June 14 2009 Kansas Tornado Fail

Mar 05, 2012

Summary:

Got on early convection in west Kansas and followed it into Colorado before heading back east to intercept a storm which ended up being the main storm for the day. Storm was a huge HP beast that produced a nice tornado but we botched up the chance to get good video and stills by deciding to flee the precip instead of holding our ground. Called off chase once storm had weakened but en route to Medicine Lodge storm regained some strength and a new tornado warning prompting us to turn around nothing some lowerings but no new tornado. Booked up in Medicine Lodge with amazing small town diner type dinner and super creepy motel.
Stats:
Tornadoes: 1
Largest Hail: 1.00″ [quarter]
Highest wind. Est 65mph RFD/outflow
Detailed account:
Day 2 looked slightly better than day 1 as far as tornado potential. We were both eager to get back into Kansas which is semi familiar chasing territory and has a known history for producing.
We made it into Kansas with not much time to spare. We both agreed around the Dodge City area, and by the time we were crossing into Kansas storms were already firing. It was only 2pm so the show was starting early. Initial cells were near the Colorado border so we raced after them, first cell comes into view:
Not bad looking at all. You can also see how crammed it can get with all the gear too. This first cell died shortly after interception though as we had a feeling it would. New convection started firing only moments later back to our east so we high-tailed it back in the direction from which we came. We were in Colorado for less than an hour. The new cell began to grow rapidly, GR3 was showing 4 inch gorilla hail with this storm. Its appearance looked to verify that claim with an ominous green tint:
The hail core closing in on us.
We stopped a few times to observe as well as ponder our road options and how we wanted to play the storm. Each time the core would catch up to us and drop some random hailstones around us. The biggest of which looked to be about quarter sized. We stayed out of the core for the most part until we got to around Johnson City. The roads were not favorable and we were still north of the storm. I wanted to dive through the core to get into the soon-to-be hook region but Skip was worried about his rooftop camera dome, and rightfully so. I wouldnt want to gamble against gorilla hail with that equipment either. So we found some county roads that only clipped the core and were able to get into the hook area and onto a main road.
Once we emerged form the core, which consisted of only really small hail. The storm began its rapid transition into an HP monster which made for some pretty intimidating sights
Soon after this storm did one of the most bizarre things I have witnessed. On the leading edge of what appeared to be the gust front there was this massive scud tag which almost looked like its own updraft, pictured below:
I watched in awe and amazement as the storm began to draw this brain looking blob towards it. Eventually it became attached and actually started spinning like a top:
It started to kick up some dust under it, but I wouldnt dare call it a tornado despite the obvious rotation above whatever this feature would be labeled as…
It was definitely a weird, yet amazing thing to see. Looking back I wish I had tripoded the whole thing as it would have made a fantastic time lapse video.
The storm really took on HP apperance now, mean and green. Thunder growling in the distance, as we try to stay out of its messy rain.
What a fool I am for taking a picture with a telephone pole in the way…
Well, at this point a powerfull RFD comes plowing through, forming a nice clear slot.
Sure enough, a tornado begins to develop. [contrast enhanced, Skips photo]
However, it also starts raining, so Adam and Skip being the fools we are decide to hop in the van to get out of the rain and find a better view. The tornado then quickly touches down as we drive away unable to get a good shot…luckily Skip is not a total fool and he built his robot camera to be able to record form any direction, so it was captured that way and we were able to pull a decent still of it!
I still consider this an epic fail though. We should have stayed put…its rain…big deal…what the hell were we thinking? Answer: we werent’t. So I was quite angry with myself for allowing such a good opportunity to go to waste. We continued on though. At this point the RFD gaves us a rather intense ride through the town of Sublette. We experienced a very rapid and intense wind shift. The winds were screaming out of the NW, then stopped…shifted sharply out of the south, stopped again and then blew from the north. I thought we were about to get caught up in another circulation but after that it was more intense RFD.
We were hoping the storm would cycle but instead it just gusted itself out to death. There were no other storms in the area so we decided to head east towards a town big enough to have a decent restaurant and motel. After about 2 hours of driving and stopping at a few towns I noticed the storm beginning to look tornadic again. I had Skip pull over so we could take a look.
It didnt look too impressive though, well tornadic wise that is, just some scudly wall cloud type lowerings. The storm as a whole did take an a dramatic appearance from far away though.
We pressed on and about 15 minutes later what happens? New tornado warning on the same storm! At this point we were in some pretty hilly terrain and it was hard to find a good view. We U-turned it and headed back west to some areas we had just driven through that we saw had a better vantage point. We found one that wasnt bad, but had a big hill which we ended up climbing to get a good view. Hoping we wouldnt become another lightning strike statistic.
The view of the re tornado warned storm.
You can see how high we climbed here.
A tow truck ended up pulling infront of the van, thinking it was some angry farmer or something I went back down there to see what was up. The guy was nothing more than a local spotter, one who seemed to be a bit under the influence and a little confused as where to look. He clearly wasnt there on his own will. So I stayed with him and explained where I would be looking for anything significant while I listened to the reports coming over his radio…nothing significant.
View of the storm.
It really didnt impress me much other than having some frequent CG lightning. We observed it for about half an hour, then the tornado warning was dropped once again, but not before a typical “brief touchdown” report came in. Im pretty sure we didnt miss anything this time around though.
We werent too far from Medicine Lodge at this point, which is a decent size town by southern Kansas standards. We found a cheap motel adjacent to your typical country diner. I will say this though, the place lived up to the sterotype of amazing diner food though. The food was excellent.
Our motel was a bit creepy, there was separate building behind the main building, and thats where our room was. The entire building was dark and there were no other cars in the parking lot besides us. Why we were put there I dont know, but the whole setting was a bit…creepy. Despite that though the room was comfortable and had everything one would want in a room, so I guess it wasnt all bad.
Here is a summary video showing some highlights from my camera. Skip has a the tornado video So I will link that once he finishes his log. This is also my very first attempt at making a video with some new video editing software. Im pleased with the results.

Conclusion:
It was a good chase and we got a tornado, but really made a significant blunder when it came to documenting it. A big lesson learned there. Got into some intense RFD action, wind and hail to add some exciting elements that day 1 also lacked. The storm was big, mean and provided some nice photo ops and the scud attachment process I watched was really amazing. I would return home a happy man at this point.
Google Map will also be provided once Skip finishes his log.
SPC Storm Reports for the day.

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