June 15th Turned into a Long Day of Severe Weather (6/17/2002)

By: Paul Howerton and Jim Caruso

Wind, hail, flooding and a brief tornado occured on Saturday.

Severe weather started early, with the first two warnings issued for Russell county and Barton counties shortly after 9 AM. These storms packed dime to quarter sized hail.

A brief reprieve occurred, with the next round starting just before 1 PM. Severe storms continued into the evening, with the last warning issued just before 7 PM. The storms intensified during the afternoon as temperatures warmed. A weak area of low pressure aloft moved southeast into the area further intensifying the storms. Golfball sized hail was reported in both Ellsworth and Rice counties, with numerous reports of 60-80 mph wind across central and south central Kansas.

A slow moving storm over Reno County produced a brief tornado, about 5 miles south of Haven. This brief "landspout" tornado was the result of several factors coming together in one specific area. Thunderstorms which moved across Reno and Harvey counties a little earlier, left an "outflow" boundary in eastern Reno county. This marked the edge of the rain cooled air produced by the earlier thunderstorm. The next severe storm in eastern Reno county, created it's own outflow too. See image 1 for the radar view of the two storms and image 4 for a picture of storm prior to the tornado forming. The tornado formed near the intersection of these boundaries, as a surge of outflow from the latter storm initiated new thunderstorms near this boundary intersection. See image 2 for the radar velocity display.

The brief tornado was the result of the increase in opposing winds near the ground combined with the enhanced lift from the developing storms over the boundary intersection. The outflow wind greatly increased as the mature thunderstorm updraft collapsed. See photo of outflow in image 5. This caused the 91 mph wind gust in far northwest Sedgwick county around 440 PM.

Strong to severe winds continued across the remainder of south central Kansas, mainly west of I-35. The storms evolved into a large line, with widespread rain in its wake. 1 to 2 inch rains were common over the region, with the heaviest rain occurring from near Russell to near Wichita (see image 3). Heavy rain produced some street flooding, in flood prone areas of Butler, Sedgwick, Reno and Rice counties.

Winds between 35 and 45 mph were common Saturday evening in the wake of the storms.

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

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