Science and Engineering

Kansas City, KS Tornado
4 May 2003

My son, Brian Glynn, and I went on our first storm chase, saw our first tornado, and shared our pictures taken near the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas.  Brian shot the video tape, while I took still images.  This was perhaps the worst storm to hit the Kansas City metropolitan area in the last 50 years.

Tornado Videos

Use Windows Media Player to display the videos below

Video 1.  Click here to view.  46 seconds showing tornado forming and re-forming slightly northeast of  the Kansas Speedway.  My son, Brian, is quite excited about this "sweet" tornado.  We had a TV in the car to watch local radar so we didn't get too close to the storm.  The voices of KCTV 5's Russell Kinsaul and Katie Horner can be heard in the background while Brian and I discuss what we're watching.  One of the last frames of this sequence appeared on the CNN web site (see below). 

This sequence ended when a pickup truck pulled in front of us and blocked our view. We got out of our car to continue taking video and still pictures, since it wasn't raining much where we were.

Video 2.  Click here to view.  37 seconds showing tornado near Cabela's and approaching and crossing I-435.  The animated GIF at the top of this page was made from stills taken at approximately the same time.  

Video 3.  Click here to view.  46 seconds showing tornado slamming into Kansas City, KS.  The tornado grew quite strong as it moved away from us.  In these pictures the  tornado grew to at least F3 strength, if not F4.  

Video 4.  Click here to view.  Fox 4 TV News in Kansas City.  36 seconds from video 1 with Susan Hiland telling about the storm.  

I appeared on camera (see below) discussing our video at about 6:15 PM.  These pictures were replayed about an hour later.

Fox 4 used Brian's video in several subsequent news and weather stories, such as the summary above given on May 10, 2003.  Several segments from Brian's video appeared on the May 15, 2003 Fox 4 special "Tornado Tales".

CNN put a contrast-enhanced still from near the end of Brian's video 1 (above) on their web site for a few hours that evening.  I'm told CNN aired the video, but I did not see it.

Sequence of stills using a Nikon CoolPix digital camera.  Images are slightly contrast enhanced.  By the last frame, the tornado is nearly out of Kansas and in Missouri.

Note:  Click on map to explore position with respect to other Kansas City Landmarks.

This map shows the approximate path of the tornado and the location from where the video was made, as well as some locations of damage shown below.  Brian and I were at the point "X", near the I-70 East exit on I-435 when we took the pictures.

From driving through the area, the tornado crossed I-435 near Parallel Parkway, and definitely hit very near the south entrance to Wyandotte County Park along Leavenworth Road (see "B" pictures below).  Images from damage at locations, A, B, and C are shown below.  (Point C is really off the map a little more to the east, however.)

A week later
(11 May 2004)


Looking west on 99th Street north of Parallel.  These houses were hit
after the tornado crossed I-435.

Access to most damaged residential areas was limited to residents
(so I couldn't get any better pictures)


The two pictures above are of three houses in a row along 91st Street in Kansas City, KS near the intersection with Leavenworth Road.  The houses took a direct hit from the tornado.  The damage at this location is likely rated F4 on the Fujita Tornado Damage Scale.  The only fatality from this storm was near this location.

House on north side of Leavenworth Road east of 91st Street near Townsend Court, about a block east and a block north of the pictures above.


Most of the houses around Townsend Court circle were heavily damaged.  [These two pictures were taken 17 May 2003.]  Bricks helped only a little in keeping walls.


~200 MPH winds damaged American Body Company  in Riverside, MO (across Missouri River to the northeast of Kansas City, KS).  Unfortunately, this company with 40 employees does not plan to re-open.

Background Information

I arrived home from an errand and my son suggested we go storm chasing since there were reports of funnels in Leavenworth County -- we had talked about chasing storms, but had never done this before.  With about 15 seconds of planning, we grabbed a TV, a power inverter and some rabbit ears.  I accidentally smashed the 12-V power connector to the inverter in the car door, so while my son drove (he's 17 now), I used some electrician's tape to fix the 12-V power connector and coax the antenna into staying connected -- a bit more planning would have helped.

 We stopped on the Kansas Avenue exit off I-435 north of the Kansas River.  We  watched the skies with some other storm watchers.  I finally got the TV in the car working reliably and could get a clear radar image -- the antenna and power connectors were just terrible though.  Since the "bad" storms were still north of I-435, we headed a bit farther north. My original plan was to go to State Ave and park in a church parking lot near I-435 (my daughter played basketball at a school there a few years ago and I thought the view would be good).  We never got that far north (but that would have been interesting). Some funnels were lowering from the clouds so we stopped just short of the I-70 East exit.  That's where my son shot our video -- I only did the stills.

Later we tried to chase the storm but as we traveled east, I-635, I-29 and I-35 were ALL closed north-bound due to road construction.  We got to I-435 on the east side of town and pulled over near Worlds of Fun.  The sirens were going off  and some clouds sure looked threatening.  We should have gone a mile or two farther north to see some "good stuff" but we ended our chase there.

On our return, we stopped by the Fox 4 studios to see if they wanted our video.  To our surprise, they wanted to know if we would go down stairs and talk about our video.  We didn't realize the studio was downstairs and we were going on air. Before Brian and I were about to go on the air live together, the producer asked that only one of us appear.  Since Brian didn't want to go on air by himself, I appeared on camera.  I wish I had encouraged him more to appear on TV instead of me.

Because of interruptions, I ended up being on camera in three different segments with Tom Lawrence and Kim Byrnes discussing our adventure.

Earl F. Glynn

My last connection with Mike Thompson and Fox 4 Weather
Fireworks, Half a Dozen pi's, and the Fourth of July

Updated 05/18/03

since 15 May 2003