Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Twenty Years Ago Today and At This Time

...as the beginning of what is known as the Wichita-Andover tornado outbreak. One F-3, one F-4 and two F-5 tornadoes. Three in southern Kansas and one in northern Oklahoma.
Tornado approaching Andover

Twenty years ago at this time, I was involved in one of the most extraordinary days of my career, the Wichita-Andover tornado.

It was the first tornado break of which I am aware that was widely forecast days in advance.  All week, the television meteorologists in Wichita were telling their audiences, “keep an eye on the weather for Friday.”  It was the first time I have ever seen the storm prediction center issue a “particularly dangerous situation” tornado watch (two off these rare watches are in effect as a write this, from Texas to western Tennessee).

Thunderstorms began developing at about this time twenty years ago along the Kansas-Oklahoma border southwest of Wichita. I began (WeatherData was doing the on-air weather for KSNW TV, NBC in those days) broadcasting the warnings or less constantly at this point and would for hours.

The tornado roared through south Wichita and its suburbs then smashed into the town of Andover. Seventeen were killed but, after studying the event, the Centers for Disease Control  estimated that 75-100 would have been killed but for the warnings.

There was a prototype Doppler radar in Oklahoma City and its performance that day helped convince the Federal government to move ahead with Dopplerizing the nation – an extremely wise investment.

For more on this subject, click here.

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