June 7 2009 Atomic Bomb Missouri Supercell Structure

Mar 05, 2012

One year anniversary of my greatest tornado catch to date! Click here for that log.

Summary: Two targets today, IA or KS, again like last year during a similar choice we opted for KS. Headed south where we were in perfect position well ahead of initiation. Storms began firing but not as expected, two main storms were the days play. Intercepted both storms. First storm showed potential with nice wall cloud but soon gusted out. Tried to get going again but we ditched it for the southern storm which showed amazing structure from behind as it dropped some serious gorilla hail around the KS/MO border. Punched through storm trying to find large hail but instead ended up in the vault, once tornado potential seemed unlikely, core punched it again with a barrage of hail up to golfball size. Let storm go and settled down in the town of Bethany, MO for the night.
Stats:
Tornadoes: 0
Hail: Golf ball [1.75″]
Wind: est 35-40mph thunderstorm gust.
Number of new hail dents: Too many to count.
New record set: Number of states chased in; 3
Total trip miles for the 3 days chasing: 1,950
Detailed Account:
I was awoken by the sweet sound of thunder yet again at our hotel. This time it was around time to get up and head out for the 3rd days chasing in our trip. We packed up, had an amazing breakfast along with Skip and Brad and set off for our target of Holton, KS. Todays setup looked to be the best as far as tornadoes went and we were pretty excited, especially at the though of bagging yet another.
View outside our half basement hotel room, my truck and Skips van with the camera dome:
We made it down to Holton, KS with plenty of time to spare before initiation. We began to think we drifted a bit too far south but soon after arriving SPC put out an MD [mesoscale discussion] which had us in the bullseye saying initiation would likely occur in our area. We sat in a Taco Bell parking lot this time where this kid in a beat up Ford Crown Victoria drove around the drive through for almost an hour, this was pretty entertaining to watch.
Soon we were joined by some fellow chase pals, Chad Cowan, Scott Weberpal, Andrew Pritchard, Fred Plowman and several others also met up with us. This convergence though was shorter lived as initiation began around 4pm and we all hopped into our vehicles and begun the chase. Shortly after though I got pulled over for doing 76 in a 65. The Brown county trooper was really nice though and said he didnt want to keep me from the storms and just gave me a reminder to watch my speed [its very hard when chasing sometimes!] so I was thankful for that.
Because of this I got separated from the crowd for the remainder of the day. Two storms went up around the same time, the north storm became stronger faster. It is known that generally a southern storm will usually become the dominant storm, but we were closer to the north storm, it became warned sooner so we decided to go after it.
Our first views of the storm. It looked promising with a nice flanking line similar to the WY storm 2 days prior.
I couldn’t help but keep an eye on the other storm though, which also started to look good from the back with a nice updraft.
As the north storm neared Pawnee City it went tornado warned and we got excited. We made great time catching up with it. A wall cloud dropped and we thought another tornado would be forming shortly.
We took a south option out of Pawnee City, to my surprise there werent too many chasers around so I was happy about this. Once we got into view though the storm started to look less promising as the wall cloud took on more of a shelf-ish appearance.
At this point I could feel winds coming out of the north. Not good. The storm was interacting with some sort of boundary for the worse and began to crap out. We observed it for a few more minutes though.
We decided to head south to get back ahead of the storm and be closer to the other storm in case it decided to go, which at this point wasnt doing much. We began to notice a ton of chasers at this point.
Bone-head tour van blocking the road, once they saw me coming they moved though, I dont know what it is with tour vans but they seem to have a bad habbit of doing this!
We came to an intersection when low and behold we run into Ben Holcomb again who was chasing solo this day. We pulled over to have a chat when suddenly out of nowhere we found ourselves trapped by the TIV and SRV chaser circus. Now Im all for people going out and pursuing what they love…but this was ridiculous! We literally sat there for 5 minutes and watched probably 40 cars crest a hill following these guys around…seriously people, if your gonna chase, learn how yourself and dont be a leech!! Many of the cars clearly werent chasers though, some were loaded with families and kids…ugh.
The TIV cresting the hill.
Once the circus was done and a brief chat with Ben, we decided this storm was done and we wanted to go get cored, the southern storm wasnt doing anything at this point and GR3 showed hail over 2.00 so we opted to dart north into the core. En route to the core though the storm cycled and dropped another wall cloud, trying to regain its tornadic potential.
Getting closer as it takes on a bowl like shape.
Much like the earlier attempt, it began to become elongated.
Eventually the storm flattened out again and we could feel even stronger outflow from it. We went back into the core where we encountered some hail but of non significant size, probably nickel at largest. I was still keeping an eye on the southern storm though.
The southern storms updraft.
Finally I made the call to drop to the southern storm, en route it really exploded on radar and reports of some softball hail began coming in. I punched the gas to get to it quicker, blasting down I-29 to catch it I saw the most incredible updraft and anvil structure I have ever witnessed. It looked like someone had just set off an atomic bomb…an updraft tower straight up with an anvil as flat as a sheet of paper. It looked like an upside down top hat, I was awe struck.
First some video.

