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Yeah the state archives are all but useless for that sort of thing. Most of the departments I contacted (DCNR, PennDOT, PA State Police, etc) weren't much more helpful. The director at Parker Dam State Park sent me some of the aerial shots I used in my article and said that they had approx. 100 more photos accessible in person, but apparently a lot of them are pretty low-quality scans taken from the original negatives (the location of which seems to be a mystery).
Wouldn't surprise me if lots of original photos of Moshannon were only taken for insurance/timber purposes and destroyed not long after, likely why only scans of negatives are available.
 
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TH2002

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One of the most impressive and forgotten tornado outbreaks of the 20th century is the May 1977 outbreak sequence. Per the Tornado Archive, this period saw 116 tornadoes touch down from New Mexico, across the Plains and as far east as Michigan from May 13-21. The significant tornado count varies based on the source - per official data, 14 F2's, 11 F3's and one F4. Per Grazulis, 14 F2's, five F3's and three F4's from May 14-21. Though all of this carnage tornadoes claimed one life, a woman who was killed by an F3 (F4 according to Grazulis) tornado near Alma, Oklahoma on May 15. Since there's so much to uncover from this outbreak, this post will focus on May 18.

A minimum of 25 tornadoes touched down across the Plains that day, though there were likely several more. The official significant tornado count for the day is three F2's, an F3 and one F4. What makes it impressive in my book is the location of one cyclic supercell that produced at least three tornadoes in the Oklahoma Panhandle, extreme southeastern Colorado and eventually into western Kansas. The day's strongest tornado was one of these, a long-tracked F4 that struck farms and the western edge of Keyes in Cimarron County, Oklahoma before crossing into Baca County, Colorado. The supercell would also produce two F2 tornadoes: one in Cimarron County (which may have been a weaker twin to the F4), and a very long-tracked tornado that began near Elkhart, KS, remaining on the ground for over 117 miles per the official NCEI database. However, there are discrepancies with these F2 tornadoes. Grazulis does not list the Cimarron County F2 as a significant tornado and mentions the Kansas F2 tracked from 7 miles east of Richfield to the small town of Hickok, which would place the actual path length at right around 30 miles. The remainder of the 117.2 mile path likely consisted of separate, weaker tornadoes. Whatever the case, the parent supercell was likely a tornado producing machine and would have made for a huge chase day if it happened in 2024.

It's a shame this outbreak is so poorly documented as a whole, since the Cimarron to Baca County F4 was probably an F5 candidate and likely tied with Thurman (Thurman article on TornadoTalk) as a candidate for the strongest tornado in Colorado's history. The tornado reportedly produced Chapman-esque damage to vehicles and heavy farm machinery, tossing them up to half a mile and completely mangling them into unrecognizable heaps, with some equipment "disappearing completely". Pieces of a grain elevator from the western side of Keyes were found in Colorado on Walter Hamilton's property, a minimum of 13 miles away.

Unfortunately, no damage photographs were available on the internet to prove these feats... until today. I give a HUGE shout-out to Lexi from the Plainsman Herald, who graciously sent me the Herald's coverage of this tornado. These photos haven't been seen outside of Baca County for over 40 years, and it's time to shed some light on this event.

The Eskew farm in Baca County may have been the hardest hit location along the entire path. The tornado took everything except for the Eskews' home and one garage, both of which were severely damaged regardless. This is the site of a quonset hut that literally vanished along with whatever farm equipment was inside of it:
Bacaco-damage1.png

Another photo from the Eskew farm, with tractors and vehicles mangled together into a useless pile of scrap:
Bacaco-damage2.png

A few other mangled vehicles:
Bacaco-damage3.png
Bacaco-damage4.png

Tree damage:
Bacaco-damage5.png
Bacaco-damage6.png

A few other shots:
bacaco-damage7.png
Bacaco-damage8.png

Unbelievably, considering how violent this tornado was, there were no fatalities or injuries anywhere along its 38.6 mile path.

