The Day Of The Twister

Tornadoes Snake Across The Plains Of Southwest Kansas

Jeff Hutton, Warning Coordination Meteorologist


An unusual tornado outbreak occurred in southwest Kansas on October 26, 2006 when a whopping 28 twisters swarmed across the area.  October tornadoes are NOT necessarily that unusual as the "second" severe weather season is in the Fall.  However, what was probably most unusual was that it was relatively cool across the area...unlike the warm and muggy conditions that most people come to expect when tornadoes occur.  Temperatures were only in the low 50s in the vicinity of the tornadoes...and there was a very low overcast immediately to the north of the twisters.  Even the bases of the stronger thunderstorms were very low.   Click on the thumbnail for a larger version.

Low Cloud Base - Jeff Hutton image

The atmospheric conditions came together just right to produce an environment favorable for tornadoes (despite the cool surface temperatures).  A strong upper level storm with very cold temperatures aloft moved across an area of Kansas that had cleared up allowing for minimal heating from the sun.  As a narrow area of thunderstorms developed from just southwest of Dodge City, west to near Ulysses, the radar operator at the Dodge City National Weather Service office recognized the threat.  The first tornado warning was issued at 337 PM for southeast Gray county.  A landspout tornado ultimately formed about 12 miles southeast of Montezuma at 350 PM.

click for a radar loop

radar loop (may take a few minutes to load)

The tornado producing storms were small in comparison with a warm season thunderstorms as far as height above the ground.  Most were under 30,000 feet.  Click the thumbnails for a larger version.

3D view of the Ford county storm

3D view with the thunderstorm core showing

Out of the 28 tornadoes that occurred, only two caused damage (Grant county).   Damage at the Ulysses hospital - photo courtesy of Grant County Emergency Management   Click for a larger pic.
Ford county, south of Dodge City, had the most number of sightings...

Ford co.             10 (one crossed in from Gray county)
Grant co.             8
Clark co.             6
Gray co.              2 (one crossed into Ford county)
Comanche co.     2
Meade co.           1

Click on the map of interest for the tornado locations...

       Ford Co.
Ford County

      Grant  Co.
Grant County

       Clark Co.
Clark County

        Gray Co.
Gray County

     Comanche Co.
Comanche Co.

       Meade Co.
Meade County
 
Many of the tornadoes that occurred were small and brief spin-ups.  They started out as "land spouts", not associated with the rotating part of the storm.  However, as the event continued to mature, some of the storms became "super cellular" and produced stronger tornadoes.

The following is a close-up of one of the storms that was south of Dodge City, shortly before 5 pm.   Click the thumbnail for a larger picture.  You can see the hook and the velocity couplet...in the vicinity of the dissipating tornado that crossed U.S. 283 about 3 miles north of Minneola.
 
Hook echo south of Dodge City          velocity couplet south of Dodge City

One of the NWS Dodge City forecasters, Mike Umscheid, was in the vicinity of the tornadoes and took several pictures (www.underthemeso.com).   One of the tornadoes appeared to be pretty strong!  One of the closeup images shows tumbleweeds swirling around the circulation.  Click on a thumbnail for a bigger picture.

Photo courtesy of Mike Umscheid - www.underthemeso.com      Photo courtesy of Mike Umscheid - www.underthemeso.com     Photo courtesy of Mike Umscheid - www.underthemeso.com      Photo courtesy of Mike Umscheid - www.underthemeso.com

For the year, the Dodge City County Warning Area (see map below) has recorded 41 tornadoes.  The average based on 55 years of data is 14 a year.

Dodge City Forecast Area

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