Recently in Funnel Cloud Category

Our May 24th chase started out in Shamrock, OK. We got a really good rate at the Shamrock Country Inn—it was clean, new beds, recently refurbished by a motivated new owner. The doors are a bit sticky, but I can definitely recommend it.

We made our way north, looking for likely spots for storm initiation along the dryline or intersecting boundaries from the Oklahoma Panhandle up into southwest Kansas.

Backroad scenery in the Oklahoma Panhandle between Logan and Slapout.

Indian blanket flowers east of Slapout, OK.

Eventually, satellite imagery showed the cumulus field getting more agitated north of Englewood, KS. This gave us a chance to drive through Englewood and revisit a view we had over four years ago when we chased a lonely, low-topped LP supercell north of town (14 March 2012). I noticed Stephen Locke—another storm chaser whosephotography I admire—filling up at the gas pump. I had a chance to say hi before moving on to the growing towers to the north.

Silos and developing towers from Englewood, KS. [2102Z]

We made our way to about six miles west of Ashland and shot time lapse of the building towers to see what would take hold. The one I was shooting wound up gaining strength and we headed off to watch it develop.

Vorticity and random high-based funnels showing up in the developing cumulus field. [2138Z]

The storm of the day looms in the distance—west of Ashland, KS. [2156Z]

Roads were dry and in pretty good shape, so we stayed off the main highways for hopefully more unique perspectives and less crowds. It worked out pretty well. As we got about eight miles east-southeast of Minneola, the storm was developing a wall cloud that looked like it had potential.

Traveling the dirt roads but avoiding the dicier ones. [2238Z]

Wall cloud developing in the base of our rapidly strengthening supercell near Minneola, KS. [2240Z]

I hated to leave our spot in case it put down a brief tornado while we were on the move, but we needed to keep up. We made our way north and by the time we were a couple miles north of Bloom, the tendrils dropping out of the wall cloud looked pretty imminent. So we stopped in time to capture a developing condensation funnel touch down for our first tornado of the day. It turned out to be a great spot, with enough altitude to capture some intervening countryside as the silhouetted funnel danced and twisted against a distant tree line. We were about 12 miles away at this point, but the view was great. We hung out at this spot for nearly 15 minutes as it grew in size. At one point I was thinking that this must be how Rozel looked in silhouette—apparently this one is being referred to as Rozel #2 by some :)

Condensation funnel of the first tornado reaches for the ground. [2301Z]

Tornado #1 churns in silhouette west of Minneola—about 12 miles from our location. [2303Z]

Inflow tugs at my daughter and chase partner as the first tornado strengthens north of Minneola. [2308Z]

Tornado #1 bulks up as it moves northward. [2313Z]

We eventually had to keep moving to stay with the storm. While repositioning, the original tornado began to occlude behind a haze of precipitation. My daughter asked if there was a different tornado forming further to the right. Sure enough, a thin rope had descended from the fresher wall cloud while the previous tornado was still in progress. This was our first tornado pair. I hate to call them twins, because the emaciated second one wasn't even close in appearance to the first—more like the mole that shows up on the stronger twin when it absorbs its sibling I guess.

Tornado #1 occludes while whisker-thin tornado #2 reaches down to the right. [2321Z]

About seven miles south of Dodge City and still on the dirt roads, we found a really good spot to watch as a new tornado took on Rozel-like proportions as a thin rope tornado flicked around on the east edge of the elongated wall cloud. There may even have been another tornado intertwined with that rope, but from my perspective I couldn't tell if it was just extra scud tendrils. The view of the main tornado at this point was spectacular. We were further south of it, so now it had some side lighting and showed a lot of dimension. We hung out at this spot for another 13 minutes or so before heading off to the dreaded main highway. (Rain was starting to effect the area and I didn't want to get us stuck in the mud.)

