Severe weather continues to sweep through the area

Sabetha photographer Amy Keim captures this shot of a tornado northwest of Sabetha on Tuesday, May 21.

Severe weather has been thrashing the entire central United States for the past few months, and northeast Kansas is no different.

Nearly nine inches has fallen so far in May — with approximately four inches coming in the past week — and nearly 11 inches since the beginning of April. These rainfall totals are comparable to the wet 2016 spring season.

In addition to heavy rainfalls, an outbreak of tornadoes on Tuesday, May 21, left multiple structures damaged and one home destroyed in Nemaha County. Nemaha County Emergency Management Director Russel Lierz said there were three confirmed wall clouds in Nemaha County throughout the evening.

Sabetha photographer Amy Keim captures this shot of a tornado northwest of Sabetha on Tuesday, May 21.

A National Weather Service survey of the tornado activity on May 21 confirmed two separate tornadoes touching down in the county.

The first tornado touched down at 7:06 p.m. south of Highway 36 — at O Road between 136th and 144th — and was on the ground until 7:13 p.m., lifting southwest of Oneida at 160th Road between P and Q roads.

Rated an EF-1, its peak winds were estimated to be 100 miles per hour. It stretched a path of 3.05 miles and had a maximum width of 50 yards. This small, brief tornado damaged outbuildings on one residence.

The second, and more powerful, tornado touched down at 7:20 p.m. southeast of Bern — east of Q Road and just south of 200th Road — and stayed on the ground until 7:28 p.m., when it lifted just east of T Road about 200 yards south of the Nebraska state line.

Rated an EF-3, its peak winds were estimated to be 140 miles per hour. Its path went 5.92 miles, and it had a maximum width of 300 yards. This short-lived but powerful tornado damaged several structures, with the most severe damage coming to a vacant home at the corner of 224th and S Roads. Damage also occurred to trees and power lines.

The county was struck with more severe weather a few days later, resulting in a tornado again overnight on Friday, May 24.

According to Lierz, an EF-1 tornado hit a home six miles northeast of Seneca at 4:30 a.m. Friday, May 24. The tornado destroyed an auto repair shop, along with a hay shed and grain bin. The home at the same location had broken windows and tree damage.

No injuries were reported from the May 21 or May 24 tornadoes.

Overnight into Monday, May 27, more storm damage was reported — this time in Brown County.

Brown County Emergency Management Director James Stuart said the National Weather Service is continuing investigation into damage that occurred around 4 a.m. Monday, May 27, in the area of 246th Road and Bittersweet Road.

“According to the National Weather Service, the watch for Nemaha County had expired as the storm appeared to be weakening,” Stuart said.

Shortly after that watch expired, Stuart said, a large outbuilding was destroyed, and several trees were damaged. No injuries were reported.

“The National Weather Service advised the incident reported was likely straight line winds and not a determinable tornado,” Stuart. “However, radar and other data are being reviewed to confirm.”

According to the National Weather Service, weather conditions are expected to remain unsettled this week, with additional heavy rain and severe thunderstorms expected.

Statewide Flooding

Following heavy rain and severe storms, Kansans in areas experiencing flooding are encouraged to be cautious and follow warnings and instructions from local emergency officials. The Kansas Division of Emergency Management coordinates statewide emergency response and enhances local emergency efforts.

Kansas is experiencing extreme weather and rain on an already saturated river and reservoir system. As a result, the U.S. Army corps of Engineers has begun at one and is preparing at others for a controlled release of water from certain reservoirs.

Perry Lake: Flood water release began Sunday, May 26, from Perry Lake, as runoff from weekend rains filled the reservoir’s remaining storage capacity. Releases were expected to start with releases of 1,000 cubic feet per second Sunday evening, and increased to 10,000 cubic feet per second by Monday morning. This is similar to releases done in June 2015.

Tuttle Creek: Tuttle Creek Reservoir elevations have continued to rise as well. With minimal space left to store flood waters, the River Pond and Rocky Ford areas of Tuttle Creek State Park have been closed. At this time, it is anticipated that the flood releases can be accomplished using the outlet works. However, if inflows exceed the capabilities of the outlet works the spillway gates will be opened.

For additional information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, visit

Flooding Safety

• Avoid flood water. Do not drive, swim, walk or play near flood water. Turn around, don’t drown.

• If told to evacuate, do so immediately. Never drive around barricades. Local responders use them to safely direct traffic out of flooded areas.

• Depending on where you are and the impact and the warning time of flooding, go to the safe location that you have previously identified.

• Listen to EAS, NOAA Weather Radio, or local alerting systems for current emergency information and instructions.

• Gather supplies in case you have to leave immediately or if services are cut off. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication.

• Don’t forget the needs of pets.

• Obtain extra batteries and charging devices for phones and other critical equipment.

• Keep important documents in a waterproof container. Create password-protected digital copies.

• Protect your property. Move valuables to higher levels. Declutter drains and gutters. Install check valves. Consider a sump pump with a battery.

More Info

Flood Response:

Road Closures:

Weather Updates:

State Parks:

Amber Deters123 Posts

Amber Deters is Co-Editor of The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2005. She specializes in school board, election and legislative reporting, as well as photography and page and advertising design. Amber is a 2005 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in journalism and mass communications, print journalism sequence. She lives in Sabetha with her husband and three children.


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