Speaking of the Oklahoma side of the damage path, I've already gotten in touch with an individual at the Cimarron County Heritage Center. Don't have much yet besides the front page of The Boise City News issue covering the tornado, but I'll follow up to see if they have more damage photos. From what I do have though, a farm southwest of Keyes was hit, with two large oil tanks being rolled considerable distances. According to the article, one of these tanks was rolled a half mile while the other was rolled a full mile. If they have more damage photos (and I get permission to use them), there will be a Part 2 to this post.

As for the remaining significant tornadoes that occurred on May 18, there is one F2 and an F3 that touched down in Cherry County, Nebraska, likely produced by another cyclic supercell. However, Grazulis does not mention either of these as significant tornadoes. The Cherry County Historical Society may have something but I haven't tried contacting them as of yet.
 

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One of the most impressive and forgotten tornado outbreaks of the 20th century is the May 1977 outbreak sequence. Per the Tornado Archive, this period saw 116 tornadoes touch down from New Mexico, across the Plains and as far east as Michigan from May 13-21. The significant tornado count varies based on the source - per official data, 14 F2's, 11 F3's and one F4. Per Grazulis, 14 F2's, five F3's and three F4's from May 14-21. Though all of this carnage tornadoes claimed one life, a woman who was killed by an F3 (F4 according to Grazulis) tornado near Alma, Oklahoma on May 15. Since there's so much to uncover from this outbreak, this post will focus on May 18.

A minimum of 25 tornadoes touched down across the Plains that day, though there were likely several more. The official significant tornado count for the day is three F2's, an F3 and one F4. What makes it impressive in my book is the location of one cyclic supercell that produced at least three tornadoes in the Oklahoma Panhandle, extreme southeastern Colorado and eventually into western Kansas. The day's strongest tornado was one of these, a long-tracked F4 that struck farms and the western edge of Keyes in Cimarron County, Oklahoma before crossing into Baca County, Colorado. The supercell would also produce two F2 tornadoes: one in Cimarron County (which may have been a weaker twin to the F4), and a very long-tracked tornado that began near Elkhart, KS, remaining on the ground for over 117 miles per the official NCEI database. However, there are discrepancies with these F2 tornadoes. Grazulis does not list the Cimarron County F2 as a significant tornado and mentions the Kansas F2 tracked from 7 miles east of Richfield to the small town of Hickok, which would place the actual path length at right around 30 miles. The remainder of the 117.2 mile path likely consisted of separate, weaker tornadoes. Whatever the case, the parent supercell was likely a tornado producing machine and would have made for a huge chase day if it happened in 2024.

It's a shame this outbreak is so poorly documented as a whole, since the Cimarron to Baca County F4 was probably an F5 candidate and likely tied with Thurman (Thurman article on TornadoTalk) as a candidate for the strongest tornado in Colorado's history. The tornado reportedly produced Chapman-esque damage to vehicles and heavy farm machinery, tossing them up to half a mile and completely mangling them into unrecognizable heaps, with some equipment "disappearing completely". Pieces of a grain elevator from the western side of Keyes were found in Colorado on Walter Hamilton's property, a minimum of 13 miles away.

Unfortunately, no damage photographs were available on the internet to prove these feats... until today. I give a HUGE shout-out to Lexi from the Plainsman Herald, who graciously sent me the Herald's coverage of this tornado. These photos haven't been seen outside of Baca County for over 40 years, and it's time to shed some light on this event.

The Eskew farm in Baca County may have been the hardest hit location along the entire path. The tornado took everything except for the Eskews' home and one garage, both of which were severely damaged regardless. This is the site of a quonset hut that literally vanished along with whatever farm equipment was inside of it:
View attachment 23744

Another photo from the Eskew farm, with tractors and vehicles mangled together into a useless pile of scrap:
View attachment 23745

A few other mangled vehicles:
View attachment 23746
View attachment 23752

Tree damage:
View attachment 23751
View attachment 23753

A few other shots:
View attachment 23754
View attachment 23764

Unbelievably, considering how violent this tornado was, there were no fatalities or injuries anywhere along its 38.6 mile path.

