Andover, Kansas' 1991 tornado is America's scariest home video
On this day in weather history, an F5 tornado destroyed a large portion of Andover, Kansas.
This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.
On Friday, April 26, 1991, a tornado outbreak hit the central United States. The outbreak produced at least 55 tornadoes, lasted 19 hours, and killed 21 people. The most powerful tornado from the outbreak was an F5 that destroyed a large portion of Andover, Kansas.
Storm reports from April 26, 1991. Courtesy of NOAA/Wikipedia
This outbreak is remembered for a few reasons, not only did a news team take coverage under an overpass (which is agreed to be dangerous) but video recorders were extremely popular, so the tornadoes were caught on film.
The F5 tornado in Andover killed 17 people. The tornado was nearby gaining intensity before reaching its peak at 6:29 p.m. when it entered Andover. The cyclone was over 600 yards wide.
The warning siren didn't work, but local news and police informed the community. At approximately, 6:40 p.m. the twister hit and completely destroyed the Golden Spur Mobile Home Park, killing 13 people.
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The tornado was on the ground for an hour and travelled almost 74 km. Andover's population at the time was around 4,300, and the tornado destroyed 300 homes, leaving a third of residents homeless. The tornado also flattened 10 businesses and two churches.
Shortly after the tornado dissipated, a news team from KSNW-TV in Wichita started to head back to their station (they were in the area for a non-tornado story).
A tornado from the April 26, 1991 outbreak. Courtesy of NOAA
On their way back, the supercell responsible for the F5 tornado produced two more cyclones which started to threaten the news team. One of the tornadoes was travelling faster than they could drive, so they got out and sought shelter beneath an overpass, all the while filming the event.
The news team survived, which led people to think that hiding under overpasses during tornadoes is a good idea. For many reasons, including the fact that overpasses can increase windspeeds (due to the wind tunnel effect), scientists and meteorologists advise that the structures are not adequate protection for tornadoes.
To learn more about this tornado outbreak, and the dealy F5, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."
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Thumbnail: Andover F5 tornado. Courtesy of NWS