TORNADOES STRIKE AGAIN IN KANSAS, MISSOURI, NEBRASKA, IOWA
May 25, 2004 — For the third day in a row, severe weather struck America’s heartland Monday. Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa left behind damaged buildings, power outages and the threat of increased flooding. (Click NOAA image for larger view of USA storm reports received by the NOAA Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., on Monday, May 24, 2004. Please credit “NOAA.”)
A warm front that draped over central Kansas into northern Missouri was the focal point for severe weather development as a storm system moved out of the Rockies late Monday afternoon, according to Mike Looney, services division chief at the NOAA National Weather Central Region headquarters in Kansas City. The storms sprouted numerous tornadoes through the afternoon and evening hours, Looney said, but most touch downs occurred in rural areas and damage was minimal.
The area of greatest tornado and severe thunderstorm concentration corresponded very well with the High Risk threat of Severe Weather issued early Monday morning by the NOAA Storm Prediction Center.
“There were a lot of tornadoes reported in just a few hours in a relatively limited area,” Looney said, “but there have been no deaths reported and mostly just minor injuries. I think people took our advice yesterday to keep an eye on developing weather because it looks like everyone was pretty well prepared when the severe weather hit.”
The Topeka, Kan., NOAA Weather Service office reported seven tornadoes in northeast, north-central and east-central Kansas between 4:24 p.m. and 7:48 p.m. Monday. Those twisters touched down, at least briefly, in Republic, Washington, Wabaunsee, Osage and Shawnee counties. Many of the tornadoes were accompanied by baseball-sized hail. Tornado warnings were also posted in parts of Douglas and Jefferson counties. The first Tornado Warning of the day was issued by the Topeka office at about 4 p.m. local time for Republic County, where spotters had reported several tornadoes. The office issued more warnings as the storm moved into Washington and Cloud counties.
The Hasting, Neb., NOAA Weather Service office received multiple reports of tornadoes from spotters and storm chasers in the area. Tornadoes were reported by the office staff in Nuckolls and Thayer counties southeast of Hastings, Neb. The Omaha Weather Service staff reported widespread severe weather Monday and Monday evening in southeast Nebraska and southwest Iowa. The office recorded one confirmed tornado in Fremont County, Iowa, with damage to a machine shed and barn.
Two long-tracked supercell storms produced multiple tornadoes in eastern Kansas and northwest Missouri, according to Looney. Tornadoes touched down in Albany and Chillicothe, Mo. Looney said considerable damage was reported along U.S. Highway 36 in Albany. There were also several buildings and homes damaged in Bethany and Macon, Mo.
The NOAA Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., reported 54 tornadoes Monday afternoon and evening, including two each in New York and Oklahoma. Missouri was definitely the focus of the severe weather, Looney said, with 19 tornado reports in the state. There were 15 tornadoes reported in Nebraska, seven each in Kansas and Iowa, and three reports in Illinois.
Looney said two storm systems collided in central Iowa and resulting winds caused significant damage as the storms moved from central into eastern Iowa. The central Illinois forecast office reported a fatality and one injury in Scott County, Iowa, when 15 houses were damaged in Winchester. There was also damage reported in Morgan, Sangamon and Logan counties.
While tornadoes and severe weather were a concern, the main focus in much of Iowa was on flooding, Looney said. Several days of storms have left the ground saturated. Tributaries pouring into larger streams have led to significant river flooding in parts of the state.
Looney said 1-3 inches fell in the Des Moines area within a few hours Monday night, meaning area rivers will continue to rise as heavy runoff makes its way downstream. The Raccoon River was projected to crest at 20 feet above flood stage Monday night, but now that crest is expected to be significantly higher. Officials at the Des Moines Water Works closed flood gates that haven’t been used in seven years to protect the city’s water service.
Officials reported major flooding on the Wapsipinicon River at Independence and Anamosa, Iowa. Major flooding was also reported on the Iowa River at Wapello. There was minor to moderate flooding reported on the Cedar River at Cedar Rapids and Conesville; on the Rock River at Joslin and Moline; and the Pecatonica River at Freeport.
Minor to moderate flooding is expected Tuesday on the Mississippi River at Quad Cities, Illinois City, Keithsburg, Burlington and Gregory Landing.
“The soil in the Des Moines area is so saturated, any amount of rain is going to cause additional problems,” Looney said. “Fortunately for them, it looks like they may get a bit of a break for the next week or so. Their forecast calls for a 10 percent chance of showers today and a 20 percent chance Thursday. Needless to say, those people could use some dry weather.”
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