SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — This Wednesday, October 4th will mark 10 years since a fall tornado outbreak struck parts of Siouxland.
The outbreak, fueled by a combination of a potent upper level low which had ejected multiple shortwaves (pieces of energy), a surface low sliding into southern Nebraska, and its associated cold front, spawned 22 total tornadoes during a stretch from October 3rd to October 7th, most of which occurred on October 4th.
As the low pressure system and associated cold front approached Siouxland, the potential for severe weather was clear. The National Weather Storm Prediction Center (SPC) out of Norman, Oklahoma highlighted the entire state of Iowa and a portion of far eastern northeast Nebraska for the potential of severe weather four days in advance, October 1st.
The next day, October 2nd, most of Iowa, far southeastern South Dakota, and much of northeast Nebraska were outlined in a slight risk for severe weather (category 1 of 3 at the time). The SPC had noted a strong upper level trough and deepening (strengthening) surface low expected to develop across the northern and central plains by that Friday (October 4th). Also noted was the potential for supercells with the potential to produce very large hail and a few tornadoes…possibly some damaging wind gusts.
That slight risk was maintained with the first update on October 3rd, issued around 6 AM, the zone of slight risk expanded slightly further west through Nebraska and SE South Dakota. Model data at that point still signaled a deepening low and the potential for supercells with large hail and a few tornadoes. It was noted at the end of the update that a moderate risk could possibly issued with further updates.
By the next update, around 12:30 PM on October 3rd, the SPC did, in fact, upgrade a portion of the slight risk area, through NW Iowa up into southern Minnesota to a moderate risk for severe weather for as ingredients began to seemingly fall into place. The SPC stated that the area with the greatest potential for severe weather was now looking to be in areas from eastern Nebraska and southeast South Dakota into Iowa where the threat for supercells capable of producing large hail and tornadoes, a couple of which could be strong, appeared to be maximized.
On the morning of Friday, October 4th, the moderate risk remained in place and had expanded across much of northern and all of northwestern Iowa and into SE South Dakota and a small portion of NE Nebraska. That moderate risk would be maintained throughout the day through northwest Iowa and far NE Nebraska.
With each update throughout the day however, each update: 1 AM, 8 AM, 11:30 AM, and 3 PM, the increasing threat for tornadic activity as the frontal boundary progressed and shear, CAPE, lapse rates, and other ingredients were realized throughout the afternoon, became increasingly evident.
At 2:30 PM on the afternoon of Friday, October 4th, the SPC issued a Tornado Watch that would last until 10 PM that evening for western Iowa and eastern Nebraska. That watch included Wayne, Nebraska, as well as, the entire Sioux City metro. The watch stated that thunderstorms were anticipated to develop through the afternoon along and ahead of the approaching cold front. The SPC stated hazards as: “several tornadoes likely with a few intense tornadoes possible,” as well as very large hail up to 3 inches in diameter and damaging wind gusts to 75 mph. The likelihood was high for tornadoes.
Just two hours later, around 4:30, the first tornado of the day, and EF0 touched down in rural portion of southwest Stanton County, Nebraska. That tornado would remain on the ground for about 10 minutes. No damage was reported.
Shortly after the Stanton County tornado, around 5:12 PM, the same supercell responsible for that weak tornado, dropped another tornado, 8 miles southwest of Wayne, Nebraska. That tornado would move to the northeast, strengthening to between a high end EF3 and low-end EF4 tornado, severely damaging or completely destroying multiple barns, farms, and sheds on its approach to the city of Wayne. The tornado grew in width, to nearly 1.25 miles as it approached from the south/southwest.
Thankfully, downtown Wayne and Wayne State College were spared by the massive tornado as it clipped the eastern portion of the city, a mostly industrial area. As it churned its way through eastern Wayne, the tornado, with peak winds up to 170 mph, did widespread EF3/low-end EF4 level damage.
Extensive damage was done to many metal buildings housed within an industrial park inside the impact zone of the tornado. Buildings were mangled and reduced to rubble while the few rural homes nearby were also heavily damaged or destroyed. Some of the buildings left either damaged heavily or destroyed in the aftermath included: Pacific Coast Feather, Wayne East gas station, John Deere dealership Grossenburg Implement, and Diest Chemical. Also destroyed was the Wayne Softball Complex.
