Jesse Risley

Staff member
Apr 12, 2006
Macomb, IL
I elected to play the warm sector further east in eastern Kansas, with an initial target of Emporia, KS, as storms were expected to fire in the warms sector and track proximal to the warm front. I played with the lead supercell of the two major cells that formed south of I-70, but abandoned it near Perry Lake northeast of Lawrence when it was evident the southern tornado warned cell was becoming dominant as it tracked towards Lawrence. I initially intercepted off of Kansas Hwy 59 east of Pleasant Lake. The tornado was rain wrapped for the most part, but violent motion was evident on the right flank, as well as intermittently when a glimpse was afforded as rain bands rapidly circulated around the core with power flashes. At times the tornado appeared as a cone near the top or multiple vortices, but it offered few peeks as it was mostly shrouded in the precipitation. I then bolted east on KS 10 and north to I-70, watching the tornadic circulation cross I-70 east of Lawrence. When the storm got too close, I moved east to Bonner Springs and set up the tripod to film the tornado which was, at that point, doing damage in Linwood, KS. I finally moved east towards KC Speedway before the storm moved south of me and I was cut off by heavy rain and high winds, reducing further visibility. I backtracked immediately to Linwood and assisted wit a bit of search and rescue, including clearing trees out of the way to allow emergency vehicles to enter residential areas east of town, before capitulating at the request of emergency crews that needed to take over. Fortunately, I did not personally encounter any major injuries or fatalities in my 1.5 hrs on the scene near some of the damage.

I uploaded a series of damage photos here to my Google Drive: Linwood KS tornado damage

I'll post more stills from video footage later.


Mar 8, 2016
Bloomington, IL
I woke up in Salina not expecting much from this day fully intending to pack it up and head back to Illinois. Looked at morning obs and compared to the morning model runs and determined that they were out to lunch, so I strictly followed observations only and noticed a nice triple point setting up in Central Kansas along Interstate 70 with a boundary. Having seen in the past what days like this could do in that region I opted to stick around in Salina and wait for potential initiation out by the triple point. In late afternoon a storm initiated at the triple point near the boundary so I began making the run from Salina West towards Bunker Hill, KS. Storm went tornado warned very quickly and had produced at least two landspouts on my way to it, but was taking its time to sort out which updraft would become dominant in the cluster. I went North out of Bunker Hill and position myself ahead of the storm just in time to catch the beginning of the Waldo tornado which started out as a large multivortex and quickly became a wedge tornado. I did not get an exact time frame but this tornado was on the ground for at least 20 minutes and had probably one of the single best ropeouts I've ever seen, along with an instance of twin tornadoes as the supercell tried to cycle with a new mesocyclone ahead of the old occluding one producing a tornado alongside the Waldo tornado.

After the the Waldo tornado, there was at least one more instance of twin tornadoes but much weaker this time, and at least one additional small weak tornado prior to the Tipton tornado.

The Tipton tornado itself was much harder for me to see from my position as I was now south of the meso due to the road network and rain kept wrapping around the south side of the tornado in the RFD, but I observed this tornado on the ground for over 30 minutes minimum. After this tornado roped out I opted to call the chase so that I could double back and assist a chaser friend that had gotten themselves stuck in the mud.

All in all one of the best chases I've ever had, my top chase this year, it completely redeemed a very frustrating chasecation, and I can now return home satisfied!


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Jan 16, 2009
Kansas City
I targeted Salina knowing there were three targets and that I had time to choose one. West looked good with the boundry but I wanted to be home that evening after a long 4 days of chasing. When storms starting dying off by Wichita I had to go east for the ones that seemed to be combining into one large beast.

We went east along 56 highway and had rotation with the shifting winds shown below in red. We got in front of the cell and headed up 59 which is shown below in the cyan.

This is the only shot we got of the tornado as it approached Lawrence. It quickly ramped up and became a rainwrapped wedge.

This is my photo enhanced attempt at it ...

This is the radar at the time and our location later as it crossed the road. (Video link below)

We went north of Eudora trying to get to the tornado ongoing near Linnwood but caught damage. We screamed for people and banged on the house and no one returned the call ... we feared the worse as the tree completely crushed the cabin of the car and the lights were on. Luckily the guy came out eventually and said he made it in the house by 15 seconds.