Tornado #3 gains strength while at least one rope—tornado #4—reaches down at far right. [2330Z]

A wider view of tornado #3 as it is southwest of Dodge City and about 10 miles to our northwest. [2331Z]

Tornado #3 taking on Rozel characteristics. [2332Z]

A wide view of tornado #3 as seen from about 7 miles south of Dodge City. [2333Z]

Wide view of the second pair of tornadoes we observed. [2335Z]

A wide structure view as the storm feigns being tornado-less. [2338Z]

Ropeout of tornado #3 rematerializes while its parent supercell continues northward. [2338Z]

Closer view of tornado #3 ropeout. Wall cloud at right is producing ground circulation—not sure if it's a continuation of tornado #4. [2339Z]

Hwy 283 was about as insane as I was worried it would be—absolutely packed with chasers and locals. Despite how crowded it was, most everyone was driving, parking and loitering in an orderly fashion. We parked at a couple spots to get photos as a fifth tornado morphed into various forms—barrel/multi-vortex/cone/elephant trunk/rope—west of Dodge City. We took the highways around the east side of the city, watching as the #5 occluded and roped out while a new, sixth tornado descended from the apex of a wasp-nest shaped meso. The highway was at a decent elevation, so we had pretty good views of the action north of the city as we made our way around. By the time we got northeast of Dodge, the sixth tornado had sprouted a satellite rope funnel of its own—video from other chasers shows this in contact with the ground as well, so—tornado number seven.

One of the many forms of tornado #5 as it was moving northwest of Dodge City—as seen from Hwy 283, about 9 miles away. [0002Z]

Ropeout sequence of tornado #5 as we navigated the east side of Dodge City. [0004-0008Z]

Tornado #5 occludes while tornado #6 drops north of Dodge City. [0010Z]

Tornado #6 sports a satellite, tornado #7 north of Dodge City—about 9 miles to our northwest. [0016Z]

By this time, new supercells were encroaching from the south it looked like our original cell was jogging to the east. So to avoid getting pinched, we bailed out to the east and made a half-hearted attempt to get on some other tornado warned cells east of Kinsley. That wound up seeming like more effort than it was worth, especially after the spectacle we just experienced, so we hung out for a while just west of Lewis on Hwy 50 and grabbed sunset photos.

One of the DOW vehicles samples a different storm east of Kinsley. [0109Z]

Sunset lights up the cold west flank of a passing supercell east of Kinsley. [0134Z]

Sunset and flooded back roads east of Kinsley. [0144Z]

A fire rages south of Lewis—presumably lightning caused. [0150Z]

A spectacular roll cloud sporting Kelvin-Helmholtz waves drifts by west of Lewis, KS. [0215Z]

After the stunning sunset, we headed back to Dodge City for dinner and a hotel for the night. While eating dinner, Arizona storm chasers Adri Mozeris, Trey Greenwood and Corbin Jaeger stopped by to say hi and we got a chance to talk about all the unbelievable things we had seen that afternoon.

Throughout our chase, I'm pretty sure we observed seven tornadoes, where two were on the ground at the same time on four occasions. I'm still having trouble believing we actually witnessed all of this. Other chasers reported seeing on the order of twelve tornadoes. So the numbers in my account don't represent the actual sequence of tornadoes on the storm—just the ones we saw ourselves. Like the Rozel/Sanford tornadoes, I could be convinced that what I counted as two tornadoes may have been continuations—where say one of the thin ropes seemed to disappear, but may have actually still been stirring up ground circulation before turning into a larger tornado later. I'll update things if I find out differently.

Chase map for the day — 24 May 2016

Close up chase map showing photo locations and approximate tornado locations.

Zoomable/interactive chase map



Video highlights from the chase

NOAA Dodge City Tornado Survey — 24 May 2016

I had my eye on potential for this setup in the days leading up to an annual visit to Elk City. I headed out about 7AM with an initial check-in target at Hope, Arkansas.

