Tornadoes Hit Barton and Rice Counties on Friday, August 19th, 2005 (8/21/2005)

By: Paul Howerton

Six tornadoes, including one F1 tornado, hit parts of Barton and Rice Counties.

The parameters which came together to produce the severe weather Friday afternoon, actually started taking shape during the predawn hours on Thursday. Thunderstorms over Nebraska and northern Kansas, left an outflow boundary across northern Kansas. These outflow boundaries are similar to fronts, and can be the focus for later thunderstorm development. In this case, the boundary extended from near Concordia, to just south of Russell, to north of Dodge City. The first severe thunderstorm developed just to the north of this boundary and produced up to golf ball sized hail at Lincoln, Kansas at 1150 AM. The rain cooled air and morning clouds to the north of the boundary increased the temperature contrast across this boundary. By 3 PM, the boundary was evident in satellite images (see image 1). Temperatures were in the mid to upper 90s to the south of the boundary and 80s to the north of the boundary. A second boundary approaching from the west intersected the first boundary over Pawnee County, where the first storm developed. This storm continued to develop and move along the east/west boundary over the next few hours.

The storm continued to intensify, feeding on the very warm and humid air to the south and east of these intersecting boundaries. At 357 PM, the first tornado warning was issued for southwest Barton County. This was based on the combination of favorable conditions for tornado development in this specific location, reports of a rotating wall cloud and moderate persistent rotation on doppler radar. At 404 PM, the Kansas Highway Patrol reported the first tornado, 8 miles west of Great Bend. This brief touchdown was rated an F0. Image 2 shows the radar reflectivity data and image 3 shows the Doppler velocity data at 408 PM.

The storm continued to strengthen as it approached the Great Bend airport. The second brief touchdown occurred at 406 PM, just southwest of the airport. This tornado was also rated an F0. The tornado lifted as it approached the airport, however a wind gust of 76 MPH was measured at the Great Bend airport at 411 PM. These strong winds resulted in significant damage to hangars at the airport (see image 4). The storm continued to track slightly north of east, and moved across Great Bend. Substantial tree and roof damage was reported across the city. Some roof damage is shown in image 5 and image 6.

The third tornado (image 7), touched down 5 miles northeast of Great Bend, and was rated an F1. This tornado was on the ground for approximately 4 miles and was rated an F1. This tornado produced considerable damage (image 8, image 9 and image 10) to some farms.

As the storm continued to the east, two additional tornadoes briefly touched the ground at 505 PM and and 509 PM in Rice county. No damage has been reported from these tornadoes. The strong winds being produced by the storm, undercut the tornadoes, and damaging wind became the primary threat from this severe thunderstorm. Reports of winds estimated over 60 mph and tree damage were reported across the northern half of McPherson County, including an estimated 75 MPH wind gust 3 miles west of McPherson by an off duty National Weather Service meteorologist at 609 pm, and a 72 mph measured gust at Lindsborg from a KSN weather lab. A radar image showing the storm in McPherson county is shown in image 11.

For a map showing all the tornado tracks, see image 12.

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