Worst Tornado In Kansas: The Devastating Udall Tragedy

May 21, 2024

Kansas is known for its frequent tornadoes, ranking second in the U.S. in the number of tornadoes per year and first in terms of the total number of F5/EF5 tornadoes since 1950.

General Tornado Activity in Kansas

Locating in Tornado Alley, Kansas experiences an average of 60 tornadoes annually, with a significant number of these reaching destructive levels. An increase in reported tornadoes can be attributed to a comprehensive storm spotter network and chase teams that efficiently track and document tornado activity.

"Tornado in Lyon County, Kansas" by adam79 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/.

Historical F5/EF5 Tornadoes in Kansas

May 1, 1895

This tornado hit Sedgwick and Harvey counties, with a path length of 22 miles and a width of nearly 1 mile. It resulted in 8-19 deaths and 25 injuries, leaving multiple farms leveled. A misrecognition of the tornado funnel contributed to the fatalities.

May 17, 1896

Crossing counties such as Washington, Marshall, Nemaha, Brown, and Richardson (Nebraska), this tornado spanned approximately 100 miles and reached widths between 1-2¼ miles. It caused 21 fatalities, 200 injuries, and $400,000 in damages, severely affecting the towns of Seneca, Oneida, and Sabetha.

June 11, 1915

This tornado, affecting Kiowa county, traveled 15 miles and was almost 1 mile wide. Remarkably, it caused no deaths or injuries but resulted in $75,000 in damages. Its slow-moving nature allowed residents to take timely shelter.

"No Known Restrictions: Tornado in Lebanon, Kansas, 1902 (LOC)" by pingnews.com is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0. To view the terms, visit https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/.

May 25, 1917

Covering Sedgwick, Harvey, Northwest Butler, and Marion counties, this tornado spanned 65 miles with a width of ¾-1½ miles. It resulted in 23 deaths, 70 injuries, and $600,000 in damages. The tornado leveled 118 farms, homes, and businesses.

May 7, 1927

Affecting multiple counties including Comanche, Barber, Kingman, Reno, and McPherson, this tornado traveled 95 miles and was 1-2 miles wide. It caused 10 deaths, 300 injuries, and $1.3 million in damages. The visibility of the tornado allowed many to seek shelter in time.

"Kansas City Chiefs help with Joplin tornado recovery" by Kansas City District is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.

April 29, 1942

This tornado hit Decatur county, spanning 20 miles with a width of 300 yards. It caused 15 deaths, 25 injuries, and $100,000 in damages, with major destruction reported in Oberlin.

May 25, 1955: The Udall Tornado

Affecting Kay (Oklahoma), Sumner, and Cowley counties, the Udall Tornado traveled 30 miles with a width of ¾ mile. It resulted in 80 deaths (75 in Udall), 270 injuries, and $2.225 million in damages, making it the most devastating tornado in Kansas history.

May 20, 1957

This tornado affected Franklin, Miami, and Johnson counties. Spanning 71 miles and ½ mile wide, it resulted in 7 deaths, 31 injuries, and $2.5 million in damages. The tornado inflicted severe damage on towns and homes, with notable suction vortices reported.

June 8, 1966: Topeka

Striking Shawnee county, this tornado traveled 22 miles and was ¾ mile wide. It resulted in 16 deaths, 406 injuries, and $100 million in damages. Significant damage was inflicted across the city, including Washburn University.

March 13, 1990: Hesston Tornado

Affecting Reno, Harvey, and McPherson counties, the Hesston Tornado spanned 48 miles and ¾ mile wide. It caused 1 death, 60 injuries, and $25 million in damages. The tornado later merged with another F5 tornado.

April 26, 1991: Wichita/Andover

This tornado impacted Sedgwick and Butler counties. It traveled 46 miles and was ½ mile wide. The tornado resulted in 17 deaths, 225 injuries, and $300 million in damages, causing severe destruction at McConnell Air Force Base and Golden Spur mobile home park.

May 4, 2007: Greensburg

Affecting Comanche and Kiowa counties, this tornado traveled 26 miles and was 1¾ miles wide. It resulted in 11 deaths, 63 injuries, and $250 million in damages, causing near-total destruction of Greensburg. It was the first tornado rated EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

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