May 9th Kansas Dusk Tornadoes

Jun 14, 2015


Caught multiple tornadoes at dusk after a frustrating chase.


Tornadoes: 5
Hail: 88″ (Nickel)
Wind: n/a


The Forecast:

Similar setup to previous day, main piece of trough finally in place. Beautiful speed shear and instability ahead of dryline and wrapping into surface low. Unfortunately EML was lacking yet again and this meant morning convection could lay these parameters to waste. Additionally, VBV shear profiles gave concerns for storm mode. Still, with such favorable speed shear and moisture in place. If morning storms didn’t ruin things, the potential was there for an outbreak of tornadic supercells. Two targets once again presented themselves. One being the surface low which trended further west into Colorado, and the other being south of the Red River where an outflow boundary would reside from overnight storms. SPC highlighted both targets, and I chose the northern one.

Detailed Account:

The forecast for this day trended downward greatly, and we woke up in pretty pessimistic moods. There was talk of things going MDT or even HIGH risk given the great speed shear and high levels of moisture and potential instability. The lack of an EML/cap and all the morning storms really changed the game, but we were out there and it was time to chase. 9 times out of 10 I will play the surface low, and today was no different. At 830am I called eastern CO as the place to be. Not everyone at Ben’s agreed, some went south while we went north.

I should learn to actually listen to myself. The whole time knowing eastern Colorado was the place to be, the next days target was fresh in our minds…that target was closer to home, back in Iowa. The idea of driving further away from the next days target was not appealing to us. We made our way there slowly, and decided to sit in SW Kansas as some storms began to slowly initiate.

Those storms never amounted to anything. A couple lightning strikes and they collapsed as fast as they went up. Of course by now a supercell was ongoing in eastern Colorado and looked like it could be a tornado producer on radar. With no other game in town we reluctantly began blasting that direction…just as the first tornado reports came in. This is my least favorite way to chase, dashing after a storm thats an hour away already producing tornadoes.

On our way we caught a very, very distant glimpse of what I suspected at the time to be a large tornado. It turns out it was, thanks to confirmation from chasers who were smart enough to stick to their forecast.

At least the high plains can provide a consolation view. I was hoping it would only improve as we got closer, but some low clouds got in the way and we lost site of it. We did catch up with the storm about an hour later, just in time for a surging cold front/outflow boundary to undercut it. We arrived to a cold, dying storm and an air temperature of only 48 degrees. It was hailing, but it might as well have been snowing.

Now, to make matters worse again, a northward moving storm blew up south of Colby, KS another 90 miles back east, so it was time to floor it back that direction. Fortunately we weren’t the only ones to recognize this and we found ourselves in a large caravan of chasers traveling upwards of 100mph down I-70 to catch the storm.  We made good time (obviously) and caught the storm just as it was crossing the interstate. I rope tornado was ongoing that I could clearly see.

As luck would have it, a bunch of state troopers decided to block off the interstate, even though the tornado had already crossed it and was clearing moving away. This forced us all off the interstate, and onto flooded muddy backroads as the sun was setting. Things were slow going and getting dicey now. The storm wasn’t done producing tornadoes though, and we saw at least 3 more touch down in the days last light.

Lots of rain was falling, and the muddy roads were extremely slippery, even in 4WD (it also doesn’t help my tires are nearly bald) and I didn’t feel like pursuing a storm in the dark on muddy backroads for *maybe* a faint glimpse of some after dark tornadoes. We decided to stop and let the storm slip away. The sky around it was crystal clear and provided a nice view of the flickering tower. Danny set up our cameras to take shots of the storm as it slipped away. It was now producing a large tornado, which actually showed up in some of our shots.  This made for a nice consolation prize for the day, stars, a flickering thunderstorm, and a tornado in one shot.
Kansas Night Storm Tornado

Once more rain began moving in, we called the chase and grabbed dinner at an I-hop in Hays where we would end up staying the night.


The storm that tracked near Eads, CO ended up producing multiple photogenic tornadoes. Missing that was a blow, mostly because that was my forecast target area that morning and we didn’t go there due to laziness and not wanting to be put further away for the next days potential target (which, to add further insult to injury, ended up not being a chase day anyways!) We managed to salvage the day with some dusk tornadoes and a couple consolation prizes, so the day wasn’t a total bust, but as far as career shots/DVD chapter worth video, I continue to not catch the prize I seek this year. Frustration is growing…

MAP (coming soon)

SPC Reports:

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