Crossing the threshold on Hwy 70

I wasn’t sure I’d ever take the plunge into chasing Arkansas, but after working on my chase map last year I had a better idea where potentially decent chase terrain/road network would be. I also spent the night before studying how highway/secondary roads would play out with northeast moving storms. Even the heavily treed areas (outside the mountains) still have patches of farmland where some peeks can be taken. I had resolved to stay far ahead of storms as long as I was in the heavy trees. Turns out I didn't need to mess around with them in the thicker areas. I figured I had time to shoot some landscape photos on the way—southwest Arkansas is beautiful.

Hwy 371 and Prairie Creek - Howard County

Outbuilding along Hwy 371 - Howard County

Fenceline along Hwy 278 in Washington, AR

Once I got to Hope about 2:30PM, I knew I had to keep moving. Convection was initiating and I was going to be in the middle of it instead of out ahead.

I made my way through Camden, Fordyce, and then to Star City where I was far enough ahead of the developing line of storms to figure out the best option. I wanted tail-end-charlie in the southernmost batch of convection—closest to better moisture before the cap pinched the line off. At 2230Z, the southernmost convection was about 30 miles to my west near Fordyce. There would be clearer views in farmland just to my east, so I headed that way and looked for a good intercept spot along AR-11 about 3 miles south of Grady.

Reflectivity at 2238Z

Fields and farm roads were flooded everywhere, so I knew any use of the road grid was out of the question. Paved roads were dense enough to get within 5 miles of anything in the area, with the main issue being river crossings for the Arkansas River spaced about 35-40 miles apart at Little Rock, Pine Bluff and Pendleton. The end cell did me a lot of favors and strengthened nicely as it approached. The flooded fields made for some interesting photography options that I wasn’t planning for.

Tail end cell approaching on AR11 - 2239Z

As the rain free base moved closer, I could finally see that RFD was carving out a glowing hole punctuated by a wall cloud with nice tendrils and rising motion.

Rain free base sturdying up with rising scud - 2306Z

Lightning strike poses with my time lapse and video setup - 2315Z

Wall cloud taking shape across flooded fields - 2322Z

Closer view of rotating wall cloud - 2322Z

It was far enough off that I had plenty of time to set up for time lapse and lightning shots as it moved in. As the cell got more to my north, RFD finally punched a huge skylight in the base. A line of trees was blocking my view somewhat, so I raced about a half mile up the road and did another quick setup to watch events unfold.

Looking up AR-11 as RFD cuts open the rain free base - 2330Z

I got video and still cameras tripoded up for shots just seconds before a noodle slipped out of the wall cloud and made contact (2335Z). The fact that I just broke a three year tornado drought with an Arkansas tornado was freaking me out. The seemingly imminent grief of chasing Arkansas with trees, vegetation and flooding actually made for the best tornado photos I’ve gotten so far.

Funnel reaching for the ground - 2334Z

Funnel making contact - 2334Z

Evidence of debris - 2336Z

Arkansas tornado over flooded fields - 2338Z

While I was snapping away, a couple drove up in a car, motioning for me to come over. Trusting that the video camera was doing its job, I headed over to find them in Heightened-Awareness-Mode (understandably), fumbling with a cell phone trying to show me a picture of a tornado that just touched down, and how careful I needed to be. It took a few tries before they understood that, yes, I was actually trying to take pictures of it right now. Meanwhile my unattended SLR & tripod had blown over and face planted into the soil while I wasn’t watching. So as they took off, I ran back, lamented my fallen camera, unscrewed the thank-goodness-for-that UV filter and kept shooting.

Inflow winds and the toppling of a camera

Still can’t believe I’m watching a tornado over this waterscape - 2340Z

The tornado roped out about 9 minute after it touched down and I took off for the Pendleton river crossing.

Starting to rope out - 2341Z

Last bits of the rope out - 2343Z

I couldn’t catch back up or get in good position to catch some newer convection to the south, so I tried for parting lightning shots that didn’t turn out any good. After that, I crossed the Mississippi at Helena and boondocked along US 61 before heading north for the March 15th setup.

