March 1990 Central United States tornado outbreak

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March 1990 Central United States tornado outbreak
Map of tornadoes in the March 1990 tornado outbreak.jpg
Map of confirmed tornadoes in the outbreak
TypeTornado outbreak
DurationMarch 11–13, 1990
Tornadoes confirmed64 confirmed
Max rating1F5 tornado
Duration of tornado outbreak22 days, 5 hours
Damage$543.408 million
Fatalities2 fatalities, 89 injuries
Areas affectedMidwestern United States, United States Great Plains
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale 2Time from first tornado to last tornado

The March 1990 Central United States tornado outbreak affected portions of the United States Great Plains and Midwest regions from Iowa to Texas from March 11 to March 13, 1990. The outbreak produced at least 64 tornadoes across the region, including four violent tornadoes; two tornadoes, which touched down north and west of Wichita, Kansas, were both rated F5, including the tornado that struck Hesston. In Nebraska, several strong tornadoes touched down across the southern and central portion of the state, including an F4 that traveled for 131 miles (211 km). Two people were killed in the outbreak, one apiece by the two F5s in Kansas.


The Central United States tornado outbreak of March 13, 1990, was one of the most violent outbreaks ever documented in March (second only to the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak of 1920 in terms of violent tornadoes and the March 2006 Tornado Outbreak Sequence in terms of the total number of tornadoes reported). Numerous tornadoes touched down across Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Iowa. Two tornadic thunderstorms with exceptional life spans/tornado families were observed, one of which produced an F4 tornado in eastern Nebraska that was on the ground for over 100 miles (160 km). The other produced an extensive tornado family in southern Kansas that included two F5 tornadoes. The first of these struck the town of Hesston, Kansas, and was one of the most photographed and documented violent tornadoes in history.[citation needed]

Confirmed tornadoes[edit]

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
0 12 25 13 10 2 2 64

(based on NOAA Storm Data)

March 11 event[edit]

F# Location County Time (UTC) Path length Damage
F0 N of Plevna Reno 2300 0.1 miles (160 m)
F1 Alder to S of Geneseo Rice 2315 14 miles (23 km)
Sources: NOAA Storm Data Tornado History Project - Storm Data, March 11, 1990

March 12 event[edit]

F# Location County Time (UTC) Path length Damage
F0 NW of Sawyer Lee 0440 0.2 miles (0.32 km)
F1 SE of Topeka Shawnee, Douglas 0549 5 miles (8.0 km)
F1 W of McClouth Jefferson 0610 3 miles (4.8 km)
Sources: NOAA Storm Data Tornado History Project - Storm Data - March 12, 1990

March 13 event[edit]

