This tornado formed Friday, June 28, 2024, and briefly touched down near Z Highway at I Avenue. It was visible for a short time from the north. (Sam Harmon photo)


There was brief tornadic activity within Atchison County Friday, June 28, at approximately 9:00 p.m. The tornado was sighted by multiple citizens who were at or near I-29 and had a good visual of the Missouri River bottom area. The tornadic activity had dissipated before the warning went out. The warning was issued after the National Weather Service (NWS) was notified by Rhonda Wiley, Emergency Management/E-911 Director, of the tornado reports received by Atchison County 911.

Because Atchison County lies a far distance from the three radars utilized for the area (Pleasant Hill, Missouri, Omaha, Nebraska, and Topeka, Kansas), lower level, weaker tornados are difficult to detect on radar. Therefore, storm spotter reports by trained spotters as well as the public are invaluable.

The tornado briefly touched down near Z Highway at I Avenue and was visible for a short time a good distance from the north. The severe thunderstorm warning and tornado warning encompassed more than the area of concern shown on radar.

There were two factors limiting the Warning Forecaster in this situation. The first was the nature of the environment and its influence on the intensity of the storm. The storm, although interpreted as severe with a hail and wind threat, had a rather weak inflow and updraft visible on all three NWS radars. However, its location on or just near the surface wind shift of the cold front provided just enough wind shear to result in weak rotation in the lowest levels of the storm. This leads to the second limiting factor: this weak rotation was not detected by any of the three radars the warning forecaster had at their disposal. Once the initial reports from storm spotters were received, the warning forecaster worked quickly to assess that a tornado warning was warranted per the quality of reports.

This tornado resulted in no damage to structures or vegetation and thus was rated as an EF-Unknown.

“NWS forecasters work diligently to identify and properly warn for tornadoes. In instances such as this, brief, weak, tornadoes can oftentimes be difficult to capture given the distance from the radar(s) or the brief and/or small nature of the actual rotation signature on radar,” said Jonathan Kurtz, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, National Weather Service – Kansas City. “Sometimes these brief tornadoes can occur between scans of the radar(s), which can be set to scan the lowest levels as fast as once a minute. These types of tornadoes differ from the larger EF-2 or EF-3 and greater in that those types of events typically have robust radar signatures that can be identified from greater distances from and higher aloft on the radar scans.”

Atchison County 911 has the capability of sounding outdoor warning sirens in Rock Port, Watson, Westboro, Fairfax, and along the Missouri River bottom. Fairfax, Tarkio, and Westboro can also sound the outdoor warning sirens from a location within their towns. During the tornado warning Atchison County 911 made multiple attempts to sound the sirens for the City of Fairfax. Sirens were not sounded in Rock Port because the storm was traveling south of Fairfax approximately two to three miles north of the Atchison-Holt County Road. Other methods of alert and notification, for both the severe thunderstorm warning and tornado warning, were successful in all areas of concern including the City of Rock Port and the City of Fairfax.

Atchison County Emergency Management/911 uses a layered approach to notify the public of emergencies. By utilizing different methods of alert and notification, if one layer fails, there is multiple backups already in place. The five methods of alert and notification utilized are:

• TextCaster

• CodeRed


• NOAA Weather Radio

• Outdoor Warning Sirens

TextCaster, CodeRed, IPAWS, and the NOAA Weather Radio notifications were all successful when the June 28 tornado warning was issued.

Citizens of Atchison County can sign up for TextCaster and/or CodeRed through the Atchison County Missouri 911/Emergency Management Facebook page, by using the QR codes provided with this article, or by calling the 911 non-emergency line at 660-744-6606. You may also text “911” for assistance.

There is also a CodeRed app that can be downloaded on any smart phone. Location services must be enabled.

To receive IPAWS alerts on your cell phone, you must check your setting to ensure that alerts are enabled. It is also recommended you enable the test alerts as well to know your phone receiving notifications. IPAWS alerts are utilized throughout the USA. Your phone must have emergency alerts enabled for this feature to alert you to emergencies in your surrounding area.

NOAA Weather Radios are available both online, in stores, and are very affordable.