By: Phil Hysell
2001 Started Wet, Then Turned Turbulent, and Finished Dry.
The winter of 2000-2001 was a warm and wet one for Wichita, as 5.72 inches of precipitation fell from December 2000 through February 2001, making it the ninth wettest winter on record. Despite all the precipitation, only 9.1 inches of snow fell for the entire 2000-2001 winter season, which was over 6 inches below normal. The first severe weather event of 2001 occurred on the 24th of February when nickel size hail fell in Wellington. Traditionally we think of spring has the height of the severe weather season, but March brought little in way of severe weather to Central and Eastern Kansas. In fact, only 6 severe thunderstorms warnings were issued across our county warning area for the month. All that changed, for the worse, in April there were several days of destructive weather. On the 6th of April, widespread damaging wind gusts over 60 miles per hour swept across central and south central Kansas. In Russell, a 98 mile per hour wind gust was measured at the airport. On the 11th of April, there were no thunderstorms to be found as mostly sunny skies prevailed. Still, 750,000 dollars in damage occurred in central and south central Kansas as an unusually strong area of low pressure brought prolonged wind gusts reaching 65 miles per hour. Two people were injured as a result of these winds. One injury resulted from a tractor-trailer being blown over in Wichita, and the other injury occurred just west of Augusta where a man was blown from his tractor. The first tornado in our county warning area touched down on April 14th, four miles north of Norwich in Kingman County. One week later, on April 21st, the largest and most devastating tornado formed just southwest of Hoisington. This tornado intensified as it entered the west side of town, reaching F4 status (winds estimated to be 207 to 260 miles per hour). One 69 year old man was killed when a minivan fell on him, and 28 others were injured. Damage was estimated to be 43 million dollars as 182 homes and 12 businesses were completely destroyed. The active weather continued in May, as 120 reports of severe weather were noted across our county warning area. One of the most active days in May was on the 20th, when two weak tornadoes touched down in Russell and Barton counties and another in Sedgwick county. No injuries or damage occurred. The summer began very turbulent, but quickly became very hot and relatively dry. The beginning of June brought a seemingly endless string of days of severe weather to our area. From June 1st through the 5th, almost 150 reports of hail, wind, tornadoes and flash floods were taken by the National Weather Service. On June 3rd, six small tornadoes touched down in Harper and Kingman counties. Fortunately, all these tornadoes occurred in open country. Two sheds were destroyed and siding was stripped from a house in southern Harvey county, on June 5th, when an F0 tornado struck. A line of damaging winds, estimated to reach between 70 and 80 miles per hour caused considerable damage and injured two people near Yates Center on June 14th. These winds, lifted a couple into the air and they were knocked unconscious by blown debris. Hot and dry weather in July brought 17 days of temperatures above 100 degrees in Wichita. This was the most 100 degree days in July in Wichita since 1980, when 100 degree temperatures were recorded on 24 days. In fact, July went down as the 5th warmest on record in Wichita with an average temperature of 86.3 degrees. There were 10 more days of temperatures above 100 degrees in August, making a total of 27 days of 100 degree weather in Wichita for the year. This more than doubled our average of 10.6 days of 100 degree temperatures per year. Damaging winds returned to much of central Kansas on August 23rd, when 70 mile per hour winds brought power outages to much of Lindsborg. On the next day, August 24th, wind gusts over 60 miles per hour were common across much of south central Kansas. Power lines were blown down by 70 mile per hour winds in Mt. Hope, this caused power outages to an estimated 10,000 homes. By the end of the meteorological summer (June through August), Wichita experienced it's 8th warmest summer on record with an average temperature of 81.4 degrees. The last time Wichita had a summer this warm was in 1990, when the average temperature was also 81.4 degrees. Typically we experience a secondary peak in the number of severe weather events during the late summer and early fall, but this year was unusually strong. On September 7th, our office issued 40 severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings to central and south central Kansas. In addition to hail up the size of tennis balls falling in Wichita, a tornado struck near the town of Assaria. This F1 tornado (winds between 73 and 112 miles per hour) was on the ground for four miles and lasted seven minutes. Some homes and barns sustained significant damage, but thankfully no serious injuries or fatalities occurred. The autumn brought unusually dry and warm weather to our area. From October 16th through November 16th (32 consecutive days), no precipitation fell in Wichita. This was the longest string of dry weather for Wichita in 12 years. In 1989 Wichita went 38 days, from October 30th through December 6th without a measurable precipitation event. For the month of November, the average temperature in Wichita was 50.9 degrees, which tied for the 4th warmest on record. Warm weather persisted into December, as the first 21 days of the month were above normal. The dry weather continued as well, as only 0.08 inches of precipitation (none of it snow) fell. That made December 2001 the 8th driest December on record in Wichita. Through December 31st, 2001, no snow had been measured at the Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita. This marks the latest into the winter season Wichita had not experienced snow since the winter of 1903-04, when the first snow fell on January 4th, 1904.