1990-03-13: Hesston Kansas tornado outbreak

STurner

EF2
Nov 21, 2008
182
1
0
Shawnee, KS 66217
This tornado outbreak is very interesting to me because during that time I was like 9 years old and did not have a lot of interest in tornadoes. Even though I remember it and one of those tornadoes rated F4 on the fujita scale stayed on the ground for 130 miles and 2 and a half hours. I know dewpoints were not extremely high(56-62F) and upper 60s to middle 70s. I would like to know from a meteorlogical perspective of what ingredients sparked this historical tornado outbreak. Also how many of you chased this event during that time.
 
Dec 4, 2003
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Here is a quick sketch of the layout at noon on 3/13/90:



There was an MCS that had gone through central Kansas earlier in the morning, and this was instrumental in laying down an outflow boundary that receded northward through Wichita during the afternoon. The towering cumulus field along the KS/OK border is what picked up the outflow boundary and developed into the Hesston supercell. The towering cumulus shown near WaKeeney above is what moved into southeast Nebraska and produced the tornadoes there.

WaKeeney... nobody knows where that is. Scratch that and read it as Quinter.

Tim
 

STurner

EF2
Nov 21, 2008
182
1
0
Shawnee, KS 66217
Actually, two of those tornadoes were rated F5.
Yeah I just remember during that time about the F4 tornado that stayed on the ground for 130miles and 2 and a half hours. I believe it was the Hesston and Gossell Kansas tornadoes were rated F5 and they were pretty long-lived and long-tracked.
 
130 miles what????????? As usual I do not know where this information is coming from either.
If I remember correctly 2 tornadoes basically merged near or before the Gossel area and this was one area that was given the F-5 rating. I can not remember the other.
I believe Jon Davies was chasing this event and not only got some great pictures but also has a detailed chase summary of the event. I think there is even a book called "Year Of The Storms of 1990" (I am unsure of the exact name) but I believe Jon helped with pictures and stories of this event, if anybody knows about the exacts of the event it would be him. His website is listed below:
http://www.jondavies.net/
 
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May 31, 2004
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Peotone, IL
illinoisstormchasers.com
I believe there WAS a 131 mile track in SC to SE NE from Red Cloud, NE to Schuyler. This is an event I wish I could have chased. But for obvious reasons (I was 2 years old) I couldn't. I was once obsessed with finding information about the Hesston tornado. The first time I ever saw the (in)famous Hesston tornado tearing through town, I was in amazement. Especially for that period of time it broke down into multiple vortices. Just seeing those "tentacles" as they called it, sucking up debris from 1/4 to 1/2 a mile away was just jaw-dropping. Witnessing that power firsthand is a feeling unlike any other. Unfortunately many of us have and had to deal with the after effects ala Moore, Greensburg, Hesston, Andover etc etc.
 

STurner

EF2
Nov 21, 2008
182
1
0
Shawnee, KS 66217
130 miles what????????? As usual I do not know where this information is coming from either.
If I remember correctly 2 tornadoes basically merged near or before the Gossel area and this was one area that was given the F-5 rating. I can not remember the other.
I believe Jon Davies was chasing this event and not only got some great pictures but also has a detailed chase summary of the event. I think there is even a book called "Year Of The Storms of 1990" (I am unsure of the exact name) but I believe Jon helped with pictures and stories of this event, if anybody knows about the exacts of the event it would be him. His website is listed below:
http://www.jondavies.net/
Yeah Lanny there really was an F4 tornado also that day that crossed six or seven counties in Nebraska and it is listed under the tornado history project as 131miles. It was one of the four violent tornadoes during this outbreak.
 

Paul Townsend

Also, the two F-5's in the outbreak were the 2 members of the "merger"; the so-called Hesston and Goessel tornadoes.

I was living in western suburbia of Chicago at the time, going to college. I remember talk of a possible big event leading up to the day. My friends chided me about not being there since they knew I was a severe storm/tornado nut.
 
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Oct 6, 2006
16
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Iola,Kansas
Jon Davies has a case study of the Hesston tornado day, as soon as i find the link i will post it. I believe NWS ICT has some info buried in their website also. I grew up 8 miles from there in Halstead and i was in Hesston on Day 2 for cleanup and it was an amazing mess. Several locals have video of the event and i think i still have a copy of it on VHS.
 
Oct 6, 2006
16
0
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Iola,Kansas
Thank you Leah, i was gonna tell people i have the report saved in PDF form on my computer and i could email it, now i wont have to. BTW - this report is a very good read if you are interested.
 
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Oct 25, 2004
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Tucson, Arizona
FYI, I've got that book "Year of the Storms" (or whatever it is called..I've got it tucked away) detailing that outbreak in Kansas, as well as another one on the subject.
As far north as northeast Nebraska (Boone County) where our family has farms was tornadoed that day as well. Looking at the low dews up there in the illustration, it just goes to show how dynamics can get it done on marginal days.
I also have a copy of "Nebraskaland Magazine" from a month or two after that event. The article detailed how the long, long tracked tornado that went thru the Platte River Valley was responsible for killing something like millions of snow geese, complete with pics et al.
 