Later on I took this photo #KCStrong

Our view north on 59 south of Lawrence
Mar 7, 2016
Omaha, NE
Took a half day at work at the encouragement of Royce Sheibal after chasing Friday-Monday. Can't believe I was about to sit this one out. Sat in Salina for a little too long watching towers go up and die to the SE, started rolling west a little after the first tornado warning in Hays. HRRR nailed the Hays cell earlier in the day, not sure why I hesitated so much on an isolated tornadic supercell riding a warm front. Slightly lower dews and veered sfc winds on the KS mesonet spooked me originally I guess. Came up on the storm right as the wedge was transitioning to a stovepipe, pulled off to get some pics as it started to rope out. Saw two simultaneous ongoing tornadoes while positioning further east, but wasn't able to get a pic. After this, I got tangled up on the road network trying to get ahead of the storm and quickly fell behind. Dropped west to play the next tor-warned cell (not thinking about the environment it was moving into) and ditched south to I-70 once I came to my senses. Good day in the sense that I saw a few tornadoes, but it was a nightmare of a chase and luck just happened to be on my side. If only I had the execution of Monday's NE CO chase with the tornadoes of Tuesday!
Jul 27, 2012
Grand Forks, ND
I started my day west of Topeka and wasn't sure if I wanted to commit to the slowly intensifying warm sector storms due to the lack of clearing in east Kansas but once I saw the storms out west develop to far away to get to I took off east. Looking at radar I could see this was a rain wrapped monster and figured the only place to maybe get a look was deep in the notch. Making my way south through Lawrence and hitting every red light while the sirens were blaring was a very eerie feeling. I positioned myself on K-10 just past the last stoplight outside Lawrence. I was astounded at the amount of moisture and warmth that had pooled along the boundary the storm was riding despite the lack of any clearing in this area, it was sauna air. As the tornado approached its affect on the air, drawing in moisture, increased rapidly as the wind went from calm to blowing straight into the circulation increasingly stronger in a hurry. I watched it pass about a mile south of me with violent motion in the inflow feeding into it. It did not show itself but announced its presence with the power flashes ongoing in the dark mass. As it moved past I got hit by what I believe to be the rear inflow jet, not rfd as the wind was blowing directly into the circulation now crossing K-10 directly to my east. Here's the video I shot.

Jun 16, 2015
Oklahoma City, OK
One of the longest days of my chase career...

I started the day in Hannibal, MO after chasing all the way to nearly the Indiana border the day before. My initial plan was to head toward the NE KS/NW MO area, where a very well-defined boundary/warm front was visible on radar. A convective cluster happened to move right into my path in northeastern MO in the morning, but after spending a few minutes on it and figuring it would be a wasted effort, I went west.

I stopped in Chillicothe and ended up staying there for a few hours. I was torn on different targets and I even contemplated going to north-central Kansas, but my reasoning at the time was that messy wind profiles and a weak low-level jet were not ideal for tornadoes. I overlooked the locally enhanced low-level vorticity near the occluded front/triple point and that low-level instability was quite large. I've made a lot of poor judgment errors over the past week and a half chasing, even if I defended my targets, but it's been a learning curve. I've actually chased 10 days in a row now and it's felt like much longer than that.

Anyway, by mid-afternoon, I decided that I would have to get on the west side of Kansas City if I wanted to have more than an hour or two to chase. Once I got toward the Lawrence area, I dropped south and then west toward a tornado warned supercell. At first, it did not look very impressive, but things ramped up very quickly. I waited out in front of it, but didn't have any sort of clear visual on anything, except for some inflow and a bit of a scuddy cloud base.

It reached my position by about 6:00 and I headed east to keep up with it. I passed the south side of Lone Star Park at 6:05 p.m., which is exactly when and where the NWS says the tornado started. After looking back at video and my recollection, it looks like I was less than a minute ahead of the tornado at the time of the video below. If you look closely, there are a few trees/branches down as well.
The situation escalated very quickly and I knew that after that first close run-in, there was little time for error.

