Best Tornado Days

Jeff House

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Jun 1, 2008
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Thought it would be fun to create a thread for best tornado days. Let this be the opposite of the Missed Tornado thread. Inject some positive energy ahead of chase season 2019!

Harper, KS 2004: Stumbled out of Wichita work into an outflow boundary enhanced cyclical show. First time chaser went with me, and apparently I piggy backed off that beginners luck. We saw a couple ropes and then it took a while to regroup. Attica tornado was reddish at first before becoming a darker tube and elephant trunk. Cycled again. Harper was a wide stovepipe or column. We saw another backlit by lightning, but were not aggressively chasing after dark and on the way back.

Kingfisher County, OK 2008: Wichita felt cold and clammy so we punted the WF farther north. Elected OFB down in north-central OK. We got there after the first couple tornadoes (rope and hose?) The Truth radio station chasers reported the first two. Approached as their second tornado lifted. Waited several minutes and an elephant trunk dropped. Next cycle was a broad cone aloft with vorticies dancing beneath. Eventually it became a large wedge wrapped in rain. We departed victorious.

Rozel, KS 2013: Two amazing cycles! Cell north a few counties dropped first but we did not try to give chase. Continued the wait as mid-levels improved. First cycle went straight to a powerful tornado. Second cycle was the finesse finish. At one point another funnel accompanied it. Long duration rope out was spectacular. Chaser convergence social hour before the event was great company too.

Dodge City 2016: Talk about a family of tornadoes! We saw all the cycles, but we did not get as close at first. We circumnavigated DDC to the east, rather than approach from the south. Actually left town to the east from the airport and saw a brief tornado behind wind turbines, but did not get a picture. It was a cool ending.

Despite a couple frustrating seasons, much for which to be thankful. Add a total solar eclipse in 2017 and surprise aurora on a summer trip to Jasper NP, Canada years ago.
 
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Sep 7, 2013
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Strasburg, CO
Eads, CO (09MAY15). I drove to Western Kansas (Sharon Springs Area) trying out my fledgling forecasting skills. I missed my target but not by so much that I wasn't still in a good position to relocate and to catch the Eads Cyclic supercell put down at least 7 tornados by my count (odds are it was just the same couple recycling, but man if I wasn't just in awe watching this happen over and over, first from long range, then up close as I let the storms come to me.


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JeremyS

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Mar 12, 2014
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I have 4 events that stick out to me for my best days:
1) southern Minnesota tornado outbreak 6/17/10. This was the first day I ever saw a tornado chasing, and man what a day! I had been chasing since 2008 and had no luck prior to this day. I saw 7-8 tornadoes of all shapes and sizes. Actually this day was the first day both my chase partner at the time and I ever saw a tornado. I still remember the excitement in our voices on the video I was recording when we first saw the first tornado!

2) Pilger. I saw the first EF-4 tornado that went by Stanton and then of course the twins. My only regret from this day was not being a bit closer to the action.

3) Dodge City. Drove down from Omaha that day arriving about 30 minutes before the first tornado warning was issued. An amazing day where again my regret was not getting closer, but my chase partner and I wanted to try and document everything so we were always stopping for video and pics, and also had some brief muddy road issues to navigate.

4) Courtland/Scandia, KS tornado family 5/6/15. This was a bit of a surprise outbreak and I even remember having some doubts due to all the clouds/cool weather in the target area. But man once the storms started producing they were prolific. Caught a couple of tornadoes to our west, and then had a front seat show for the long track wedge that passed between Courtland and Scandia and was on the ground for 36 miles all the way into Nebraska. The tornado formed in the field right next to the road and rapidly grew into a wedge that struck an ethanol plant causing EF-2 damage. We immediately fell behind the tornado due to power lines across the road so didn't follow it all the way for it's path.
Here's my crappy video where I had to deal with some fog on my lens and focus issues, but still gives you an idea:
 

Todd Lemery

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My favorite won’t make a lot of people’s list because it wasn’t exactly a tornado machine. Leoti 2016. We had started off on a couple of cells closer to the Colorado border, but quickly slid farther East as soon as the new storm popped up. The slow moving spaceship had amazing structure. The storm looked like it was carved out of granite. It slowly moved North and then basically stopped. Over four hours we barely even had to move. The inflow at times was some of the strongest i’ve ever felt too. It did drop three tornados that we saw too. They weren’t anything special, but they were enough to bump it up to my favorite storm. It isn’t too often you get to camp out and relax under a storm like that one. To top it off, it was only a short drive to Garden City to spend the night.
 
Jan 14, 2011
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This question gets harder to answer as the years go by, as I've been blessed with so many days that are worthy of the list. Here are my standouts:

1. Dodge City 2016. Needs no explanation.

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2. Bennington I (2013). Up close and personal with a big, nearly stationary roaring tornado for more than 30 minutes. Even after DDC 2016, I still waffle about this being my #1. Simply a dream.

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3. Rozel 2013. The first tornado was a classic, but the second tornado was another dream-like sequence of sound and visuals for me.

