Intense Microburst Strikes McDonald, KS


Intense Microburst Strikes McDonald, KS

A cold front moving across the Tri-State region Thursday evening helped trigger scattered strong to severe thunderstorms across portions of northwest Kansas. A short line of thunderstorms moved across Rawlins county between 700 pm and 900 pm CDT, hitting the McDonald area at approximately 730 pm CDT. 

Wind-driven hail shredded trees, gardens and crops in the vicinity.  Thunderstorm outflow winds estimated at close to 90 mph resulted in damage to grain bins, a trailer home and a large storage building located in the southwest part of town.  Four power poles were snapped on highway 36 just west of town, resulting in a power outage lasting several hours in McDonald and Bird City.  Tree and shrub damage was not totally confined to southwest McDonald, but damage intensity diminished considerably just a block to the east.  No injuries or fatalities were reported.

Strong concentrated downdrafts associated with thunderstorms are often called downbursts, and when these downbursts occur on a scale of about 2 miles or less they are termed microbursts.  Microburst winds can produce damage comparable to a tornado, however they are not rated on the EF-scale.  Microbursts are thunderstorm outflow winds on a local scale, often resulting from the sudden collapse of a large core of rain and hail within the storm.  When this core of rain and hail reaches the surface, winds accelerate outward from the storm, sometimes producing a swath of damage.  One way in which meteorologists distinguish between damage associated with a tornado and that associated with a microburst is the pattern of debris.  Microbursts typically display a damage pattern where debris is blown radially outward from the storm.  Thunderstorm outflows such as these are also called straight-line winds.

Click the images below for a larger view.


Map indicating locations of significant damage.  Red lines show approximate orientation of debris with directions primarily WNW to ESE.

Radar depiction of storm at the time of the microburst.  Red and purple areas show the location of the intense rain and hail core associated with the storm.

Damage occurred to the WNW side of this grain bin, which lost its roof.  Some of the grain can still be seen around the base.


Large garage/storage building was destroyed by thunderstorm outflow winds, estimated at close to 90 mph. Debris from this building was blown at least 100 yards to the ESE.

Trailer home destroyed.  Note the cinder blocks in foreground which previously supported the home, which was oriented N-S.  The thunderstorm outflow apparently hit the trailer home broadside.

Large section of roof sheeting was peeled back.  This section of roof faces west.





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