I kept with the storm all the way to Bonner Springs. I had actually gotten a few miles out ahead of it, but still had no discernible view that was any different than what other chasers have shared.
In Kansas City, it was eerily quiet on the roads, especially I-70. I snapped off a few pictures before the storm was about to overtake the city, luckily, no longer as a tornado.
I almost bailed right there, but I decided to head northeast to see if things would reorganize on the other side of Kansas City. They did just that and very quickly, once again. I was in Mosby and had a visual on a lowering, rotating wall cloud, but it was too close and I tried to get ahead. Terrain and roads were not very favorable, so I did not see anything else worth sharing.

Overall, it was a very intense chase and one of the few times in which I was really unnerved during a storm. If I could have gone back and done things differently, I would have targeted farther west, but there's no changing that. I did come up close and personal with a historic tornado, even if I could not clearly see it. In some ways, it reminded me of Mayflower, at least in my own experience, as they were both EF-4 tornadoes that were largely obscured by rain. This situation was even worse, however, as it was embedded in rain the entire time and it was almost impossible from any vantage point to get a good view, unless you were directly in its path (a few locals had footage) or in one of the KC area helicopters that was on scene.
Jul 5, 2009
Newtown, Pennsylvania
Another, perhaps last of the season, post from the George Costanza of chasing here. I did not even consider heading to the poor terrain and more urbanized eastern KS target area, and was half-hearted about prospects elsewhere. From a couple of the posts above, seems I was not the only one to be less-than-optimistic. My pessimism was further enhanced by a string of previous unsuccessful chases going back to the previous Thursday. I initially targeted the area between Salina and Concordia, hoping for airmass recovery behind the eastern KS storms and planning to adjust as needed. At Salina, we shifted a bit further east toward Manhattan but were no longer under a Cu field so backtracked to Salina. I was quite sure the frontal boundary was lying just north of the area.

For whatever reason, when I saw the Hays/Russell storm on radar I discounted it right away. It was a thin, narrow north-south oriented echo and just didn’t look right. Maybe it was my general pessimism about the day and my dejectedness over the past few days’ mistakes, maybe it was a bothersome work email from earlier in the day that detracted from my focus, I don’t know, but for some reason I had tunnel vision about my target area and wasn’t looking closely enough at other areas or even keeping up with the SPC MSDs. I thought Hays/Russell was too far west, under or even behind the surface low, and discounted it as some random storm that shouldn’t tempt me away from my target. So stupid.

At some point, obviously too late, we went for the Hays/Russell storm. You can see in this RadarScope capture that we are way late to the game.


Only the southern storm was practical for us at this point. I believe it was the northern storm that produced Waldo and Tipton, but I don’t know for sure and to be honest it is so painful to think about this day that right now I can’t even stand to look deeper into it and figure out times and everything. All I know is that the southern storm weakened, we saw the couplet in the northern storm but it would have been over an hour to reach it as it was moving northeast.


So it’s pretty hopeless for us at that point. There was some later new development on the southern end that we thought might have a chance but that hope was squashed pretty quickly.

I don’t know if things would have been any different if we had gone after this earlier, if we even would have chosen the correct cell of the pair assuming we could reach both. I just can’t bear to even go back and analyze this; maybe later when the wounds are not so fresh. If someone could just confirm whether it was the northern or southern cell that produced Waldo / Tipton, and how you chose the cell you did, I would appreciate it.

Otherwise, I’m just left here feeling inept, dejected, frustrated and disappointed, with nothing to show for a trip that held so much promise. I am scheduled to be out another week, but the way the pattern looks - and in my current mood - I may be heading home early.

I hereby offer my resignation to the ST community.
Nov 13, 2017
Little late but hooooooooooooly cow. I'll never get tired of western Kansas.

I found myself torn between two targets all day, and the third option of just spending the day driving home to Illinois. After miserably cap busting in Texas (having driven 7 hours to the dryline after waking up no more than two hours from the epic Colorado storm no less) the day before, I found myself in Topeka, where I left one hotel at 2 AM because it had bedbugs and slept around 3 hours in another that made my college dorm feel luxurious. In the early morning, the CAMs were miserably off. Even when they finally picked up on the convection occurring in Kansas, they were still miserably off otherwise. I disregarded them and the SPC outlook and drove to Lawrence, which was target A, and obviously a good one. Then I saw the I-70 special evolving out west, so I got back on the highway and drove to McFarland. I waited. I then hedged again for some reason and returned to Topeka. What am I doing? I don't know, so I get lunch, and in a moment of clarity (and the recognition of the outflow boundary and triple point that served as the event's focus) I drive west starting at about noon and stumble into Abilene.

