October 21, 2014

Wicked twister from May 5th, 1964, is remembered & feared

From the Omaha World Herald, May 6, 1964

From the Omaha World Herald, May 6, 1964

Nebraska is marking a somber anniversary today. It was on this date 50 years ago that a massive tornado touched down in south-central Nebraska, killing two people and injuring dozens while causing millions of dollars damage.

That twister was the last F5 or EF5-rated tornado to hit Nebraska. The tornado on May 5th, 1964, landed southeast of Hastings at 5 PM and destroyed more than a dozen farmsteads on its 70-mile path through rural areas of Hamilton, York, Polk, and Butler counties.

Mike Moritz, at the National Weather Service office in Hastings, says we’ve had tornadoes come close to being as strong since then, but none have surpassed that 1964 storm.

“We’ve had several tornadoes that have been rated either as F4s or EF4s,” Moritz says. “One of the Grand Island tornadoes on June 3rd, 1980, and the Hallam tornado which was also about 10 years ago. The idea that this is the last one that’s the top-rated one was really what caught our eye.”

Fifty years later, Moritz says we’ve come a long way in forecasting. While the tornado took two lives, it could have been worse if it hadn’t hit a rural area. He notes, warning systems have improved immensely.

“The average lead time on a tornado in the United States is about 13 minutes,” Moritz says. “That doesn’t mean every single tornado you’ll have 13 minutes to decide what to do but for most tornadoes, and most severe weather events, through the combination of the National Weather Service, through the local media, through social media, there’s just not a big excuse to not know what the weather is doing.”

If you’d like to read more about the anniversary or see pictures of the destruction and path, visit the National Weather Service page at www.weather.gov/hastings.

By Jeniffer Berry, KHAS, Hastings