Tornado outbreak of May 22, 2020
F tornado texas coc 170430.jpg
EF5 tornado shortly before moving into Ponca City, Oklahoma
Type: Tornado Outbreak
Active: May 22, 2020
Duration of tornado outbreak1: 8 hours, 46 minutes
Maximum rated tornado2: EF5 tornado
Highest winds 210 mph tornadic (Ponca City, Oklahoma and Belle Plaine, Kansas EF5's)
Tornadoes confirmed: 76
Damage: $3.8 billion (2020 USD)
Injuries: 201
Fatalities: 46
Areas affected: Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska

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

On May 22, 2020, a large and destructive tornado outbreak took place in the central and southern Plains states. 76 tornadoes occurred in a nine hour span, many of which were significant, long-tracked, and deadly. Two EF5 tornadoes occurred: one striking Belle Plaine, Kansas, and one striking Ponca City, Oklahoma. There were numerous EF3 and EF4 tornadoes, as well, with one extremely high-end EF4 moving through the Wichita, Kansas suburbs and striking Andover. This outbreak would be followed by another outbreak sequence in the central and southern Plains a week later, in which similar areas were yet again struck by tornadoes.

Meteorological synopsis

Preceding severe weather

A moderate risk had been issued for May 21 in western Oklahoma and southwest Kansas, as a shortwave rotated around the main trough and over the Plains. However, the timing of the shortwave was a bit too late, and the cap held strong over most of the region during the afternoon and evening, preventing any significant severe weather from occurring; the event on May 21 busted. While some storms did eventually develop shortly after sunset, they were high-based, producing mainly large hail and strong wind gusts, and didn't last more than a few hours before dissipating. The lack of overnight convection, however, allowed for strong moisture advection on the morning of May 22, as well as a completely clean warm sector. This likely contributed to the heightened severity of the event on May 22.

May 22

A powerful trough moved from the west coast towards the central United States in the days leading up to the event, and it set the stage for a large severe weather outbreak. The event was forecast days in advance by the SPC, with a risk area outlined with the day 6 outlook. On the day of the event, the SPC upgraded the moderate risk they had in place the day before to a high risk for tornadoes from north Oklahoma into central Kansas, with a moderate risk for tornadoes extending into southern Nebraska. A strong surface low had formed and was positioned in northwest Kansas. The dryline extended from the surface low down into southwest Oklahoma, and a warm front was draped across much of the southern half of Nebraska. Given the impressive dynamics, with a 100+ knot jet streak nosing into the risk area, as well as a very strong low level jet, shear was very strong. 0-1 km SRH values were up to 300m2/s2 and 0-3km SRH values reached 600m2/s2 in some spots. Hodographs were textbook; they were very curved and exhibited the strong shear and potential for violent tornadoes. Temperatures reached the mid 80°s, with dew points in the low 70°s throughout the warm sector. The cap began to erode by midday, and storms developed around 2:00 PM CDT. Two PDS tornado watches were issued for much of the high risk area, both with >95% chance of 2+ tornadoes, and a 90% chance of a significant tornado. There were two main areas where supercells with tornadoes developed: the dryline from central Kansas into central Oklahoma, and the warm front in extreme southern Nebraska. By 3:00 PM numerous tornadoes were ongoing, and the outbreak continued until just before midnight. One particular group of three supercells in south-central Kansas produced numerous significant tornadoes, including an EF5 that impacted Belle Plaine and an EF4 which struck Andover, closely paralleling the path of the 1991 Andover tornado. The strongest tornado of the outbreak struck Ponca City, Oklahoma, with damage ranging well into the EF5 category. Several other tornadoes occurred, many from the same parent supercells, as most discrete cells were cyclical, producing numerous significant tornadoes. In all, the outbreak produced six violent tornadoes (4 EF4, 2 EF5), and is just the seventh day in since 1950 with multiple (E)F5 tornadoes. The outbreak is unique in that many of the significant tornadoes had very long paths, sometimes over fifty miles in length, which is fairly rare (but not unheard of) in Great Plains tornado outbreaks. 46 people died in the event, and the damages totaled almost $4 billion.

