Andover tornado outbreak

Coordinates: 37°41′24″N 97°08′10″W / 37.69°N 97.136°W / 37.69; -97.136

On April 26, 1991, a large tornado outbreak struck the central United States. The outbreak produced an F5 tornado that heavily damaged the town of Andover, Kansas, as well as numerous less destructive tornadoes throughout the region. The outbreak killed 21 people, 17 of which were from the Andover tornado.

April 26, 1991, tornado outbreak
4 26 1991 storm reports.png
Storm reports from April 26, 1991
TypeTornado outbreak
DurationApril 26, 1991
Tornadoes confirmed55 confirmed
Max. rating1F5 tornado
Duration of tornado outbreak219 hours
Highest winds
Damage250+ million (1991 USD) [1]
Casualties21 fatalities, hundreds of injuries
Areas affectedUnited States Great Plains
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale
2Time from first tornado to last tornado

A news team filming a tornado in the outbreak sought shelter under a highway overpass, causing a misconception that overpasses can provide adequate shelter during a tornado.

Meteorological synopsisEdit

On April 25, 1991, the National Severe Storms Forecast Center, now called the Storm Prediction Center, forecast a high risk of severe weather for the following day.[2] A strong storm system was due to move through the area the next afternoon and evening of April 26, 1991.

Confirmed tornadoesEdit

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
0 12 13 18 7 4 1 55

(based on NOAA Storm Data)

