About 15 storm spotters from Ellis County’s law enforcement and fire and emergency management were out late Tuesday afternoon and evening tracking the area tornadoes and storms.
“That storm came in pretty quick,” said Darin Myers, fire chief and emergency manager for Ellis County, who said county fire fighters, deputies from the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office and Hays Police Officers were out keeping an eye on the storm.
Two tornadoes were reported touched down, said Matt Gerard, lead forecaster for the Dodge City office of the National Weather Service.
At 4:15 p.m., a weaker tornado developed three miles north of Schoenchen. And at 6:45 p.m. there was one reported two miles north of Yocemento.
“We had some thunderstorms develop around a frontal boundary up around the Hays area,” Gerard said. “There was a super cell thunderstorm, where the storm starts rotating due to directional shear of the wind in the low- to mid-atmosphere.”
Generally that kind of storm will produce large hail and tornadoes, he said, which it did.
Large baseball size hail was reported in Trego County east of the WaKeeney rest area on Interstate 70.
“That was the biggest hail report we got,” Gerard said, but given the nature of the storm he suspected there was also hail in Ellis County.
The sirens sounded three times during the course of the evening in Hays, said Myers. Storm spotters first responded to the tornado north of Schoenchen, following its course and reporting back on its movement.
“The one that came in through Schoenchen,” Myers said, “we tried to surround the storm from a safe distance.”
A lightning strike northeast of town did set fire to an oilfield tank battery near Catharine and Toulon roads, he said. County firefighters used 400 feet of fire hose to spray foam and water to put out the fire.
Gerard said the weather center is only aware of some tree damage in the county from the Yocemento area tornado and none from the Schoenchen one.
With the steady rain the area received Tuesday and earlier this month, precipitation in Hays for May and for the year so far is way ahead of normal, according to Joe Becker at the KSU Agriculture Research Center, 1232 240th Ave.
“We’ve already doubled what we normally get for May,” Becker said. “We normally get 3.24 inches for May at the end of the month.”
It’s true for the year as well, he said.
“We’re about four inches ahead for the year for rainfall,” Becker said.
As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, precipitation for May measured 8.06 inches. The normal amount for May, based on a 150-year average, is 3.24 inches, said Melissa Alexander, office specialist at the research center.
For the year to date, Hays has received 11.69 inches, Alexander said.
That compares to an annual average of 7.81 inches year-to-date based on the 150-year average, she said.
The 150-year-average year-to-date is normally about a third of the 150-year average for the year to date, 22.78 inches.
Instead, this year’s precipitation year-to-date is already at half the 150-year-average.
“We typically get most of our rain in May, June, July, August and into September,” Alexander said.