© 2023 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

The Hesston Tornado: 25 Years Later

Brenda Buller, http://hesston.digitalsckls.info

On March 13, People who live in Hesston will be marking the anniversary of the tornado that destroyed their town 25 years ago.

First responders credit the advance warning about the “F5” tornado for the low number of injuries and fatalities.

KMUW’s Deborah Shaar has the story.

Hesston EMS Director Russ Buller was a volunteer firefighter at the time the tornado was gathering strength in Reno County and heading toward Hesston in Harvey County on March 13th, 1990.

He says they were able to sound the sirens at least 30 minutes before the tornado touched down, giving residents a chance to take cover.

“At one point, we had no power to the existing siren system and had to alert the community by driving up and down the streets with our emergency vehicles,” Buller says.

The National Weather Service says the Hesston tornado later combined with another tornado to create a large F5 tornado that headed into Marion County.

NWS says more than 50 tornadoes developed before midnight on March 13, 1990. It was part of a multi-day barrage of more than 70 tornadoes that struck from the Plains to the Deep South.

In the months after the tornado, Buller says they upgraded the city’s siren system to include battery backup.

The tornado caused nearly 25-million dollars in damage across Harvey County.

Sixty people were injured that day. The two deaths came in Burrton and Goessel.

The Hesston Public Library and other community organizations have planned several public events to commemorate the 25th anniversary.

For more information, visit http://www.hesstonpubliclibrary.com. You can also view a digitized special collection of tornado artifacts, photos and video.

Deborah joined the news team at KMUW in September 2014 as a news reporter. She spent more than a dozen years working in news at both public and commercial radio and television stations in Ohio, West Virginia and Detroit, Michigan. Before relocating to Wichita in 2013, Deborah taught news and broadcasting classes at Tarrant County College in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area.