Tornado Statistics

76 25 19 15 11 4 2

Outbreak Death Toll
State Total
Kansas 26
Oklahoma 19
Nebraska 1
Totals 46
Tornadoes By State
State Total
Kansas 35
Oklahoma 31
Nebraska 10
Totals 76

Confirmed tornadoes

May 22 Event

List of confirmed tornadoes - May 22, 2020
Time of Origin (UTC)
Path length
EF3 NE of Sylvia to Nickerson Reno 1939 18.8 mi Tornado spent much of its lifespan in open farmland. Touched down northeast of Sylvia, and moved northeast and crossed Route 50. Tornado began exhibiting intense multi-vortex characteristics, but damage was limited due to the rural area the tornado moved through. Slight ground scouring was noted and most trees in the path were debarked. Two farmsteads exhibited EF3 damage, being flattened and partially swept away. Tornado moved directly into Nickerson, where EF3 damage was noted again to Nickerson High School and a few other buildings in town before the tornado apbruptly stopped. The tornado had a max width of 800 yards.
EF1 Holyrood area Ellsworth 1945 4.76 mi Short-lived tornado did minor damage to crops, trees, and a few buildings on the north side of Holyrood.
EF2 Wilson Russell, Ellsworth 1958 11.2 mi Stovepipe tornado moved through very rural areas in eastern Russell County before crossing into Ellsworth County and doing EF2 damage to homes on the south side of Wilson. The Wilson High School had its roof and some walls removed, and a high-end EF2 rating was applied there, with estimated wind speeds of 135 mph. A poorly built home near the school was nearly flattened. The tornado continued northeast, weakened and dissipated near I-70.
EF2 W of Hill City to Edmond to W Prarie View Graham, Nortin 2018 33.85 mi Long-track, multi-vortex tornado formed near the triple point in northwest Kansas. Touched down in open fields west-northwest of Hill City, moving north-northeast. A few farmsteads were damaged at EF1 to EF2 strength before the tornado wavered slightly more east, and then continued on its original course. The tornado grazed the southwest side of Edmond, where high-end EF1 to low-end EF2 damage occured to a few buildings and grain bins. EF0 and EF1 damage was noted past Edmond, as the tornado remained in mostly open country. It deviated a bit more northeast before dissipating west-southwest of Prarie View.
EF0 NW of Hill City Graham 2021 3.34 mi Satellite tornado to the Edmond tornado.
EF1 S of Medicine Lodge to N of Sharon Barber 2036 12.79 mi Remained in open land and did minimal damage to farm buildings as it crossed Route 160. Was the middle supercell of three in south-central Kansas that went onto produce several significant tornadoes.
EF4 Cunningham Pratt, Kingman 2047 9.7 mi The first violent tornado of the outbreak was spawned by the northern of the three cyclical, intense, long-track supercells in south-central Kansas. The tornado moved through open farmland for much of its lifespan, doing some ground scouring. The tornado entered the southern side of Cunningham and reduced a few homes to piles of rubble, earning an EF4 rating. EF3 damage was noted to several other homes as well. Shortly after exiting town, the tornado lifted. It had a max width of 700 yards, tracked almost 10 miles, and had estimated peak wind speeds of 170 mph.
EF3 N of Inman to Hope McPherson, Marion, Dickinson 2048 40.61 mi Long-tracked wedge tornado was spawned by the same supercell that produced the Nickerson EF3. It touched down and moved northeast directly into McPherson. Most of the damage was done on the south side of the city, where several buildings exhibited EF2 damage, and four homes showed low-end EF3 damage. The east side of McPherson took damage as well, with the McPherson College building having its roof taken off, and several more homes and buildings damaged at EF1 to low-end EF3 strength. Additional EF2 to EF3 damage was noted to a few farm buildings and agricultural equipment as the tornado passed south of Roxbury. The twister continued through open country before lifting near Hope. It was on the ground for just over an hour.
EF1 W Wakefield to NE of Riley Clay, Riley 2058 24.66 mi Long-tracked tornado spawned from the supercell that produced the Holyrood EF1 two hours earlier. Began in farmland west of Wakefield on a northeasterly path, then took a right turn to a more easterly one. Narrowly missed Riley and lifted near the Riley/Pottawatamie County border.
