Archive for Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Friday’s tornado that destroyed home went undetected by weather service

April 4, 2007


A tornado tore through a rural home at 746 E. 300 Road, taking the roof off the home and ripping apart trees in its path. Nobody was injured in the storm, which blew through a rural area southwest of Clinton Lake on Friday night.

A tornado tore through a rural home at 746 E. 300 Road, taking the roof off the home and ripping apart trees in its path. Nobody was injured in the storm, which blew through a rural area southwest of Clinton Lake on Friday night.

A tornado that struck southwestern Douglas County on Friday night went undetected by the National Weather Service and by Douglas County Emergency Management.

No one appeared to know that a weak tornado had touched down until Adam Peterson returned home early Saturday morning to find his home severely damaged.

His father, Andy Peterson, who owns the home about six miles southwest of Clinton Lake, arrived Saturday morning to find parts of the roof destroyed, trees snapped in two and siding damaged on the one-story house.

One tree fell on top of the house.

"I didn't think it was good," Andy Peterson said. "We're just glad no one is hurt and I've got my house so (Adam) had a roof over his head."

Oddly enough, a tornado warning was in effect for another part of Douglas County - the extreme northwestern portion - at the time the tornado hit around 10:39 p.m. Friday.

Jennifer Stark, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said sometimes small tornadoes emerge unpredictably from a line of thunderstorms.

She added that a tornado watch covered the area Friday night where the tornado touched down.

"The environment was supportive of the potential for weak tornadoes," Stark said.

Stark estimated from the damage to Peterson's home that wind speeds produced by the tornado hovered around 80 mph.

She said the National Weather Service hadn't known about the tornado until Douglas County Emergency Management informed the service of it.

Douglas County Emergency Management hadn't known about the tornado until Saturday evening.

"It was a good almost 24 hours before they notified dispatch for a property check," said Teri Smith, acting director of Douglas County Emergency Management.

Andy Peterson said an insurance adjuster hadn't made a damage estimate yet and that the family would begin this weekend to try salvaging the house.

"We're going to try," he said. "The main part of the house is an old one-room school, and it's like three-foot solid rock. ... So we're going to try and save it if we can."

No other significant damage was reported in the area. The tornado, which was about 30 yards wide, touched down for about two miles moving north before it petered out, according to the National Weather Service.


gccs14r 10 years, 10 months ago

How are you going to see a funnel in the dark? Wait for lightning? Good luck.

tweetybird2 10 years, 10 months ago

If there was a tornado warning in NW Douglas County no sirens went off in Lecompton. It is in NW Douglas County. Doesn't make sense.

Ragingbear 10 years, 10 months ago

You would have thought that after the inadequacies unearthed after last year's microburst that we would have better services by now.

Still goes to show you that your better off going onto your front porch and look for a telltale funnel coming towards you.

cowboy 10 years, 10 months ago

ya don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

bytheway 10 years, 10 months ago

That really sucks. Poor family having to dig through tornado roughage. Best of luck to them. NWS better watch their radars a little more carefully. You never know what those unpredictable storms are going to spurn.

countrygirl 10 years, 10 months ago

Predicting weather and storms is not an exact science and tornados can drop down out of a storm without any notice. For all of you who mumble when a tornado warning is issued without having a tornado on the ground need to remember this case for the future. Warnings are issued when it looks like storm could drop a tornando to try to keep people safe. It could have intensified very quickly and not given the weather service a chance to issue a warning.

amyc 10 years, 10 months ago

I was paying close attention to the NWS warning website from 9 to 11 Friday evening and also flipping through the Topeka tv stations frequently. I was semi-frantic because there was a tornado doing damage in central Kansas just southwest of where my son lives. I saw no warning for Northwest Douglas County or any other part of Douglas County for either tornado or severe thunderstorm.

Something isn't working and it needs to be fixed.

KansasKel 10 years, 10 months ago

There was a warning for NW Douglas County, my weather alert radio went off and there was a scrolling message across the bottom of The Weather Channel plus channel 27 out of Topeka and I think 49 out of Topeka were live with radar. It didn't last long because that particular storm was barely in DG county and moving straight north so the warning was cancelled here and continued in Jefferson County.

It is a scary thought that this happened and no one even knew...what if someone had been injured? They could have died before anyone even found out about the tornado! A lot of advances have been made when it comes to tornado detection but the fact remains - they are unpredictable and fast, and it's unlikely there will EVER be a warning system that's completely infallible.

We all have to take responsibility to make ourselves aware of the weather conditions at all times during severe weather season, and be prepared! The bottom line is that no matter how much any agency does to help, WE ARE ALL STILL INDIVIDUALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR SAFETY!

minko224 10 years, 10 months ago

You'd think they would have recognized a tornado was coming when they saw the old lady on the bike floating around the house.

Chris Golledge 10 years, 10 months ago

Got to go with the defenders of the NWS on this one. Picture in your head the sweeps of the radar as the picture is refreshed. That represents a physical device, the radar 'dish', turning around in a circle, painting the environment with radio waves, and the information that bounces back being turned into a picture that we can understand. If a tornado comes and goes between sweeps of the dish, how is the radar monitor supposed to know?