F# Location County Time (UTC) Path length Damage
F1 NW of Jetmore Hodgeman 0836 1 mile (1.6 km)
F5 Castleton to Hesston Reno, Harvey, McPherson 2234 48 miles (77 km) 1 death - See section on this tornado
F1 E of Thornburg Smith 2248 13 miles (21 km)
F1 NE of Esbon Jewell 2300 1.5 miles (2.4 km)
F5 Goessel to NE of Hillsboro Harvey, McPherson, Marion 2330 22.0 miles (35.4 km) 1 death - See section on this tornado
F0 SW of Portland Sumner 0004 0.1 miles (160 m)
F0 N of Conway Springs Sumner 0012 0.1 miles (160 m)
F2 W of Pilsen to NW of Volland Marion, Morris, Geary, Wabaunsee 0015 55 miles (89 km) Tornado damaged many farms and destroyed four homes on the southern side of Dwight. Tornado was spawned by the same supercell that produced the Hesston and Goessel tornadoes.
F1 SW of Webber Jewell 0020 5 miles (8.0 km)
F1 S of Danville Harper 0035 12 miles (19 km)
F1 E of Randall Jewell, Cloud, Republic 0045 13 miles (21 km)
F3 W of Moundridge Reno, Harvey, McPherson 0055 18 miles (29 km) A farm and three homes were destroyed. Caused $275,000 in damage.
F2 W of Belleville Republic 0100 15 miles (24 km) Several farmhouses sustained extensive damage.
F0 S of Belleville Republic 0116 0.5 miles (0.80 km)
F0 Salina Saline 0150 0.2 miles (320 m)
F1 E of Wamego Pottawatomie 0203 2 miles (3.2 km)
F0 S of Concordia Cloud 0240 0.2 miles (320 m)
F1 S of Chetopa Labette 0645 2 miles (3.2 km)
F1 N of Stiles to SE of Floris Davis 2132 14 miles (23 km)
F0 Bettendorf area Scott 2231 0.3 miles (480 m)
F0 E of LeClaire Scott 2242 0.2 miles (320 m)
F3 E of LeClaire to SE of Albany, IL Scott, Rock Island (IL), Whiteside (IL) 2245 15.5 miles (24.9 km) Multiple-vortex tornado caused major damage in the Cordova and Port Byron areas. 12 homes were heavily damaged or destroyed, and 26 others sustained lesser damage. One man broke his leg when he was blown off of a scaffold at Cordova Nuclear Plant.
F4 Prairieburg to Worthington Linn, Jones, Delaware, Dubuque 2253 19 miles (31 km) In Worthington, 39 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. 13 farms were destroyed as well. Tornado was a half-mile wide at times.
F1 NE of LeClaire Scott, Clinton 2242 13 miles (21 km)
F1 Monticello area Jones 2308 6 miles (9.7 km)
F1 NE of Crescent Pottawattamie 2242 8 miles (13 km)
F1 S of Holy Cross Dubuque 2355 3 miles (4.8 km)
F0 NE of Ortonville Dallas 0120 0.1 miles (160 m)
F2 Ogden to E of Stanhope Boone, Hamilton 0125 22 miles (35 km) Tornado killed livestock and destroyed several outbuildings. Caused $616,000 in damage.
F1 E of Ridgeport Boone 0135 1 mile (1.6 km)
F2 Ankeny to S of Maxwell Polk, Story 0155 15 miles (24 km) Rain-wrapped tornado severely damaged 20 homes in Ankeny, with 16 others sustaining lesser damage. A condominium lost part of its roof, which was thrown onto I-35, resulting in a major car accident. At least a dozen other cars were blown off of the interstate by the tornado. Caused $2,000,000 in damage and injured 15 people.
F3 E of Fernald Story 0236 9 miles (14 km) A tractor-trailer was lifted and thrown into a ditch, injuring the driver. Multiple buildings were damaged or destroyed at a farm as well. Rated F2 by Grazulis.
F2 NW of Bradley to E of Norman Grady, McClain, Cleveland 2244 28 miles (45 km) Two mobile homes were destroyed and frame homes were damaged near the beginning of the path. The tornado crossed into McClain County and destroyed eight additional mobile homes before clipping the north side of Washington, destroying a trailer and the second story of a house. The tornado then struck Noble before dissipating. In Noble, multiple homes sustained roof and structural damage, and an apartment building lost part of its roof. Tractor-trailers and a mobile home were overturned. The high school lost its press box, scoreboard, and several light poles. One person was injured.
F3 SE of Hawley to NE of Wakita Grant 2315 19 miles (31 km) One house sustained major damage and another lost its roof.
F2 W of Criner to W of Slaughterville McClain, Cleveland 2331 18 miles (29 km) Trailers and outbuildings were damaged and many trees were uprooted. Rated F1 by Grazulis.
F1 NE of Norman Cleveland 2353 5 miles (8.0 km)
F3 NE of Wakita to SW of Mayfield, KS Grant, Sumner (KS) 2354 22 miles (35 km) Caused tree damage in Oklahoma before crossing into Kansas, where five homes were damaged.