EF1 S of Palmer Washington 2101 6.54 mi Tornado damaged crops and outbuildings south of Palmer. Spawned by the same supercell that produced the Wilson tornado.
EF1 Kiowa to SE of Anthony Barber, Harper 2105 32.3 mi Long-lived wedge tornado produced by the southern of the three intense cyclical supercells in south Kansas. Tornado likely would have been rated much higher had it hit significant structures, but it remained in open land for the entirety of its 32 mile path, damaging only crops and a few outbuildings.
EF3 Spivey to NW of Clearwater Kingman, Sedgwick 2124 35.83 mi EF3 tornado with estimated peak winds speeds of 150 mph. Began in Spivey and immediately did EF3 damage. It was the second tornado spawned by the middle of three cyclic supercells in south-central Kansas. Moved east-northeast and did EF3 damage to a home on SE 70 Avenue. Remained in very rural areas and entered Sedgwick County. The tornado didn't damage any significant structures and eventually weakened northwest of Clearwater. It was in the ground for just under and hour and had a max width of half a mile.
EF3 SW of Olsburg to Goff Pottawatamie, Nemaha 2132 47.11 mi 1 death - High-end EF3 tornado spawned by the Holyrood-Riley supercell. Began just east of Turtle Creek and Lake. Two homes south of Fostoria were nearly flattened at EF3 strength. Significant rowing of corn and grass occurred as the tornado moved through rural areas of Pottawatamie County. The worst damage happened in Wheaton, where every building in town was damaged. High-end EF3 damage was noted to a dozen homes that were mostly flattened. One person was killed. The tornado continued northeast and passed between Neuchatel and Duluth, and EF3 damage occurred to a home on Onaga Road. The tornado persisted to Goff, where EF2 damage was noted before it lifted just outside of town.
EF2 SW Pretty Prarie to N of Whitewater Reno, Sedgwick, Harvey 2134 54.33 mi 3 deaths - High-end EF2 tornado spawned by the Cunningham supercell. Did near-EF3 damage to buildings in Pretty Prarie, crossed the Cheney Resovoir, moved northeast through rural areas, and entered Mt. Hope, where high-end EF2 damage was again noted. A tornado emergency was issued for Bentley and Sedgwick, where borderline EF3 damage occurred to numerous homes and businesses. One person died in Bentley and two more perished in Sedgwick. The tornado weakened and continued northeast until it dissipated north of Whitewater.
EF5 N of Freeport to Belle Plaine to E of Douglass Harper, Sumner, Cowley, Butler 2203 61.98 mi 6 deaths - See section on this tornado Extremely violent and devastating EF5 wedge tornado did catastrophic damage in Belle Plaine.
EF2 White City to Alta Vista Morris, Wabaunsee 2206 17.44 mi Several homes sustained EF2 damage in White City. Remained in relatively rural areas and did minor damage to structures it did impact before lifting in Alta Vista.
EF0 N of Clearwater Sedgwick 2224 1.78 mi Knocked down a few trees and a few homes sustained roof damage. Preceded the Wichita area EF4.
EF4 Oatville to Andover to S of Towanda Sedgwick, Butler 2229 22.38 mi 12 deaths - See section on this tornado Very high-end EF4 tornado moved through the Wichita area and impacted Andover, doing catastrophic damage.
EF0 N of Potwin Butler 2258 0.98 mi Brief tornado caused no damage.
EF3 S of Burns Butler 2304 9.32 mi Two farmsteads were heavily damaged and a tractor was thrown 150 yards, both earning an EF3 rating. This tornado was spawned by the Cunningham-Sedgwick supercell. It had a max width of 300 yards.
EF3 Silver Lake Shawnee 2320 5.08 mi Short-lived yet intense tornado spawned by the McPherson-White City supercell. Did significant damage to several homes and businesses in Silver Lake.
EF2 W of Elmont Shawnee 2329 2.17 mi A few homes were damaged and one was destroyed. Touched down shortly after the Silver Lake tornado lifted.
EF2 N of Rosalia to NW of Hamilton Butler, Greenwood 2335 16.89 mi Extremely large tornado with a maximum width of 1.8 miles. Remained in open land for much of its lifetime, but EF2 damage was noted to one home. It was spawned by the same supercell that produced the Wichita-Andover tornado.
