Wild Weather of 2007

2007 Severe Weather Summary

Southwest Kansas

National Weather Service, Dodge City


Crippling weather greeted the new year of 2007 as the remnants of a historic snow and ice storm left the area on New Year’s Eve.  Snowfall of up to 32 inches fell near the Colorado border with huge drifts; up to 2 ½ inches of ice brought down electrical and communication towers; and the combination of rain, ice and snow brought up to 6 inches of moisture that would eventually cause widespread flooding.  Power was out in some locations of rural Western Kansas until March!

Late in February and into early March, the massive amount of ice and snow, coupled with
saturated ground led to a tremendous amount of flooding in Stanton, Hamilton, Grant, Kearny, Finney, Lane and Scott counties.   Millions of dollars in damage was done to county roads and a few structures.  Many elderly farmers commented that they had NEVER witnessed so much water or flooding!

Flooding above Finney County     Typical road damage in Grant County

February also brought night-time tornadoes to southwest Kansas which produced damage and even with a bit of snow on the ground!  Tornadoes in February in southwest Kansas have never been documented before.  The twisters occurred late in the evening on the 23rd.  Two tornadoes danced across the farmland of Meade, Gray and Ford counties.  The strongest and longest lived tornado had its sights set on Dodge City but fortunately it dissipated before reaching the city of 30,000 plus.  However, the tornado did produce EF1 damage southwest of town. 

Tornadoes occurred again in March, this time in a outbreak of 9 twisters that caused significant damage during darkness on the 28th.  The strongest and longest tracked tornado passed from west of Jetmore to west of Ness City.  It had a path length of 29 miles and was three fourths of a mile wide.  Fortunately folks in the path of the tornadoes that night had ample warning and were able to take precautions to prevent any injury or death.   Although no human life was lost, there were approximately 90 head of cattle that perished along the path of the largest tornado.  A dozen homes were either destroyed or received some damage. Over 150 power poles were taken down along with many miles of transmission lines.  Some sheet metal debris from one farm was found over 30 miles away.  Also, a 5 ton storage tank was thrown 1 mile!

The weather got even crazier in April.  On Friday the 13th, a major snow storm struck much of western Kansas.  The snow was also accompanied by quite a bit of cloud-to-ground lightning.  The heaviest amount of snow reported was 15 inches near Ulysses.  Ten to twelve inches was common from Stanton into Ford County.  Snow drifts were 2 to 4 feet.

Could it have gotten worse?  Indeed, it happened!  May 4th, 2007 will go down as a historic day when the town of  Greensburg in Kiowa County was nearly wiped off the face of the earth by an EF5 tornado, the strongest in a classification from 0 to 5.  Unfortunately 11 people perished in Greensburg with dozens injured, despite ample warning of 26 minutes.  Fate surely played a role in the “relatively” low number of deaths given the sheer magnitude of the damage.  Other killer tornadoes occurred with a death in Pratt County and a death in Stafford County reported.  Some of these monsters were nearly 2 miles wide!  In all 12 tornadoes occurred on the 4th.   

There was also an environmental concern with the amount of toxic material that was moved around by the tornadoes, ranging from asbestos, to solvents to crude oil.  An oil storage tank south of Greensburg ruptured spilling many barrels of oil onto the surrounding land.

Oil spills out into the surrounding land

Another outbreak followed the next day on the 5th of May when 17 tornadoes moved across nearly the same area.  Fortunately there were no deaths reported but there was more substantial damage.  Unbelievably, another 3 tornadoes occurred on the 6th but this time a bit farther south and east.

Other than typical summer heat and dryness, the weather was comparatively uneventful until August 20th when severe thunderstorms produced widespread down bursts, heavy rain and hail from Dighton to near Sublette.  Sadly one downburst rolled a trailer house in western Garden City claiming the life of an elderly woman.  Other downbursts caused considerable damage to the Holcomb high school, especially to the auditorium and gymnasium roof. Damage was around one million dollars there.  Wind speeds in this area were estimated to be 90 to100 mph.  As the storm complex rolled on south it produced considerable destruction along its path, taking out many sprinkler irrigation pivots, power poles, and trees and also did quite a bit of damage to the Sunflower Electric Power Corporation plant south of Holcomb.  Damage was close to a million dollars there too.  Other pivot sprinklers and damage to some mobile homes occurred on into Haskell County.

Other than becoming extremely dry during the end of summer and into the fall, there were a few daily temperature records set.  In other words, it was just a typical summer. 

The number of tornadoes in southwest Kansas this year was astonishing as 53 twisters were reported!  This follows last year when 41 were observed and also in 2005 when there were 52 tornadoes reported.  The average for a year in southwest Kansas is 14 and the average for the whole state of Kansas is around 55!   

December ended the year unsettled with several severe winter storms pounding the area.  A major ice storm hit a large part of southwest Kansas on December 11 and 12th then this was followed by heavy snow on the 14th.  Yet another storm dumped more snow on the area on the 22nd with blizzard conditions reported for several hours.  Finally more snow fell on the 27th bringing an end to a near record snowy December to much of the area.  At Dodge City, December 2007 was the 4th snowiest December on record.

Hopefully, the weather during 2008 will be much less eventful.  But, we do need moisture for crops, streams and lakes…optimistically without all the severe weather that occurred in 2007!

Jeff A. Hutton
Warning Coordination Meteorologist
(620) 225-6514

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