Is 2010 the most photogenic tornado year to-date?

May 18, 2004
Centennial, CO
I've been sitting here trying to mull over any year other than 2010 that has offered such repeatedly amazing tornados with associated structure. Over the past 3 weeks, we've had gorgeous low-base wedge tornados (Bill Hark's and Walker Ashley's in SD), spectacular high-based cycling tornadic storm in SE CO in the midst of a SVR watch where mesoscale events ruled the synoptic scale (I personally got to taste this storm), and yesterday's storms across IL.

Other than May 3, 1999, I don't remember a year that has produced such spectacularly structured tornados with repeatedly jaw-dropping photos. I've been chasing since 1993, but honestly cannot remember any year like this (except, perhaps, 2004 which seemed to be abundant with staggering tornados too).

Notwithstanding, a lot of the most photogenic tornados this year have occurred in less-than-ideal synoptic setups (yesterday in IL aside). Anyone else agree or disagree with this?

Jason Boggs

I agree with this. I've been chasing for about 12 years, and the Campo tornado is definitely the most photogenic tornado I've ever seen. Like you stated, the SD events were amazing too.

Jason...Like you, I got to taste the Campo tornado. The dirt from the RFD had kind of a gritty taste to it, but sweet at the same time.


Hard to say 2010 is the most photogenic tornado year to date but it is defiantly one of the better years for storm chasers.

I have seen some very photogenic pictures from people like David Hoadley, Gene Moore, Brian Stertz, Warren Faidley etc in years before 2000. I can remember some old photograps from Kansas and Oklahoma that are stunning. I am sure some of the older members remember some spectacular years for photographs. 2004 was a very good year for tornadoes.

Having said that here are some dates with nice tornadoes this year:
March 8: Hammon, Oklahoma tornado.
April 22nd: Tornadoes in Colorado, Kansas and Texas. Large Wedge, Cone and Stove Pipe tornadoes are seen.
May 10th: Lot's of tornadoes in Oklahoma and Kansas.
May 18th: Tornadoes in Texas and Whyoming.
May 19th: Tornadoes in Oklahoma and maybe Kansas and Texas.
May 22: Large tornado in South Dakota. Same day as the May 22, 2004 tornado outbreak in Kansas, Iowa and Missouri.
May 23: Tornadoes in western Kansas.
May 24: Cone tornado in South Dakota.
May 31: Cone tornado in Baca County, Colorado.
June 5th: Tornadoes in lower great lakes region.

There was another brief (I think) but very photogenic tornado in Oklahoma earlier in the year that several chasers saw but I forget the date. Anyone remember? This tornado was shown on TV. I may have also missed a date for Colorado but I am not sure.
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Jason Foster

I believe if there were equal number of chasers in years past, we would see equal to the number of images. Also add the easier level of ability thanks to technology in imagery equipment to get the image and post the image to a wider audience having a lot to do with it.

That said, 2010 has been a rather great year even with the slow start.
I did not include May 19th because I did not see a lot of photographs for that date. The Hammon, Oklahoma tornado was nice but i'm not sure if it was very photogenic. I think most people saw it from a distance but I could be wrong.
May 19th was very photogenic. I do not have my video up yet but the tornado near the gas station that was at the intersection of I-35 and OK Hwy 51 was impressive.

As you can see bellow Hammon was very photogenic:

(Forgive my excitement in this video, I was thrilled to have a tornado on this almost bust of a chase. I also always freak out on a tornado when it is my first of the year.)



The Hammon tornado occured in March so I did not remember it well but based on the pictures I agree it was very photogenic and so was the tornado from May 19th that was posted. I will add both dates to the list. Thanks guys. Is there any good pictures of the Yazoo tornado?
Apr 10, 2008
Tulsa, OK
As it stands right now, 2010 has not quite reached the "status" of 2004 in regards to photogenic tornadoes, however we are just into June and the overall pattern doesn't appear to be slowing down. If this year continues to produce like it has been, 2010 will likely become THE year for photogenic tornadoes. That is saying a lot because 2004 was an incredible year which has stood alone...until now.
Mar 15, 2007
Essex - UK
Well for me on a personal level 2010 has blown me away with structure. Started chasing in 2004 but missed all the great risk days due to being on an organised Tour.

Just a few days from this year. But pretty much most days have had amazing structure

May 11th - May 19th - May 31st

Paul S


Mike Hollingshead

I don't know, I'm guessing 2010 has a lot of work to do to be some most photogenic tornado year to date. I don't even know if 2004 owns that sort of title or not. For some reason it doesn't feel as if 2010 is even close really. It also seems as though if 2010 can have a shot, that then any tornado can qualify as photogenic, which I actually think is largely true...given the right angle and right time(by and large).