Reflectivity and Velocity at 2335Z

As I downloaded my photo and video media, something didn't seem right about my video footage—there wasn't enough of it. As I dug into it, I came to the terrible realization that I had the video camera in pause mode during the entire 9 minute tornado sequence. The anguish is making my guts clench as I type this. I had that video framed and focused perfectly the entire time. But I guess I was juggling too much photography and planning the next move to get everything right. I keep working on the fact that I got a lot of good still shots and just a tidbit of the first touchdown on the far edge of my dashcam video.

Not realizing at this crazy moment that the video camera (bottom center) is not recording — ouch

Chase Map - 13 March 2016

Photography locations for approaching supercell and tornado

Although this tornado is not plotted on the SPC Storm Reports for 13 March 2016, it is documented here: NWS DAMAGE SURVEY FOR THE 03/13/2016 TORNADO EVENT

This was the craziest and best chase of our five-day trip. After overnighting in the car near Wray, we headed back to a target area east of Denver and spent about an hour with a storm that struggled south of Strasburg. I was unsure about veered wind profiles downstream in the deeper moisture, especially noting SPC guidance that storms would probably tend to grab supercell structures early on before lining out. And that's kind of what this storm was doing. It had joined some friends and wound up on the south end of a mushy line of storms moving to the east and northeast by 21Z. And it appeared to be weakening after that.

Developing storm south of Strasburg || 2020Z

Storm struggling south of Byers || 2045Z

So I let it go, figuring I didn't want to waste energy on eventual garbage. Not a good idea, as it turns out. But I was worn out and feeling kind of sorry for myself about missing the Simla storm a couple days earlier and not seeing so much as a cold air funnel on anything yet. As we sat in a spot with horrible data for accessing current radar, I figured the whole day was probably destined to be a wreck of grungy, linear convection. To show how miserable I was making myself, I even mulled the idea of heading into Denver to catch a movie so the whole day wouldn't be a complete disappointment.

South end of line of convection moving away || 2135Z

I probably spent a good twenty minutes in my pity party, facing west, watching sad blobs of convection trying to get going over I-20. When I finally turned back 180 degrees, to my immense shock, the departing storm had separated from its linear friends and blossomed into an enormous, incredible mushroom cloud on the eastern horizon. My self pity turned to shock and then anguish. It seemed too far gone to catch up to. I had been re-defeated.

Sudden, explosive convection south of Last Chance || 2200Z

I'm not sure what kind of soliloquy I was rendering at that moment, but my daughter finally decided it needed to stop. With simple optimism: "We should try to catch it anyway." I love that kid. I'm glad she said it and glad I listened to her. We hopped on I-70 and made our way eastward. The whole time I was working the math of two moving targets and the time/location of intercept. If only the storm would stay interesting that long.

RFD and wall cloud as we approached Bethune || 2345Z

We finally caught up to it near Stratton with decent wall cloud and RFD action ongoing. Then we got ahead of it a couple miles north of Burlington. There was a sleek, saucer shaped lowering on the original meso with a new base forming to its south. I'm not sure whether that bell-shaped base was receding behind its own RFD curtain or if it was getting hidden by the developing forward flank of the new updraft. Either way, it was the greatest view of a meso handoff I've had so far.

Saucer shaped base north of Burlington || 0000Z

Meso handoff in progress north of Burlington || 0005Z

We were in good position on a fantastic road grid with an easy-moving storm, so the photo ops were excellent. At one stop, the new base was looking particularly awesome and I stopped to grab shots while the video camera was running. It wasn't until reviewing video later that I realized a cold air funnel had been twisting around for a couple minutes on the west side of the base.

New base northeast of Burlington || 0015Z

Cold air/shear funnel behind rain free base || 0013-0016Z

We paralleled the storm as it moved eastward. An RFD surge carved an inverted soft-serve ice cream cone into the base at one point. Not ten minutes after that, a glance out the window revealed a beautiful funnel whirling away inside some sort of strange RFD eddy on the south edge of the storm. We pulled over quickly to hop out and get shots. Time was of the essence, so we didn't wind up with the best foreground elements for photos. That issue took a back seat to the fact that we were standing on the side of the road looking up as a gorgeous funnel stared us down. Turning around to find my daughter embracing the outflow topped this off as the best storm chase turnaround ever.

