Harper County Kansas
Tornadoes May 12 2004
This story was brought to you by the National Weather Service -
Wichita KS. By: Chance Hayes
Eleven tornadoes move across the central portions of Harper
county producing one F4 and three F2's.
May 12th, 2004 may become one of the more memorable days for
several people across Kansas and across the nation. At printing, the National Weather
Service in Wichita, KS has officially documented, assessed, and tracked 11 tornadoes
across the central portions of Harper County. See image 1 for a map of the tornado tracks.
All of the tornadoes were spawned by cyclical Supercells that
moved across the county between the hours of 730 pm and 10 pm. The Supercells produced
five F0 tornadoes, one F1 tornado, three F2 tornadoes, and one F4 tornado. The staff at
the NWS Wichita office was marveled at the radar signatures that were produced on the
WSR-88D Doppler radar. Very few times in a meteorologists career will see a hook echo as
well defined as the one in image 2. Rotational velocities at times reached over 100 knots as seen
in image 3.
The strongest tornado according to the Fujita scale occurred just
after 9 pm three miles to the southeast of Harper. This homestead was set amongst several
small cedar and large trees within a field of maturing wheat. At one time, this was a
classic Kansas farmstead (front view image 13 and rear view image 14), however, it is now completely gone( image 4). The two residents of the home were seeking refuge in their
basement at the time the tornado ravaged their home (see image 5). After looking at all of the debris that had collected in the
basement, it was a miracle that only a minor injury was sustained. The basement had filled
with copious amounts of debris that included two debarked trees, an automobile engine, a
refrigerator, and several other unidentifiable objects. Here is a picture ( image 15) showing the bench frame where they sat. Here is a link to a
60mb video of the damage at this particular location http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ict/chance/3seharper.mpg
See image 6, image 7 and image 8 for additional damage pictures.
The most notable tornado, image 9, which received widespread coverage on local and national
television, occurred 1 mile southeast of Attica. (See Image 17) This tornado was rated as an F2 due to the complete loss of
the roof, two barns being destroyed and slight realignment of the vehicles. See pictures
of this damage at image 10 and image 11. Here is a link to a 30 mb video of the damage at this
More F2 damage occurred just about one mile south of the location
that received F4 damage. You could see considerable damage to a workshop as well as
extensive damage to the top floor of a two story home. (See image 12) Here is a link to a 12mb video of the damage at this
One last intriguing hazard with this event was the large hail ( image 16). This story was brought to you by the
National Weather Service - Wichita KS.
|Read this story by Tornado Tim when he chases a 1/2 mile wide
"I realized I had made a stupid mistake and left no way to escape. I was stuck
in my car and had to ride out the tornado in the worst possibly location. The large
building seemed to be holding, but large debris passed over the top of the car and flew by
the sides of the building. Just then the wind let up and I thought I was finally
safe. I wasn't."
How many tornadoes are there in the US each year?
It is estimated that over 1,000 tornadoes occur each year in the US, but many tornadoes go
undetected and unreported. It is possible the number could be twice that amount.
For more research Tornado Tim suggests you read the work by Thomas P.
Grazulis, "A chronology and Analysis of Events, Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991".
A book that will keep you busy for a very long time.