EF4 Matfield Green to Lebo to W of Ottawa Chase, Lyon, Coffey, Osage, Franklin 2349 81.67 mi 2 deaths - See section on this tornado Extremely long-tracked, violent tornado impacted both Lebo and Melvern, killing two people and doing significant damage.
EF3 S of Elk City Lake to Englevale Montgomery, Labette, Noesho, Crawford 0011 71.53 mi 2 deaths - After the Ponca City, OK EF5 lifted, the same supercell went on to produce another very long-tracked tornado. It didn't impact any significant structures for some time before doing EF2 damage to some homes southeast of Sycamore. Trees were slightly debarked in some spots. The tornado clipped the northwestern tip of Labette County and swept away two farms earning a high-end EF3 rating. After crossing Lake Parsons it overturned an irrigation pivot and leveled a farm. Slight ground scouring was also noted. It remained in rural areas until reaching Girard, where numerous homes were destroyed at high-end EF3 strength on the north side of town, some being pushed off their foundations. The tornado turned north-northeast and lifted near Englevale.
EF2 Eureka Greenwood 0040 2.2 mi Brief yet high-end EF2 tornado spawned by the Belle Plaine supercell. Several homes on the southern side of Eureka were severely damaged and five people were critically injured.
EF2 E of Burlington Coffey 0058 9 mi Two homes were destroyed early in the track. Trees were denuded and snapped and a few more homes sustained EF1 to EF2 damage before the tornado weakened. It was spawned by the supercell that produced the Wichita area tornado.
EF1 NNW of Westphalia (1st tornado) Coffey, Anderson 0116 8.73 mi Began immediately after the Burlington tornado ended. Downed trees and damaged a few outbuildings. Initially was thought to be part of the same track as the Burlington EF2 but later analysis determined a separate track.
EF1 NNW of Westphalia (2nd tornado) Coffey, Anderson 0118 4.42 mi Occured simulataneosly with the previous tornado and tracked parallel to it. Trees were downed and street signs were bent over.
EF3 SW of Noesho Falls to W of Colony Woodson, Allen, Anderson 0141 12.45 mi In Neosho Falls, a few homes were left with only interior walls standing, and a poorly anchored home was partially swept away. It clipped the northwest corner of Allen County, weakened considerably and eventually dissipated in a field west of Colony. Spawned by the Belle Plaine supercell.
EF1 SW of La Cynge Linn 0237 0.79 mi Very brief tornado downed several trees and damaged a few homes.
EF0 S of La Cynge Linn 0238 1.91 mi Damage was very minimal. A home had a small portion of its roof removed.
EF1 N of Fontana Miami 0314 5.76 mi Several trees were downed an in some cases partially denuded.
EF1 NE of Fontana Miami 0321 1 mi Damaged a home before crossing the Marais Des Cynges River and dissipating.
EF0 S of Louisburg Miami 0325 0.27 mi Brief tornado took limbs off trees.
EF0 S of Fairview Major 1948 0.1 mi Confirmed tornado did no damage. The supercell that spawned this tornado went on to produce an EF5 a bit over an hour later.
EF0 Watonga area Blaine 1953 2.48 mi A few homes on the north side of Watonga sustained roof damage and some street signs were bent over.
EF1 Apache to WNW of Cement Caddo 1955 11.44 mi In Apache, a few homes sustained major roof damage, and three people were injured. A trailer was blown over and trees were downed later in the path.
EF2 N of Hinton to Calumet Caddo, Canadian 2003 14 mi Tornado began north of Hinton near Route 281. It snapped trees and pushed two cars off of I-40. A few home lost their roofs southwest of Calumet before the tornado dissipated.
EF3 W of Norge to Norman Grady, McClain, Cleveland 2028 37.65 mi After the Apache tornado lifted, the same supercell cycled and put down an intense tornado. It began west of Norge and proceeded northeast into Chickasha. Several homes and businesses in the city were destroyed, and a few were flattened, and a high-end EF3 rating was applied. A tornado emergency was issued shortly after the tornado went through town. The small community of Middleburg took a direct impact from the tornado at EF3 strength. Most homes took some degree of damage, and the school had its roof removed and an outer wall collapsed. It then moved through semi-rural subdivisions south of Blanchard, and EF2 to EF3 damage was again noted to a few homes. The tornado contracted to about 200 yards wide and did EF1 damage as it continued northeast towards Norman. It did EF2 damage as it crossed the Canadian River and into the city, and abruptly dissipated west of the University of Oklahoma's main campus.
