Late Season Tornadoes hit South Central Kansas (8/29/2004)

By: Paul Howerton

Three more tornadoes hit Sumner and Cowley counties on August 27, 2004.

Three 3 tornadoes are suspected in Friday night’s round of severe weather. See image 1 for a track of all the tornadoes. The first tornado, was a brief touchdown on the south side of Udall around 709 PM. A tornado warning was issued for Cowley county at 658 PM. No damage was reported with this tornado.

The second tornado was a brief touchdown in a corn field around 718 pm, near highway 81 and East 60th Street South in Sumner County. This was the same time that a tornado warning was issued for Sumner County. The third (and most signficant) tornado, touched down around 730 PM, a quarter mile southwest of the intersection of Highway 81 and East 40th Street South. As it moved northeast it produced this F0 damage (image 2). It continued to intensify and produced F2 damage to a brick home (image 3). The F2 tornado had the classic cone shaped tornado as shown in image 7. Nearby trees were also damaged (image 4). It continued moving northeast, hitting another home (image 5) and then snapped 4 utility poles before dissipating.

Interviews with eye witnesses stated the third tornado remained nearly stationary or drifted back to the southwest. A storm survey revealed another track just north of East 40th Street South, which is across the street from the previous damage. Later accounts and video tape may provide additional clues about this tornado damage.

The line of thunderstorms did not move very fast, which resulted in locally heavy rainfall. Official NWS observers reported 2.28 inches of rain in Oxford, 3.17 at Rock and 3.55 at Winfield. The heavy rain closed a portion of highway 160, between Oliver and Rock roads. Flooding was also reported around Oxford.

In addition to the tornadoes, several reports of dime to quarter sized hail and a couple of 60 to 70 mph wind gusts were reported across the Sumner, Cowley and Butler counties with these storms.

Later Friday night and early Saturday morning, isolated severe thunderstorms prompted a few more severe thunderstorm warnings. Later events included half dollar sized hail near Douglass, in Butler County, 60 mph winds 4 miles west of Elsmore in Allen county, and 1 inch hail and 65 mph winds 3 miles south of Benedict in Wilson county.

The storms developed along a weak cold front that extended roughly along I-35. These “landspout” tornadoes are different from the “classic” tornadoes in several ways. These tornadoes are not necessarily associated with large supercell thunderstorms, but often form under newly developing thunderstorms. Radar data near the time of the F2 is shown in image 6. Landspout tornadoes often occur near the intersection of weak boundaries, like a front and/or outflow boundaries (which are the leading edge of rain cooled air from thunderstorm). The rapid updrafts under these developing storms increase the “spin” of the air. Similar to an ice skater, pulling their arms inward to increase their spin, the thunderstorm does the same thing by stretching the updraft into the storm, and a brief tornado sometimes result. These tornadoes are typically narrow, short lived and relatively weak. However the strongest ones sometimes produce F1-F2 damage, like the third tornado of the night, in Sumner county.

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