A storm pops on satellite. I drive west. I'm treated to a pair of monstrous updrafts, triple decker pileus caps, and reports of landspouts. It is clear that if this storm organizes, it will do something fun. So I get to Russell, top off my tank, and drive as the storm organizes to my north. Unfortunately, the approach from the south made the chase more difficult than it would have been if I had come from the east as I normally do, but it was too late to change plans.

The meso came into view. The whole thing was spinning from the ground up. A half mile wide white wedge came into the picture, mostly shrouded by the hail pulled around it by its RFD. I do not have stills of it in this stage, but it is in the video below. I watched it as it morphed into a stunning stovepipe whose funnel was visible much farther up into the updraft than usual, a result of the ambient vorticity the storm was ingesting from the boundary.


I have heard a lot of comparisons. I don't know if this tornado is reminiscent of Chapman, Bennington 2013, Carpenter, or what. I didn't see those. The only tornado that I have seen that this one stands next to is Rochelle, and if the precip wrapping around the base had not obscured it I believe they would look very similar.

It continued to morph into one of the tallest rope tornadoes I have ever seen.



As its first twin began to take shape, I shot wide and captured an absolute dream shot of mine - two tornadoes, the second on the right flank in lower contrast, with open, naked supercell structure. I've never seen anything like it.


I continued to travel east, staying on the southern edge of the storm. The roads were miserable and unmaintained, and the only highway I could reach that would take me to the storm was being traveled by the tornado. I later learned that power lines were downed along that highway, and the tornadoes wouldn't have been visible from the west without making dangerous maneuvers in between strong twin tornadoes and large hail.

The ropeout was as epic as the rest of the tornado, again featuring its twin on the far right. This is a video screen capture.


Ultimately, the tornado family marched on without me, putting down at least one more toward Tipton. I ended up stuck short of the next paved highway, where some extremely kind farmers brought out the big guns and dragged me back where I come from without incident. $20 at a manual car wash later and I was headed to Salina.


What a day. Video below:

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May 28, 2011
Omaha, NE
I left McCook relatively early and arrived in Concordia around 2:00. Nothing good ever happens when I get to my target early. After a while I sat there for an hour or so talking with Mike H. and he left for the storm that started near Hays relatively early. I dilly dallied too long as usual and took off after the Cu towers just to my south were dying out. Around Beloit the Waldo tornado started and the reports started popping up on SN so I was already frustrated with myself. I took the east-west highway south of Beloit which put me northeast of the main storm and just southeast of the northern one. At this point, the northern cell went briefly nuts on radar as I presume it had hit the effective WF boundary. The highway I was on was on a nice hill and I had a great view of both storms from nearly 20 miles away. Despite its radar presentation, the northern storm looked murky and relatively stable with a somewhat featureless base. I made the decision to pass up on that closer storm and head to the southern one as the Waldo tornado was still ongoing. On a particularly high hill about halfway to my southern road to Tipton, I was able to view the ropeout of the Waldo storm and another tornado briefly form from a new base.

As I turned south towards Tipton, a new tornado was forming from the new base and it was pretty clearly going to be a larger tornado. I filmed it as I drove south to get in its path to get a few photos. I stopped just a mile or so south of Tipton, got a few shots until it was within about a mile, then drove a little further south to get out of its way. As I was getting done with photos in the first location, the wet RFD and rain bands were really wrapping around and making their way quickly towards me. I feared hail in them so I probably bailed sooner than I needed to. Once to the south, when the tornado was nearing the road I made the decision to drop another couple miles south to catch the east highway, hoping to get in front of it again for another potential tornado. Unfortunately the storm had had enough at that point and gusted out. In hindsight, I wish I had waited for it to cross the road and gone back north a bit as the lighting would have been much better from the backside due to the clear skies behind it. Chasing tornadoes is hard enough but trying to judge their best-lit side is almost impossible in the heat of the moment. A couple photos from ENE of the tornado are below as well as a video of its various phases.