RFD carving the base northeast of Burlington || 0025Z

Funnel and core between Burlington and Kanorado || 0035Z

My daughter embracing the outflow as the funnel dwindles || 0035Z

By now, the storm had fallen too far behind the expanding outflow boundaries and started to wither away. So, we paused to photograph an idyllic farmscape south of Kanorado. Then we enjoyed the view of an inbound gust front moving in from Colorado before calling it a night at a comfy hotel in Goodland.

Farmstead southeast of Kanorado || 0120Z

Gust front moving in south of Kanorado || 0150Z

Storms of 2015

2015 went down as another year without a tornado. However, awesome weather was still in abundance, and I got to enjoy some exhilarating storms with at least one gorgeous, white funnel that stared us down between Burlington, Colorado and Kanorado, Kansas.

This year I put a lot more effort into tracking down mesocyclone potential in Arizona and wound up with some beauties. Three of them were solid, daylight examples of Arizona supercells, with deep rotation lasting over an hour. A couple more nocturnal supercells hid their structure behind terrain and darkness while other daylight examples of rotating storms were more transient and weak—but still fascinating during their brief, messy lives.

This is a video and time lapse compilation some of the amazing storms I chased and photographed across the high plains and Arizona in 2015.

Storms of 2015

Music:
Beautiful Shapes by Louis Romanos Quartet
Forgotten Shore by Dhruva Aliman
beatpick.com

The trough that led to the amazing Rozel, Kansas tornadoes on May 18th, 2013 was positioned to support another round of severe weather on the 19th. Dew points were reaching into the upper 60s into eastern Kansas and Oklahoma. With steep mid-level lapse rates, mixed layer cape levels were heading over 3000 J/KG. Ample shear was in place to support supercells. The exit region of an advancing speed max ended up giving further support to strong, widespread convection over eastern Kansas.

An outflow boundary was positioned just south of the Oklahoma-Kansas border. With the advancing dryline, these two would help focus storm initiation and increased tornado potential along the outflow boundary.


  • 500 MB

  • Synoptic

  • Surface Obs/DP

  • MLCAPE

  • 0-6km Shear

  • 300 MB/Divergence

I chose to begin my chase further north in Kansas because I anticipated Oklahoma storms along the boundary would propagate into difficult chase territory and storms further south along the dryline would enter dense urban areas along the I-35 corridor.

Storms ended up erupting in two clumps: one area from east-central to south-central Kansas, and another pretty much right over the OKC metro area.

21Z Visible Satellite


  • 21Z / Oxford Storm

  • 23Z / Newkirk Storm

  • 01Z / Maple City Storm

Video documentary of the chase.

Thematic spot to park and check data south of Moline, Kansas (1800Z)

As storms matured, I made my way toward a cell approaching Oxford, Kansas. By the time I was positioned east of Oxford, the storm was HP and had a tornado warning. The look of the storm was incredibly menacing. The forward flank was lofting a ragged, low shelf that had the train-like appearance of an inflow tail as it led into the sealed notch between forward and rear flanks. Positive lightning strikes were landing just ahead of it and casting off fearsome canon-shots of thunder.

Reflectivity and position near Oxford, Kansas (2133Z)

Approaching forward flank (2133Z)

Positive charge lightning strikes ahead of the Oxford HP Supercell.

The green rear flank rolls northeastward along the heavy forward flank of the Oxford HP Supercell.

As the green RFD curtain approached, like it was rolling along the gears of the forward flank, I repositioned three miles further east. From this new spot, I witnessed the spectacle of rapid circulation developing in the rain free base just ahead of the FFD/RFD notch as a new RFD seemed to push out, trying to get ahead of the occlusion. The established RFD was moving in quick, so I had to abandon that spot and drive east to stay ahead. So I wasn't in position to see the tornado that was reported 6 minutes later about 6 miles northeast of that spot.