F# Location County Time (UTC) Path length Damage
F2 Tonkawa area Kay 0545 1 mile
(1.6 km)
F3 E of Enid Garfield 1700 6 miles
(9.7 km)
Two homes were destroyed.
F0 W of Garber Garfield 1715 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
F4 E of Garber to NW of Pawhuska Garfield, Noble, Osage 1730 66 miles
(107.0 km)
- See section on this tornado
F2 SW of Yale Payne 1838 7 miles
(11.3 km)
A dump truck was rolled 200 yards and a well-built barn was destroyed. Two homes lost their roofs as well.
F4 SW of Terlton to SW of Skiatook Pawnee, Osage 1910 32 miles
(51.9 km)
1 death - Tornado began near Terlton, inflicting minor to moderate damage to trees, power poles, and a few structures. The tornado then rapidly intensified into a violent wedge, sweeping several cars off of the Cimarron Turnpike, resulting in a fatality. The tornado then struck the Keystone Airpark, destroying four hangars and seven airplanes. Two of the planes were tossed into trees. The fire station at the airport was completely destroyed, with one fire engine tossed a quarter mile into trees across the runway. The tornado then struck Westport, destroying 54 homes and damaging 40 others. 70 vehicles, five mobile homes, 18 outbuildings, and three travel trailers were destroyed as well. The Westport community center was also damaged. The tornado then snapped numerous trees and destroyed a Girl Scouts lodge near Lake Keystone before causing additional severe damage in the Skiatook area. Several boats and a marina were damaged at Skiatook Lake, and one 3,000 pound sailboat was thrown half a mile. A nearby propane company was damaged as well. 32 homes were destroyed and 56 others were damaged in the Skiatook area before the tornado dissipated. 24 people were injured.[3][4]
F1 E of Little Chief Osage 1927 0.3 miles
(0.5 km)
F2 E of Copan Washington 2005 6 miles
(9.7 km)
1 death - Tornado destroyed a convenience store and caused $100,000 in damage. Fatality occurred when a car was tossed 250 yards into a field. 10 people were injured.
F4 Oologah area Rogers 2045 4 miles
(6.5 km)
Though short-lived, this large and violent tornado devastated the town of Oologah before abruptly dissipating. 60 homes, 16 trailers, 30 barns, and 16 apartment buildings were destroyed. Some of the homes were swept away. The Oolagah School building was severely damaged, and multiple school buses were thrown half a mile into Four-Mile Creek. Several metal high-tension towers were downed, and a gas station was destroyed as well. 22 people were injured; however, there were no fatalities. Caused $15,000,000 in damage. On top of the destruction this tornado caused, a downburst that followed the storm caused further damage.[4][5]
F1 Chelsea area Rogers 2110 2 miles
(3.2 km)
F2 N of Cherryvale Montgomery 0945 6 miles
(9.7 km)
A large building at a nursery/greenhouse complex was destroyed, with a loss of $250,000.
F2 NW of Washington Washington 1425 4 miles
(6.5 km)
Several farm houses were destroyed, and some damage occurred in the town of Lanham. Six people were injured. Rated F3 by Grazulis.
F0 N of Strong City Chase 1445 1 mile
(1.6 km)
F3 NW of Hanover to S of Beatrice, NE Washington, KS, Gage, NE 1450 25 miles
(40.5 km)
Tornado first touched down in Kansas before moving into Nebraska, where the town of Lanham sustained considerable damage. Farms sustained heavy damage near Odell, and several homes were destroyed south of Beatrice before the tornado dissipated.
F0 NE of Council Grove Morris, Wabaunsee 1510 13 miles
(21.1 km)
F2 N of Bushong to NE of Grove Wabaunsee, Shawnee, Jackson 1535 44 miles
(71.3 km)
In Waubaunsee County, a farmhouse was destroyed before the tornado moved into Shawnee County and passed near Grove. The tornado produced F0 to F1 damage in Jackson county before dissipating.
F0 SW of Danville Harper 1620 1 miles
(1.6 km)
F0 SE of Freeport to NE of Argonia Sumner 1630 16 miles
(25.6 km)
F1 N of Goddard Sedgwick 1647 2 miles
(3.2 km)
F5 SW of Haysville to N of El Dorado Sedgwick, Butler 1657 46 miles
(74.6 km)
17 deaths - See section on this tornado
F1 S of Putnam Sedgwick, Harvey 1710 16 miles
(25.6 km)
F4 W of Arkansas City to NW of Cambridge Cowley 1730 25 miles
(40.5 km)
1 death - Large wedge tornado passed Arkansas City to the west where witnesses reported seeing the tornado and describing it as being approx. 1 mile wide at the base. The tornado proceeded north toward Hackney, leveling several homes and a cemetery south of town where it caused $5,000,000 in damage. The Tornado continued on its path along the south side of Winfield passing to the east on a line towards Burden where a woman was killed in her trailer near Tisdale.
F0 W of McFarland Wabaunsee 1735 9 miles
(14.6 km)
F2 NE of El Dorado to E of Matfield Green Butler, Chase 1810 21 miles
(33.6 km)
See section on this tornado
F3 W of Howard to Severy Elk, Greenwood 1826 14 miles
(22.7 km)
1 death - Spawned from the same storm that produced the Hackney F4 tornado. A house was severely damaged near the beginning of the path, and a mobile home was flattened elsewhere, resulting in a fatality. Two others were injured. Rated F2 by Grazulis.
F0 W of Strong City Chase 1840 1 mile
(1.6 km)
F0 S of Wichita Sedgwick 1933 1 mile
(1.6 km)
F3 SW of Toronto to SE of Virgil Greenwood, Woodson 1935 15 miles
(24.3 km)
Homes and other buildings were destroyed and 26 power poles were snapped. Equipment at a rock quarry was severely damaged, and a 35,000 pound fuel truck was moved 75 yards. A farmhouse was lifted, rotated 90 degrees, and set back down.
F1 S of Meriden Shawnee, Jefferson 1954 11 miles
(17.8 km)
F2 NE of Valley Falls to SW of Doniphan Jefferson, Atchison 2025 25 miles
(40.5 km)
Tornado caused severe damage in the Nortonville area, with 13 homes destroyed. A nursing home and several businesses sustained major damage as well. In Atchison County, a grain elevator was damaged and outbuildings were destroyed.
F0 W of Coffeyville Montgomery 2120 1 miles
(1.6 km)
F1 N of Ohiowa Fillmore 1440 1 mile
(1.6 km)
F2 E of Adams Gage 1600 4 miles
(6.5 km)
Farms were damaged.
F3 E of Palmyra Otoe 1615 14 miles
(22.7 km)
Four farms were destroyed and three homes were damaged. Two people were injured.
F0 SW of Plainview Pierce 1715 0.1 miles
(0.16 km)
F2 E of Reese Cherokee 1800 unknown Two trailers and four homes were destroyed.
F3 S of Mount Selman Cherokee 1811 3 miles
(4.9 km)
Three trailers, two frame homes, and one vehicle were destroyed. 25 other homes were damaged.
F2 S of Wright City Smith, Rusk 1840 3 miles
(4.8 km)
Trees were uprooted. Rated F1 by Grazulis.
F2 W of Henderson Rusk 1900 unknown A barn and outbuildings were destroyed.
F1 Henderson area Rusk 1922 unknown
F2 S of Detroit Red River 2100 unknown Two homes and a barn were destroyed.
F1 NW of Bagwell Red River 2119 unknown
F2 S of Negley Red River 2130 unknown A barn was destroyed, a mobile home was overturned, and homes were damaged.
F1 N of Detroit Red River 0105 unknown
F1 NW of Westphalia Shelby 1844 2 miles
(3.2 km)
F3 Denison area Crawford, Sac 1900 7.7 miles
(12.3 km)
Inflicted $1,000,000 in damage to farms.
F2 Milford area Dickinson 2000 18 miles
(29.3 km)
Two farms were damaged. Rated F1 by Grazulis.
F2 Allerton area Wayne 2210 9 miles
(14.6 km)
This and the following tornado damaged about 25 properties.
F2 S of Sewa to SE of Confidence Wayne 2210 15 miles
(24.3 km)
Paralleled the previous tornado. Two people were injured when mobile homes were destroyed near Harvard.
F2 SE of Victor Iowa 0055 5 miles
(8.1 km)
A farmhouse was damaged. Rated F1 by Grazulis.
F1 S of Marengo Iowa 0109 2 miles
(3.2 km)
F1 NE of Rochester Andrew 2115 2 miles
(3.2 km)
F0 S of Joplin Newton 2239 3 miles
(4.9 km)
F1 N of Cosby Andrew 2257 2 miles
(3.2 km)
F0 W of Joplin Jasper 2305 unknown
Sources: NOAA Storm Data, Tornado History Project - Storm Data for April 26, 1991