Nov 18, 2006
Chicago, IL
The night before the chase we were eating dinner with the tour guests in Burlington, CO. On radar there were some general/barely severe thunderstorms moving through north central KS. I told the guests if those storms lay down a boundary, tomorrow will be the grand finale of our 10 day tour (indeed it was the last day.) We had documented 14 tornadoes up until this point, but they were all from a less than ideal distance, hazy, or after dark. The big daytime, close intercept eluded us.

We were tempted to go south towards Wichita - using forecast schematics... "hodos are better down there, bla bla bla." Same old song and dance, but experience told us not to turn a blind eye to the boundary being ingested into the surface low, along with over 5000 CAPE. We sat south of Salina to keep them both in play. Vis satellite showed a lone cumulus puff going up over Hays. It was clearly on the triple point boundary, and 4500 CAPE was curling right into it. We pointed and said "that will be the one." and off we went.

We chose hwy 18 out of Bennington as opposed to i-70 because it gradually shifted north - in anticipation of the storms movement. This turned out to be the best call we made, because hwy 18 literally took us into the notch, and we arrived just as the Paradise-Waldo-Luray tornado touched down. Luck factor that it waited for us, we could have easily been a couple minutes late, but we literally arrived just as the show began.

We watched the entire lifecycle of this magnificent tornado for nearly 30 minutes, going through all the stages. Initial multi-vortex, mature wedge, occluded trunk, dramatic ropeout. In addition to the main tornado, the storm put down at least 2 satellites with the best examples of vortex arching I have seen since Bowdle in 2010.

The down-side to watching the entire life cycle outside of the vehicle, is the storm quickly peeled away from us and the next cycle was behind rain from our vantage point, in addition to being now 10+ miles away. Roads to pursue it weren't the kindest but we did catch a distant glimpse of the Tipton tornado and another satellite bringing our total to 5 for the day. 61449109_10156304700618807_7575981405704814592_n.jpg hwy18.PNG tipton.PNG Waldo Wedge 1.PNG Waldo Wedge 2.PNG Waldo5.PNG WaldoRope.PNG Waldo-ton.PNG

Danny Reese

May 14, 2018
Middletown, PA
Not anything near what the Kansas target produced, but it was another solid day for the Mid-Atlantic as well. Chased the supercell that produced the EF-2 near Morgantown, PA but unfortunately fell too far behind it about a half hour before it produced the tornado, due to a combination of fast storm motions and classic PA winding roads. Caught it as it passed I-78 east of Lebanon, and it did have a moderately rotating wall cloud that looked like it might drop something right away, but it cycled a few times before it finally did.
18611 18612
Stayed in striking distance for another half hour before getting even further behind it, and of course it decided to produce right after I gave up trying to catch it, turning around to catch a trailing supercell that ultimately weakened. Still, it was another great chase day relative to most Northeast chases.


Jun 12, 2004
Sunrise, Florida
Good day all, Here is my report for storms for May 28, 2019...

