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May 04

Kansas and Severe Weather

Posted on May 4, 2022 at 3:23 PM by Tracey Boswell

 In Kansas, any weather at any time seems to be normal. 

 However, the threat of severe weather at some point is guaranteed. Late spring through summer are key months for severe storms and the chance of tornadoes.  Here are some information sources from the National Weather Service and other government agencies to help you plan for severe weather season in Kansas.

Information sources

What are your weather forecasting and reporting resources? Local television and radio stations provide information and quick coverage. Many people  also use weather apps which are convenient and can send alerts to your phone or computer. Websites such as the National Weather Service can alert you to current threats, historic information and long range forecasts. The National Weather service has an interactive map to watch the weather in your specific area. Users can select an area for forecast by dropping geographical points onto the map. 

sample area selection

Sample selection area set with points

Understand watch vs. warning

We have heard this many times but sometimes we still get confused. A watch means that conditions are right for the formation of a storm. A warning means that it is now, just like in this taco metaphor.

taco ingredients and taco assembled

The categories of severe thunderstorm risk can be confusing. The National Weather Service has provided this guide to help explain the variations between marginal and high risk.

levels of storm severity

Have a plan

You should work with your family to create an emergency preparedness plan. Can you answer the following questions?

How will you receive weather information?

Where will you go during a storm?

How will you communicate with family members?

Do you need an emergency kit for your shelter with food, water, flashlights, phone chargers, and personal items?

Is your area likely to evacuate in case of flooding, fires, or other natural disasters?

Do you need an emergency evacuation kit? What should you pack in that?

It is a LOT of questions. For guidance on the answers use one or more of the following websites. 

National Weather Service

National Weather Service Severe Weather Preparedness

Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, Lightning…Nature’s Most Violent Storms, a Preparedness Guide

National Weather Service Severe Weather Safety Tips 

Johnson County Government  

The most important thing in any weather emergency is your safety. Stay inside away from lightening during a storm. In the case of a tornado, go to your safe shelter in your home, school, or place of business. If you are in a public place, follow employee’s instructions and get to the innermost room without windows. Stay there until you get an all-clear.

Kansas is in Tornado Alley

Since 1950, Kansas has ranked first in the nation for total number of F5/EF5 tornadoes.

These are some of the most memorable tornadoes in Kansas history. The full list of 10 is available at

Udall,  May 25, 1955, F5.  30 miles long affecting Sumner and Cowley counties and Kay county (in Oklahoma). Kansas 'deadliest tornado leaving 80 dead.

Topeka,  June 8, 1966, F5, 22 miles long, costliest (at the time) over $100 million. Washburn University was the hardest hit. Left 16 dead.

Topeka storm damage 1966

Scenes of storm damage and path of tornado, Topeka 1966

Greensburg,  May 4, 2007, EF5, Comanche and Kiowa counties. This was the most destructive  tornado,  destroying 95% of the town, at a cost of $250 million . During planning and rebuilding, the city emphasized sustainability. You can read about some of their projects and successes on the Greensburg city website. 

Andover, April 29, 2022, EF3, on the ground for 20 minutes. Just 31 years and three days after the April 26, 1991 multiple tornado event in the Andover vicinity which left 21 dead.

tornado in a rural landscape

Recognize this one?

It sent Dorothy and Toto over the rainbow.