Speaking of the Oklahoma side of the damage path, I've already gotten in touch with an individual at the Cimarron County Heritage Center. Don't have much yet besides the front page of The Boise City News issue covering the tornado, but I'll follow up to see if they have more damage photos. From what I do have though, a farm southwest of Keyes was hit, with two large oil tanks being rolled considerable distances. According to the article, one of these tanks was rolled a half mile while the other was rolled a full mile. If they have more damage photos (and I get permission to use them), there will be a Part 2 to this post.

As for the remaining significant tornadoes that occurred on May 18, there is one F2 and an F3 that touched down in Cherry County, Nebraska, likely produced by another cyclic supercell. However, Grazulis does not mention either of these as significant tornadoes. The Cherry County Historical Society may have something but I haven't tried contacting them as of yet.
6/8/1947 in Logan Co. is another candidate for CO.
 

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Map I made of the 9/21/1894 tornado outbreak. I constructed this map with the help of newspaper reports, plat maps, and general land office patents. It was an extremely violent outbreak for such a small area.
View attachment 23777
Have you shared this with Tornado Archive? Interested in how you broke up the paths here. This was one of the worst September tornado events on record in the US.
 

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6/8/1947 in Logan Co. is another candidate for CO.
Good point. Reading the Significant Tornadoes entry, Grazulis writes that 6/8/47 was "probably the largest and most intense Colorado tornado on record" - but again, damage imagery is completely lacking. Frustratingly, the main newspaper in Logan County (the Sterling Journal-Advocate) is owned by a massive media conglomerate, which makes contacting the paper directly way more difficult, and their archives only go back to 2001. The other newspaper, the South Platte Sentinel didn't even exist until 1988. Great start...

To be honest, after reading the SigTor entries for all six of the Colorado F4's, I think all but two (Johnstown 6/29/28 and Bent/Kiowa Co. 4/29/42) are potential F5 candidates. Even the 1942 event I wonder about, but the SigTor entry for it doesn't scream "F5 candidate" to me. There are a handful of photos available from the Johnstown event, and F4 is definitely the right call there.

Interestingly, one of the events in question is another tornado that struck Baca County on 6/8/1928, so maybe I can pester the Plainsman Herald some more to see if they can find anything on it.
 

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So, here's Part 2 of my May 18, 1977 post. Unfortunately, don't have as much to add from the Oklahoma side as I'd hoped for. The Cimarron Co. Heritage Center doesn't have any more damage photos in their archives beyond what they've already provided, and this is about the only image worth sharing. It's definitely one of the aforementioned oil tanks, though I'm not sure which one:
keyes1.png
I do give a HUGE thanks to the Heritage Center for allowing me to use what they provided.

Also, to alleviate any confusion from the Colorado side of the damage path, you'll note that some of the captions in the photos say "Cogburn farm". There's no error, it was a separate property from the Eskew farm and also one that was extremely hard hit. Grazulis mentions in the Significant Tornadoes entry for this event that "everything on two Colorado farms was destroyed" so he was likely referring to the Cogburn and Eskew farms.

Another interesting note from the tornado's trek in Baca County is that it seems to have "spared" (I use that term loosely) homes compared to what it did to vehicles, outbuildings and farm equipment. On both of the hardest hit farms, the farmhouses were a total loss but still had walls left standing. Reports from eyewitnesses from the Oklahoma side who saw the tornado's forming stages confirm it had a multiple-vortex structure - "one man said the funnel that did the damage in Keyes had originally been two tails that formed into one large one". Or, perhaps, a Hesston-Goessel type merger occurred here? We can only speculate.

Another interesting bit from the Boise City News article - "At least one eyewitness reported seeing seven funnels that afternoon". This gives credence to my theory that this one cyclic supercell likely produced many more tornadoes than the official numbers let on.
 
