Christmas tornadoes in Kansas

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An outbreak of severe weather occurred on Christmas 2016 in Kansas. In southwest Kansas, a squall line triggered several small brief tornadoes. According to the Dodge City National Weather Service office, there were 6 tornadoes that touched down. All tornadoes were rated as EF0, and tracks ranged from less than a mile near Kismet to almost seven miles southeast of Greensburg.

Damage was limited, with the most severe occurring to a hog containment facility near Kismet.

Historical records show December tornadoes are relatively rare, with only two or three per decade. In fact, there are several decades without any December tornadoes, as shown by the graph below:


With the total of six tornadoes on Dec. 25, 2016 had more than a decade’s worth of December tornadoes, and nearly double the previous high point of 3 between 1950 and 1959, all occurring in 1956. It is important to note that detection methods were less reliable in the early part of the record, and weak tornadoes were often not recorded.

Dramatic as they were, tornadoes weren’t the only feature of the front. Strong and damaging winds were also a problem. The Storm Prediction Center storm reports show 14 damaging wind events in Kansas that day. Damage include downed trees, car windows blown out, porches destroyed, and a barn roof torn off. Gusts reported in the storm reports were as high as 64 miles per hour. 

Kansas Mesonet recorded wind gusts as high as 52 mph at 6 feet above ground (2 meters), and 61 mph at 30 feet (10 meters). The recorded maximum gusts on the station network are plotted below.

Maximum wind gusts at 6 feet (2 meters) recorded Dec. 25, 2016 on the Kansas Mesonet.

Maximum wind gusts at 30 feet (10 meters) recorded Dec. 25, 2016 on the Kansas Mesonet. Only half the stations are 30-feet-tall and able to measure winds at this height.


You can view the latest 24-hour wind gusts (and maximum/minimum temperatures) on the Kansas Mesonet webpage at:



Mary Knapp, Weather Data Library

Christopher Redmond, Assistant Scientist KSU Weather Data Library/Mesonet