“Proud to Be a Charger!”

Did you recognize the Burrton Charger from the Burrton High School?

Burrton High School, 2018.

Burrton High School gym, January 2018.

First Burrton school buildings were wood frame.  A brick structure built in 1885 with the first commencement held in 1886.

Burrton School buildings, ca. 1915, Burrton, Ks,

A new high school was completed in 1976.

Burrton High School, January 2018.

Sources:

  • Burrton, Kansas Centennial Booklet: 1873-1973, HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks.

An Unusually Warm and Humid Day: March 13, 1990

We welcome Libby Albers, Director at the Hesston Public Library, as a guest blogger this week. To commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the tornado that struck Reno, Harvey and Marion Counties, the Hesston Public Library has worked to preserve the photos, letters, videos and other material related to the storm. This post will highlight some of the project and history of the tornado of March 13, 1990.

 ***************************************

by Libby Albers, Director, Hesston Public Library

This year, 2015, marks twenty-five years since a series of fatal tornadoes swept across south-central Kansas. As part of this important anniversary, the Hesston Public Library has digitized the photographs, personal reflections, letters, videos and other documents collected after the storm. The Digitized Special Collections can be viewed at: http://hesston.digitalsckls.info or via the library’s website: hesstonpubliclibrary.com.

 ***************************************

So much has been written about the outbreak of tornadoes of March 13, 1990: news articles, scientific papers, disaster response papers, entire books (1). The “Hesston Outbreak” not only refers to the F5 tornado that cut through Hesston, KS, but the entire storm system that spanned six states.

http://www.crh.noaa.gov/images/ict/hesston/march13outbreak.jpg

http://www.crh.noaa.gov/images/ict/hesston/march13outbreak.jpg

***************************************

 In Hesston, Kansas, it was unusually warm and humid for a day in March.

Before the bell rang, an elementary school teacher chatted with a neighbor across the street. “Somebody is sure in for it tonight,” the neighbor remarked as they discussed the strange heat of the morning.

The preschool teacher, Ms. Judy, also thought the warm weather was an ominous sign.  On the spur of the moment she decided to do a tornado drill with her young pupils.

 Many high school students had traveled to Topeka for “Close-Up Kansas,” while the Junior High Band had gone to Lyons for a band contest.

 A young couple snapped some photos of the sky while innocently cloud watching, imagining animals and characters in the racing along the horizon.

 The weather services already warned of potentially severe storms for the day.

** At 4:34pm a tornado touched down in Pretty Prairie, KS, about 50 miles southwest of Hesston. **

The storm was moving slowly allowing storm spotters to relay information back to the weather service.

 The tornado was moving slowly, but Hesston was projected as its destination. A couple of off-duty first-responders hopped in their pickup truck and decided to do take some field observations.

 ** At 5:00 pm the storm hit Burrton, toppling a chimney of the Fisher home, killing young Lucas who was sheltering with his family in their basement. **

 The local teens had gathered at the Pizza Hut along Lincoln Boulevard to eat and hang out after school.

 ** The tornado sirens in town were screaming.  “By 5:37 p.m. the sirens had already blown three times in Hesston. Unfortunately, loud sirens do not ward off tornadoes like evil spirits” (Herzer, 1990). **

 Hesston College staff were desperately trying to get students to take the warning seriously and take cover. A few residents still stood outside and stared at the approaching black wall, sure it would turn.

 Donnie had stayed late at Kropf Lumber to get the evening’s delivery put up so that it wouldn’t get wet. He couldn’t help watching the black cloud in the west. The tornado seemed to be standing still but getting larger.

graham45

“Looking east on Ruesser from beside W. Roupp home” Graham, Duane A., Oatman, Emily, and Graham Productions, “Graham Slide 3-13-90 #45,” Hesston Public Library, accessed March 13, 2015, http://hesston.digitalsckls.info/items/show/61.

 

"March 1990 Hesston Kansas tornado" by The Wichita Eagle - http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ict/?n=hesston. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:March_1990_Hesston_Kansas_tornado.jpg#/media/File:March_1990_Hesston_Kansas_tornado.jpg

“March 1990 Hesston Kansas tornado” by The Wichita Eagle – http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ict/?n=hesston. Licensed under Public Domain

Dean had just picked his kids up from their grandma’s house and arrived home.  He still had his video camera with him and trained it on the storm.

(If link below does not work, please copy and paste to view the video)

http://hesston.digitalsckls.info/files/original/3/462/Dean_Alison_Video.mp4?video

 http://hesston.digitalsckls.info/items/show/462

***************************************

 As the tornado moved into Hesston, it increased to F5 intensity. It appeared to head straight for Hesston College and the surrounding retirement communities before a microburst, a powerful downdraft of air, push the track slightly to the north.

screenshot

Source: screen shot from news coverage video.

Storm Damage

Goodyear, Stephen C., “Goodyear photo #87,” Hesston Public Library, accessed March 13, 2015, http://hesston.digitalsckls.info/items/show/438.

Goodyear, Stephen C., “Goodyear photo #87,” Hesston Public Library, accessed March 13, 2015, http://hesston.digitalsckls.info/items/show/438.

"Trash at east end of Ruesser St."  Graham, Duane A., Oatman, Emily, and Graham Productions, “Graham Slide 3-13-90 #50,” Hesston Public Library, accessed March 13, 2015, http://hesston.digitalsckls.info/items/show/66.

“Trash at east end of Ruesser St.”
Graham, Duane A., Oatman, Emily, and Graham Productions, “Graham Slide 3-13-90 #50,” Hesston Public Library, accessed March 13, 2015, http://hesston.digitalsckls.info/items/show/66.

"Looking SE over rubble at Swartzendrubers Weld Shop" Graham, Duane A., Oatman, Emily, and Graham Productions, “Graham Slide 3-14-90 #017,” Hesston Public Library, accessed March 13, 2015, http://hesston.digitalsckls.info/items/show/78.

“Looking SE over rubble at Swartzendrubers Weld Shop”
Graham, Duane A., Oatman, Emily, and Graham Productions, “Graham Slide 3-14-90 #017,” Hesston Public Library, accessed March 13, 2015, http://hesston.digitalsckls.info/items/show/78.

That no one was killed within the town of Hesston seems unfathomable.  Heartbreakingly, the storm took the lives of Ruth Voth of Goessel and young Lucas Fisher of Burton as they sheltered from the weather.

***************************************

There are thousands of stories from people who rode out the storm, who volunteered with the massive cleanup effort, who donated their time and supplies to help families rebuild.

Within four days the piles of debris had been cleared and on day five framing for the first house started to go back up.

"Truck load of house parts going to city dump."  Graham, Duane A., Oatman, Emily, and Graham Productions, “Graham Slide 3-17-90 #03,” Hesston Public Library, accessed March 13, 2015, http://hesston.digitalsckls.info/items/show/109.

“Truck load of house parts going to city dump.” Graham, Duane A., Oatman, Emily, and Graham Productions, “Graham Slide 3-17-90 #03,” Hesston Public Library, accessed March 13, 2015, http://hesston.digitalsckls.info/items/show/109.

Hesston, Kansas would continue to grow and thrive beyond the rubble of March 13, 1990.

 Sources: