April 11, 2002 - Unusual tornado event (4/12/2002)

By: Hayden Frank and Chance Hayes

Long track tornado/landspout moves across Reno County.


A cold front continued its slow progression southward through North Central Kansas during the morning and afternoon of Thursday, April 11th. The southerly winds out ahead of the front allowed plenty of moisture to make its way into portions of Central and South Central Kansas. For most of the afternoon, warm temperatures around 10,000 feet off the ground prevented thunderstorms from developing. However, this warm layer was quickly eroded by late afternoon, allowing scattered thunderstorms to quickly develop.

The first thunderstorms that developed, quickly formed a nearly solid line from Northeast Kansas, through Marion and Harvey Counties around 430 pm. However, an isolated thunderstorm developed to the southwest of the line, in Southeast Reno County. At 519 pm, this storm developed a tornado near Pretty Prairie. (Video 8 mb) http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ict/events/20020412/renotor.mpg It initially moved southeast, then south, and then even turned to the southwest before dissipating at 545 pm in extreme Northeast Kingman County. The tornado was on the ground for approximately 26 minutes (Image 1). Fortunately, the tornado was over open country and no structures were hit. The tornado was very unusual because typically, long track tornadoes do not form with this type of weather pattern. The movement of the tornado was also unusual because of its slow forward speed and its continued change in direction. To see images of the tornado please see this link at http://www.jimreedphoto.com/pretty.html

The scattered thunderstorms also produced a very brief tornado touchdown in Harvey County. Otherwise, there were plenty of reports of dime to quarter size hail across the rest of South Central Kansas. In fact, golf ball size hail was reported around the cities of Cheney, Harper, as well as Andover . The hail completely covered the ground in some locations, which also lead to the formation of fog. In addition, areas of very heavy rainfall caused localized flooding. Near Harper, water completely covered Highway K44 for a time.

The thunderstorms continued to move slowly the south and east during the overnight hours. However, by around 1030 pm, they had weakened considerably, sparing southeast Kansas of any severe weather. The cold front finally cleared Southeast Kansas by daybreak, bringing the precipitation to an end.

This story was brought to you by the National Weather Service - Wichita, Kansas.

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