Video Courtesy, KMBC-TV
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The central part of the country is known for some of the strongest and most violent tornadoes in history. However, many people can live their entire lives in the region without seeing a tornado.
I was born in Wichita and raised in Haysville. I remember the Hesston Tornado that hit in March 1990. The sky was dark for hours as the tornado sirens blared. But, I never saw it in person – only later on the front page of the paper and on television.
A year later, on April 26, 1991, my hometown was in the crosshairs of a deadly tornado. I was doing everything that I should be doing during a Tornado Warning – I was taking shelter in my grandparent’s basement. My mom and grandparents saw the tornado as it moved through northwest Haysville into south Wichita before it grew a mile-wide on its way to Andover.
Several years later, on May 3, 1999 — Haysville was hit with a tornado yet again. I happened to be in college and interning here at KSN at that time. My car broke down and I was unable to go into my internship that evening. I think the universe was saying you needed to be closer to home as the tornado tracked north along the railroad tracks, practically destroying everything in its path from Haysville into South Wichita.
As a young, budding forecaster at the time, I wanted to see the power of nature. I kept looking out the front door to the south as I watched KSN’s severe weather coverage from home. The sky was an unbelievable shade of green — hues of the sea-green crayon I loved to use as a kid. There was a squirrel under the front tree. I thought, if he can be there, then I am safe. The next thing I knew, the cable went out.
During this time, KSN was broadcasting not only on air but also on the radio. I flipped over to the radio station. It did not last long as the power went out and I ran as fast as possible to take shelter in the bathroom with our black lab dog, Bobbi. Our house was fine as the tornado hit about half a mile away.
Looking back, we will never forget the lives lost in the Udall Tornado in 1955 — a time when it was taboo to mention the word “tornado” in a forecast discussion or on television so as not to create panic. Sadly many people died in their beds that fateful night.
A few years after that tragic tornado in Udall, another deadly tornado hit Ruskin Heights up in the Kansas City area. That tornado started on the Kansas side. We will never forget the Topeka tornado in 1966 where 17 people died and more than 500 were injured.
The night of the Greensburg Tornado on May 4, 2007 — we had solid communication from the National Weather Service to local media, to the storm trackers in the field. Eleven people died that night, but so many more lives could have been lost if adequate warning was not made available.
Tuesday night on KSN News 3 at 10, we revisit this tornado and speak to two survivors. The lessons they learned that day influence how they currently teach at Campus High School, my alma mater, in my hometown. It is a story you do not want to miss.
Finally, the first tornado that I ever saw was in April of 2012. I was north of Hesston along I-135 and south of Moundridge. Click the video for the raw footage as you see the birth of this tornado before my eyes. This is also the night Spirit Aircraft and southeast Wichita were hit by a separate tornado.
Rest assured that my team and I will always be here for you, watching the skies and keeping you ahead of the storms that are inevitable here in Kansas.
–Chief Meteorologist Lisa Teachman