On this date in 1973, two significant tornadoes occurred in central Kansas. While tornadoes in the autumn are not unusual, it was unusual for two tornadoes to be captured on film in the early 1970’s on the same day. The first film is of a tornado near Lindsborg, KS. The second film is of the Salina, KS tornado which received a great deal more attention due to damage and press coverage. Both films, while characteristically grainy for home movies of that time, still show a great deal of detail in the life cycle of the tornadoes. The Lindsborg tornado displayed a multiple vortex structure approximately half way through the footage. In contrast, the Salina tornado clearly developed multiple vorticies very early in its life cycle before the visible condensation funnel fully developed. Another interesting structural change occurred when the Salina tornado briefly took on a helical structure as it passed some distance behind the water tower. The Salina footage, for its time, is quite a good film since it documents the entire life cycle of the tornado from its early organization to the “roping out” stage.
Severe weather activity across the great plains is not uncommon in the autumn months. It has not been too long ago since Oklahoma had its largest fall tornado outbreak in state history on October 4, 1998 when several intense tornadic supercells moved across the Norman and Tulsa forecast areas. With that in mind, now would be a good time to check your NOAA weather radio for the upcoming winter season and any potential severe weather events that could take place over the next few weeks.
Here’s a very interesting map from the Storm Prediction Center of the state-by-state tornado count as of the end of June 2013. In spite of some brief active periods, especially the May mayhem in Oklahoma, this year has been below normal in the numbers of tornadoes. Currently, Oklahoma and Texas have the number one and two rankings respectively. It’s interesting to note that some states, such as Alabama, are currently at half the climatological normal number of tornadoes. Perhaps the most important factor a map like this can convey to us is that tornado occurrence across the USA varies a great deal from year to year. The long-term “big picture” climatology is ultimately the most important data to take into account when considering the true tornado risk.