A tornado outbreak in the Kansas City Metro area not experienced for a dozen years prior and not comparable to any until May 3, 2003.
Fourteen F-2 or greater-intensity tornadoes ... five of those in the KC MetroRegion ... occurred on this date in IA, NE, MO and KS.
In the KANSAS CITY MetroRegion alone, there were 3 fatalities with at least four-dozen people injured. It was also the day of this authors' first actual "tornado chase."
|Next-day story from the Associated Press|
On the prior weekend, I had spent that Sunday with a female companion at a pool party at a home of the companion's sister and brother-in-law on Delaware Street in the Baldwin Park area of PLEASANT HILL,MO, a suburban community of (then) around 2,500 people about 25 miles southeast of Downtown KC,MO..
The tornado is no-doubt rain-wrapped, but was still well ahead of us. I was thinking now of the hosts of that previous weekend's pool party, for they were both employed by the town's school district.
Both the scanning and CB radios were useless, I didn't even know if the tornado was still on the ground, let alone that PLEASANT HILL might be hit.
Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper E.J. Horne arrived several minutes after we did and witnessed the utter chaos. Attempts were already underway to round up and account for the many dozens of students crawling out the battered high school.
Trooper Horne jumped in his cruiser and radioed the sighting as I asked students where an appropriate shelter might be located. That was the basement of the First Baptist church, several blocks west of the school.
With relief, the engine came to life as the half-dozen or so students crammed into and on the Cutlass and we headed without delay to the church.
We arrived in the midst of more chaos as people were pouring into the area of the church by foot and by vehicle. With no parking spaces nearby, I parked in the front yard of a home next to the church and we ran inside.
I stood on a chair and in the loudest voice I could muster, asked for everybody's attention. Among scattered sobs, the room became amazingly quiet.
We had forgotton about the 2nd funnel cloud. One of the medics assured me that it had moved away east of town.
We left the church basement into bright, warm sunshine. We made our way back to M-7 and turned north. Before leaving town however, I decided to turn down Delaware Street to check on the house where the pool party had been held.
Two persons were killed in the PLEASANT HILL tornado that day ... one in a mobile home near the Highways M-7 and M-58 junction and one in a house in the Baldwin Park area.
The tornado's total path was surveyed at nearly 30 miles long with an average width reported to be 500 yards. The storm was officially rated as a strong F-3 on the FUJITA scale.
|Storm that produced the Sedailia tornado as viewed west of Whiteman AFB near Knob Noster MO|
This F-3 tornado touched down around 1:30 p.m. 9 miles southwest of SEDALIA and went through that PETTIS County community of about 30,000 people before lifting 2 miles northeast of SEDALIA.
Among destroyed businesses was a golf course's pro shop and country club in the southwest portion of the city.
Approximately 150 homes were destroyed with 300 more damaged. Several schools were damaged, causing two of the schools to be closed for the short-remainder of the school year.
The path length was 11 miles and the tornado was as wide as 700 yards at times with media reports of damage "estimated in the millions of dollars."
|Damaged home at an unknown location in Sedalia MO|
Four homes were destroyed near MISSOURI CITY with 24 homes damaged or destroyed in the EXCELSIOR SPRINGS area.
A National Weather Service employee later told the author that even though this was an intense tornado, it could not be detected because even at 20 miles away, it was too close to the old WSR-57 radar's dish antenna atop the old Federal building at 9th Street and Grand downtown.
The second area F-4 tornado of the day developed north of RICHMOND around 5:15 p.m., moving northeast, then east to north of ROCKINGHAM, CARROLLTON and lifted near BRUNSWICK.
The tornado's main funnel was on the ground continuously and witnesses reported as many as five smaller funnels touching down at the same time.
The tornado formed about 2 miles northwest of WORDEN in southern DOUGLAS County KS around 7 p.m. CDT. Rated as an F-2, the tornado then moved east-northeast to north of BALDWIN CITY, where a woman was injured when the mobile home she was in was destroyed.
The storm/funnel cloud moved east-northeast along K-150 (135th Street), briefly touching down in places.
As the report of the funnel over U.S. 71 came in, I was in my friend's apartment - even though we knew the storm would strike the south part of the city for half an hour with plenty of time to drive well north of the area.
Scattered hailstones the size of baseballs began falling. Hearing the hail, I cautiously went to peek out the patio door.
I went back to tell my friend what I saw and the scanner confirmed the strike moments later... onto the Ruskin Place apartments at Longview and Blue Ridge.
What damage I did see was consistent with an F-1 rating. The Ruskin strike is not listed in "official" records of this particular tornado. If the Ruskin-area totals are counted, at least 3 persons were injured with a damage estimate around $250,000 in 1977-value-dollars.
All in all, May 4, 1977 was a day that we in the Kansas City MetroRegion hope never happens again.
But someday, it shall.
(NOTE: If you experienced any portion of this tornado outbreak- please share your memories in the comment section below.)