fairgrounds, it caused a portion of the Expo Center building to collapse.  The tornado continued east to the Kearney Airport where it destroyed a hangar and a corporate jet housed inside.   The tornado had a 22 mile path across Buffalo County and after it departed the city, it damaged farmsteads, outbuildings and power poles in rural parts of the county before lifting.

To the east, also along the Interstate 80 corridor, a tornado touched down three miles west of Aurora and traveled to the southeast.  When the tornado was two miles south of town, it rapidly intensified (EF2)  and increased to a half mile wide.  The tornado moved east and crossed Nebraska Highway 14 about a mile north of Interstate 80, then started to decrease in strength.  The tornado lifted about a half mile southwest of Hampton and was on the ground for nine miles.  To the south of the tornado track, strong winds  (80 to 90 mph) associated with the rear flank downdraft of the storm caused damage from the Giltner interchange on Interstate 80 to the Aurora interchange.  The winds damaged a gas station, and blew over several semi-trailer trucks on the interstate.  

In York County, a brief tornado set down in the northeast part of the county about two miles east of Thayer.  It crossed Highway 69 about five miles south of Gresham and dissipated shortly thereafter.  The tornado damaged a few grain bins and power poles along its three mile path.  It was about 100 yards wide and was rated an EF0.

In north central Kansas, a tornado developed near Glen Elder Reservoir in Mitchell County and moved north into Jewell County about four miles west of Highway 14.  The tornado hit three farmsteads and severely damaged the homes and outbuildings.  One of the homes was completely destroyed and another had a machine shed destroyed.  The tornado (EF3) entered the southwest side of Jewell and crossed the west side of town.  Several homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed, including the Jewell Cafe and the Bourbon Turcking Company.  The town's water tower was knocked down by the tornado before it lifted two miles northeast of Jewell.  Fortunately no injuries were reported.

Information about the tornadoes can be found at the links below.


4. Christmas Blizzard:  December 25, 2009
 

Marla, our DAPM, braving the elements to take snow and precipitation measurements. Large snow drift covering the front of a house in Shelby. Parking lot at WFO Hastings.  There is a car buried under the drift.

A Grinch of a storm!  An intense upper level low pressure system deepened over the Desert Southwest in the days preceding Christmas, and unleashed its fury across the plains on Christmas Day.  The onset of the wintry weather began during the evening of the 22nd, starting as freezing drizzle.  The freezing drizzle transitioned to freezing rain on the 23rd south of a line from York to Red Cloud to Phillipsburg, while snow fell to the west.  Around one quarter of an inch of ice accumulated, and portions of Osborne county received ice accumulations up to one half of an inch.  Snowfall amounts ranged from 1 to 4 inches north of a line from Fairmont to Smith Center to Stockton.  After a relative lull in activity during the daytime hours on Christmas Eve, conditions began to quickly deteriorate during the evening as the winter storm system reorganized across the Plains.  The system deepened along the Missouri River, and settled into Iowa on Christmas Day.  Oriented on the backside of the upper low pressure system allowed central and eastern Nebraska to catch the brunt of the combination of snowfall and very strong winds associated with the storm.  While the entire area was affected by northwest winds of 40 mph, and gusts near 60 mph at times, the majority of the snow fell in an area generally north of Highway 6 and east of Highway 281.  In this area, Christmas Day snowfall amounts tallied 4 to 8 inches, with many 3 day storm totals reaching over a foot.  The snow and wind produced blizzard white-out conditions due to significant blowing and drifting of the snow.  Numerous roads became impassable and were closed, including major highways and Interstate 80 from Grand Island east to the Missouri River.   The timing and extent of the blizzard on Christmas led to cancellations or rescheduling of holiday religious services, and festivities for those that needed to travel.  It took many days for city, residential and area rural roads to be cleared from this storm, and given the timing and widespread impacts with this one, the Christmas Blizzard is expected to be remembered for many years.


 3. Prolonged Drought Conditions:  1998 to 2006

A very dry Platte River in the summer of 2002. Upstream veiw near Grand Island in the summer of 2003. Extent of the drought across both Nebraska and Kansas in 2002.

It was dry - year after year!  Drought conditions developed in the late 1990's and persisted through more than half of the first decade of 2000.  Impacts of the drought were widespread, affecting agricultural interests as well as water supply (hydrologic).  Drought conditions were at their worst from the Nebraska panhandle through western Nebraska and Kansas, and included much of central Nebraska and Kansas.  The Platte River dried up in the Summer of 2002, and had a repeat performance in the summer of 2003.  The Platte River was not the only river affected, the Wood River had a similar fate, and the Republican River suffered from extremely low flows to dry at times.  Reservoir levels dropped to historic lows, revealing more beach and sand than water.


2. Record Hail, Tornadoes, & Flooding:  June 22, 2003

U.S. record setting hail stone. Photograph of the Deshler tornado. Radar image of the thunderstorm which produced the record hail.

Mega storms with mega hail, tornadoes, and torrential rain!  Thunderstorms produced extremely large hail on the north side of Aurora; one hail stone was so large, it was record breaking!  The stone was determined to be the largest sized stone to fall in the United States, measuring 7 inches in diameter and 18.75 inches circumference.  The storm which dropped the hail also produced a couple of brief small tornadoes as it slowly moved through northern Hamilton County. 

At nearly the same time, another very slow moving storm produced several tornadoes, hail and extremely heavy rains in Thayer County.  One tornado (F2) moved through the town of Deshler, traveling from the southeast side of town to the west.  One man was killed in his garage before he was able to get to shelter.  Over 400 homes in Deshler were damaged with four being completely demolished.  Seven people were injured, mostly from broken glass.  Despite ongoing drought conditions, widespread flooding was reported in Thayer and southern Fillmore counties.  The flooding was caused by extremely heavy rainfall in Thayer and Republic counties.  Rainfall of over 12 inches was reported about five miles north of Deshler.  The runoff in the Snake and Spring creeks ravaged Deshler, the town which had already been hit by tornadoes.  The flash flooding along the Rose Creek at Hubbell provided some of the worst damage.  Water that flowed into houses and businesses on main street had depths of up to five feet deep.  Boats were the only mode of travel through the business district.  Up to 15 residents had to be evacuated by the local Dive and Rescue team using jet skis.  Major river flooding was reported along the Little Blue River from just west of Hebron to the Jefferson County line.  One man at his farmstead near Gilead had to be air lifted to safety by the National Guard as flood waters rose on his property. 

 


1.  Ice Storm:  December 29th-31st, 2006  (Click here for photo gallery)

Ice accumulation on a windmill near Alma. Ice covered grass in rural Hastings. Ice covered trees near Kearney.

Ice, ice and more ice!  A wintry mix of precipitation impacted south central Nebraska and north central Kansas beginning on December 29, 2006. Freezing rain, sleet, and snow fell across west central Nebraska, and the mixed precipitation spread east to around Highway 281 during the night, but transitioned to a prolonged period of sleet and freezing rain. The wintry mix of ice and sleet continued on the 30th, before ending on the 31st. Precipitation across west central Nebraska fell as snow, with 9 inches of snow accumulating in Dawson County. To the east, significant icing occurred, with widespread ice accumulations totalling one half to one inch, and even near an inch and a half at some locations. The ice accumulations caused widespread damage to trees, power lines, power poles and caused power outages.  Several small towns were running via generators, and it took weeks for power to be fully restored.


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