Saturday, 26 May 2012

Tornadoes in Kansas! May 25th summary

The day started drizzly and humid in Salina, Kansas. The SPC had issued a slight risk of severe thunderstorms, with a 5% risk to our west. Morning analysis and model guidance suggested the Great Bend - Hays - Russell triangle would likely be a good starting point, so we headed to Great Bend for lunch.

We spent a while at Subway - managed to Skype my Dad and Mum whilst there. We also met Scott McPartland, Dave Lewison, and the remainder of their chase team - it was great to chat. Stu Robinson also joined us so it was great to catch up with him too.

After a while, word came through that development was starting towards LaCrosse/Rush Center. We all parted company and generally headed that we. We headed north after a while as we wanted to make sure we remained ahead of the developing storm, and not let it get away to our north.

We played around for a while with this storm, observing numerous outflow vortices (known as gustnadoes by many chasers). We also caught sight of a dusty tornado to our north.

After a while it became apparent that this storm was crossing the warm front and starting to look less interesting, at least to us. We paused somewhere south-west of Russell, Kansas. The next storm in the line was throwing out plenty of CGs and we watched as a wall cloud developed to our west. However, this became ragged after a while so we started to head south as a much bigger storm had developed back down towards LaCrosse (the tail-end storm). As we did so, we noticed another very flat, well-defined updraught base to our west. This began to develop a wall cloud, so we paused to watch. We repositioned and got sight of a brief tornado before it dissipated. We then watched for a while longer as the main updraught continued to move north-east. However, the previous low-level mesocyclone was not done. As it started to drift westwards, it suddenly wrapped up and generated a stunning tornado directly down the road. We got several shots which were reminiscent of some of my earliest ideas of Great Plains tornadoes might look: a line of poles down the side of the road, with the tornado in the distance.

It then roped out in an orangey sky, as the sun set.

Thunder was now booming to our south-west, so we continued to drop south to intercept the next storm, which was already producing tornadoes. We stopped to watch it for a while, about 15-18 miles to the north-east. The thunder was incredible - enormous distant explosions, which seemed to shake the very earth.

After a while we decided to drop south and then head west. As we closed in on the mesocyclone we stopped, and observed 3 tornadoes develop in reasonably quick succession. It was after dark by now.

After these had gone we headed to Hays for the night, although had to negotiate some slippery dirt roads as LaCrosse has sadly suffered damage and we couldn't go through the town. We only passed through this little place a few days ago.

Below are a few pics. Video of rope-out here -

Observing initial supercell

Initial supercell

Tornado from occluded low-level mesocyclone develops

My childhood vision of a tornado, with poles

Stunning ropeout


Almost gone

Developing cone tornado east of LaCrosse after dark

Stovepipe-type tornado east of LaCrosse after dark


  1. Wow! Super pictures. Well done. Any damage to property?

  2. I think the rope tornado damaged a house, and then larger tornadoes after dark near LaCrosse did some damage too, sadly.