Circulation developing in the rain free base just ahead of the Oxford HP Supercell.

About that time, the Oxford storm started to congeal with others and form into a severe squall line. This convinced me to work my way southward to stay out of the mess and look for opportunities with any isolated storms on the tail end of the squall line. I had some pretty impressive views of the advancing line as I headed south.

Massive gust front on a congealing squall line from Winfield, Kansas (2158Z)

Another gaping gust front as seen from 4 miles south of Arkansas City, Kansas (2242Z)
A brief rope tornado was reported 1 mile north of Arkansas City about 17 minutes later.

I eventually wound up on an isolated supercell near Newkirk, Oklahoma. I was able to hang out for a half hour in that spot and watch it approach. RFD was working its way into the base and encouraging a slender wall cloud to inhale scud, but it just wasn't strengthening. I was also concerned about the quality of roads to my east, so I let it go. It picked up a tornado warning not long after.

Reflectivity and position near Newkirk, Oklahoma (2304Z)

RFD cuts into the rain free base of a supercell 3 miles north of Newkirk, Oklahoma (2311Z)

Scud rises into an anemic wall cloud on the Newkirk supercell (2313Z)

RFD and wall cloud on the Newkirk supercell (2316Z)

Since new development still seemed likely, I decided to give the farm roads to the east a try. They were a lot better than I thought--pretty rocky actually--so I spent over an hour navigating north and east as I watched a very thin line of convection do pretty much nothing exciting stormwise, but did make for an excellent sunset display.

Tail end of a line of convection on the Kansas-Oklahoma border (2357Z)

After finally getting back onto a paved road, back into Kansas, I noticed a severe-warned storm, moving up out of Oklahoma. I tried racing south to get ahead of it, but couldn't manage it. After it passed, I did get to sift through its wake and picked up hail as large as 3 inches along the roadside about 7 miles east of Maple City, Kansas.

Collection of large hail (0130Z)

Three inch hail near Maple City, Kansas (0130Z)

Three inch hail near Maple City, Kansas (0130Z)

My first contribution to an SPC storm report.

So, no tornadoes, but definitely some awesome sights on this chase. The dynamics near Oxford were unforgettable, and even though I missed seeing the tornado, I had an amazing perspective on that storm.

May 19, 2013 Chase Map

SPC Storm Reports - May 19, 2013

Links to more chase accounts from May 19, 2013:

This was the third day of a week-long trip to the plains and the first heightened possibility for strong supercells.

The setup featured a negatively tilted upper level trough over the western US that put southwesterly flow over the plains. This led to the formation of a surface low over southwest Kansas with a dryline draping from the low down through the panhandles. Rich moisture being advected into the area on southeast surface winds brought dewpoints in the mid to upper 60s through the southern and central plains and up to 70 degrees into Kansas. All the moisture and heating coupled with steep lapse rates led to mixed layer cape values in the extreme range from 3 to 4 thousand j/kg.


  • 500 MB

  • Synoptic

  • Surface Obs/DP

  • MLCAPE

With these conditions in place, agitated cumulus began to develop along the dryline and north of the surface low, and by mid afternoon storms were firing in eastern Colorado and northwest Kansas.

21Z Visible Satellite

A shortwave ejecting over the panhandles and Kansas by mid to late afternoon along with strong heating along the dryline helped convection overcome the strong cap and develop further south along the dryline. By 7 to 8 pm, deep layer shear had reached 40 to 50 knots along a corridor from northeast Colorado to west central Kansas. Low level storm relative helicity also ramped up with the strengthening low level jet, reaching 200 m2/sec2. The combination of adequate deep layer shear and storm relative helicity combined with extreme instability led to supercells capable of producing tornadoes.


  • 500 MB Shortwave Trough

  • 23Z Satellite

  • 0-6km Shear

  • 0-1km SRH

My initial target was the vicinity of Ashland in far south Kansas. After noting where development was occurring along the dryline, I moved up to southwest of Greensburg and waited for convection along this section of the dryline to take off. I followed a cell that finally started to strengthen southeast of Spearville. And it eventually produced two tornadoes near Rozell and Sanford.