EF5 E of Enid to Ponca City to Sedan (KS) Garfield, Noble, Kay, Osage, Chautaugua (KS) 2101 102.55 mi 17 deaths - See section on this tornado Incredibly long-track and devastating EF5 tornado did catastrophic damage in Ponca City and Kaw City.
EF2 N of Piedmont to Meridian Canadian, Oklahoma, Logan 2104 29.43 mi High-end EF2 tornado did significant damage along its path. Homes were severely damaged in a semi-rural subdivision northeast of Piedmont. It passed through extreme northwest Oklahoma County where EF2 damage again occured to several homes. Crossed I-35 and weakened before lifting near Meridian. Spawned by the same supercell that spawned the Hinton-Calumet tornado.
EF1 Mulhall to N of Stillwater Logan, Payne 2104 20.6 mi Tornado did generally limited damage.
EF0 SW of Billings Garfield 2126 2.33 mi Satellite tornado to the Ponca City EF5.
EF0 SE of Tonkawa Kay 2154 1.92 mi Satellite tornado to the Ponca City EF5.
EF4 WNW of Bethel Acres to W of Paden Pottawatomie, Lincoln, Okfuskee 2155 31.17 mi 2 deaths - Violent EF4 tornado with peak wind speeds of 180 mph spawned by the Apache-Norman supercell. EF2 damage occured to a few homes northwest of Bethel Acres shortly after the tornado touched down. The first area of EF4 damage occured in a subdivision northwest of Shawnee, where two large and well-built homes were flattened. Widespread EF3 damage was noted north of Shawnee. The tornado then crossed I-40 and moved directly into the very small community of Johnson. Every building in town was damaged, and three were left as piles of rubble, and an EF4 rating was applied. Trees were debarked as it crossed the North Canadian River. South of Prague, several homes sustained EF4 damage and were completely destroyed. It lifted near Route 62 west of Paden.
EF1 WSW of Springer Carter 2211 3.84 mi Downed trees and damaged a home, as well as several outbuildings.
EF2 Agra Lincoln 2221 7 mi Significant damage occurred in Agra. Numerous homes lost their second stories or roofs. Spawned by the same supercell responsible for the Hinton to Calumet and Piedmont to Meridian tornadoes.
EF2 Cleveland area Pawnee, Osage 2235 6.72 mi Tornado did significant damage to homes on the south side of Cleveland. Several homes had their roofs removed and some had their outer walls collapse. Spawned by the same supercell that produced the Mulhall to Stillwater tornado.
EF0 ENE of Shamrock Creek 2250 0.2 mi Brief tornado damaged trees.
EF0 NNW of Bristow Creek 2252 0.52 mi Brief tornado damaged trees and an outbuilding.
EF3 Oakhurst to Tulsa to NE of Catoosa Tulsa, Rogers 2333 19.89 mi The same supercell that spawned the Agra EF2 went on to produce this tornado, which did severe damage in Tulsa. Tornado began near Oakhurst and proceeded northeast over the Arkansas River, doing EF1 to EF2 damage to several buildings and trees. A tornado emergency was issued as it moved into heavily populated communities in Tulsa. It grew to 600 yards wide, and did a narrow swath of EF3 damage for a few miles. Homes in the Maple Ridge and Lewiston Gardens areas sustained the worst damage, being left with only interior walls standing. It did high-end EF2 damage as it continued northeast. As it crossed I-244, a semi was pushed 100 yards, but the driver was unharmed. It turned more east and did EF2 damage to a few homes in Catoosa before lifting just northeast of town.
EF0 E of Ramona Washington 2337 1 mi Short-lived tornado did limited damage.
EF0 N of Okay Wagoner 2358 4.1 mi Brief tornado did limited damage to trees and outbuildings in the area.
EF1 Strang Mayes 0040 10.22 mi In Strang, a few homes sustained roof damage and some trailers were damaged.
EF2 Bluejacket to NE of Miami Craig, Ottawa 0053 15 mi Strong wedge tornado did EF2 damage to several structures in its path. It destroyed outbuildings as it approached Miami. The north side of Miami took a direct hit from the tornado, and several homes and businesses sustained EF2 damage. The tornado then dissipated just northeast of town.