Chase Summary: May 28 was to be a rather awesome chase day but turned out to be one of the most frustrating, or at least in the "top 5" of such, in my storm chasing career. The combination of an extremely complex forecast (even SPC couldn't get it right) and poor decisions caused me to miss very photogenic tornadoes today. I forecasted and left North Platte early via I-80 east to near York, then south on Highway 81 with a primary target area of Topeka, Kansas and maybe east of there. The SPC had NE Kansas in a moderate risk, with 15% hatched (significant) tornado probabilities on the 13z outlook (later lowered to 10% on the 1630z), with hail and wind at 45% (also significant). I headed east off Highway 81 onto 36 and back south on SR 15 for lunch at Clay Center. There were basically three good chase targets with this setup. One was the area from Topeka, KS northeastward into Kansas City and Saint Joseph, MO (warm front). Another was south towards Wichita (dryline / Pacific cold front) in Kansas, and a third one (and the least targeted by chasers) up in north central Kansas from near Russell (north of the surface low). The SPC issued two Mesoscale Discussions, 853 for NE Kansas and 854 for central Kansas. Subsequent tornado watch boxes 275 and 276 for the same areas, respectively, both valid until 10 PM CDT. I continued south on SR 15 to near Abilene and Enterprise, as well as near SR 43 watching clouds develop. By late afternoon a messy cluster of severe storms was developing to my east north of Emporia, and - to my surprise - an isolated supercell storm 100 miles to the west near Russell. Some storm chasers targeting this area who didn't hesitate were able to catch that storm, which became a prolific producer of photogenic tornadoes near Lurey and Tipton (in the mere 2% area outlooked by SPC, owing to an unexpected shift in the surface low and warm front). I hesitatingly rushed north to near Enterprise, then got on I-70 and raced west to Glendale and Tescott, going north there to take SR 18 west to SR 14 north and do a long rang intercept on these tornadic storms. Alas, I finally reached them (and unlike Chapman in 2016) the last tornado lifted 10 minutes before I got there and I was greeted with messy outflow. To make this defeat worse, remember the messy cluster of storms (now 150 miles away) earlier to the east? That was now producing a destructive rain-wrapped wedge tornado through Lawrence, Kansas! I returned east from Beloit via SR 12 and Highways 81 and 24, back through Clay Center encountering a small supercell near Riley. This looked good for a bit but quickly became outflow dominant near Randolph. I wrapped up (or more or less "gave up") today's chasing via SR 16 and 99 down to I-70 near McFarland. I headed east on I-70 back to Topeka, Kansas for the night.

Storm Interception Details Are Below

1). May 28, 6:30 PM
- Long range interception and observation of an extremely severe and tornadic thunderstorm from 20 or 30 miles distance. The storm was over Osborne and Mitchell counties, Kansas from Luray to Beloit, and significant tornadoes were produced by the storm. These tornadoes were not observed (except maybe a brief long range glimpse of one) and the storm weakened to a line segment after driving nearly an hour and a half to get to it. The storm core, probably containing large hail and high winds, was not penetrated. RFD winds gusting near 60 MPH were encountered, with lightning and light rain observed before the storm weakened due to outflow. Conditions causing the storm were surface heating, a warm front, Pacific cold front / dryline, low pressure area, and upper trough. Documentation was digital stills and HD video. A 2016 Jeep Wrangler was used to chase the storm. A tornado watch was also valid for the area until 10 PM CDT.

2). May 28, 8:00 PM - Observation and penetration of a severe and thunderstorm along Highway 24 in Clay and Riley Counties, Kansas from near Clay Center to Randolph near Highway 77 and SR 16. The storm was a small supercell storm that developed in a region of confluence in the area, and quickly became severe. Large hail (up to 2 inches), frequent lightning, heavy rains, and 60 MPH winds were observed with this storm. An area of rotation with a wall cloud and RFD cut / funnels was also observed near Riley, but the storm quickly weakened after that and became a line segment due to outflow. Conditions causing the storm were surface heating, a Pacific cold front, low pressure area, and upper trough. Documentation was digital stills and HD video. A 2016 Jeep Wrangler was used to chase the storm. A tornado watch was also valid for the area until 10 PM CDT.

Pictures For May 28, 2019 Are Below


Above: Annotated satellite image showing convective evolution and the synoptic setup during the afternoon of May 28, 2019. Tornadic supercells have formed to the southwest of Kansas City (with a destructive rain-wrapped tornado near Lawrence) as well as farther west in north-central, Kansas - Which produced highly photogenic and visible tornadoes near Tipton.


Above: Severe flooding and a closed road (Jeep Road) south of Enterprise, Kansas during the afternoon of May 28. There are submerged railroad tracks there too.


Above: Base reflectivity image of the Kansas City / Lawrence, Kansas supercell during the afternoon of May 28. Note the prominent "swirl" in the reflectivity, denoting a highly rain-wrapped HP supercell tornado. To the right are two insets, with the distinct correlation-coefficient showing debris (blue) to the top, as well as extreme Doppler velocities on the bottom inset.


Above: Distant view of the supercell storm that will become the destructive Kansas City / Lawrence tornado while trying to decide to go east or not during the afternoon of May 28. The storm here is 40 to 50 miles away and the view is to the east and southeast.