F2 SW of Stella to SE of Jacktown Cleveland, Pottawatomie, Lincoln 2359 19 miles (31 km) At the beginning of the path, a mobile home was destroyed in Stella, resulting in a serious injury. A barn was destroyed, a house was unroofed, and three trailers were damaged elsewhere along the path. A mobile home was destroyed near Meeker before the tornado dissipated.
F1 W of Waurika to SW of Loco Jefferson, Stephens 0001 21 miles (34 km)
F3 SW of Loco to NW of Alpers Jefferson, Stephens, Carter, Garvin 0058 22 miles (35 km) Tornado caused major damage in and around Ratliff City. Five mobile homes were destroyed and a motor home was rolled 100 feet. A five-ton crane was blown over, several vehicles were damaged, and debris was found up to a mile away. Caused $750,000 in damage and injured one person.
F2 NE of Tatums to NE of Paul's Valley Garvin 0150 28 miles (45 km) In Pauls Valley, a farm implement company had its roof torn off, and a civic club building lost part of its roof. Barns were destroyed outside of town as well.
F2 NE of Edna Creek, Okmulgee 0210 9 miles (14 km) Several barns were destroyed and 14 power poles were snapped. Caused $75,000 in damage.
F1 NW of Shelton Buffalo 2245 1 mile (1.6 km)
F3 NW of Minden to S of Cairo Kearney, Buffalo, Hall 2300 32 miles (51 km) Numerous outbuildings were destroyed, trees were uprooted, and a county bridge was destroyed. Five farmsteads were heavily damaged as well.
F4 S of Red Cloud to E of Schuyler Webster, Nuckolls, Clay, Fillmore, York, Seward, Butler, Colfax 2305 131 miles (211 km) This was either an extremely long-tracked tornado or a tornado family. Near Red Cloud, a farmhouse was completely "wiped out". The tornado moved into Nuckolls County and struck Lawrence, where 8 homes were destroyed and 45 others were damaged. Crossing into Clay County, the tornado struck Sutton, where one business was destroyed and 11 others were damaged. 49 homes in Sutton were damaged, and a truck and a police car were flipped. 20 farms were damaged in rural areas nearby. The tornado downed trees and power lines in Fillmore County before crossing into York County. A farmhouse was destroyed near McCool Junction. South of York, the tornado destroyed another farmhouse, heavily damaged a gas station and convenience store, tore the roof off of a motel, and destroyed two trucks. A dozen farms were damaged in York County, and about 10,000 geese were killed. 57 railroad cars were derailed near Waco before the tornado crossed into Seward County, where trees and power lines were damaged. The tornado then crossed into Butler County and passed near David City, impacting numerous farmsteads. 35 homes and 155 other structures were damaged or destroyed near David City, and about 1,200 livestock were killed or injured. The tornado then moved into Colfax County, damaging four farms near Schuyler before dissipating. A total of nine people were injured.
F2 E of Sacramento Kearney 2320 8 miles (13 km) Several farms sustained extensive damage with livestock killed, and outbuildings and irrigation pivots destroyed.
F2 S of Wood River Adams, Hall 2325 9 miles (14 km) Two farms were hit, with a farmhouse sustaining extensive damage at one of them. Outbuildings, grain bins, and two barns were destroyed.
F0 N of Kearney Buffalo 2335 0.1 miles (160 m)
F3 N of Alda to NW of Archer Hall, Howard, Merrick 2344 27 miles (43 km) Five mobile homes were destroyed, and other homes sustained minor damage. 15 train cars were derailed near an Army Ordinance Plant, and 47 others were derailed near Grand Island. Several farms were damaged, some extensively with loss of cattle.
F2 W of Fullerton Merrick, Nance 0023 13 miles (21 km) Ten farms were damaged, with farmhouses damaged at four of them.
F1 NE of Boone Boone 0025 1.5 miles (2.4 km)
F1 SE of Fullerton Nance 0030 2 miles (3.2 km)
F1 Newman Grove area Madison 0045 0.2 miles (320 m)
F1 SE of Battle Creek Madison 0130 0.6 miles (0.97 km)
F3 N of Carleton to SE of Exeter Thayer, Fillmore 0145 25 miles (40 km) A large hog facility and outbuildings were destroyed. A mobile home was destroyed as well. Rated F2 by Grazulis
F3 NE of Chester Thayer 0145 13 miles (21 km) Tornado clipped Chester, where trees, outbuildings and propane tanks were damaged. Several farmsteads were damaged outside of town as well. Rated F2 by Grazulis.
F1 N of Bancroft Thurston 0401 1.5 miles (2.4 km)
F0 NE of Lusk Throckmorton 2330 0.2 miles (320 m)
F2 SE of Pleasant Hope Polk 0330 2 miles (3.2 km) Five homes and 16 barns were damaged.
Sources: NOAA Storm Data Tornado History Project Storm Data - March 13, 1990[1]

