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Chase Day 10 - Bust but Steak (May 26)

From Oakley, Kansas we made our way into Nebraska towards North Platte. We knew the threat was marginal as there were still moisture and capping issues. However, if something could get going, we could be looking at a tornado threat. So we stopped in North Platte for food and to get the oil changed. Well, the "check engine" light came on on our vehicle! So we called the nearest dealership and they had closed a few hours earlier. They were able to direct us to another garage in town. So we called and the guy said, "I'm closed but still here so swing by and I'll take a look." The car was idling roughly. We stopped by and he hooked up the computer to the car and checked it over and said the vehicle was fine but asked if we had been in any "hodunk towns to get gas" and I say we've been in every tiny town to get gas that tornado alley has to offer! He suspects we just got some bad gasoline and the engine just needs to work it out. Amazing man, he didn't even charge us.

So we continued north a bit and ... nothing happened. We heard some thunder and got a couple of rain drops but that was it. We didn't have our "tornado steak" from seeing the tornadoes on May 25 so we went to a steakhouse in Kearney, Nebraska. 

We're now spending the night in Kearney and plan on chasing closer to the Kansas border tomorrow.

Goodnight from Kearney, Nebraska!

Update to Chase Day 

So the National Weather Service office in Dodge City, Kansas has rated the Rush County tornado that we saw an EF-2 with maximum width of 3/4 miles just north of La Crosse with a satellite tornado that did EF-1 damage to the town of La Crosse. 

Here is the NWS track map and I've placed our position during the tornado on it:

Now here are the radar images during the tornado with our position on it:

For more information visit here: NWS Dodge City

Also I've added new photo galleries, you can visit them here: Photography

 

Chase Day 9 - Night Time Tornadoes (May 25)

What a day! We started off the day in Emporia, Kansas with a 5% tornado risk from the Storm Prediction Center. Our target for the day was Rush Center, Kansas. So we made our way over to Great Bend, Kansas and hung out for a while. There was a massive chaser convergence in the town. Once the towers started to go up we relocated to Rush Center, Kansas where we met up with a ton of renound chasers including the father of storm chasing: David Hoadley.

A few towers went up and then one began to dominate. Brad was expressing concerns about us getting suckered north but it seemed to be the only storm so we headed for it. Unfortunately our route included dirt roads. The storm took on a very nice shape VERY quickly. It was moving a lot faster than anticipated and we got stuck in a hairy situation. The storm started putting down gustnadoes and we found ourself racing out of the path of one on a dirt road. We let the storm get a little ahead of us which was our error. At the same time a piece of tumbleweed barreled across the field and slammed into Scott and Dave's windshield. They now have a nice circular crack in the top corner. Irony? They hail hail guards covering the entire vehicle and tumbleweed is what cracks it?

After we got out of the way of the gustnadoes we saw that the most southern storm, "tail end Charlie" took on a beautiful shape. We booked it south and the middle storm was taking on a nice shape now. But we were determined to get on the southern storm. As we were approaching the southern storm we saw reports of tornadoes coming from the middle storm. Once we got on the southern storm is was very elevated so we sat and watched. 

Probably in about 5 minutes a wall cloud RAPIDLY formed right in front of us. We kept watching and the sun was setting. We repositioned slightly futher east and watched. Then we saw it, the first funnel trying ... then it retreated. Then again, another funnel, larger this time, then it retreated. By this time the light was fading and that when it happen: a very large cone tornado took shape in front of us. It slowly began to cross the road ahead of us and we watched in the fading light. We got some low contrast video except for in lightning strikes. Once it crossed the road we continued up the road SLOWLY behind it and saw the monster tornado that was headed for the town of La Crosse, Kansas. It was illuminated by lightning and was very large. We made it into the town of La Crosse and watched a lightning-lit tornado move northeast of the town. At the same time another meso was putting down a tornado to the east. Within the lightning strikes we could see two tornadoes at the same time. Incredibly scary. Here's a picture:

So far we've only heard of minor damage (a few power lines down and some tree damage). What a chase. We got in very late so we're going straight to bed.

Goodnight from Oakley, Kansas!

Chase Day 8 - Structure & Lightning (May 24)

Yawn ... Exhausted. We have been doing a TON of driving. 

We started the morning in Salina, Kansas and luckily we were close to our target area so we were able to sleep in a bit longer. We headed for a general target of Garnett, Kansas and waited. Most of the models were hinting at late-day initiation so we knew we had to be patient. The SPC outlined a larger tornado and storm risk in Minnesota and Wisconsin but we didn't want to chase there for several reasons: 

  1. The drive was way too far for us to make it there and back to central Plains for the day after.
  2. The storm motions were going to be very fast (in the 60-70 mph range) so would be very hard to chase.
  3. The terrain in Wisconsin is terrible for chasing: a lot of hills and trees.
  4. The storms would eventually form into a messy line making it, once again, very difficult to chase.

So we hung back and decided to play with our southern target. Sure enough by about 6:00pm we saw "blips" forming on radar. We repositioned to about the Lydon area and watched our cell grow. It wasn't taking on a classic supercell shape (visually or on radar) but was still showing broad signs of rotation. 

We repositioned again to get a better view and by that point the storm had taken on beautiful structure. So we sat and photographed the storm as the sun set and then we shot some lightning as well. We didn't get a tornado today but not every chase has to result in a tornado. Just seeing the incredible structure of the storms is sometimes enough.

We're all exhausted after the past few days of crazy driving so we're going to get to sleep. I'll post one picture below as a "tease" but I'll edit the rest tomorrow. We got some great video as well.

 

Chase Day 7 - Nebraska Bust (May 23)

We started the morning off in Valentine, Nebraska and decided to head south for some storm potential. We waited for storms around the Kearny / Lincoln area of Nebraska. The storms started to go up but just didn't have enough energy to break through the cap. To sum up - no storms for us. So we're spending the night in Salina, Kansas to set up for tomorrow's chase.