April 26 marks 26 years since deadly Andover tornado

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The storm that hit on April 26, 1991 is most known for devastating the community of Andover. But the F5 twister also hit parts of Wichita, McConnell Air Force Base and other parts of South Central Kansas.

The National Weather Service had warned that it was setting up to be a very active day. Early that morning, severe storms started in Oklahoma, and by mid-afternoon tornadoes were being reported from Texas to Nebraska

“This is a particularly dangerous situation with the possibility of very damaging tornadoes. Also large hail, dangerous lightning and damaging thunderstorm winds can be expected,” read an 11:38 a.m. bulletin from the National Weather Service on April 26, 1991.

Of the more than 50 tornadoes reported that day, thirty were rated an F2 or greater.RELATED LINK | Tornadoes reported on April 26, 1991

But the most devastating tornado was the one that hit Andover and South Central Kansas. Of the 21 people killed that day, 17 died in the Andover area.

At McConnell, the tornado destroyed 102 base housing units and nine major facilities including the base hospital. In all,16 people were injured.

The storm hit the Andover area around 6:40 p.m. but had first been reported on the ground nearly an hour earlier near Clearwater. When it finally lifted after being on the ground for 46 miles, it was near El Dorado.

“It seemed like there was no way out that night, that death was going to take me. Because that tornado was so big,” said Joe Parsley, who survived the 1991 storm. He spoke with KSN on the 20th anniversary of the storm.

Parsley was living in the Golden Spur Mobile Home Park in Andover. It took a direct hit. Police dash camera video from that day shows an officer driving through the park, trying to warn residents to get in shelter. In the end, 149 people heeded the warning and took shelter before the storm hit. Of the 38 residents who were not sheltered, 13 were killed.

 “Whole roofs coming up and bursting apart in the air, and also cars, appliances, and other things flying in air,” said Parsley, who survived when the tornado hit the Golden Spur Mobile Home Park. 

Parsley was one of those who didn’t make it to the shelter. When he saw how close the tornado was, he crawled under his truck and held on.

“Something big hit the back of my pick-up. Then it went airborne, and I’m being sucked and rolled underneath it, and it’s doing quite a number on me,” said Parsley.

He was pined under the transmission for about 45 minutes before being rescued. He spent more than three months in the hospital with a shattered pelvis and other internal injuries.

The storm system would cause $250 Million in damages across the region, including Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

April 26, 1991 Tornadoes Rated F3 or Greater

Time

Path

Fujita Rating

Path Length (Miles)

Path Width (Yards)

3:50 pm – 4:40 pm3 SE Hollenberg, KS to SE Beatrice, NE

F3

24

200

5:15 pm – 5:40 pm2 NW Douglas, NE to 7 NE Palmyra, NE

F3

14

350

5:57 pm – 7:10 pm2 SSE Clearwater, KS to 5 N El Dorado, KS

F5

69

500

6:00 pm – 6:09 pm6 E Enid, OK to 4 W Garber, OK

F3

6

350

6:30 pm – 7:55 pm3 E Garber, OK to 9 WNW Pawhuska, OK

F4

66

1,000

6:30 pm – ?5 W Arkansas City, KS to 3 NW Burden, KS

F4

25

500

7:11 pm – 7:16 pm1 SW Mount Selman, TX to 1 NE Mount Selman, TX

F3

3

200

7:26 pm – ?7 W Howard, KS to 2 W Severy, KS

F3

24

200

8:00 pm – 8:17 pmDenison, IA to near Wall Lake, IA

F3

23

200

8:10 pm – 9:27 pm2 WSW Terlton, OK to 1 NNW Skiatook, OK

F4

32

800

8:35 pm – ?5 S Neal, KS to 8 N Toronto, KS

F3

15

50

9:45 pm – 9:53 pm1 W Oologah, OK to Oologah Lake

F4

4

1,000

(National Weather Service Data)

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