Top Ten Weather Events of the 20th Century

For Central, South Central, and Southeast Kansas
(in Chronological Order):


1. MAY 25, 1917 TORNADO:

This tornado touched down 4 miles north-northwest of Cheney and moved to the northeast through the southeastern parts of Andale, across the southern edge of Sedgwick, and with less intensity, to 3 miles northeast of Florence. Along the path, 118 farms, homes and businesses were destroyed, many of them completely swept away. A total of 23 people were killed and 70 were injured. Twelve of those killed were in Andale, as half the town was damaged or destoryed. Eight people died along the east edge of Sedgwick. The funnel as reported to be over a mile wide.

2. MAY 7, 1927 TORNADO:

This tornado ranged from one-half to two miles wide, and was on the ground for nearly 100 miles. It travelled from Barber County, through Kingman and Reno Counties before dissipating in McPherson County. There were 10 people killed and 300 injured. This tornado may have caused more injuries than any other single tornado in our County Warning Area.

3. DUST BOWL - EARLY AND MID 1930S:

The Dust Bowl of the 1930s on a National scale ranks among the most significant events of the century, by literally changing the face of the Great Plains. Extreme heat and drought, especially in 1934 and 1936. The all-time record high temperature of 114 degrees was set on August 12, 1936 at Wichita. This time frame also produced the longest stretch of 100 degree days of 20 in 1936. However, two other time frames in 1934 produced 100 degree readings for 13 straight days. Another stretch of 8 days in 1936 experieced temperatures of 100 degrees for better. As for precipitation, 1936 was the 9th driest spring with only 3.88 inches. This was followed by the driest summer ever recorded. A paltry 1.29 inches fell between the months of June through August. "Black Sunday" was near the height of the Dust Bowl, which accounts for giant clouds of dust descending across portions of Western Kansas.

4. MAY 25, 1955 TORNADO:

This funnel touched down in Kay County Oklahoma, due south of Ashton, Kansas. As the funnel moved north-northeast, it passed along the west side of Geuda Springs. Five childred were killed in one home, 3 miles northeast of Oxford. Over half the population of Udall was killed or injured as the tornado completely devasted a large portion of the town. Seventy-five people were killed in Udall, and many of the 270 injuries were serious. Damage in this small town was listed at over 2.2 million. This was the deadliest tornado to strike South Central Kansas. A more complete write-up of the Udall tornado is available here.

5. JUNE 10, 1958 TORNADO:

This tornado moved east-southeast across El Dorado, passing through and devastating a section of newer homes in the southwest part of town. About 200 homes were destroyed as a 45 block area was torn apart. It was reported that a car was thrown 100 yards in the air, crashing through the roof of a house. This tornado took the lives of 15 people and injured 50.

6. THE BLIZZARD OF 1971:

Kansas is well noted for its violent spring weather. However, Kansas would wise to be alert during the winter, too. On February 21st, 1971, an intense winter storm crossing the Souther Plains buried Southern Kansas with 10-13 inches of snow. The storm packed such a terrific punch, that gusty north-northeast winds 25-40 mph produced near zero visibility bringing a large portion of Southern Kansas to a standstill. The storm began shortly before daybreak on the 21st with the storm hitting full throttle around 8 AM. The storm unleashed its fury for almost 8 hours before easing up late in the afternoon. However, periods of light snow would continue on through the night and into the morning of the 22nd. When the storm ended around midday on the 22nd, 13 inches of snow had been recorded at Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport, making this one of the five worst snowstorms ever to hit Wichita, dating back to 1888. In fact, 27 years would elapse before another snowstorm of this magnitude would venture across the Wichita metropolitan area.

