Summertime! A time for BBQ’s, swimming, camp fires and fun in the sun. It also means storms, which could turn severe. We have already witnessed some of these devastating storms pass through Oklahoma. Here in Goodland we have had our share of tornadoes and the High Plains Museum has several photographs of tornadoes and the aftermath of a twister.
A tornado, according to the National Weather Service, is a narrow, violently rotating column of air that extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. Of all the atmospheric storms we have, tornadoes are the most violent. Scientists do not entirely understand how tornadoes form. What they do understand is that tornadoes form from supercell thunderstorms that can grow over 40,000 feet. A warm column of humid air will rise very quickly and will start to rotate. The rotation is believed to happen when two winds of differing altitudes and speeds create a wind shear. The column will start to pick up speed and create a funnel. When the funnel touches the ground we have a tornado which is accompanied by rain and hail.
Tornadoes are measured on a scale called the Enhanced F Scale. The original scale, the F-scale, was updated which takes more variables into account than the original scale. These variables include wind speed and twenty-eight damage indicators with eight degrees of damage. The damage indicators include building type, structures and trees and the eight degrees of damage range from visible damage to complete destruction. The EF Scale still has numbers 0-5. The EF Scale wind speeds are as follows:
EF0 tornado will have winds 65-85 mph
EF1 tornado will have winds 86-110 mph
EF2 tornado will have winds 111-135 mph
EF3 tornado will have winds 136-165 mph
EF4 tornado will have winds 166-200 mph
EF5 tornado will have winds over 200 mph
At the High Plains Museum we have several photographs of tornado damage from around the county. The photograph on
the right is of the Ruleton School after a tornado hit it in 1941. The photograph on the left is also from 1941 and is David Weber’s model A Ford after being hit by the tornado. While we do not know what category these tornadoes fit into you can see how any tornado can cause damage. In our records we have tornadoes hitting Goodland or Sherman County on August 4, 1924, June 8, 1941, July 6, 1952, June 9, 1960, June 23, 1966 and 1982. Other tornadoes have touched down in our county and town since, but the High Plains Museum does not have photographs of them. Several videos have been captured though, which you can view by clicking on these links: May 23rd, 2010 Near Dark Tornadoes Near Goodland, Ks and March 28, 2007 Goodland, KS Tornado.
Tornadoes can happen anywhere and at any time, though most tornadoes occur between 4-9 PM. Here in Goodland we are part of Tornado Alley and tornadoes typically occur from May to July. Tornado Alley extends from Texas through Oklahoma, Kansas, eastern Colorado, Nebraska, the south east corner of South Dakota, Iowa, and the lower part of Minnesota. Tornadoes do not just occur in Tornado Alley, but throughout the United States as well as Australia, Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, and New Zealand. In fact Argentina and Bangladesh have the highest concentrations of tornadoes outside of the United States.
Recording of tornadoes did not start until 1950 so the exact number of tornadoes to touch
down in the United States is not known, however roughly 1,200 tornadoes touch down in the United States every year. The ways in which people spot and report tornadoes has changed. The picture on the right shows the Air Force sending up a weather balloon from the Goodland Airport. When it comes to tornadoes leave the chasing to the professionals and seek shelter. When it comes to helping you prepare for a storm Blue Cross & Blue Shield and FEMA have put together information on how to build a storm kit.
There are twelve essential items needed in your storm kit with other optional emergency supplies. The essential supplies are:
- Water – one gallon of water per person for at least three days
- Food – three day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries or both
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First Aid Kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local Maps
- Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
The website also contains information on what your first aid kit should have in it and supplies for unique needs. You will also find information about maintaining your kit, where to store your kit, food, and managing water.
Tornadoes can happen at any time and it is important to be safe during one of these storms. By getting your own emergency kit ready you will be prepared for a storm should one happen. While scientists may not fully understand tornadoes spotting and recording procedures have improved. One improvement is the Enhanced F Scale which takes into account different variables. Summertime is a time for fun, but we shouldn’t forget to be safe and prepared during the summer months!
Look for more posts in this series about our wonderful collection of Sherman County history.