Severe Storms Batter Central Kansas (7/8/2004)

By: Chris Jakub

Impressive Supercells rolled across Central Kansas Wednesday night producing over 50 severe weather reports.

The supercells hit for a mother nature severe hazardous cycle with tornadoes, large hail, damaging winds, and flooding. The main areas impacted from these storms were Russell, Lincoln, and Barton counties in our warning coverage area. Preliminary numbers show that fifteen tornado touchdowns (Image 6) were reported in Russell county alone with four tornadoes briefly touching down in Barton county.

The storms developed along a warm front in Northern Kansas during the afternoon, and moved very slowly to the south reaching the I-70 corridor by 430 pm. The thunderstorms began to evolve into the classic supercell phase shortly thereafter, as wind shear aloft became more favorable over Central Kansas.

The first supercell developed over the county line borders of Lincoln and Ellsworth counties and moved east-northeast at 15 to 20 mph. The storm started out by producing penny and nickel size hail, and then continued to intensify as it moved towards the city of Lincoln. The storm reached Lincoln by around 6 pm and produced the largest hail of the night, hen egg sized hail was reported on the north side of town. Meanwhile, two more supercells were organizing and quickly gaining strength over Russell county, thus becoming the main highlight show that evening.

The National Weather Service issued the first tornado warning for Russell county at 610 pm, then went on to issue three more consecutive tornado warnings for Russell county. The first tornado touchdowns were reported almost simultaneously around 7 pm from the two seperate supercells both affecting Russell county. One supercell thunderstorm spawned a tornado near the town of Gorham in western Russell county, with a second supercell generating another tornado 3 miles southeast of Waldo. No damage was reported from these brief tornadoes.

The supercell achieved its strongest intensity just south of Russell where a hook echo began to take shape in (Image 1). Rotational Velocities reached fairly high values as seen in (Image 2). The supercell produced a F1 tornado 10 miles south of Russell which took off a roof from a home and damaged a barn (Image 4). A second tornado rated F0 caused structural damage to a barn and some trees 8 miles southwest of Bunker Hill (Image 5). Several reports of flooding were also received, as the two slow moving supercells dumped copious amounts of rain across Russell county.

Meteorologists at the National Weather Service captured this truely amazing visible satellite image. Notice the giant overshooting tops in Central Kansas which are very common for these type storms. Also note the nearly perfect circular anvil which stretched from southern Nebraska into northern Oklahoma nearly covering the entire state of Kansas (see Image 3). A comment from Chris Jakub a meteorologist at the National Weather Service during the event, "WOW that is the most perfectly shaped anvil I have ever witnessed!"

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