7. THE SIZZLING SUMMER OF 1980:

Sweltering heat took a long, unwelcome vacation in Kansas during the summer of 1980. The blistering heat arrived with a vengeance on June 24th when the mercury soared lika a fighter jet to 103 degrees. Afternoon high temperatures broke the 100-degree barrier each day for the rest of the month, culminating in a monthly high of 110 degrees on the 30th. The nighttime provided very little in the way of relief as lows in the mid to upper 70s were prevalent during that one-week span. Little did anyone realize that the atmosphere was just getting "warmed up". During July, the heat wave hit full throttle when high temperatures cleared the 100-degree hurdle a staggering 24 out of 31 days, including an eighteen day stretch from the 3rd to the 20th. The 4th was, quite literally, hotter than a firecracker, when another 110-degree reading was achieved. With heat that intense, some Kansans probably did their holiday barbecuing right on the pavement. The record heat reached a pinnacle on the 12th, when Wichitans baked in 112-degree temperatures. With nighttime temperatures in the lower 80s, air conditioners received the workouts of their life. It appeared that the heat wave was losing its grip, when a cold front crossing the region on July 21st caused temperatures to "nosedive" back into the mid 90s with overnight lows dropping to near 60 degrees. Not so, as temperatures shot right back up into the 105-110 degree range from the 28th to the 21st. The heat wave that wouldn't die was entering its third month. The record heat didn't break stride as August took the baton and raced to a high of 110 degrees on the 1st. In fact, 11 of the first 13 days of August would see triple-digit highs. It was on the 14th that "the sizzling Summer of 1980" began to east its grip on Kansas, as temperatures settled back into more seasonal levels. However, it was too late, as 20 record high temperatures were set between June 24th and August 13th, all of which stand to this day. During the months of June and July, Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport only received 1.81 inches of rainfall, 0.47 inches of that was in July.

8. MARCH 13, 1990 TORNADO:

This devastating tornado has been labeled the "Hesston Tornado" even though it's inception began just to the north of Pretty Prairie in Reno County. The tornado entered Harvey County 8 miles southwest of Burrton. In Burrton, a six year old boy was killed as he huddled with his family. The chimney had toppled into the basement where he and his family were hiding for safety. In Hesston, about 226 homes and 21 businesses were damaged or destroyed in the western sections of town. About 90 homes were destroyed "beyond repair" and 30 were totally destroyed. After wreaking havoc in Hesston, and causing nearly 25 million dollars in damage across Harvey County alone, the tornado continued to move northeast before merging with another tornado. Surprisingly, for as strong and violent as this tornado was, there were only two fatalities and 60 injuries. Checks from a plumbing and heating supply store in Hesston were found 85 miles to the northeast in Manhattan, and a personal check was carried 115 miles to the northeast near the Pottawatomie County community of Blaine.

9. APRIL 26, 1991 TORNADO:

A tornado touched down in Harper County then skipped across Sedgwick and Butler counties. In Sedgwick county it grew to f-3 intensity and tore through parts of south and east Wichita, making a direct hit on McConnell AFB. Four people were killed in Sedgwick county. The tornado then grew to f-5 intensity and went through the community of Andover in Butler county. Major damage was incurred and 13 people were killed. This tornado came to be known as the "Andover Tornado". At the same time, another tornado developed in Cowley county and moved northeast. It grew to F-4 intensity, killing one person east of Winfield, and another near Howard, in Elk county. Total property damage from these tornadoes were in excess of 272 million dollars.

10. 10/31-11/2/98 FLOOD:

Rainfall amounts of nearly a foot fell over parts of South Central and Southeast Kansas. The rain resulted in flooding of many of the rivers. The Arkansas, Cottonwood, Whitewater, and Walnut Rivers recorded all-time record levels. Major flooding occurred through West Wichita, along the Cowskin Creek. In addition, Augusta, in western Butler county, was also especially hard hit. This event is known as the "Halloween Flood." The flood resulted in 37.8 million dollars in damage and the evacuation of 5,300. With all this devastation, only 2 people were injured and one killed.

"HONORABLE MENTION": NOVEMBER 10, 1915 TORNADOES:

Two different tornadoes affected portions of Central and South Central Kansas on this day. The first was one that moved across Barton county. The tornado moved across the Southestern sections of Great Bend, causing one million dollars in damage. One hundred and sixty homes were destroyed, and at least 1000 sheep were killed on nearby ranches. Debris from Great Bend was carried 85 miles and hundreds of dead ducks fell from the sky 25 miles northeast of the end of the tornado path, which was west of Claflin. Another tornado moved across portions of Sumner and Sedgwick counties. Eight homes were destroyed and 3 people were killed at Zyba. At least two homes were destroyed and one person was killed at Derby. This is the latest time in the year that a fatality can be attributed to a tornado for our county warning area. The total number of deaths for these tornadoes was 15.


** This information was compiled by Richard Elder, Chance Hayes, and Eric Schminke of the Wichita National Weather Service Forecast Office (12/22/99).


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