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Andover, Kansas Tornado

From Academic Kids

The Andover, Kansas Tornado is among the most well-known and most photogenic tornadoes of the 20th century. It was the most notable tornado of nearly 70 that hit Kansas and Oklahoma on April 26, 1991.

Contents

Introduction

On April 25, The National Weather Service predicted a "high risk" of severe weather for the following day. In fact, the National Severe Storms Forecast Center issued a Public Severe Weather Outlook stating that an "extremely dangerous weather situation" was forecast for much of the middle United States. A strong storm system was due to move through the area the next afternoon & evening.

April 26

April 26 started off as a warm, relatively humid day. For most people that lived in Andover and Wichita, it was just an ordinary Friday, the day before the weekend. The first tornado formed near Anthony, Kansas at around 11:30 A.M. It was a weak tornado.

As the day went on, more tornadoes were being reported. All were nothing compared to what would happen later in the day.

South Wichita/McConnell AFB

The biggest tornado with the longest track formed south of Clearwater, Kansas. It fluctuated between F2 and F3 intensity as it crossed I-35 and moved across the city of Haysville. Widespread damage was reported in Haysville, but there were no fatalities. On the east side of Haysville, the tornado became a solid F3 in strength as it crossed the Kansas Turnpike for the 1st time and made a beeline toward the McConnell Air Force Base.

Many people had advance warning before the tornado struck McConnell Air Force Base. The tornado struck the base school & housing at F2-F3 strength. It caused $62 million in damage on base and just barely missed a pair of $200+ million B-1 bombers. The damage path widened as the tornado intensified to F4 strength just East/Northeast of the base.

The Golden Spur Mobile Home Park

It is now 6:00 P.M. The tornado tops news stories on all the television stations across the area. Some people are returning home and hearing news of the tornado on the radio. The tornado continues to move Northeast toward the Golden Spur Mobile Home Park in Andover, KS at around 6:35 P.M. It has expanded to just over 600 feet wide and is now producing F5 damage on the Fujita scale, the strongest variety of tornadoes. As it passes through, it obliterates the park. Thirteen people are killed.

This was the only F5 tornado of 1991. It was the 16th F5 tornado to hit in Kansas state history. Seventeen people were killed and 225 were injured.

El Dorado Lake

The tornado then moved on to the Northeast, passing just south of Towanda, KS. Most of the damage in this area was rated at F2-F3 intensity, however it is important to note that this is a much more rural area with little in the way of significant structures. The tornado continued Northeast and reached El Dorado Lake just before 7 P.M. Video taken by local storm chasers shows that the tornado crossed over the lake and revealed a multiple vortex structure. Just after crossing over the lake to the Northeast, the original circulations dissipated and a new, much weaker tornado formed.

Winds on Film

The new, weaker tornado moved Northeast toward Cassoday, KS. A news team from KSNW-TV in Wichita was returning to the station from a story that was unrelated to the tornado. All of the sudden, the tornado appeared out of nowhere as the news team fled southwest on the Kansas Turnpike. They came up to a bridge underpass. Another family hid under the underpass as well. The cameraman left the camera on as the tornado approached. As the tornado passed nearby the winds blew wildly. It lasted approximately 20 seconds. Cars and big rigs rolled multiple times and were tossed all over the road. The video footage of the tornado became one of the most played footages of the year. In fact, it was even nominated for an Emmy.

Safety Warning - Hiding beneath an underpass is extremely dangerous behavior when tornadoes are near. Several fatalities have resulted from this strategy. NWS Presentation on Deaths Due to Use of Underpasses as Shelters (http://www.srh.noaa.gov/oun/papers/overpass.html)

The tornado then continued northeast and dissipated at about 7:30 p.m., just Northeast of the Cassoday Interchange of the Kansas Turnpike.

See also: List of tornadoes and tornado outbreaks

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