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Haysville/S. Wichita F4 tornado: 20 years ago on this evening

May 03, 2019 - 11:20 am

Friday, May 3rd marks 20 years since the Haysville/S. Wichita tornado.

The Southern Plains Tornado Outbreak produced an afternoon and evening of incredible devastation across South Central Kansas, Central and Eastern Oklahoma, and North Texas.

The most violent tornado in Kansas that day was the F4 variant that barreled through Haysville and S. Wichita. It killed six people, injured 150, and caused around $140 million damage. Around 7:15 p.m. on May 3rd, 1999, a tornado touched down four miles north of Wellington and tracked north for 24 miles, eventually producing F4 damage in Haysville. This half-mile-wide twister damaged 150 homes and 27 businesses. The tornado was never seen; it was rain-wrapped, and it was after sunset.

The National Weather Service Damage assessment team completed an aerial storm damage assessment of the Wichita/Haysville tornado. The path began west of Riverdale and traveled northeast to just south of Haysville and then went nearly straight north along Seneca to I-235.  From there the damage weakened significantly as the tornado went northeast to about Linwood Park. Tree damage was also observed as far north as the College Hill area in E. Wichita where numerous trees were uprooted but structural damage was minimal.

The definition of an F4 on the Fujita scale is one that has winds estimated 207-260 miles per hour. Well-constructed houses are leveled; structures with weak foundations are blown some distance, and cars are thrown.

Just after sunset, at 8:35 p.m., the violent tornado struck a mobile home park in Haysville, destroying much of the subdivision and killing three people. Continuing into the city's central business district, the tornado caused further damage and killed a fourth person. Throughout Haysville, 186 buildings were damaged or destroyed. Continuing into S. Wichita, the tornado leveled the Lakeshore and Pacesetter mobile home parks, killing two residents. The tornado maintained a general northeast track before dissipating in  the College Hill District of Northeast Wichita around 8:55 p.m. Throughout Sedgwick County, 1,109 buildings were destroyed and 7,371 buildings were damaged, 2,456 severely. Financial losses amounted to $150 million.

74 total tornadoes were reported that day, of which 58 occurred in Oklahoma. Among them was the most powerful tornado in history that plowed through Moore, OK.

In Oklahoma, the most infamous was the immense F5 that tore through Moore, a South Oklahoma City suburb. The hideous vortex had a track 38 miles long and three fourths to 1 mile wide. The most powerful tornado on record killed 36, injured 583, and caused nearly $1.1 billion damage. It moved northeast and tracked nearly parallel to Interstate 44. When it roared into Moore, a portable Doppler measured rotational velocities that may have reached 318 mph just off the ground, the most violent winds ever recorded on Earth. This placed the tornado on the threshold of becoming the first twister to achieve an F6 rating. Obviously, the destruction was mind-boggling. The most stupefying occurred when around 10 homes, of which 4 were adjacent to each other, vanished.

 In all on the day, 46 perished, 895 were injured, and $1.5 billion damage resulted.


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