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4, 2003 Severe Weather Outbreak
On Sunday, May 4 a major severe weather outbreak occurred across the Central Plains and Midwest. Hardest hit areas were in eastern Kansas and southwestern Missouri. As of May 8 there were 94 reports of tornadoes, with 38 confirmed fatalities in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee. The largest number of fatalities occurred in Missouri, where 18 deaths were reported.
A strong and slow-moving spring storm intensified over the Central Plains on Sunday, May 4. By sunrise Sunday morning a large area of showers and thunderstroms had developed east of the storm system from the Dakotas southeast to the Ohio River.
The combination of strong upper level winds, and unstable atmosphere, and the intense low pressure system led the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) to place a large portion of the Midwest in a Moderate to High risk category for severe weather. In the outlook issued at 11:30 a.m.CDT, SPC indicated the area at greatest risk for tornadoes extended eastern Kansas through most of western Missouri, eastern Oklahoma, and northwestern Arkansas. During the afternoon three tornado watches and two severe thunderstormwatches covered a large portion of the Midwest. The tornado watches were "PDS" watches (Particularly Dangerous Situation), a designation made when weather conditions are favorable for a major outbreak of severe thunderstorms or tornadoes.
By 1:30 p.m. CDT thunderstorms began to develop in eastern Kansas, and by 4:00 p.m. a line of severe thunderstorms including supercells extended from northwest of Kansas City through souheastern Kansas.
Here is a partial preliminary chronology
of the severe weather and its impacts in Missouri during the later
afternoon and evening of May 4. Some preliminary data on the storms can
be found on the NWS Pleasant Hill, MO web site.
This chart shows the locations
of all reports of tornadoes, hail, and wind damage for May 4. A detailed
listing of all
Missouri state survey teams found that 40 buildings in the Pierce City downtown area, including the entire business district, were unstable or subject to collapse. Some of the stone structures are 130 years old.
On May 6 President George Bush issued a federal disaser declaration for Missouri and Kansas, clearing the way for federal assistance to victims of the tornadoes.
Clay County, MO officials estimate losses totaling $91.4 million in their county. Platte County, MO losses are estimated at $33.9 million.
Damages at William Jewell College in Lberty, MO were estimated at $15 million to $20 million. The college is fully insured.
Gladstone, MO officials estimate damages in their city at $20 million.
The National Weather Serivice completed damage surveys of the tornado
tracks. In the Kansas City area two of the tornadoes reached a strength
of F4 on the Fujita scale. In southwest Missouri one tornado reached
F$ and two others were at F3 strength.
This map shows the tornado tracks in the Kansas City area. Click on
the map to go to more detailed information at the NWS Pleasant Hill