April 29 2010 Hollenberg Kansas Tornado

Feb 27, 2012


Left Omaha and targeted area near Nebraska City unsure where exactly storms would fire. Intercepted storms near the KS/NE border documenting one weak tornado but incredible structure. Core punched with hail up to quarter size and got blasted by RFD soaking all equipment leading to malfunctions. Called it a chase once storms were north of us due to extreme storm speeds which made keeping up difficult, headed back to Omaha for the night. A well rounded, fun chase!
Tornadoes: 1
Hail: 1.00″ [quarter]
Wind: est 40-45mph inflow and gust front.
Miles: 445
Lessons learned: Roll up windows and close doors when taking video a good distance away from vehicle. Southern rural NE is the WORST are for AT&T data I have ever experienced.
Detailed Account:
We awoke at Scott Bennett’s house to a tricky forecast. All of us were torn between a target in NC KS or along the river in SE NE or SW IA. The KS target had the best tornado parameters but a stronger cap. The other target saw a better chance for storms, but in an environment less favorable for tornadoes.
We left Scott’s house and decided to stop for an all you can eat Pizza Buffet lunch. It was largely fail.
Eventually they did bring more out though, and I was able to fill the stomach and move on. We set off towards Nebraska City where we sat around for awhile and milled over data. I came to learn that southern rural NE has some sort of AT&T boycott. I had terrible data in this area other than the cities so I had to rely on my chase partners to keep me up to speed.
Beginning to think the day would bust, we sat around and waited. A tornado watch went up covering western IA to northern KS. Eventually some blips appeared on radar in KS and we were off. We had been sitting in a cu field all day but nothing was popping. On the way down I spotted what I have dubbed the “sombrero cu.”
The storms never looked good on radar as they had a linear appearance to them, but we pressed on. Eventually we began to see one of them. A nice straight updraft tower told me at least we might get some hail fun out of this.
Storm speeds were wicked today with some warnings indicating speeds of 70mph. It is nearly impossible to keep up with storms then. Ben Holcomb was leading the charge and at one point made the call to drop south out of Steele City which I thought was a bad move given the insane storm speeds. He had updated radar though and was seeing a right turn I could not given my lack of data. We ended up core punching the storm with hail approaching quarter size. Emerging from the core we noted what appeared to be an elongated wall cloud.
Earlier the wall cloud was looking much better and Danny and I debated on whether the storm had gone outflow dominant. We thought about going back into the core for more hail but I kept us on the move.The terrain was pretty bad where we were but once we had a decent view we stopped. I noticed some small hail on the ground. Penny size at most.
To my amazement I then watched as the wall cloud began wrapping up and rotation increased. It was weird because the inflow was cold and dry, as opposed to warm and moist which is what you would typically expect but we were north of the rotation and the storm was likely wrapping in its own rain cooled air.
The structure in the rotation was incredible though as tornadogenesis began.
You can somewhat see a pointed funnel in the picture above, but the whole mass was rapidly rotating. Here is another shot.
We watched the rotation for a minute or so and sure enough, a swirling dust plume appeared underneath it. A weak tornado is now on the ground that you can see in the photo below if you look closely.
Video better shows the feature. We watched the tornado on the ground for about a minute. I had no data or voice and thus could not make the report but Ben did and a tornado warning was issued. Danny then made a comment about rain to our south at which point I turned around and looked west and saw a moving waterfall in the field closing in on us. I shouted for everyone we were about to get destroyed by RFD and we all bolted for our vehicles. I was parked farthest away and thus everything inside was soaked.

Due to this both Danny and I suffered some minor damage to our laptops. Several keys on his keyboard wont work, and the primary mouse clicker on mine is harder to make function. The lessons here are to roll up the windows when filming and always be on the lookout for the wet RFD. Ben broke away so we continued on with Scott who took over the lead while Danny and I tried to dry off our equipment. New storms were going up so we made a play for those. On the way I noticed some nice mammatus overhead.
We made an intercept on the next storm which had a wicked shelf cloud. Knowing this would probably not produce a tornado we sat for awhile and just enjoyed the scenes as lightning arced overhead. We were on some pretty dirty backroads and thus there were no chasers around. It was the surreal scenes that I love, just us and the growling storm in the distance.
We let the storm overtake us. I was expecting some significant winds but overall was not too impressed. We were dealt another barrage of hail up to quarter size though and some amazing lightning. Once we were out of this storm all the storms were out of range and we decided to head back towards Lincoln. If there was a possible intercept along the way we would make a run for it, but the insane storm speeds were working against us at this point.
The chase was officially over and we ended up back at Scotts where we ordered pizza and spent time working on video and pictures.
This was about as fun as a chase gets. We got a tornado even though it was about as weak as a tornado gets. There was some offroading on muddy backroads, hail cores, great structure, awesome lightning and I was caravanning with some of my favorite chasers. The equipment damage put a slight damper on the day but overall I couldn’t have asked for a better chase given what we had to work with.
Map, arrow shows location of tornado and RFD video.
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