2017 Central Plains Tornado Outbreak
Type: Unknown
Active: May 6-8, 2017
Duration of tornado outbreak1: 2 days
Maximum rated tornado2: EF5 tornado
Highest winds Unknown
Tornadoes confirmed: 108+
Damage: $13 billion
Injuries: Unknown
Fatalities: 299
Areas affected: Unknown

1Time from first tornado to last tornado
2Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale

The 2017 Central plains tornado outbreak was a devastating and destructive tornado outbreak which occurred from May 6th to May 8th, 2017. Over 108 tornadoes occurred, including 3 EF4's and 2 EF5's, making it one of the most violent outbreaks in history. Towns hit include, Vinitia Oklahoma, Fairbury Nebraska, Lola Kansas, Derby Kansas, Parsons Kansas.


108 54 33 11 5 3 2

During the early afternoon of May 5, an organised area of thunderstorms developed over the Rockies, which moved westwards, causing the NWS SPC to issue a Slight Risk for severe weather for the remainder of the day, mainly for hail. At 0000 UTC, this was raised to a Moderate Risk, and the possibility for tornadoes was first mentioned. By 0600 UTC, the outlook was calling for an Enhanced Risk for severe weather,noting that a widespread tornado outbreak was expected. By 0900 UTC on May 6, this alert was raised again to a High Risk for Kansas,noting that the area could see a violent (EF4+) tornado within the zone. Enhanced Risk areas were warned that numerous strong tornadoes were expected. Over the next 2 days, which were also assessed as High Risk situations by the SPC, several more destructive tornadoes touched down, with the tornadoes listed below bearing the brunt of a violent wedge tornado each, with catastrophic damage and loss of life happening in each one of them. In all, 299 people lost their lives, and $13 billion was done in damages from the event.

Notable tornadoes

Parsons, Kansas tornado

EF4 tornado
Duration 1405 – 1435
Intensity 305 km/h (190 mph) (1-min)

This devastating 2 mile wide wedge tornado caused 10 fatalities in Parsons, Kansas in the afternoon hours of May 6, and caused $1.1 billion in damages. Several poorly constructed buildings were swept away by the force of the tornado.


Damage in Parsons


The track through Parsons

Lola, Kansas tornado

EF5 tornado
Duration 0925 – 1005
Intensity 335 km/h (205 mph) (1-min)

This tornado hit Lola hard on the morning of May 7, sweeping away 80% of the town in the path of the storm. 29 people died, and 217 others were injured. Damages from this 2 mile wide wedge tornado reached $550 million in total.


Damagein Lola


Tornado path

Fairbury, Nebraska tornado

EF4 tornado
Duration 1240 – 1305
Intensity Winds unknown

Another violent tornado.This half mile wide wedge hit Fairbury with catastrophic consequences. 65% of the city was levelled, leading to the deaths of 9 people and $2.4 billion in damages in the process. As the tornado approached, a tornado emergency was declared, and so many people managed to get to safety in time.


Fairbury Nebraska EF4


Fairbury Nebraska EF4

Derby, Kansas tornado

EF5 tornado
Duration 1055 – 1125
Intensity Winds unknown

This tornado occurred during the late morning hours of May 8 is the largest on record, having measured 3.2 miles across. The tornado completely swept away the town of Derby, killing 201 people in the process,making it one of the deadliest tornadoes in the US, and caused $7 billion in damages, also taking the record for the costliest tornado on record. The local NWS office was critisised for not issuing a tornado emergency, as many thought this would have saved most of the lives lost to the storm.


Derby Kansas EF5


Derby Kansas EF5

Vinita, Oklahoma tornado

EF4 tornado
Duration  –
Intensity Winds unknown

The last significant tornado of the outbreak hit Vinita during the mid afternoon, significantly damaging or destroying up to 20% of the town in the process. A tornado emergency was also declared 5 minutes before the tornado hit, but failed to save the 33 people that died in the tornado. Damages from the event were estimated at $1.2 billion.


Vinita Oklahoma EF4


Vinita Oklahoma EF4

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