There are limits to technology; just be glad we have what we have and don't blame someone who is giving best effort to increase your level of safety for not keeping you 100% safe.

trinity 10 years, 10 months ago

tsk i think we should take this issue up with katie "tornadi" horner!!!

minko224 10 years, 10 months ago

Tornado warning or not, in the end we're all responsible for our own safety.

Linda Endicott 10 years, 10 months ago

I'm pretty sure, bytheway, that the poor family would still be sifting through tornado wreckage, even if the NWS had detected the tornado and had ample time to put out a warning. The NWS didn't cause the tornado, you know.

The NWS can only warn about severe storms and tornadoes. They can't prevent them.

Just be thankful no one was home at the time.

Myself, I always presume, if a tornado warning has been issued in any of the neighboring counties, I'd better keep a closer watch. Not only can tornadoes be fickle, but storms can and do abruptly change direction.

And I don't understand all the garbage anymore about "SW such and such county" or whatever. It used to be, if there was a warning issued, it was for an entire damn county. That way, there was no confusion about exactly where in the county you might be located, and who decided where the lines were drawn between SW, SE, NE, NW.

But I suppose there were people that complained about that. You know...daring to issue a tornado warning unless it was headed directly for them.

minko224 10 years, 10 months ago

I feel we need to warn people of imminent tornado activity at least a couple days ahead of time in order to give families enough time to have the house excavated and moved to a safer location.

KansasKel 10 years, 10 months ago

Minko - either that, or we could require everyone to live and work underground in a network of tunnels. And wear personal seismology equipment to forewarn of any fault line activity.


sourpuss 10 years, 10 months ago

Anytime the weather turns severe, you should be ready to take cover. Have your flashlight at hand, put your shoes on, unplug electrical appliances and make sure you have your wallet/purse and property deeds at hand. You have to watch out for yourself and your own family, and any severe storm has the potential to drop small tornadoes or produce strong microbursts.

The NWS does an excellent job in predicting areas that can expect severe conditions, but individuals on the ground still have to look out after themselves. Flooding is still far more dangerous than tornadoes, so be sure not to drive through water-covered roadways as well.

Linda Endicott 10 years, 10 months ago

Are you trying to say it's the NWS fault for that tornado hitting your house, Mr. R?

Gee...last I knew, all they could do was try to predict the weather...try to warn people when danger was coming...

I didn't realize they could stop tornadoes from hitting houses...

lily 10 years, 10 months ago

Mother Nature doesn't care about technology. As many have stated, nothing is perfect and when there is severe weather around, we all need to be careful. This stuff happening at night doesn't make it easy that's for sure. The thunderstorm that rolled through this week was only a 20% chance!

minko224 10 years, 10 months ago

So you're saying we really gotta watch out for cars. Hmmm why don't we setup a service that warns drivers of pending accidents and which model of car is more likely to be involved etc..etc...?

Linda Endicott 10 years, 10 months ago

Actually, in a thunderstorm, tornado or no tornado, you are more likely to be killed by flooding than by the tornado itself.

Yet idiots still insist on driving through standing water...

Michael Throop 10 years, 10 months ago

Actually, more people die from lightning strikes than from tornadoes, and that is as scary,if not more, than tornadoes. That said: The Tornado Watch was out for much of Eastern Kansas. Tornadoes will come out of severe thunderstorms with little warning, and return to the "mother" storm as quickly. We've had fun pointing out parts of "The Wizard Of Oz" but massive tornadoes such as were portrayed approaching Dorothy's house are pretty rare. (still,I have been humming da,duh,dah,DAH,dah,duh,duh....)

fletch 10 years, 10 months ago

Tornado detection and prediction is an incredibly complex problem. It's not something that gets solved in 6 months or a year just because people want it to be better. It's a lot better now than it was 20 years ago, but we're still another 10 or 20 years out of having a system that is even 75% reliable.

Point being: listen to warnings, apply common sense, and occasionally just cross your fingers.

bevy 10 years, 10 months ago

If it makes any of you feel better, my grandpa has lived in this part of Kansas his entire 84 years and has NEVER seen a tornado.

We went to the basement when the weather radio said "Tornado Warning for NW Douglas County" It was a bit confusing when 10 minutes later they stopped saying it, and it took another 5 or so mins. before they announced that the Doug. Co warning was cancelled - as the storm moved into Jeff Co.

yankeelady 10 years, 10 months ago

Out here in the sticks, even if they do issue a warning, it's not like we have sirens nearby that we can hear. if you've already gone to bed and don't have a weather radio you are pretty much out of luck. I believe we were under a tornado watch, if there's a watch and it seems bad, head for the basement. Technology can only go so far.

Centrist 10 years, 10 months ago

I guess we all need to live underground, like they do in Coober Pedy ..


Tychoman 10 years, 10 months ago

30 yards wide and lasts for two miles? Probably a titch stronger than a gustnado.

Mike Blur 10 years, 10 months ago

Okay Reticent. We get you. You want to be right, so I'll say on behalf of the rest of the posters on

You are right.

There. Feel better now?

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