Notable tornadoesEdit

Haysville–McConnell AFB–Andover, KansasEdit

Damage from the Andover tornado

This long-tracked tornado reached a powerful F5 status and was the most destructive tornado of the entire outbreak. It is considered one of the most-filmed F5 tornadoes of all time, because by 1991, video camcorders were very popular and easily obtainable by the general public. The Andover tornado was filmed from many different angles throughout its life.

At 5:57PM, It first produced extensive damage as it formed south of Clearwater, Kansas. It fluctuated in intensity near the beginning of the path, and then moved through the north side of the city of Haysville, near 63rd Street South and Meridian. Widespread damage was reported in Haysville with many structures destroyed, but there were no fatalities. The tornado entered Wichita city limits near 56th Street South and Broadway/US-81, crossed the Kansas Turnpike at the overpass over 55th Street South. Around 6:20PM, the tornado expanded to around 300 feet wide as it crossed I-35 (the Kansas Turnpike), destroyed a plant nursery at 53rd Street South and Hydraulic Street (briefly turning the tornado pink), and headed toward McConnell Air Force Base. Many people had advance warning before the tornado struck McConnell AFB around 6:24PM. The tornado struck the base school, hospital and housing as an F3 tornado. It caused $62 million in damage on the base, narrowly missing a multibillion-dollar line of B-1 bombers. The damage path widened dramatically as the tornado intensified just east-northeast of the base.[6][7]

By 6:29PM, the tornado had expanded to just over 600 yards wide and was approaching maximum intensity. It continued to move northeast exiting the Wichita metro area and reached F5 intensity as it tore through the town of Andover, Kansas. The warning siren had failed, but most people had heeded warnings by local news media and police. Around 6:40PM, the tornado made a direct hit on the Golden Spur Mobile Home Park. Thirteen people were killed as the trailer park was obliterated, with little left there but scattered debris and twisted mobile home frames. The death toll included a father and son who abandoned their car and sought shelter in a ditch nearby. Extensive wind-rowing of debris and grass scouring was noted as the tornado swept large, well-constructed homes with anchor bolts cleanly from their foundations just west of N Andover Road as the tornado passed through densely populated residential areas. Vehicles were thrown nearly a mile from where they originated, and trees in the area were completely debarked. One vehicle that originated at the Golden Spur mobile home park was thrown 3/4 of a mile, and was so thoroughly mangled that surveyors could not determine if it was a car or a truck.[7] The tornado then veered north, missing a Girl Scout camp where summer camp training was being conducted and a troop campout. The tornado then moved on to the northeast, passing just south of Towanda. The damage in this area was rated at F4 intensity as additional well-built homes were leveled. The tornado continued northeast and reached El Dorado Lake just before 7pm (CST). Video taken by local storm chasers shows that the tornado crossed over the lake and revealed a multiple vortex structure. Just after crossing over the lake to the northeast, the circulation dissipated and died out. The Andover tornado had traveled for nearly 46 miles, and was on the ground for over an hour.[6][7] During that time, not only were 13 people killed, but the tornado had also left a third of Andover's 4,300 residents homeless, and destroyed 300 homes, 10 businesses and two churches.

This was the last tornado in Kansas to be rated F5 on the Fujita scale. The next tornado of such intensity, rated EF5 on the newer Enhanced Fujita scale, wouldn't occur until 16 years later on May 4, 2007, in Greensburg, Kiowa County, about 120 miles west of the path of the 1991 tornado. Since February 1, 2007, the National Weather Service has used the Enhanced Fujita scale.

