Monday, April 16, 2012

The Tornado Chronicles: Wichita, KS Tornado of 4-14-12...

A damaging tornado struck the Wichita, KS area during the 10 o'clock hour on the evening of Saturday, April 14th, 2012.

The tornado approached the city from the Southwest and tracked Northeast across the Southern and Southeastern part of town.  The tornado then tracked on to the Northeast toward Andover and El Dorado.

The following photo was taken by Jenn Henley at an unknown location to the Southwest of Wichita before the tornado entered town:

Look closely during the lightning flashes in the following video and you can see the large "wedge" tornado as it later advanced across southeast Wichita.  You can also see numerous power flashes (Note:  Wichita portion of the video ends at about 2:15 in, then cuts to another storm earlier in the day):

I took a quick screen grab from the above video.  Even though its a bit grainy, you can clearly see a large, "wedge" tornado:

Here is another video from the chase group Basehunters, with a screen grab below the video (Note:  video of Wichita area tornado ends about 1 minute in, then they cut to storms from earlier in the day in other locations):

The photo below shows the tornado as it approached the El Dorado / El Dorado Lake area to the Northeast of Wichita:

Photo by Jacob Oliver

So far, the heaviest damage appears to be concentrated in the Oaklawn area of southeast Wichita, especially from 47th to 55th South near Clifton Ave. 

This is by no means meant to suggest that this was the only area with heavy damage, but it is certainly where the efforts of rescue and recovery crews were focused immediately following the event.  

The National Weather Service (NWS) has released preliminary survey information and have rated the tornado EF-3 intensity, with the heaviest damage from eastern sections of Oaklawn to the West side of McConnell AFB.  EF-3 tornadoes contain winds of 136-165 mph.

The damage-based track map is below:

There were reportedly 70-80 victims at the Pinaire Mobile Home Park in southeast Wichita (the extent of their injuries was not detailed).  The following photo shows a gas main that burst into flames shortly after the tornado hit the mobile home park (via AP):

...and another photo of the destruction at the mobile home park (also via AP):

The following photos of the Pinaire Mobile Home Park courtesy KWCH:

Here are a couple of aerial views of the damage in and around Pinaire Park, also via KWCH-TV:

Damage to a QuikTrip at Pawnee and Rock Rd. in Southeast Wichita:

At Harry and Webb Road, a tree was uprooted from a concrete container and a tree limb was driven into the exterior wall of a Walgreen's store:

Below are some additional damage photos.  Location and credit given below each when available:

Unknown location in Wichita - via Jenny Young/twitter

Hawker Beechcraft - via KFDI News

Hawker Beechcraft - via KFDI News

Unknown location in SE Wichita - via KFDI News

East Oaklawn - Jeremy Shapel

Pinaire Mobile Home Park - via Wichita Eagle

Spirit AeroSystems - via Wichita Eagle

Spirit AeroSystems - via Wichita Eagle

You can see more photos of the damage at Spirit AeroSystems by visiting their flickr page here.

East Wichita - Becky Elliot via twitter

East Wichita - Becky Elliot via twitter

Please bookmark this post and check back for updates throughout the coming days as new information is obtained...

If you enjoy reading the blog, please click on the icons below to "Like" my facebook page and/or follow me on twitter. You'll find posts at these locations that aren't always on the blog, especially during rapidly changing weather situations...


Anonymous said...

Thank you. Your blog gave me a little piece of mind that my family is probably okay

Rob White said...

Anonymous, thanks, glad we could be of help. Oaklawn seems to be the hardest hit area so far. Logically it would seem if there is a higher chance of significant injuries somewhere, it would be in that area, and so far we have not received any confirmed reports of major injuries, which is certainly a good sign!

Mike P. said...

When will these outbreaks end? Or will they? Is this the new normal?

Rob White said...

Mike P.,

Thanks for the question/comment.

I'm actually of the opinion that this is not unusual at all. I don't think that numbers of tornadoes are on the increase and I also don't think that tornadoes are getting stronger.

Instead, I believe that we are either observing them and/or feeling their impacts more than we ever have in the past, for a few major reasons:

First, let me point out that I believe there are actually fewer "weak" tornadoes and more stronger tornadoes than we realize. How can this be? The stronger tornadoes just happen not to hit anything a good part of the time...

Remember, our current method of measuring tornado intensity (using the EF-scale) is based on after the fact damage. If a giant tornado with 250 mph winds moves through an area of open farmland in South Dakota and only hits a few trees, it will be rated EF-0 or EF-1, as if it only contained winds of 65-110 mph. Move that tornado 50 miles East and track it through Sioux Falls, and you suddenly have an EF-5 tornado.

This brings me to my second point on this issue. Over the last 15-20 years, we've seen an increase in population in once "rural" areas (particularly in the Southeast). Inevitably, as we occupy more of the space that the tornadoes once "harmlessly" traversed, there will be more damage done and more notice taken when something like this happens.

Finally, in today's highly mobile, "always on" society we are going to hear about (and even see) more tornadoes than we ever did before thanks to camera phones, camera videos, etc. - even in many of the relatively rural areas that do remain.

So, in my opinion, the best thing we can do is stay aware of the weather, and when severe conditions are forecast, make sure that we have a plan to move to safety if needed.

Thanks again for reading!


Anonymous said...

that quik trip is at pawnee and rock, not harry and webb. just fyi. :)

Rob White said...

Thanks for the QT location info. I went by the location provided by the AP, which was apparently incorrect.

Rob White said...

Sorry, folks. Just realized I left a "b" out of Webb Road in my original post. I lived in Wichita for 6 years, too, so that's a big no-no.

Its been a long 3 days. I'm going to turn in now and rest my brain cells...

Thanks as always for following!

Extreme Planet said...

Excellent post. I had been looking for some damage photographs from this tornado and you got them all in a pretty package! Glad this tornado didn't kill anyone. Night + Trailers = bad.