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Monday, January 24, 2011

January 24, 1967- When One Metro K.C. High School Dismissed Early and It Wasn't For Snow

With all the snow-days Metro-area students have been getting so far in January- I thought I'd  remind people that the weather in Kansas City is not always of the winter variety in this traditionally coldest month of the year

The following is an edited re-post from four years ago- on the 40th anniversary of a tornado that struck the in-session Orrick MO high school:

"Weather conditions more like April than January 24th contributed to a noteworthy tornado outbreak over the Central U.S. and western Great Lakes states. Noteworthy it was ... at the time it was the furthest north a wintertime tornado outbreak had occurred in recorded history.

Thirty-two tornadoes were reported in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Two of the tornadoes during the outbreak reached F-4 intensity.

Four of those twisters ... in MO, IA and IL ... were killers.

The first killer tornado of the outbreak was right here in Metro Kansas City.

The thunderstorm that would spawn the tornado formed about 30 miles southwest of Kansas City just before noon. The storm quickly became severe as it moved northeast near 40 m.p.h..

Around 12:25 p.m., straight-line winds estimated near 60 m.p.h. caused damage to the-then under contruction Metcalf South shopping center at 95th Street and Metcalf in Overland Park, KS.

The storm moved through southern Prairie Village, northern Leawood, KS, into Kansas City around 83rd Street and State Line.

At Kansas City, MO's Southeast High school at Swope Parkway and Meyer Boulevard, wind gusts estimated from 50 to 60 m.p.h. chased the students in a boy's gym class- including the author of this account- from the outdoor fields to the safety of the school building.

The storm moved on, passing over the Blue Ridge Mall area.

Reports of hail up to quarter size began to be received as the storm moved over southern and eastern Independence. There were also scattered reports of damage to trees and power lines in those areas

Then came at least one unconfirmed report of a funnel cloud near the Lake City Army Ammunitions plant at Missouri Highways 7 and 78.

At 12:40 p.m., the funnel dropped to the ground about 3 miles southwest of Buckner (present-day eastern Independence). The tornado spared a direct hit on Buckner, damaging outbuildings and barns in the nearby rural hills.

The funnel then moved into the Missouri River floodplain, just missing the small community of Sibley.

The tornado moved across the river into southwestern Ray County where it reached it's maximum F-3 strength.

Around 12:50 p.m. and without an official warning, the estimated 250-foot wide tornado with winds as high as 200 m.p.h. slammed into the high school in Orrick, a town with a population of about 800 people off of Highway M-210.

Witness accounts from that day state that someone had seen the tornado in the farm fields southwest of the school and that students and faculity had barely made it into interior hallways of the fairly small school building.

The winds lifted - then collapsed - the roof of the gym as well as the upper walls of the building. This caused another part of the school's roof to collapse.

Debris blew in and rained down onto the more than 200 students and their instructors taking cover in interior hallways, killing two of the students.

The number injured was officially reported as 18.

At least three other homes were either damaged or destroyed in Orrick.

Dozens of police, fire units and ambulances responded from a three-county area to assist in rescue and treatment of the injured in Orrick that day.

The tornado continued on for about another 20 minutes, taking out more barns and outbuildings until it lifted 4 miles west-northwest of Richmond in central Ray County."

The Orrick tornado ... rare as it was that January day ... was not the deadliest.

That distinction went to an F-4 twister that moved northeast through the western and northern suburbs of St. Louis, MO. later that Tuesday evening.

Three people would die there with more than 2,000 structures damaged or destroyed, with the tornado just missing the city's Lambert airport."


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