Tuesday, March 13, 2012

22nd Anniversary of Hesston, KS Tornado and Related Outbreak...

It's hard (for me) to believe that it was 22 years ago today that a strong tornado struck the town of Hesston, KS. I lived just to the South and was working at KAKE-TV in Wichita.  I was on duty that day so I couldn't chase, but at least I was able to track the tornado outbreak that was taking place across the central U.S. and help keep our viewers informed of what was going on.

The Hesston tornado was just one of just 59 tornadoes to touch down on March 13th, 1990.  Two of those tornadoes were rated F-5 intensity, with another pair rated F-4 intensity.  There were 10 F-3 tornadoes as well.

The tornado that struck Hesston initiated near Pretty Prairie just after 4:30pm CDT, producing a nearly three-quarter mile wide path of damage near Haven, which was rated F-4 intensity.

By the time the tornado reached Hesston, it caused F-5 intensity damage in the city.  Despite the impressive size and strength of the tornado, only 1 person was killed.  That had been the first tornado death in Kansas since 1984.

The following YouTube video is very impressive and well worth the watch.  It contains several different photos and videos at various vantage points along the path of the tornado.  At approximately 4:30 into the video, you can see the original tornado begin to diminish and merge with a newly formed tornado to the immediate right:

The newly formed tornado also went on to produce violent, F-5, damage before diminishing just to the Northeast of Goessel.  The parent thunderstorm would then produce at least 3 more tornadoes as the storm continued into Northeast Kansas.

That same outbreak produced several tornadoes in Oklahoma, including this one near Wakita:

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Clay W. Ginn said...

The Wakita tornado passed within a few miles of my parents house in rural Sumner County, KS. I stood out in the front yard video taping the tornado as it passed to the west of us. A neighbor drove by and asked if we wanted to follow it with him, as he had family that he couldn't get a hold of in that area. It struck the house of one of our church members, totally destroying it. The only thing that was still standing in the house was a china cupboard in which none of the china was even chipped.

That was probably the single event responsible for my continuing interest in the weather. I was 12 at the time. A little over a year later another outbreak would occur in Andover and Haysville, along with an inland hurricane later that summer. It was a crazy few years in Kansas.

Anonymous said...

This is the tornado that hit my family's home. It was just a few minutes after it hit our home that the multiple vortices formed one large funnel. My father shot video of the tornado as it approached our house and shortly after. It took the roof of our home and destroyed several sheds.

Rob White said...


I probably saw your father's video. I worked at KAKE-TV in Wichita at the time, and that was one of the first storms in which we were flooded with home videos of the event. It was pretty cool, and scary at the same time.

I'm glad to hear that it sounds like your family came out okay.

Rob White said...


Sorry, I just saw your comment from last month!

How did you guys fare during the severe weather up your way yesterday? Did that weather radio come in handy? I always wondered what the spotter band would sound like during an event like that...