The Hesston and Goessel tornado family[edit]

The Hesston, Kansas tornado as it passed through town near Interstate 135.

The tornadoes that struck Hesston and Goessel were both spawned by the same supercell thunderstorm. They were part of what is known as a tornado family; a family that included several additional touchdowns after the Goessel storm dissipated.[2]

The first tornado of the Hesston storm touched down at approximately 4:34 p.m. CDT just to the northeast of Pretty Prairie. It was initially between 200 and 500 yards in diameter, and caused minimal (F1-F2) damage as it churned between Castleton and the Cheney Reservoir. Photographic evidence suggests significant widening as the tornado approached Haven and the Arkansas River. The damage path ranged between 1/2 and 3/4 miles near Haven, and several homes were completely demolished indicating F4 damage. Had the tornado moved through a more populated area in this stage of its life, it is likely that it would have caused much more dramatic damage. Fairly constant F3 damage was produced from Haven to Burrton and to the Little Arkansas River. The path width remained over 0.5 miles (0.80 km) in diameter.

Northeast of the Little Arkansas, the track abruptly decreased in width from 0.5 miles (0.80 km) to just over 300 yards (270 m). Photographs suggest what appears to be a re-organization of the tornadic circulation; initially a wedge like appearance, the funnel quickly became tall and narrow. The most significant damage was done in this stage, however. The tornado plowed into the town of Hesston, just northwest of Newton on I-135. A total of 226 homes and 21 businesses were destroyed, and several were swept completely from their foundations with only slabs and empty basements remaining. Several industrial buildings were obliterated, and vehicles were thrown and stripped down to their frames. Portions of the damage path in Hesston were rated F5. 20 farms were torn apart in rural areas outside of town. Light debris from Hesston was found 115 miles (185 km) away in Nebraska. One person died and 59 people were injured.

The series of events that occurred as the tornado moved past the Hesston area were most interesting. Eyewitness accounts observed the touchdown of an additional tornado just to the north. This is consistent with models of what is known as a "tornado handoff", in which an old mesocyclone and tornado occlude as a new mesocyclone and tornado further downwind becomes dominant.[3] Over the course of a few miles, the new tornado intensified and the original one abruptly constricted and apparently became a satellite tornado to the new tornado. Eventually, the Hesston tornado (after traveling nearly 48 miles (77 km)) occluded and merged with the new tornado, and the supercell began to re-intensify. The new tornado rapidly became very large, and violent damage was produced by the second tornado in Marion County. Several homes were again completely obliterated and swept away and one additional fatality was reported. The tornado produced very severe cycloidal ground scouring in farm fields, and damage near the town of Goessel was "extreme F5" according to NWS damage surveyors. The severity of the damage left behind by this tornado led some meteorologists to believe that the Goessel tornado was among the strongest ever documented at that time. The storm passed Goessel and then dissipated approximately 22 miles (35 km) from its genesis.[4][5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thomas P. Grazulis (July 1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991. St. Johnsbury, Vermont: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1.
  2. ^ Jonathan M. Davies; C. A. Doswell; D. W. Burgess; J. F. Weaver (1994). "Some Noteworthy Aspects of the Hesston, Kansas, Tornado Family of 13 March 1990". Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 75 (6): 1007–1017. Bibcode:1994BAMS...75.1007D. doi:10.1175/1520-0477(1994)075<1007:SNAOTH>2.0.CO;2.
  3. ^ Marshall, Tim (1995). Storm Talk. David Hoadley (illust.). Texas.
  4. ^ Thomas P. Grazulis (July 1993). Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991. St. Johnsbury, Vermont: The Tornado Project of Environmental Films. ISBN 1-879362-03-1.
  5. ^ Michael Smith (April 20, 1990). "Kansas twister might be the strongest ever recorded". Fort Scott Tribune. unknown: Fort Scott Tribune. Retrieved November 6, 2013.

External links[edit]