Jul 21, 2004
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Springfield, NE
This was before I chased--in fact I never knew anyone did chase storms!

I was working that day, stuck in grunge all day long in Omaha while all hell was breaking loose just 120 mi. away. Media painted a picture that the stuff was going to get to OMA...sometime...but when I got home and was able to sit in front of the TV it was clear that it was going to be nocturnal and weaker. My cable provider carried a Lincoln/Grand Island station and that was interesting--wall-to-wall and lots of video!
 
Dec 9, 2008
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Newton, KS
Born and raised in Newton, SE of Hesston by about 5 miles. I had family living in Hesston when the tornado hit. I recall going up there a week or two after it hit and looking at my great uncle's house. They were fortunate in that they didn't lose everything, the house was damaged but still habitable. I know my dad spent a day or two up there since he was a firefighter/paramedic for Newton at the time.
 

Mark Blue

Staff member
Supporter
Feb 19, 2007
2,801
336
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Colorado
Here's a schematic of the path for each tornado on 03/13/90. This was one of my favorite past events. That footage on the 3rd link above was incredible. Right when the water tower comes into the picture there are houses that appear to just explode into nothingness. Amazing.

 
Apr 23, 2006
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Flower Mound, TX
Missed it

March 3, 1990: I was preparing to leave the country the next day and missed this event. So, this day makes my top ten list of bad chase forecast decisions. tm
 
Jun 1, 2008
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Trimble MO
www.jondavies.net
13 March 1990 Hesston Tornado

The Hesston KS tornado was 20 years ago this week. The Hesston outbreak on 3/13/90 signaled a big end to a period of several years of below normal significant tornado activity in the plains, and set the tone for a very active period in Kansas during the early 1990s. That day certainly left a lasting impression on my meteorological life.

Stan Finger and the Wichita Eagle have an excellent article today about the Hesston tornado at:
http://www.kansas.com/2010/03/07/1213543/1990-tornadoes-increased-awareness.html

Stan also has some material on his web site at:
http://blogs.kansas.com/weather/
 

Doug Ott

EF0
Mar 7, 2009
39
0
5
Was anyone chasing in nebraska that day? The long tracked tornado in nebraska would have past within 10 miles from I lived. I wasn t chasing at that time in my life. Too young. Figured it would be hard to make it there on my bike. I have never seen pictures of that storm and just curious if any chasers caught pics of the long tracked one.
 
Jan 28, 2009
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Conrad, Iowa
Warm front event for Iowa on this date. An F4 tornado hit Worthington in the Eastern part of the state. There was very good video from the Mississippi river area in which the home of the person taking the video was heavily damaged. At one point he shoots video looking almost straight up into the updraft itself. He takes cover as trees snap and debris begins to fall from the sky.
 
Mar 15, 2005
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Hastings, NE
For the Nebraska side of the story, NWS Hastings recently posted their own excellent web story about this event, INCLUDING 3 short home video clips of F3/F4 tornadoes that I'm guessing most of us haven't seen before. This includes the one with the 124-mile path length.

http://www.crh.noaa.gov/news/display_cmsstory.php?wfo=gid&storyid=48406&source=0

I believe 11 F1-F4 tornadoes ravaged what is now the Hastings CWA on this day (office was in G. Island at the time), which is just incredible. Nothing has come close to this kind of day since then in these parts.

Obviously I am geographically biased here, but feel it is important to emphasize that Hesston was only one part of the tornado story on 3-13-90.
 
Nov 28, 2005
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Overland Park KS
vortex-times.com
The C. Nebraska tornado outbreak was an amazing one....had fairly cool temps...but many long lived tornadoes that day. My friend who was a traveling sales rep for Remington was in Grand Island that day and saw 10 tornadoes personally....including that multiple vortex one at close range near the town of Alda. His pics were amazing ones...with 4 vorticity tendrils at one point. The shear near the surface low, warm front, and the left front quad of the jet made for some wild times that day in C. Nebraska.
 
Dec 4, 2003
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Good grief... I can't believe this was 20 years ago exactly to this date. I feel old. :( Unfortunately I was not able to chase... I was working a day shift at the Tonopah Test Range (1000 miles away), but everyone knew this was going to be a big day and we watched it via DIFAX and teletype (SPC storm reports) as it unfolded. I still have those charts in storage.

Tim
 
May 31, 2004
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Peotone, IL
illinoisstormchasers.com
One of the events I wish I wasn't too young to chase (I was only 2 1/2 lol) As I look at the track map posted above it is interesting to see a tornado hit Moore, Norman, (Purcell?) area on this day, yet I haven't heard of to many accounts of this. Anyone here have a recollection of those tornadoes to the south?