Nebraska Tornado April 27th 2014

May 01, 2014


Played surface low with minimal probabilities and ended up catching a low contrast tornado.


Tornadoes: 1
Hail: .75″ (penny)
Wind: n/a

The Forecast:

Powerful cut off system with vertically stacked low now in place. Intense speed shear overspreading all of warm sector with sufficient instability in place. Morning activity would affect the days setup. High risk outbreak expected to unfold across parts of Arkansas where deeper moisture would be present. Pacific front/dryline target also expected to light up with supercells as well as the surface low. Opted to play the surface low in hopes to catch clearer storms in better terrain, as well as be in better position for potential warm front play closer to home (a decision that would prove to be very bad the next day.) SPC began the day with MDT risk probabilities, but upgraded to HIGH risk in later outlooks (which ended up busting!)

Detailed Account:

We awoke in Wichita to some difficult decisions ahead of us. There was an obvious target on the models that indicated strong tornadoes across parts of Arkansas where chasing in the bad terrain is more stressful than enjoyable. Two other targets presented themselves, the KS/MO border and the surface low in NE. Lots of storms were ongoing in the morning and looked to potentially ruin the KS/MO border target. After hashing over many model runs, and heavy debating we opted to head north and stick with the surface low. On the way the forecast began to look bleak, SPC even dropped all the probabilities and mentioned a decreasing severe risk for our target. I stopped at an intersection and pondered dumping that target in favor of the KS/MO but we spotted a rapidly developing cumulus field out our window and pressed on.

En route I was pulled over for doing 82 in a 65. I thought the speed limit was 70 and I try not to go more than 10 over. I was cited for speeding, my first ever on a chase and my first moving violation in 9 years. The officer was friendly about the incident though, and only wrote me for doing 10 over, lessening the consequences. That was a bit of a downer, but in the end I have noone but myself to blame. While stopped, storms started developing to our north and the chase was back on. One particular storm east of us caught our attention, but would require back-tracking away from storms closer to us so we stuck with what was nearby for the time being.

Our first look at the storms approaching from the south was less than stellar, but I was anxious to at least snap some pics with my new camera.

These storms began to weaken on radar and move away from us. The storm we were initially watching to our east was persistent however, and showed rotation on radar so we decided to change course and head for it. On our way we came across a grim scene involving a fatal motorcycle accident that occurred just minutes before we arrived. That is certainly not an image one soon forgets. Back on our storm things were continuing to look good as we were able to get ahead of it. Getting into the action area required a core punch from the north in which we were bombarded with small hail up to penny size. Looking overhead though I noticed really strong carousel motion with multiple inflow bands spiraling into the storm. It was a rotating beast and there very well could have been a tornado embedded in the rain/hail core that lurked to our south.

We cleared the precip and found an intersection to wait for the area of interest to approach us. The storm didn’t look too tornadic visually at this point, with a dramatic whales mouth and rain shaft.

Suddenly we got pelted with a fast hitting RFD consisting of rain and sideways hail. It only lasted a minute and cleared us quickly. We continued to observe the storm when suddenly this interesting feature began emerging from the rain. It confused us as first, and Joe even thought it was scud, but only a few moments later the feature became more visible as our first tornado of 2014! It was low contrast, but there it was, as if it stepped out of the rain curtain like an actor does on stage before beginning a performance. We were excited as could be.

I got my first lesson in how a wide angle lense makes things look farther away, but nevertheless I was happy to have captured a tornado and the surrounding structure on my new camera so soon. Here are a couple video stills.


The tornado dissipated after about 2 minutes and the show was over. We kept our visual on the storm as it began to slip away and soon weaken on radar. The chase appeared to be over so we let the storm go and took a few snapshots of the backside structure.

By now all storms were well off the north and looking weak on radar, and some chaser friends called us to meet up for celebratory dinner in Columbus, NE. We made our way there in high spirits and enjoyed a nice dinner. By now, the other 2 targets had begun to light up with storms and some pretty photogenic, prolific tornadoes occurred along the KS/MO border. An even more significant supercell produced a series of violent tornadoes in Central Arkansas at dusk that no chasers were able to get video of (at least that I have seen.) The high risk ended up busting with barely a report within the outlined area. After dinner we began our trek east to get into position for the next days target, and that target would prove to be a big mistake…


What started out as a grim, bleek, disasterous chase day turned itself around and gave us our first tornado of the season. It wasnt too photogenic and only lasted a short while, but it was great to get the skunk off my back and get on the board for the 2014 season. Missing better looking tornadoes in the other target is always somewhat of an annoyance, but all things considered I am overall pleased with the way things turned out. I was, however, a bit dissapointed in the low visibility of our tornado as I thought surface low storms would be clearer than that. This tornado bore similar resemblence to others I have seen in a similar environment and I am beginning to notice a trend. Something I will have to consider in future target decisions.

Tornado Video:

Map. Red arrows shows location we viewed the tornado.

SPC Reports:

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