18 years later, remembering one of the Kansas City metro’s strongest tornado outbreaks

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Eighteen years ago, one of the strongest tornadoes to ever hit the Kansas City metro occurred.

The twister hit mainly the north and west sides of the metro.

Winds more than 200 mph ripped through houses, apartments and businesses in communities such as Kansas City, Kansas, and Riverside, Parkville and Liberty, Missouri.

Other tornadoes were reported near Leavenworth and Paola in Kansas, and Harrisonville and Warrensburg in Missouri.

A series of four tornadoes were reported across the Kansas City metropolitan area, from the supercell thunderstorm which tracked east-northeast across the western and northern sections of the metropolitan area.

The first of these tornadoes touched down in southern Leavenworth County just before 4 p.m. north of Linwood and south of the Kansas Turnpike, near 198th Street and Woodend Road.

Video showed the F2 tornado crossed the Kansas Turnpike east of the Eastern Toll Booth, and then proceeded northeast to where it lifted south of Basehor. The total track length was six miles, with a width approaching 200 yards at times.

The second tornado touched down just north-northwest of the Kansas Speedway just before 4:30 p.m. This tornado initially produced F0 to F1 damage, but quickly produced an area of very isolated F4 damage to two homes, just south of Parallel Parkway near Interstate 435.

The tornado grew in width to near 500 yards in Kansas City, Kansas, where instances of F3 damage were reported around North 91st Street and Leavenworth Road, and around 84th Terrace north of Leavenworth Road. The latter location was where one fatality was observed. The tornado continued northeast through Wyandotte County, where another instance of marginal F4 damage was noted near North 79th Street and Cernech Road. Considerable structural damage was noted in this location, along with four 150 foot-tall metal power poles engineered to withstand maximum winds of over 200 mph.

The tornado proceeded to produce F1 to occasional F2 damage up to the Missouri River. Based on air surveys, the tornado passed just north of the power plant in northeast Wyandotte County, skirted along the Missouri River inflicting tree damage on both the Wyandotte and Platte County sides of the river, and eventually crossed east into Platte County near Riverside and Parkville around 4:30 p.m.

The tornado continued east, but with a smaller damage path through commercial areas near Highway 9.

The tornado crossed Interstate 635 near mile marker 11.8, and produced F1 damage east of this point until the tornado apparently dissipated just after 4:40 p.m.

Total track length of this tornado was near 15 miles.

The third tornado touched down in Gladstone, Missouri from a new circulation which formed to the northeast of the one which produced the second tornado, around 4:45 p.m., around the area of North Shady Lane Drive and Northeast Antioch Road.

Tree and roof damage accounted for F0 to F1 damage in this area. The tornado quickly intensified, and damage of marginal F4 intensity was noted approximate one mile northeast of this area, near the intersection of Northeast 63rd Terrace and North Jackson Avenue. Another small area of marginal F4 intensity was noted just northeast of this location, in the Carriage Hills subdivision, just south of Northeast Pleasant Valley Road near North Brighton Avenue. Areas of F1 to F3 intensity damage were noted around these specific neighborhoods in the Carriage Hills subdivision. The tornado continued northeast, based on air surveys, to just shy of Interstate 435 before dissipating shortly before 5 p.m.

The fourth and final tornado in the series that moved through the metro touched down in the Liberty area. Air surveys indicated spotty damage from Missouri Route 291, south of Missouri Route 152, northeast to near downtown Liberty. Substantial damage was noted near the square in Liberty, and to William Jewell College. The tornado tracked east along Missouri Route H into rural portions of Clay County east of Liberty, before the tornado apparently dissipated around 5:15 p.m. Maximum intensity damage noted in this area was F2, based on air survey and input from local emergency management.

“Amazingly and thanks to great work from the National Weather Service, the local media including FOX4, all the emergency managers and citizens who were calling each other and notifying them that this was a deadly situation,” FOX4 Meteorologist Joe Lauria said in his weather blog on the 10th anniversary of that day. “I believe the death toll was kept at 1 or 2. Which is really amazing. Also the injury count…less than 50 I think is astounding as well.”

For many, it was their first time going through anything like that before, and they won’t ever forget the experience.

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