  • 20Z Satellite

  • 01Z Satellite

Video documentary of the chase.

Overnight spot south of McCook Nebraska (1300Z)

After car camping for the night, south of McCook Nebraska, I made my way south through Kansas, toward my initial target near the Oklahoma border. Along the way, I took advantage of a few photo opportunities. As I drove down one farm road, looking for a secluded spot to brush my teeth, wash my face and do a Clark Kent clothing swap—because I’m Super that way—and I ran across this blaze of yellow flowers beneath a series of wind turbines. It’s hard to capture how striking that was in a photograph, but here you go:

Turbines and flowers near Cimmaron, Kansas (1700Z)

Skies were clearing the further south I went, and really priming the atmosphere for storms later in the afternoon. As I cruised along the dryline from Ashland towards Greensburg, towers started going up. And then dying...leaving behind a bunch of sad orphan anvils that were drifting away in disappointment.

The past couple days, I had been working on being conscious of foreground elements to complement the sky in any photographs. It’s so easy to see this awesome sky and shoot with a bland, flat foreground that you don’t notice how boring it is until later when you’re processing images. So: mailboxes, wind turbines, farmsteads, any given stand of trees...I took them where I could get them. (Doesn’t mean my heat-of-the-moment tornado & funnel photos always benefited from decent composition...see down the page.)

Convection developing along the dryline (2045Z)

Mailboxes and dryline convection (2052Z)

Little House on the Dryline (2057Z)

Finally a cell managed to outwit the cap near Spearville and the chase was on.

Developing supercell near Spearville, Kansas (2205Z)

As I made my way east of Kinsley, the cell started to get rooted into the boundary layer. And now we finally had a nice looking supercell with structure that really started to beef up. It had a bit of the mothership flavor to it. The way I see it, this is a Star Trek (The Next Generation) model dropping down out of the clouds. And because after the J. J. Abrams’ reboot, Federation Starships goof around in the atmosphere these days like it weren’t nothin’ but a thing.



Panoramas of the supercell near Offerle, Kansas (2310-2318Z)

I was working the dirt roads as much as possible, which turned out pretty nice as long as I was paralleling the storms. (I didn’t get too comfy with those roads though when things were more inbound.) As I was driving north on 50th Avenue, about 4 miles west of Kinsley, I was surprised to see a little shear funnel up in the vault. It was very persistent and lasted several minutes.



Shear funnel in the vault (2326Z)

As I jogged along, north and east, trying to stay a bit ahead of the storm, I drove past what looked like the Storm Rider crew with their contingent.

Storm Riders crew (2342Z)

RFD was making various attempts at nudging into the base when another cell popped up and started encroaching from the south. I wasn’t sure if it was going to wreck the leading cell or which base to focus on. So I split the difference and got a bit behind the lead cell I was originally pacing.

Cell merger under way (2345Z)

The lead cell ended up eating the trailing cell, and then it really took off. The RFD started making a major push and digging a deep pocket into the rain free base. Rotation started ramping up behind the clear slot and it was looking pretty imminent.

Rotating wall cloud south of Rozel, Kansas (0021Z)

About 5 miles southwest of Rozel, it started winding up a funnel that gradually made its way to the ground and grew into a sturdy, long-lived tornado spinning away behind a remarkably clear RFD slot.

Developing condensation funnel (0025Z)

Rozel tornado fully condenses (0029Z)







Rozel tornado (0032-0033Z)

After photographing and filming it for several minutes, it started to dissipate. So, I moved up to keep pace, and noticed a new funnel condensing and then roping back out. This was actually still the original circulation, which was apparently still on the ground, and more of a last, condensational hurrah.

