- Associated Press - Friday, January 6, 2017

ALTON, Kan. (AP) - Alton residents Mark and Shannon Holling were sitting down, about to eat lunch, shortly before noon Christmas Day when they heard strong winds.

Mark Holling tells the Salina Journal (https://bit.ly/2iwBHL6 ) he went outside, and the wind was blowing debris and “objects onto our porch.”

Oddly enough, a tornado was wreaking havoc - a rare occurrence in December.

The tornado formed shortly before noon, and its wind speeds reached about 85 mph.

The tornado was as wide as 50 yards, according to the National Weather Service office in Hastings, Nebraksa.

Holling said his family was not prepared.

“The only warning we had was the wind hitting our home and objects flying on our porch. After that, we went to the basement,” he said. “It did a little bit of roof damage, damaged the soffits and did quite a bit of tree damage. It also completely destroyed our utility shed.”

He said he kept gardening tools in the shed, such as weed-eaters and chain saws.

The tornado also damaged a bulk bin feeder and knocked over a 300-gallon fuel tank and fencing belonging to the Holling family.

Holling said everything was insured. The family was waiting for an insurance adjuster to look at the property before beginning cleanup.

“It kind of made for a long Christmas, but it didn’t completely ruin our day,” he said.

Mike Moritz, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said the tornado began about 11:45 a.m. about 4 1/2 miles northwest of Alton. In addition to the damage at the Holling residence, it caused damage to trees and fencing prior to reaching the Holling home.

The tornado was classified as EF-0, the lowest classification for a tornado, and lasted about three minutes, Moritz said. Tornadoes rated EF-0 have wind speeds ranging from 65 to 85 mph.

“It was a very windy day and there were lots of thunderstorms moving into that area around the noon hour,” Moritz said. “The temperature was in the lower 60s, which is typically spring weather. With the energy, temperature and thunderstorms all setting in at that time, it was the right conditions at the right time for a tornado. It was a very light tornado, for tornado standards.”

Osborne County Emergency Management Director Don Snyder said he had no other reports of tornadoes or storm damage.

“There were reports of high winds, but that’s about it,” he said.

The Christmas Day tornado was the eighth to occur in Kansas in December since 1950, Moritz said.

The highest-rated December tornado, an F-2, occurred in 1959 west of Talmage in Dickinson County.

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Information from: The Salina (Kan.) Journal, https://www.salina.com

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