Above: Base reflectivity image of Tipton / Beloit, Kansas supercell during the afternoon of May 28. The inset shows the Doppler velocity of the storm.


Above: View about 40 miles from the Tipton / Beloit, Kansas tornadic supercell during the afternoon of May 28. I am rushing north and west to reach this storm. A large tornado was in progress when this photo was taken. The view is to the northwest.


Above: While approaching the Tipton / Beloit, Kansas supercell a "day late and a dollar short", a brief glimpse of the last tornado produced by that storm is barely visible in this picture (circled) from about 20 miles out.

Note: For DETAILS on this storm / setup as well as others in May 2019 … Please visit the link BELOW for more information!

Jan 17, 2008
Awoke in McCook, NE on this day with high hopes for what I thought would be the last good chase day before heading home. A glance at satellite and surface obs showed a beautiful outflow boundary draped near the I70 corridor with clearing skies commencing. I was fully committed to the north central KS target as it was right on the nose of the low, and my successes with Bennington 1.0 and 2.0 told me you never ignore a setup in that area in late May. I made it to the US81 corridor by mid afternoon, and stopped in Belleville, KS for food/gas and another look at sat/obs. An agitated CU field was evident to my SW, and before long the first radar blips showed up, so SW I went. I arrived in Beloit just as the Waldo tornado reports started rolling in, so my plan was to keep heading SW to intercept that storm. However, it was at this time that the lead cell just to my west really started to ramp up on radar, and I figured I would give it a chance as I thought it was far enough south of the boundary, and knew I couldn't catch it again if I let it go. I stopped near Glen Elder, and had a view of both storm's bases and noted very strong inflow winds, however the northern storm's base seemed rather anemic and stable. At this time I was able to get a distant shot of twin tornadoes on the southern storm.

I gave the northern storm more time to "get it's act together", however it eventually became apparent that the low level thermos were just not right so I let that storm go as the Tipton tornado was already in progress. On my way to the Tipton storm, I stopped briefly to get a distant shot of the beast off to my SW.

Unfortunately, that was the last tornado of the day, as the southern storm was now ingesting the cold air from the northern storm. A bittersweet day for me, as I was bummed I wasted so much time on the troll lead storm, but happy to have still witnessed (albeit from a distance) the goods that the southern storm had to offer!
May 1, 2004
Springfield, IL
Chased with veteran chaser and atmospheric scientist Anton Seimon, Tracie Seimon, my long time partner Jennifer Brindley Ubl, and "Pecos Hank" Schyma who had newly joined our team.

We looked at eastern Kansas, but with PWATs approaching 2 inches we anticipated HP storms approaching ugly, populated terrain near the Missouri River, and possibly traffic from the horde suckered in by SPC's higher tornado probabilities. Tail-End-Charlie on the dryline down by Wichita looked intriguing. But then there was that low. Moisture wrapped all the way around the surface low, strongly destabilized on the back side of it with a massive 0-3km CAPE pool. Every time I've seen that happen, it's a ridiculous tornado machine. June 20, '11 comes to mind. It's like you're getting the extreme directional shear north of the warm front, all the lift and vorticity off the low, but also warm sector instability. We sat in Beloit awaiting initiation under an airmass that was something like 79/72 with a howling northeast wind. Pretty unreal. We worried about undercutting from the cold front if it surged and storms crossing the boundary into cold air in Nebraska too quickly, but a little surprised to see SPC kind of look the other way on this target, at least for starters. Tipton was in the 2% at the start of the day and outside the initial watch boxes.

We anticipated the I-70 storms on the stationary boundary running west into Colorado, but expected those to be the high based hailers way to the west, and held our ground in Beloit awaiting something closer in to the low. It soon became apparent that the cell coming up from Hays was going to absolutely dominate the local environment, and it would indeed tap the ingredients on the west side of the low as it tracked northeast. We made a mad dash west for it.

