Like most of it's predecessors, 2005 was an exceptionally active year from a meteorological perspective in Central, South-Central, and Southeast Kansas. Perhaps those events garnering the greatest attention were the ice storm of January 4th & 5th, the June 8th & 9th flash flood, and the severe thunderstorm outbreaks of June 30th, July 3rd and August 19th.
2005 started on a slick note, as an Arctic cold front, surging south across Kansas on January 4th before stalling along the Red River, left a shallow layer of moist, bitterly cold air trapped beneath a layer of much warmer air aloft. What resulted was what many consider to be the worst ice storm to ravage Central, South-Central, and Southeast Kansas since 1982.Although freezing rain was the primary culprit, sleet also played a vital role in coating nearly entire region with 1-2 inches of ice that caused incredible damage to trees, power lines, and power poles. Even the tallest and strongest of trees were victimized. Trees 20-22 feet tall were either split or felled, with limbs 6-12 inches in diameter breaking under tremendous ice accumulations that, in some cases, blocked roads and highways. No doubt, the power outages were exacerbated by the falling trees and limbs tumbling onto power lines. In fact, many areas were without power for 1 1/2 weeks! In Central Kansas, the situation was magnified considerably by 3-5 inches of snow that accumulated in Russell, Lincoln, and Saline counties. Further power outages resulted when temperatures warmed the following weekend, as the melting ice fell from power lines causing them to whip or snap. The winter storm was responsible for an estimated $30 million damage. Particularly hard hit were Butler and Sedgwick counties, which sustained an estimated $8.5 million and $15 million damage, respectively. Governor Sebulius declared a state of disaster emergency for 20 counties. National assistance was outstanding, with power crews responding from as distant as Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and West Virginia. On June 8th and 9th, slow-moving thunderstorms producing 10-15 inches of rain caused widespread flash flooding in Harvey, Butler, and Northern Sedgwick counties. The flash flooding was especially dangerous in that it occurred at night. Receiving 12-15 inches of rain in a 10-hour period, Harvey County was inundated with flash flooding that left most roads and highways barricaded. By around 11 PM, major flash flooding in most of Newton resulted in countless streets being barricaded with evacuations in progress. The flash flooding caused an estimated $1.5 million damage. The flash flooding in Harvey County spread south across the county border into Northern Sedgwick County, where 19 homes, 12 of them mobile variants, were flooded. In Mt. Hope, an unspecified number of people required rescue from their homes. Estimated damage: $150,000. In Butler County, the flash flooding was so serious that two families required evacuation from their homes 4 miles north of Whitewater. El Dorado was inundated as well, with many streets barricaded. Just as June was about to hand the baton to July, atmospheric mayhem struck Southeast Kansas, as an incredible volley of severe thunderstorms raked the area on the 30th with 80-100 mph winds and golfball to baseball-sized hail. The first round of severe thunderstorms struck around 730 PM CDT. The severe thunderstorms unleashed their fury on Woodson County where, at 735 PM CDT, baseball-sized hail bombarded farmland 7 miles north of Yates Center, causing an estimated $415,000 damage to crops. From 740-800 PM CDT, in Neosho County, more specifically Chanute, severe thunderstorms unleashed winds estimated around 90 mph that blew the roofs off many homes and businesses. In Erie and St. Paul, large trees were uprooted and fell onto other homes, one of which was destroyed! Also destroyed were many barns and sheds. Total damage in all three towns from this first round of severe convection was $2 million. After taking a brief "timeout", severe thunderstorms struck these same areas again from 10 PM thru 12 midnight CDT. Like their predecessors, these severe thunderstorms also caused incredible damage that culminated in the removal of a large church steeple. Power was severed to most, if not all, of Neosho County. On July 3rd, another outbreak of severe thunderstorms went on a rampage. This time, Central and South-Central Kansas would be the primary targets. The timing was horrendous, for it was the 4th of July weekend. Around 3 PM CDT that afternoon, severe thunderstorms whipped Barton and Rice counties with 60-70 mph winds. However, it would get much worse, for around 6 PM CDT, this complex of severe thunderstorms would evolve into a squall line of severe thunderstorms that would go on a rampage through Reno, Kingman, Western Sedgwick, and Harper counties. This line of severe thunderstorms unleashed 70-100 mph winds that caused extensive damage at Cheney Lake State Park, where the marina, around 125 boats, 35 campers and mobile homes were either heavily damaged or destroyed. One mobile homes was leveled. One person was killed when his boat overturned and 6 others were injured; all of whom required ambulance transport to Wichita hospitals. Estimated damage: Property: $2 million, agriculture: $12.5 million. Governor Sebulius issued a state of disaster emergency for Reno County. In Harper County, a few buildings were unroofed in Bluff City by winds estimated around 85 mph. In addition to the incredibly powerful winds, the severe thunderstorms produced golfball-sized hail and flash floods that led to the rescue of a family trapped in their car at Anthony Lake. On August 19th, destructive severe thunderstorms raked Central Kansas. This event would prove to be particularly destructive in Great Bend where it caused more than a few anxious moments for it's residents. One tornado, possessing a path 3 miles long and around 110 yards wide from 8 miles west, to 5 miles southwest, of Great Bend, caused an estimated $500,000 damage to Great Bend airport where hangars were unroofed and an unspecified number of aircraft were overturned. The tornado then turned due east, moving directly toward Great Bend when it lifted. The now airborne funnel skimmed directly over town at tree-top level! As the funnel passed over the east side of town, it touched down again and intensified with rotational velocities of 75-110 mph. The tornado caused extensive damage to two farmsteads totalling $250,000. The severe thunderstorms were also packed with 75-80 mph winds that caused an estimated $5 million in and around Great Bend! Many buildings sustained major roof and structural damage; one of which was the Travel Lodge Motel. Some buildings were completely unroofed. Numerous vehicles sustained smashed or shattered windows. In one instance, the occupant was injured when his parked car at the Travel Lodge was struck by a section of the motel's roofing. The victim was trapped inside for around 15 minutes. Altogether, 12 people were injured in Great Bend with each requiring attention at Central Kansas Medical Center. The severe thunderstorms went on a rampage through McPherson County, where the porches of two homes were destroyed in Marquette. One such porch was literally ripped from the home and blown onto the roof. Estimated damage: $150,000. These events proved, once again, that severe thunderstorms are dangerous and are to be treated with the utmost respect! So when a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, please heed the warning. The wintertime can also prove volatile - and deadly, for the January 4th & 5th ice storm was responsible for 3 fatalities. One should never let down his guard when severe weather threatens, be it tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, or winter storms, especially in Kansas!