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Dec 8, 2003
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Southeast CO
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There are no words to adequately quantify how lucky and blessed I feel for the experiences I've had. Though I was there and in good position for Mulvane, Bennington (1), Canadian TX and the 5-24-2011 OK EF5, none of them make my top 3. Number 3 for me is Pilger.

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I've posted only my images from south of Pilger there, before it hit the town, because I don't think too many of you have seen it from that perspective. Everyone has seen the 2 concurrent tornado pictures/video 100 times.

Number two was Campo, though it is certainly my no. 1 from a photogenic standpoint.

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Number one for me is Simla, for all the reasons I won't rehash here because it has been discussed so many times before. As I've said before, Simla left me convulsing in laughter involuntarily for 20 minutes afterward as I drove back to Limon. I can't imagine how that's going to be topped.

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Danny Reese

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May 14, 2018
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Haven't been chasing for too long, but I've got a fairly clear-cut top three.
3. Pampa - 11/16/15 High Plains Outbreak. First strong tornadoes I'd seen and first nighttime tornadoes. Might have been higher up on the list if there had been an hour more daylight to get some better pictures, but five tornadoes, three EF-2+ is good for any time of the year, let alone mid-November.
2. McLean/Elk City - 5/16/17. Caught McLean on the same road as seemingly every other chaser in the Panhandle, watched it get rain-wrapped and rope out, and then made it to the next supercell, catching the initial stages of Elk City before it got rain-wrapped. This was the first big outbreak I chased after I got my first legit DSLR, and had quite a few photogenic moments on this day.
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1. Wynnewood/Sulphur - 5/9/16. By far my top day yet. I've definitely misplayed my share of chases, but managed to be in great position for both of these on this day. I wasn't fully committed to chasing this day, but after two finals in the morning I looked at observations to see the outflow boundary in place with the dryline still well west of I35. Got down to Wynnewood right at convective initiation, and was able to stay between the tornado and hail core for most of the tornado's life. Finally got ahead of the storm as it cycled, watched the Sulphur wedge for awhile from the east, and then bailed a few miles to the south as it became more rain-wrapped and passed to the north. Incredible chase, in terms of tornadoes and supercell structure, just a short drive from Norman.
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James Gustina

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1. Dodge City, KS 5/24/2016. Hands down the best chase I've ever had in terms of number and just the photogenic nature of the tornadoes themselves. Easy to follow on the gridded dirt roads north of Minneola and almost no rain immediately south of the updraft.






2. La Crosse, Kansas 5/25/2012. None of my tornado photos turned out well(I had a craptastic camera and the best show was right at dusk into it getting dark) but it was my first experience with tornadoes on the Plains and the nighttime tornadoes with La Crosse's sirens blaring is still one of my most vivid memories.

3. Tied between Wynnewood, OK (5/9/2016) and Elmer, OK (5/16/2015). Wynnewood produced one of the most violent tornadoes I've ever seen and the structure of the supercell itself was incredibly impressive. On top of the Wynnewood storm, the Bromide tornado that came about on a smaller storm to the southeast was also visually stunning. Elmer is up there for me due to it ending a year and some change streak of futility. I had a stinker of a 2014 season and the first half of 2015 was going incredibly poorly with some bad misses up to that point.





 
Jan 16, 2009
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Kansas City
Eads, CO (09MAY15). I drove to Western Kansas (Sharon Springs Area) trying out my fledgling forecasting skills. I missed my target but not by so much that I wasn't still in a good position to relocate and to catch the Eads Cyclic supercell put down at least 7 tornados by my count (odds are it was just the same couple recycling, but man if I wasn't just in awe watching this happen over and over, first from long range, then up close as I let the storms come to me.
I counted seven as well in Colorado then another at least 5 more in Kansas at night. Did you make it over to Grinnell area to see those?
 
Sep 7, 2013
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Strasburg, CO
I counted seven as well in Colorado then another at least 5 more in Kansas at night. Did you make it over to Grinnell area to see those?
I chased to Colby then decided to call it for darkness. Lucky I did, because reports were a tornado crossed 24 just moments after I decided to stop for lightning. Had I kept going, I did the math, I would have had an unwanted intercept. I don't chase tornados at night.

Shortly thereafter my wife called and said we were having a blizzard back home, so I ended camping out in Goodland, then driving home to this in the morning. I heard a lot of stories of chasers trying to get back to denver that evening and getting caught up in it, taking 2-3x as long as normal. So twice I'm glad I stopped.

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This was also the first chase I experienced slamming through a dryline at 80mph and having my windows instantly fog up. Freaked me out.
 

Todd Lemery

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18322FF9-8554-4D65-A0DA-1A9314E38D1D.jpeg Hell, everybody else is listing more than just their favorite one so I’ll include my second favorite. Dodge City. It could’ve been my favorite, but I ended up being disappointed for not getting closer. We had a heck of a time after leaving the Turkey tornado the night before on clay roads and didn’t know the grid roads weren’t all that bad closer to the twisters. Included is a cell phone pic of my brothers.
 