My theory was the storm was at its strongest at this point, since the straight tower is striated, at this time another chaser logged a hailstone 5.25 inches in diameter!! Wow I wish I could have been there for that gorilla hail, but the insane structure more than made up for it. I took over 40 pictures, heres a sample of them.
As we got closer I began to pass cars on I-29 with busted windows and hail dents that put the ones on my truck to shame, I could also see golfball hail all over the ground, this storm caused some major damage with its hail, and I am not at all surprised given how straight that tower is, Im still amazed when I look at the pictures.
We made a navigation blunder which cost us a couple minutes but were soon back on track and trying like hell to get through the core. We wanted to sample the large hail as well as get in-front of it in case it went tornadic. Only hail reports were coming in at this time with reports of anything tornadic, despite it being warned.
We get closer…
We eventually clip the wrap around precip noting only hail up to nickel size. Missouri back roads had a nasty surprise for us though as the network had no favorable paved options so we went with the county road options…well one of the roads suddenly turned into a field so yet again we lost about 5 minutes and found ourselves playing catch up again. Luckily for us the storm was only moving about 25 mph. We detoured back to a paved option to allow for maximum catch up speed.
A rainbow forms as we again near the wrap around precip.
We punch through the back of the storm again, with the same nickel size hail. After a couple minutes of this we emerge into a a wonderful place. The vault! The vault is an area of a supercell that is somewhat elusive. Often times you have to be very close to see it. It is pictured below.
Sorry for the bad quality, it was getting darker so I had to put my exposure on a longer setting.
The area adjacent to the vault is where the tornadic action would be, and it was quite a sight! Very dramatic and ominous looking.
A rain wrapped tornado was reported in that rain shaft which you can see here, but we could not confirm anything and I have yet to see other chaser pictures and video that does.
Another view of the vault.
Here is a radar grab showing our position in relation to the storm. We were the only chasers there as we punched it from behind, most chasers as you can see stayed south of it on a main road option…many of them encountering the gorilla hail.
The tan dot/circle is our exact position, with my spotter network icon [AeroWx] lagging behind as usual.
We dropped south to get into better position to view a possible tornado given the reports that started coming in. We arrived int Winston, MO with sirens blaring as Dannys video shows:

It looked really good for awhile and I started to become convinced we would witness a nice tornado. The wall cloud was heading directly for us and we would be in great position but would have to soon bail if needed. To my dismay it began to look more ragged, the setting sun behind it made for great colors though.

That is not a funnel in the center, just a ragged lowering very common in such storms. These can confuse the less educated spotter or even chaser.
Once I deemed there to be almost no tornadic potential with the storm, my attention turned to hail hunting once again, if Im not going to get a tornado I want large hail. Especially with night falling and structure shots also going out the window. So we drifted back northeast and finally caught up with the core outside of Gallatin, MO.
Hail started off smaller but then I began to notice the trees ripping apart. Soon we found ourselves in the midst of a barrage of hail. It was hitting loud and hard and I could feel the vibrations in the truck from some of the impacts. There are quite a few new dents and going off the dents I estimate the largest stones to be golfballs. Here is a 6 minute video of the core. You can see some tree branches get shredded off the trees and land on my hood. It was pretty intense and added a very nice element to the chase. I always enjoy being IN the storm and experiencing the power.
Grapefruit size hail was reported just to our south, so I guess the biggest hail is as elusive as a tornado. It was for the better though. I dont mind getting cored by golfballs or even tennis balls, however grapefruits and softballs I would probably enjoy better under the cover of a gas station awning.
Once that was over we decided to call it a chase and find a town with a decent hotel, we pressed on to the northeast. While en route Danny shouted for me to stop and jump out to see an amazing display of lightning in the updraft tower. It was gorgeous. He shot video while I attempted still shots. Here is his video:

And here are my crummy still shots. My camera is not suited for lightning at all but I can make it work if I have to.
Once the show died down a bit we checked several towns for motels, but found only rapist style motels that were suited for a horror movie so we decided to just head to the city of Bethany where we turned in for the night. Tired and exhausted, and totaly satisfied with the chase.
Conclusion:
The day did not live up to its expectations tornado and storm wise. The two storms in this log were the main show. A cluster of storms went up overnight and supposedly put down a couple tornadoes, but again I have yet to see evidence. The amazing structure and large hail definitely made it a worth while chase. 2009 has been a difficult year, each setup seems to only spit out 1 or 2 storms to go after.
Dannys Log for more pics and video: Click here
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