EF0 Miami Ottawa 0110 1.44 mi Satellite tornado to the Miami tornado. Did minimal damage to a few homes.
EF0 SSW of Hartshorne Pittsburg 0131 3.23 mi A couple of trees lost branches and limbs along the path of this weak tornado.
EF0 SW of Wilburton Latimer 0140 2.17 mi Weak tornado did very limited damage.
EF0 S of Wilburton Latimer 0141 0.4 mi Brief tornado damaged trees an an outbuilding.
EF1 Clayton Pushmataha 0153 4.11 mi Weak tornado damaged homes and trailers in and near the town of Clayton.
EF1 Big Cedar area Le Flore 0209 12.56 mi Remained in rural areas and downed many trees, and a mobile home was flipped and damaged quite a bit.
EF0 ENE of Red Oak Latimer 0211 0.96 mi Brief tornado damaged trees.
EF0 WNW of Fanshawe to NE of Wister Latimer, Le Flore 0213 16.05 mi Began shortly after the previous tornado and only damaged trees on its 16 mile path.
EF0 ENE of Shamrock Le Flore 0222 8.66 mi Weak tornado damaged two homes and a trailer, as well as several trees.
EF0 Muldrow area Seqouya 0236 1.33 mi A few homes on the north side of Muldrow sustained minor roof damage. Street signs were bent over.
EF0 N of Red Cloud Webster 1956 6.8 mi Short-lived tornado went through farmland north of Red Cloud. Only damage was to crops and an outbuilding was destroyed.
EF2 Amboy Webster 1959 14.86 mi Strong tornado occured simulataneosly with the EF0 tornado north of Red Cloud. The very small community of Amboy took a direct hit, with four buildings in town taking EF2 damage. The tornado dissipated just west of Highway 78 in a cornfield.
EF2 Hardy to Ruskin Nuckolls 2024 10.32 mi Tornado touched down on the northern side of Hardy, and moved north-northeast through mainly open farmland. It grew to a large wedge, doing EF1 damage to a few farm buildings before entering Ruskin, where high-end EF2 damage was noted to several buildings on Main Street. The tornado lifted just north of town, with a peak width of half a mile.
EF1 N of Hardy Nuckolls 2029 5.64 mi Satellite tornado to the Hardy-Ruskin wedge. EF1 damage was noted to a farmhouse.
EF0 E of Oak Nuckolls, Thayer 2048 2 mi Weak needle-shaped tornado remained in open fields, spawned from the same supercell that produced the Hardy-Ruskin EF2 tornado.
EF3 W of Odell to Beatrice to Pickrell Gage 2125 27.62 mi 1 death - This intense tornado began just west of Odell in southwest Sage County. It rapidly gained size, turning into a multi-vortex wedge tornado as it turned north and moved through farmland. The tornado killed one person in their car as it followed Route 77 up to Beatrice. The city took a direct hit from the tornado at high-end EF3 strength. Numerous homes in the Beatrice Country Club area were flattened or had only interior walls standing, and a few buildings in the downtown area of Beatrice demonstrated EF3 damage, as well. Fortunately, no one was killed in the city. The tornado did widespread EF2 damage on the north side of Beatrice, and narrowly missed the airport. The twister became narrow and meandered through open country before weakening near Pickrell.
EF0 SW of Salem Richardson 2246 3.9 mi Stovepipe tornado that was the first of four tornadoes spawned by a cyclical supercell in extreme southeast Nebraska. Although large and visually intense, this tornado did not impact any structures, remaining in open fields southwest of Salem.
EF1 Falls City area Richardson 2304 8.13 mi Second tornado spawned by cyclical supercell in Richardson County. Tornado began southwest of Falls City and moved north-northeast. The tornado did high-end EF1 damage to three homes on the western outskirts of Falls City. Continuing northeast, additional EF1 damage was noted to a few buildings on the north side of town, including the Community Medical Center. The tornado crossed the Big Nemaha River before weakening.
EF0 NE of Falls City Richardson 2322 0.3 mi Third tornado spawned by cyclical supercell in Richardson County. Did minor damage to a farmhouse and downed power lines on 712 Road.
EF1 E of Falls City Richardson 2330 5 mi Fourth and last tornado from the supercell in Richardson County. Took an unusual path; began moving east parallel to 706 Road east of Falls City, and then took a sharp turn north and damaged a farmhouse.