Mar 2, 2004
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I have this discussion a lot, and I feel like it always varies a bit... but I think this is what I'd cement as my faves..

1. Hands down, south-central Kansas on May 29, 2004. The Conway Springs tornado is still to this day one of my favorite tornado sequences.


2. I think Pilger on June 16, 2014 has to take the #2 spot. Four EF-4s in a day, including the pair of them down at the same time. It's hard to not want to put this at number 1, but alas, it'll get the #2.


3. Dodge City 2016, this was basically the Conway Springs for the new generation... incredible variety of tornadoes, a slow moving supercell, and I'm still probably have media of this event I haven't seen yet. LOL



4. April 14, 2012 in central KS gets my #4 spot... this was one of my favorite days in the early 2010s. Only five tornadoes, but each one was equally as photogenic. My favorite tornado of this day was the Solomon tornado, which we had a front row seat as we put a leash on it and walked it up Solomon Road.


5. Given how long I lived in Colorado without a good tornado day, I got to give #5 to May 9, 2015 in far eastern Colorado as it was my first significant tornado outbreak day in Colorado, two years AFTER moving out of the state. I think we saw 5 tornadoes that day, including one from nearly 50 miles away before we crossed from KS into Colorado.

 
Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
Comparing tornados is like comparing women; sometimes it’s apples and oranges. A woman can be beautiful, another can be sexy, another can be pretty, still another may be hot. These are all different qualities; some women may be described as more than one of these, but very few are all. And sometimes the lighting changes everything [emoji57] Before Dodge City I would have said Campo in 2010 was my best tornado day for being so photogenic (and unexpected), but when describing that as my “best” day I would also tell people that Canton Lake OK in 2011 was in some ways more exciting because it was more violent and on a highly-anticipated outbreak day. The first Quinter tornado in 2008 (I missed the second, much better one) was my first primal experience of seeing a tornado emerge from the rain, and LaCrosse 2012 was my first experience of a tornado at night. But then Dodge City was like that woman that is somehow beautiful, sexy and hot all at the same time; that day pretty much had it all, photogenic and violent tornados, multiple simultaneous tornados on the ground, the sheer quantity and variety of shapes and sizes, and still somewhat of a surprise relative to the day’s setup. So I would have to say that’s objectively my single best day, which does not at all diminish the characteristics of other days that were uniquely special in their own way.

Unfortunately, I think those events from Campo on are also just about my entire list of tornados for the 2010’s, having screwed up royally every day of the last two weeks of May 2013 as detailed elsewhere ad nauseam, and having nothing to show for my chase vacations in 2014, 2015, 2017 or 2018, partly due to timing of my trips, and partly due to screw-ups. Certainly had some good stuff prior to 2010, but the only one that sticks out in my mind at the moment with detail on place and time is Trinidad CO in May 2001, after a long and patient wait in relatively cool air, in the last moments of decent lighting on the very last day of my chase trip.

As others have said, I have some regret not getting closer for both Dodge City and Campo, but it’s a difficult thing, you never know how long a tornado will last, and you don’t want to jerk around getting greedy and driving too much and losing the opportunity to get out in the field, watch it, film it, and enjoy it. It’s only in hindsight that it’s even possible to know you could have gotten closer. So don’t worry about it. If you are out a little bit, you will get a view of the wall cloud, meso, etc. that others will miss.
 

Jeff House

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We did not get all that close to Dodge either. Heck after waiting with everyone else, we swung all the way out to Ford, KS and back lol! The route did give us excellent pictures of the wall cloud and all the way out to mid-level structure. That whole storm was... Well as Cousin Eddie says, Clark she was a beaut!

Can't blame yourself for 2014 and 2015 when best action was before climo super peak. I did not attempt 2017 and even 2018 was half-hearted. 2018 yielded a boozy night of karaoke in Wichita though. Rock You Like a Hurricane is about weather, right?

Some famous tornadoes do not show up on either of my lists, success or bust. In those cases I simply did not chase. Couple of them I was on shift in Wichita. More recent years I was not on chase vacation. Still enjoy reading about Campo, Pilger, Conway Springs, and the other legends.

Anyway thank you everyone for making this thread fun. Keep posting if you have not yet. I got a great feeling about 2019!
 

Warren Faidley

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Lots of favorites over the last 30 years, but two stand out. The loaded gun supercell NE of Pampa, TX on May 28, 1994, produced the first two images below. The close-up picture was used for Twister. It was my best "single" stock image sale of all time, fetching $20k for unlimited promotional use. Now days, you would be lucky to get $200.00. The third image was taken near Attica, KS on May 29, 2004. The periods of May 22-24 and May 29-30 produced so many tornadoes, I stopped counting and will never know the total. This was one of my best stock images (when stock was profitable) because it had the "perfect" tube and framing that clients wanted. It was also the first tornado captured on motion picture film (35mm). By the end of this outbreak, I had tornado overload, so I had time to plan and shoot goofy promo shots or eat a bag of Fritos as they passed.

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