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So, here's Part 2 of my May 18, 1977 post. Unfortunately, don't have as much to add from the Oklahoma side as I'd hoped for. The Cimarron Co. Heritage Center doesn't have any more damage photos in their archives beyond what they've already provided, and this is about the only image worth sharing. It's definitely one of the aforementioned oil tanks, though I'm not sure which one:
View attachment 23794
I do give a HUGE thanks to the Heritage Center for allowing me to use what they provided.

Also, to alleviate any confusion from the Colorado side of the damage path, you'll note that some of the captions in the photos say "Cogburn farm". There's no error, it was a separate property from the Eskew farm and also one that was extremely hard hit. Grazulis mentions in the Significant Tornadoes entry for this event that "everything on two Colorado farms was destroyed" so he was likely referring to the Cogburn and Eskew farms.

Another interesting note from the tornado's trek in Baca County is that it seems to have "spared" (I use that term loosely) homes compared to what it did to vehicles, outbuildings and farm equipment. On both of the hardest hit farms, the farmhouses were a total loss but still had walls left standing. Reports from eyewitnesses from the Oklahoma side who saw the tornado's forming stages confirm it had a multiple-vortex structure - "one man said the funnel that did the damage in Keyes had originally been two tails that formed into one large one". Or, perhaps, a Hesston-Goessel type merger occurred here? We can only speculate.

Another interesting bit from the Boise City News article - "At least one eyewitness reported seeing seven funnels that afternoon". This gives credence to my theory that this one cyclic supercell likely produced many more tornadoes than the official numbers let on.
If only more places allowed easy access to archives like this!
 

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If only more places allowed easy access to archives like this!
Yeah, the Cimarron Heritage Center and Plainsman Herald were both extremely helpful as well as polite. Without them, there's no chance I would have ever been able to shed any light on this event.

The fact that both of them are truly independent, small companies/organizations definitely made things easier too. Contacting a paper that is owned by a massive conglomerate that owns hundreds of papers usually gets you nowhere, and even if it does they are far more likely to say "no, you can't use this" or force you to hand over a huge sum of cash in order to do so.

Speaking of which, I believe @locomusic01 pointed out in a previous post that Texas Tech does exactly that. They pretty much have Ted Fujita's entire life's work in their archives. Great! Want to use any of it, or even view anything? Drive to their campus and hand over an arm, a leg and some internal organs first.
 

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Yeah, the Cimarron Heritage Center and Plainsman Herald were both extremely helpful as well as polite. Without them, there's no chance I would have ever been able to shed any light on this event.

The fact that both of them are truly independent, small companies/organizations definitely made things easier too. Contacting a paper that is owned by a massive conglomerate that owns hundreds of papers usually gets you nowhere, and even if it does they are far more likely to say "no, you can't use this" or force you to hand over a huge sum of cash in order to do so.

Speaking of which, I believe @locomusic01 pointed out in a previous post that Texas Tech does exactly that. They pretty much have Ted Fujita's entire life's work in their archives. Great! Want to use any of it, or even view anything? Drive to their campus and hand over an arm, a leg and some internal organs first.
Yup. A small percentage of TTU's Fujita archive is digitized (though technically still not free to use in any meaningful way) but the vast majority of it is only accessible in person by appointment. I believe they lowered their fees a bit IIRC, but it'd still be prohibitively expensive if you wanted more than a couple photos/maps/papers. And as far as I know they still have the absurd policy that you can only scan/photograph 5% of the contents in any given folder.

It's always such a huge boost to find organizations that are actually helpful and want to share their collections.
 
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Yup. A small percentage of TTU's Fujita archive is digitized (though technically still not free to use in any meaningful way) but the vast majority of it is only accessible in person by appointment. I believe they lowered their fees a bit IIRC, but it'd still be prohibitively expensive if you wanted more than a couple photos/maps/papers. And as far as I know they still have the absurd policy that you can only scan/photograph 5% of the contents in any given folder.

It's always such a huge boost to find organizations that are actually helpful and want to share their collections.
Stuff like this is probably why tornadoes like Guin, Tanner and the like were so difficult to find information on until relatively recently. TornadoTalk is doing us a favor with all the info they have.
 
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