HAYES COUNTY— Three tornadoes touched down in Hayes County during the evening of Thursday, Aug. 29 after a discrete thunderstorm strengthened into a supercell.
Atmospheric conditions were primed for the outbreak of severe weather during the afternoon of Thursday, Aug. 29. A descending cold front was set to trigger storms in a highly unstable air mass brought on by dewpoints in the low 70s.
Around 3 p.m. a lone thunderstorm began to take shape west of North Platte and began to strengthen. The thunderstorm stayed discrete and eventually organized into a supercell which began producing hail up to golf ball sized, according to NWS North Platte meteorologist Brandon Thorne.
On radar, the cell showed signs of mid-level rotation and storm spotters took a picture of a funnel cloud near Hayes Center. The NWS North Platte then issued a tornado warning for areas ahead of the storm, citing this storm was capable of producing a tornado.
This rotation was maintained as the supercell continued south, there was damaged to signs which were ripped away and power lines down. There was another report of a brief rope tornado was the storm neared Palisade.
Thorne said NWS North Platte members were conducting a damage survey during the morning of Friday, Aug. 30 to determine if the damage in the area was tornadic.
The NWS North Platte damage survey, along with radar data and spotter pictures, confirmed three tornadoes had touched down.
The first tornado touched down 7.5 miles west northwest of Hayes Center at 5:25 p.m. Its estimated wind speeds were around 100 mph and it caused damage to trees, a metal garage in the area and a cast iron lawn ornament was tossed 20 yards. This tornado was ranked EF-1 due to the damage it caused.
Five minutes later, a second tornado touched down further south and traveled a little over a mile. This tornado stayed over an open field and damage was only done to crops and older cottonwood trees, the NWS North Platte survey found. Wind speeds were around 85 mph, the tornado was rated EF-0.
The final tornado touched down just east of Hamlet, just north of Palisade around 5:45 p.m. The damage survey could not pinpoint the exact location of the tornado, but radar data and storm spotter pictures and video were used to confirm there was indeed a third tornado.
Peak winds were around 70 mph and the twister was rated EF-0.
The storm then entered counties which are under the watch area of NWS Goodland, Kan. Senior Meteorologist Brandon Vincent said he was a holdover from the day shift and was the one who had issued a new tornado warning as the storm passed by McCook.
Vincent said the Goodland radar can’t look into the lowest levels of the atmosphere over McCook and can only see around 6,000 feet and up. When the storm neared McCook he said the rotation appeared to become disorganized, but the storm cycled again and the circulation started to tighten back up, he said.
Vincent commented that this supercell was massive, its core was 25 miles wide.
The storm passed by McCook and continued on into Kansas, the storm then became more outflow dominate and started to form a line of thunderstorms which passed through central Kansas during the evening hours.
Even so it was still a dangerous storm, Vincent said in Hill City, Kan., there were reports of winds up to 80 mph.