El Dorado Lake/Kansas Turnpike Underpass, KansasEdit

Outbreak death toll
State Total County County
Kansas 19 Butler 13
Cowley 1
Elk 1
Sedgwick 4
Oklahoma 2 Pawnee 1
Washington 1
Totals 21
All deaths were tornado-related

Shortly after the Andover Tornado had died out, the parent supercell gave birth to a new tornado. The new tornado moved northeast from the edge of El Dorado Lake toward Cassoday. A news team from NBC affiliate KSNW-TV in Wichita was returning to the station along the Kansas Turnpike from a story unrelated to the tornado. Reporters Ted Lewis and Gregg Jarrett soon encountered a tornado, and decided to try to shoot video of the storm. However, the tornado veered and began following the crew along the highway at a speed faster than they could drive. They reached an overpass where several people had already abandoned their cars. The cameraman advised the other people that they should all get into the very upper part of the overpass, thinking that this would shield them from the wind. The cameraman recorded the entire chain of events as the tornado passed nearby, tossing the van and throwing debris. The overpass itself did not receive a direct hit from the tornado, but it appeared to on camera as the tornado passed just behind the cameraman's location. It lasted approximately 20 seconds. The tornado then continued northeast and dissipated at about 7:30 p.m., just northeast of the Cassoday Interchange of the Kansas Turnpike. All the cars parked under the underpass had their windows blown out. Other cars and tractor-trailers on the turnpike (hit by the tornado) rolled multiple times or were tossed from the roadway, injuring four people.

Due to the popularity of the news team's video, in which they are depicted surviving by using an overpass for shelter, overpasses are now frequently jammed with people seeking shelter during tornado activity. Such was the case in many areas during the 1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak, in which some people left the safety of their homes when the tornado warning was issued to take shelter under overpasses. One tornado hit three underpasses and killed people at each one. It is now believed that highway overpasses provide little, if any, protection from tornadic winds, and the National Weather Service strongly advises against using overpasses for shelter. An overpass is an extremely dangerous spot to be in a tornado, especially if it does not have the open girder design like that in the video. Using underpasses as protection does little more than raise people above ground level, exposing them to higher winds and more debris. Additionally, the wind speed may be increased by the wind tunnel effect.[8] Another danger is the sheer number of people now congregating at underpasses blocks traffic, which has hindered emergency responders. Moreover, it presents the danger that an intense tornado will hit people taking shelter as well as bystanders stuck in traffic, who are massed in a vulnerable location incurring the possibility of a significant death toll.[9]

Red Rock, OklahomaEdit

South of Wichita, in Garfield County, Oklahoma, tornado chasers (including Warren Faidley, Gene Moore, Howard Bluestein, KJRH-TV meteorologist Gary Shore and many other chasers) observed the touchdown of what would be the longest-tracked tornado of the outbreak. The tornado began 2.5 miles east of Garber, and then grew into a large 3/4 mile wide wedge as it passed south of Billings, destroying a house. As the tornado passed near Ceres, two farms were destroyed. In rural areas of Noble County, trees were debarked and pavement was scoured off of several county roads. The tornado then crossed into Osage County, uprooting trees and damaging another house as it passed near Fairfax. At least one home was completely demolished, leaving no walls standing (indicating F4 damage). At one point, a University of Oklahoma chase team used a portable Doppler weather radar to measure a wind speed of up to 268 mph in the funnel, indicating that winds reached F5 intensity within the tornado. However, these readings were taken near the top of the funnel, indicating that these winds may not have reached ground level. At the time, this was the fastest wind speed ever measured on Earth (it has now been surpassed by a tornado near Bridge Creek in Central Oklahoma on May 3, 1999, which produced a 1/4 mile gust of 302 mph[10]). A large oil rig was toppled before the tornado lifted in central Osage County, after having traveled for 66 miles and injuring six people. It encountered few man-made structures along its path, making it difficult for storm survey teams to rate. It was given an F4 rating.[7]


The 1991 outbreak was featured in two different documentaries: the first one was Enemy Wind, a documentary produced by The Weather Channel. It was also covered in Cyclone, a documentary that was produced and distributed by National Geographic, which released this one and dozens of other documentaries under its National Geographic Home Video series, and were released in both VHS and DVD formats.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Tornado Disaster - Kansas, 1991". Retrieved 2010-09-07.
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ "Newspaper Accounts". NWS Tulsa. NWS Tulsa. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Violent Tornadoes (F4/EF4/F5/EF5) in Oklahoma (1950-Present)". NWS Norman. NWS Norman. September 16, 2013. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
  5. ^ "Rebuilding the Oolagah School". NWS Tulsa. NWS Tulsa. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
  6. ^ a b "The Plains tornado outbreak of April 26, 1991". NWS Tulsa. NWS Tulsa. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d Thomas P. Grazulis (July 1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991. St. Johnsbury, Vermont: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1.
  8. ^ Speed Up Effects: Tunnel Effects, Danish Wind Industry Association Archived June 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ NWS Presentation on Deaths Due to Use of Underpasses as Shelters Archived August 25, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Doppler On Wheels - Center for Severe Weather Research ( Archived July 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine

External linksEdit