Rozel tornado ropes out (0050Z)

I made my way further east on L Road, another hefty funnel appeared to my northeast, near Sanford. Light was starting to fade and it was backed by its forward flank. So contrast was low, and camera noise was high. I sampled some frames from the video where lightning helped silhouette the tornado. It was interesting to watch the axis of the tornado move counterclockwise around the larger meso circulation. So it was drifting westward for a while before running its cycloid pattern back eastward.







Sanford tornado (0102-0104Z)

Sanford tornado panorama (0107Z)

It eventually started to rope out and bend back way to the west, lit by purple, turquoise and orange twilight colors. There’s so much going on—I wish I’d have popped the camera on a tripod and gotten a decent low-ISO exposure. As it is, still lots of high-ISO noise so I could go hand-held.



Weakening tornadic funnel drifts west of Sanford, Kansas (0110Z)

Just when I thought it was done, I called my wife to see how things were going and talk about everything I had just seen. While talking on the phone, this floating earthworm of a funnel suddenly popped into view, off to the northwest. Just this cool little disembodied funnel twisting around, way west of its parent storm. Circulation was still on the ground as it drifted westward before finally winking out.



Sanford tornado ropeout

Sunset cloudscape over Sanford, Kansas

Unfortunately, a home and a couple farm buildings were damaged by the tornadoes; thankfully however, there were no injuries. It was an amazing spectacle. Slow storm speeds. Clear RFD. Incredible structure and an assortment of tornado morphologies. If only the next two days had worked out that way...

May 18, 2013 Chase Map

SPC Storm Reports - May 28, 2013

Links to more chase accounts from May 18, 2013:

On Thursday night, May 20, we took I-40 from Flagstaff to Albuquerque and then headed north on I-25. We grabbed sleep at rest stops and off ramps along the way. By noon, we were bogged down in traffic in the heart of Denver (what a mess). I figure we lost about an hour trying to pierce the heart of the city instead of taking one of the outside routes.

North of the city, we had a bite to eat at Wendy's while strongly sheared cumulus tried to pierce the CAP along the front range. The tough part was trying to decide where initiation would take off. Decent CAPE, shear, and a frontal boundary were setting up in southeast Wyoming, so we got back on I-25 and headed north. As we approached Cheyenne, Wyoming, radar showed cells getting healthy along I-25, further north near Wheatland. One cell pulled its act together and started peeling away to the east-northeast. In an attempt to parallel and get ahead from the south, we broke northeast on Hwy 85 toward Torrington and Lingle.

As we approached Torrington, the supercell dominated the sky to the north like a great hen roosting over her clutch with features gradually resolving along the base.

As we entered Torrington and headed toward Lingle on US-85, trees and buildings demolished our view, however, upon clearing some trees about 00Z, we got a sudden and stunning view of a wall cloud and what appeared to be a funnel silhouetted to the northwest. When in silhouette, it's not possible to determine rotation, so at the time, all we could do was film it and see if we could catch up.

Video frame grabs:

The SPC report later confirmed two tornado touchdowns northwest of Lingle at 23:55Z and 00:01Z. So I'm confident that the feature we saw was indeed a funnel--whether it was a tornado at the time we saw and filmed it, I couldn't say.

We took US-85 north of Lingle, and caught fractured glimpses of the disintegrating wall cloud between otherwise stunning, hilly terrain. When we finally caught up to it, the wall cloud was gone, although the base was still slowly rotating. A deep, turquoise light emerged from within.

Road options were seriously limited, so we couldn't follow this one as it tracked to the northeast. So we continued north on US-85 as other storms erupted.

North of Lusk on US-85, we drove beneath an enormous, beautifully lit shelf cloud.

Click to view panorama (Quicktime required).

This time lapse video shows motion of the shelf cloud and lowered inflow base:

Illumination beneath this storm was surreal and bathed the Wyoming landscape with a dream-like light.

After nightfall, we spent some time in Lusk, looking for a good place to stay the night and getting pelted with nickel and some quarter sized hail. Every room in Lusk was taken, so we drove on to Chadron, Nebraska and tried to rest up for our next day in South Dakota.

SPC Report for May 21, 2010

Chase Vacation Reports