In a final blow, the Wayne Municipal Airport took a direct hit, sustaining extensive damage as the destructive tornado flattened hangars, destroyed over a dozen planes, and totally destroyed the airport weather station (AWOS).
The tornado continued on a northeasterly track, moving east into nearby Dixon County, where EF2 damage was inflicted, leaving behind damage and destruction to homes, farms, grain bins, and even a camper. After that, the tornado would continue to rope out and dissipate over Dixon County.
15 people were injured in the tornado that left $50.5 million in damage in its wake, mostly in especially hard hit Wayne, Nebraska.
That supercell, responsible for the Wayne EF4 tornado would go on to produce 2 EF1 tornados, one near Jefferson, South Dakota, damaging a feedlot, causing severe damage to a house and two equipment buildings and toppling trees, powerlines, and grain bins as it tracked from south of Jefferson, crossing the Big Sioux River into Plymouth County in NW Iowa, and finally lifting five miles NE of Jefferson. The other EF1 from this supercell touched down in Dakota County, NE around the same time as the Jefferson, SD to Plymouth County, IA track tornado, overturning an irrigation system, downing trees and damaging houses west of McCook Lake, South Dakota before dissipating.
At the same time the supercell responsible for the Wayne EF4 was producing its final tornado, a second supercell near Lyons, Nebraska was beginning to drop tornadoes too. What began as a brief spin-up evolved into a damaging EF2 tornado in Macy, NE with a path of 25 miles and peak winds of 130 mph. 12 homes were damaged, 4-6 homes were destroyed and 1 business was damaged. 2 injuries were reported with the tornado in Thurston County. That tornado crossed the Missouri River into Iowa/Woodbury County and tracked northeast, tracking just to the south of Salix, weakening and dissipating one mile east of Bronson, Iowa.
As the Macy, NE tornado moved into Iowa and disspated, a second tornado was developing within the same storm. The other EF4 tornado of the day in Siouxland, touching down just 2 miles southwest of Climbing Hill, Iowa. Initially, the tornado flattened crops and snapped trees. But as it continued its northeast trajectory, the tornado intensified, making a direct hit on a farmstead to the north/northwest of Correctionville, severely damaging sheds and buildings and totally destroying the house. 2.5 miles south of Pierson, Iowa, the violent tornado reached its peak intensity. At this point the destructive tornado was also a mile wide. Two farms were struck, doing massive damage to many barns and outbuilding, as well as tossing farm equipment 400+ yards. This area is where the EF4 level damage was found. The tornado continued on, remaining southeast of Pierson and west of Washta, Iowa. As it weakened prior to lifting and dissipating, the tornado damaged trees and downed more powerlines. The final path length of this monster tornado would be 25 miles with peak winds estimated to have reached around 170 mph. Thankfully, despite the destruction, there were no injuries or fatalities with this tornado.
In total, 22 tornadoes struck across northeast Nebraska, western Iowa, and extreme southeast South Dakota: 10 EF0, 6 EF1, 3 EF2, 1 EF3, and 2 EF4. At the same time, a blizzard was impacting parts of South Dakota! This would also marl the first EF4 tornado to impact the state of Nebraska since May 22, 2004.
The Wayne Municipal Airport was quickly rebuilt following its near total destruction. Debris left behind in the aftermath was quickly cleared and according to an article on chiefengineer.org, written by Nick Hytrek, the first runway at the airport was reopened just two months later and the month after that, the first structure to be rebuilt there, a new caretaker’s home was move into.
Hytrek stated that by June 2014, new hangars, lights, beacons, and a terminal were put in and the Wayne Municipal Airport was hosting the national aircraft owners club convention. And by August, less than a year after the EF4 tornado struck, the rebuilding of the airport was complete.
Like Wayne Municipal Airport, Grossenburg Implement, the John Deere dealership also destroyed by the EF4 tornado, was quickly rebuilt, with operations resuming at the newly built facility by October 2014, just shy of one year after the tornado.
However, some businesses, like Pacific Coast Feather, who were dealt devastating blows by the violent tornado did not rebuild or return to Wayne.
But many did rebuild, including residents. And after 10 years, the community of Wayne Nebraska has come back stronger than ever, with the October 4, 2013 tornado outbreak a reminder that severe weather, even tornadoes, can happen anytime of year.