We were still 20 miles out when the first tornado reports came in. Meanwhile a cell to the north-northeast was going up in front of us, exploding like a bomb, and rapidly organizing. In my head, I always run through the scenarios of how the universe is most going to screw me over, built upon years of painful busts. On this one, it's that we'd be chasing tornado warnings. We'd miss the "one and done' on the southern storm, leave this perfectly good supercell going up over our heads, and then be way out of position as it wrapped up and produced an even bigger tornado near Beloit while choking and killing the southern storm with its outflow where we would be. Typically you'd prefer the southern storm, but with the northeast inflow, the north storm actually had the most unimpeded access. I was ready to hold for the north storm, but I was talked out of it. We had no clean path to keep up with it with the dammed and flooded waterways south of Cawker City and Beloit.

We had a shot of the Waldo tornado as we approached, a distant smudge under a giant, menacing supercell. We stepped onto the grid a few miles southwest of Tipton to get in closer. Then the storm just turned into a bewildering and utterly alien mass of writhing tornadoes. Concurrent tornadoes spawned from grotesquely distended updraft tubes. A stovepipe and rope surged eastward at high velocity on the southern rim of the meso, and I wondered if they were just orbiting satellites. There were three concurrent circulations at one point. I'm not going to lie. I was pretty nervous coming in from the northeast as we approached this storm. The base under the meso seemed to go on for miles and miles with multiple tornadoes coming out of it at odd places. Years spent studying storm structure and building up confidence, and this storm made me feel like a helpless newb.

The rope and stovepipe had dissipated, the eastern rope connected to or coming out of a long horizontal vortex, which I believe may have just been the distended parent updraft tube, but initially thought it might have been a vortex arch, or a toroidal ring vortex. Meanwhile, a fourth circulation was kicking up large debris at the surface with intermittent dust cloud flare ups. I actually didn't notice it at the time, which really alarms me. I was fixated on the two other ongoing tornadoes. But I believe this was the initial, multi-vortex development stage of the large tornado that tracked southwest of Tipton.

Once the two condensed tornadoes had dissipated, we dropped south for the "kill". Dust was ongoing on the developing tornado, which was centered under the main meso, not distended from it or orbiting the rim. It fully condensed as we traveled south a mile or two, but then retreated. We stopped next to a farmstead with a great view over the rolling hills. A truncated funnel lined with tentacles spun away a few miles to our southwest, and we let it approach, hoping to capture a multi-perspective, close range shot for the research program Anton is leading.

It became apparent we were pretty much directly in the path. We held our ground for a couple minutes, but as the tornado cyclone above the tornado drew near we punched our escape route to the south, Hank trailing behind us. We cleared the cyclone aloft, Brindley noting her ears were popping from the pressure drop. We were in sunny "clear air" now, but getting absolutely rocked by RFD. 60-70 mph winds easily and the car shook as we turned around to watch the tornado cross the road to our north. Hank now in front of us, we nosed in cautiously. The farmstead we had been parked next to was directly in the path. A whole outbuilding lifted and then blew apart in front of us, well ahead of the main condensation funnel, which was heart wrenching to see, but also incredibly alarming as a chaser who thinks he knows how close he can get.

Multiple roaring inflow jets raked the farmstead, and the air was filled with debris. The tornado crossed the road with a parade of suction vortices whipping around the bottom of the giant cone funnel. Trees were stripped of branches and partially debarked where it crossed and it seemed as if the tornado ramped up massively in those moments, no doubt to a level much higher than the EF2 rating suggests.

Hank ran into the farmstead to check to see if anyone needed help. Fortunately the house took only minor damage. It was the barns and outbuildings on the west side that had been destroyed, and nobody was home anyway. Powerlines blocked the road ahead so we turned around and plodded across some minimum maintenance roads to get back to pavement. Fortunately it was balmy and sunny immediately south of the storm and the roads were dry for the most part. It was kind of surreal going from that intense tornado encounter straight into totally balmy, serene weather with blue skies and fluffy cumulus. Several minutes later we got a glimpse of what we think was the Tipton rope-out, a white tube dissipating on the back end of a brilliant white, turbulent, and disorganized updraft tower. Minutes later, the storm collapsed, kicking up a massive and surging gust front, and the chase was over. We timelapsed gorgeous supercell updraft towers and anvils from our hotel in Salina as they caught the golden evening light.