Storms.Kansas is subject to three kinds of atmospheric disturbances known as stormsthe ordinary thunder storm, sometimes accompanied by high wind, the tornado and the cyclone. The tornado or "Kansas twister," is one of the most dreaded and destructive of storms. It usually originates in regions of the earth's surface where it is dry and arid for a considerable extent, where no large bodies of water exist and there is little evaporation. Tornadoes in Kansas usually move in a general, well-defined course from southwest to northeast, or from the arid plains of Arizona and New Mexico, and the semi-arid region of southwest Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas toward the Great Lake region. These storms generally occur from two to six o'clock in the afternoon, and nearly always when there has been an absence of rain for some time in the region. The cloud forming the tornado gains a rotary motion in its descent to the earth, where it assumes the form of a funnel or hour glass. The outer circle of a tornado is like a circular wall, from 20 to 50 feet thick, with a very violent, whirling motion, tearing loose objects which are drawn into the inner circle and carried upwards, sometimes to great heights. A tornado has a limit of action, as some objects torn from their location may be carried for miles, while others only a few feet away, but beyond the outer wall of the storm, remain untouched.
A number of tornadoes occurred from 1880 to 1882, when there was but little rain, but none are recorded in the years 1883-84, when there was plenty of rain during the spring months. The tornadoes of 1881 owed their origin to the union of two currents of air, one a cold, dry wind descending from the Rocky mountains, and the other a warmer current, heavily charged with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. When these met in Kansas, within an atmosphere of high temperature and of almost complete saturation, the cold current attacked the warm one and the in-rushing air developed the funnel shaped cloud.
A cyclone differs in character from a tornado chiefly in the direction of the rotary motion. In the tornado the funnel shaped cloud stands perpendicular, and the debris is thrown in all directions. In the cyclone the funnel is turned on its side, so to speak, and the current of air moves with great velocity, with a rotary motion similar to that of a rifle ball, throwing the debris to right and left of the path of the storm. The tornado also differs from the cyclone, in that it jumpsthat it, it remains in contact with the earth for some distance, then becomes detached, and again descendswhile the cyclone passes directly along the earth's surface.
Tornadoes are rarely over 300 feet wide, but cyclones often have a path a mile or more in width. The general course of the cyclone, like that of the tornado, is from southwest to northeast, but not always. Sometimes they move eastward, sometimes to the north or south.
In 1871 a terrific storm passed over the southern part of the state, when Eldorado, Butler county, was nearly destroyed. Eight years later a tornado passed over the northern part of the state and did a great deal of damage, especially in Marshall county, and over 50 persons lost their lives. The Topeka Commonwealth of June 4, 1879, gave the following account: "The tornado which dealt death and destruction near Deiphos gathered in northwest Kansas. It divided at the headwaters of the Solomon, a fearful gale rushing down each valley until they reached Cawker City and united. A gentleman who was an eye witness at Cawker says he could see the clouds coming toward Cawker, and saw them come together. The shock produced by the collision was terriffic and resembled the report produced by the explosion of a powder-mill. At first the clouds refused to unite, but went tumbling and rolling down the valley, now together, then apart, for several miles, when they finally melted into one funnel-shaped whirlwind."
In 1881 one of the most destructive cyclones in the history of the state passed through Osage county. It started in the Marais des Cygnes valley and traveled in a northeasterly direction leaving desolation in its wake. In June of the same year the valley of the Walnut river in Cowley county was visited by a cyclone, the most destructive ever known in that section of Kansas, and on the night of June 16-17, 1882, a tornado struck Topeka, where houses were torn from their foundations and great trees were twisted off. From Topeka the storm passed nearly directly east and did considerable damage at Kansas City.
With the extension of civilization westward; the cultivation of the soil, which enables it to retain more moisture; the planting of trees, and the irrigation of districts once barren, destructive storms are growing less frequent and it is probable that in a few years they will be a thing of the past. (See Climate.)Pages 768-769 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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