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National Weather Service ready to talk spring storms

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

From snow to tornadoes, a severe weather training session soon will be coming to a location near you.

Unless, of course, you live in WaKeeney, which already has seen its severe weather training session rescheduled for another day, thanks to the snow.

It's an annual almost-spring rite for the National Weather Service, venturing out to each county in their respective forecast areas to talk about severe weather.

And just in time as the state's severe weather awareness week begins Sunday, even if the snow doesn't melt by then. The tornado safety drill is tentatively set for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The meetings, scheduled by the four NWS forecast offices monitoring the 20 counties in northwest Kansas, will continue into April.

While storms are the reason for the meetings, it's the drought that might be the focus of the discussion.

At least that was the weather activity of note last year.

There were, however, 94 tornadoes reported last year in Kansas, injuring 50 people.

Rush County had the dubious distinction of having the most, a total of 12 on April 14. There were 43 reported across the state April 14, second highest in terms of the sheer number on a single day.

That was well behind the May 23, 2008, outbreak that resulted in 70 tornadoes.

Tornado season started early in 2012, with a Feb. 28 twister in Jewell County, and ended late with a Sept. 17 tornado in Shawnee County, according to the NWS.

It was a quiet year for northwest Kansas, except for Rush County.

Russell County had seven tornadoes, Sherman County had two tornadoes, and Phillips, Ellis and Ness counties all had a single twister.

The "stifling heat and the onset of drought," the Hastings NWS report said, stilled severe storms.

Except on June 14, when a thunderstorm swept through with wind gusts to 65 mph in Phillipsburg, Stockton and Smith Center.

More than a month passed before another round of storms swept through, breaking power poles and ripping tin from outbuildings in Rooks County.

Even with the rash of tornadoes in Rush County, the Dodge City NWS noted the "biggest story of the year had to be the heat and drought that intensified during the summer."

"June was the most active weather month in 2012 in terms of the number of severe reports," Dave Floyd at the Goodland NWS wrote. "But as the month progressed, the main weather story turned from severe storms to drought and extreme heat."