Notable Tornadoes

Ponca City—Kaw City, Oklahoma


Widespread EF5 damage on the western side of Ponca City

This incredibly long-tracked and devastating EF5 tornado began at 4:01 PM CDT in a field east of Enid and moved northeast. It rapidly intesified and did EF3 damage to a home south of Breckenridge. It then did damage to wind turbines in the area. EF3 damage occured to four homes north of Garber, as they were left with only interior walls standing or were flattened. The tornado moved into open fields and widened to about a mile wide at this point. Chasers noted that it exhibited violent motion, and ground-scouring occurred with a narrow trench of soil about 8 inches deep being ripped up. Trees in the area were completely debarked. It continued northeast and came to Billings, where it intensified to a high-end EF4. Several homes were left as piles of rubble and in a few cases partially swept away. Extreme wind rowing of debris occurred northeast of town, and grass was scoured to bare soil. As the tornado crossed I-35, a car was thrown 800 yards and crushed, killing the occupant. All that remained was some of the vehicles mangled frame, and the remainder of it was never found. The tornado turned a bit more north and then back to its northeasterly course at this stage. As it crossed Salt Fork and the Arkansas River, more trees were snapped and completely debarked. A few trees were reduced to debarked stumps. A tornado emergency was issued as it approached Ponca City. On the west side of town, numerous homes were swept away completely—some of which had extensive anchor bolting—and an EF5 rating was applied to many of them. Pavement was scoured from roads. Now at peak intensity, it went through the town center. The scope of the damage was extreme, as numerous buildings were reduced to rubble or swept away, and several buildings sustained EF5 damage. Vehicles were thrown hundreds of yards and in some cases crushed beyond recognition and wrapped around debarked trees. More homes sustained EF4 to EF5 damage on the east side of Ponca City. Debris was very finely granulated and wind rowing of debris was intense. In eight cases, the slab foundations of homes either buckled or were partially swept away. High-velocity debris impacts tore out large chunks of asphalt from a road and left large divots in a field. More large and well-built homes showed EF3 to EF4 damage before the wedge crossed East Lake Ponca. Violent motion and horizontal vortices were observed by chasers at this point. More ground scouring and tree debarking occured as the tornado approached Kaw City, where three more homes were swept away at EF5 strength. It then entered very rural areas, and the only damage done was ground scouring. The small town of Foraker took a direct hit, and every building in town took EF2 to EF3 damage. It didn't damage any more structures until crossing into Kansas. Many buildings in Elgin sustained EF4 damage. One well-constructed home was swept away with debris pushed about 100 yards from the foundation, but damage was only rated high-end EF4 there as the vehicles at the home weren't moved far and shrubs weren't denuded. Past Elgin, it began gradually turning north. It contracted in size, and did EF2 damage to trees and outbuildings. It passed northwest of Peru, turned due north, and weakened 2 hours and 45 minutes after touching down. It tracked 102.5 miles, killed 17 people, and did almost $2 billion in damages. It is considered among many to be one of the most violent tornadoes ever recorded, along with the New Albany, Ohio EF5 which occurred earlier In the year.

