Wichita — Kansas led the nation for tornadoes in 2008 for the second consecutive year.
Officials say 187 twisters touched down in Kansas during the year, far more the 116 reported in runner-up Texas and 50 more than the previous state record, set in 2007.
While the national numbers haven’t been completed for November and December, Kansas’ numbers have been verified.
“They just kept coming,” said Merril Teller, chief meteorologist at Wichita’s KWCH-TV. “Sometimes you get into a particular weather pattern where ... although one system will move on, it’s set up properly for another system to do virtually the same thing.”
That’s what happened around Memorial Day, when KSN-TV, which covers the western two-thirds of Kansas with five stations, reported 412 tornado and thunderstorm warnings over a five-day period bracketing the holiday.
Over 24 hours that Friday and Saturday, KSN reported 145 warnings, smashing the record it set the year before on the weekend Greensburg was nearly destroyed.
“Memorial weekend was nothing short of phenomenal,” KSN chief meteorologist Dave Freeman said. “I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”
The Memorial Day storms were responsible for two of the four deaths in Kansas tornadoes last year: a twister killed a Colorado couple as they drove to Wichita on U.S. 54 east of Pratt.
A June 11 tornado killed a 21-year-old woman as it struck the east side of Chapman, while a 62-year-old Jackson County farmer died that night when a separate tornado tossed him from his mobile home.
Nationwide, 125 people were killed in 36 separate tornadoes in 2008, the most fatalities since 130 were killed in 1998.
“It was obviously a big year in Kansas,” said Greg Carbin, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center.
Weather officials said the back-to-back records don’t mean the state is becoming more of a magnet for killer storms. Most of the increase was among tornadoes rated EF0 or EF1, the weakest ratings of storms with maximum winds of 85 mph and 110 mph.