Local authorities now believe a small tornado may have touched down in northern Riley County, causing damage previously attributed to a series of storms May 18.
Pat Collins, director of Riley County emergency management, described the storm as either an F0 or F1 tornado, saying it hit west of Leonardville and continued to just short of Randolph about 11 that evening.
Authorities have known about the damage, but inquiries with the National Weather Service confirmed the possibility that it was caused by a tornado.
“There was damage to 11 buildings and some trees due to the tornado,” Collins said. “The weather service wasn’t completely sure how far it went; they have to go back and check.”
Collins confirmed damages were estimated as high as $200,000 for some properties, including 1198 Falcon Road, where at least two and possibly three outbuildings were destroyed — one of which wrapped itself around the owner’s house.
According to Collins, in most cases the weather service uses videos to see how fast items and debris were moving to determine the severity and type of the storm. But when surveillance videos are not available they rely on assessing damage to determine the type and severity of the storm.
“There was no tornado warning for Riley County that night, but the weather service confirmed there was indeed a tornado in the area,” Collins said. “They use the amount of damage to buildings and trees to determine the type of storm.”
In addition to the two inches of rain that fell during that time, covering roads, hog panels were wrapped around trees and “one feed bin was found empty over a quarter mile away from its original location and in a pasture.”
As previously reported, the storm also blew off doors on Manhattan Wrecker Services, bent the Ashley Furniture Outlet sign and overturned air conditioners in the industrial park.
“No one called me until the morning the following Monday to say they had any damage, which is unusual because people usually call in to say they have power out or damage during a storm,” Collins said.
He attributes the lack of warning for the small-scale tornado to be related to the “other storms popping up in the state at that time and the system not having a signature mark on the radar.”