Belle Plaine, Kansas


EF5 damage to a well-constructed home on N Weber Road

Extremely violent and devastating EF5 wedge tornado. The tornado began in fields north of Freeport at 5:03 PM CDT and moved into Argonia where EF2 to EF3 damage occurred to most buildings in the center of town. It grew to just over a mile wide and turned slightly right as it moved through rural areas north-central Sumner County. Chasers noted extremely intense motion and horizontal vorticies with the tornado. A large, well-built home south of Riverdale was completely swept away, earning an EF5 rating. A tornado emergency was issued as the tornado moved into Belle Plaine. Incredible damage took place as several homes were flattened or swept away. Two dozen homes sustained EF5 damage, as well as the post office and library in town. A car was thrown 400 yards and crushed beyond recognition. Debris was finely granulated, wind-rowing was extreme, and six people were killed. The tornado left town and did EF4 damage to a home on E 100th Avenue. The tornado shrunk to about half a mile wide and did EF5 damage to a home on N Weber Road, which was swept away. It crossed the Arkansas River and debarked several trees completely, some of which were reduced to stumps. High-end EF3 damage occured to two homes on N River Road before it moved into very rural areas again. Intense ground scouring occurred here. Eventually the tornado came to a residential area south of Douglass where EF3 to low-end EF4 damage was noted. It began to turn north and produced EF2 damage before ending a few miles east of Douglass.

Andover, Kansas

This extremely high-end EF4 tornado began near Oatville at 6:29 PM and began moving northeast. It rapidly intensified to a high-end EF3 as it crossed I-235 and moved into subdivisions in Southwest Wichita, where a few homes were flattened. Four homes on W 30th Street sustained EF4 damage, being reduced to rubble. An industrial complex sustained EF2 to EF3 damage. As the tornado crossed the Arkansas River, a tornado emergency was issued. Intensified to a high-end EF4 as it went through the South City area. Numerous homes were flattened or partially swept away, and dozens were injured. The tornado continued northeast doing widespread EF3 to EF4 damage. It neared a mile wide, adding to the extent of the devastation. The tornado strengthened and did borderline-EF5 damage to two homes in Park Meadows, both of which properly anchored and completely swept away, and then took a bit more of a northeastern track and moved into the north side of Andover. Near-EF5 damage occurred again, and wind speeds were estimated at just under 200 mph. Several well-built homes were partially or completely swept clean leaving only their slab foundations left, but contextual discrepancies prevented a rating higher than EF4. The tornado turned back to an east-northeasterly track into rural areas, where extreme wind rowing of debris was noted as well as some ground scouring. Trees in the path were debarked. The tornado dissipated near I-35 south of Towanda. It had a max width of just under a mile and damages totaled about $1 billion. The EF4 rating is widely disputed, as it could have been rated higher, with one survey team assigning it the EF5 classification. It was spawned by the middle cell of the three intense supercells in south central Kansas. It is also notable that it followed a fairly similar path to the F5 tornado which impacted Andover on April 26, 1991.

Lebo—Melvern, Kansas

Very long-tracked and violent tornado. Damage was minimal until the tornado did EF3 damage to homes northwest of Olpe. Some ground scouring occured as the tornado passed through areas southwest of Neosho Rapids. The tornado attained peak intensity when the town of Lebo took at direct hit. Damage there was rated high-end EF4, as several homes and businesses were destroyed. A few poorly anchored homes were swept away. Two people died in Lebo. A tornado emergency was issued and the town of Melvern took a direct hit soon after. Ten homes were flattened at EF4 strength. Debris from the town fell from the sky in Topeka some time later. It weakened significantly and narrowed to about 100 yards wide, and eventually dissipated west of Ottawa. The tornado was spawned by the Cunningham-Sedgwick supercell.

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