But just if you start to stack it up to 2004 it starts to hit some pretty solid walls....and I can't think of most of them one can do with the fresh 2010.

Yeah once I start to though, it seems easy to know 2004 has it rather owned...though yeah it's only early June this year.

2004.....seems part of the problem is just that 2004 had several tornado days....but several of those days produced a lot of tornadoes in a lot of areas. 2010 just hasn't seemed nearly as prolific on the given day.

April IL/IN tornado outbreak.
May 10 Colorado tornadofest
May 12 Attica tornadoes
May 22, sw NE tornadoes plus the early tornado from the hallam the billion other tornadoes that day most likely.
May 24 sc NE/nc KS had a couple that could qualify..also nw MO intense tornadic sup
May 29 sc KS amazing tornadoes and nc KS wedge....again nw MO crazy crazy tornado machine.
May 30, got me, tornado outbreak to the east
June 10 Big Springs NE
June 11 Samaras' tornadoes in nw IA(tornado probe video)
June 12 Mulvane stuff
July 7 tornado outbreak in nc KS
July 12 tall barrel tornado in central NE
July 13 Roanoke IL crazy big violent tornado

There were some ND tornado days in there too...and other tornado days I don't know if they'd be "photogenic" from some location or not. Seems 2010 would have too much ground to cover for at least beating 2004. It for sure is working on a great tornado year though. It's just kind of doing it in a strange fashion. Like has been mentioned, several from kinda not obvious situations(Campo....the first early OK deal...even May 22nd SD to some degree, given just how hard that had to turn on that boundary and cap concerns).

2010 will probably end up my 2nd favorite year, but that is planning on some more catches. Or maybe it won't get 2nd. 2010 is just odd to me. It's like you get on the "tornado machine"(seems most of them weren't even tornado machines) on the right day, or you don't get much of anything else. I don't know that I've even had the camera out for lightning once yet. No great structure at all yet on anything but the 2 tornado days I chased. For me it has been catch junk...or Wakita or Bowdle. Just an all around different year for me, as I'm really finally able to just sit the heck out of some days I don't like now. Doing fairly well at that for once. Chased the 24th of May, but just left 30 minutes too late, thanks to thinking I could bump the alarm back 1 hour as I went to sleep the night before...sigh. Biggest regret of the year. Otherwise I don't regret missing much else. CO doesn't count lol. It'd be nice if some setups would finally move closer to home. Each deal is either in OK....WY/western NE/CO.....or northern/nw SD. Can add IL to that now too. Like a damn black hole around home. But still, I'm guessing 2010 will end up my number 2 year by the time it is over. Probably just because I suck it up so well most years and well 2004 was no different, just a lot more ops to be lucky.

26 Marcus! Damn. I'd probably have to do a 2005-2010 to get to 26. Yeah pretty sure I'd still not get to that. Congrats!
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Aug 16, 2009
Amarillo, TX
Although this is only my 3rd year of chasing, I must say that this year will definately be one of my more memorable years. So far up to 26 tornadoes, including some amazingly photogenic tornadoes, such as this one near Spearman, TX on May 24:

Nov 18, 2006
Chicago, IL
2010 has completely blown away every year I have chased. In 2004 I hadn't ventured out to the plains yet, and I don't know the full spectrum of what that year did other than a few key events. If others say 2010 hasn't reached it yet that surprised me, that must have been one hell of a year.

I mean, if that Campo, CO storm wasn't a complete gift from god I don't know what is.
May 18, 2004
Centennial, CO
I admit, 2004 was amazing and I saw more tornados that trip than I've ever seen in any other chase vacation. I joked that I saw more tornados than stops at gas stations that year. And my receipts actually back that hyperbole up ;).

I think 2010 has been better for a lot of reasons, but mostly the structure and the framing of the tornado photos (Greg's and Skip's exceptions noted from 2004). Marcus's photo above is incredible and was a lesser-known storm of this year.

I should also clarify that there are incredible tornado photos every year (even in 2009 which sucked, the WY tornado was pretty spectacular), but I wanted to see how people responded to my OP. As one who chases a very finite period annually, this year has been better than 2004 for me, and that likely jades my thoughts. :)


May 22, 2004 was a big day for tornadoes and one I will never forget. The sirens in town literally went off 2-3 times before 6:00 PM and another time after midnight. That day produced many tornadoes in Iowa and a bow echo that had winds over 100 MPH in Iowa. I remember seeing some photogenic tornadoes from that day and the Hallam, Nebraska tornado was huge. I don't even know if 2004 was the best year but it has to be in the top ten since chasing became popular.


These dates are from 2003 and 2004. So far I don't see 2010 coming close for number of tornadoes in a year. We have had a lot of events but not a lot of big wide spread events. Most of the events seem localized to a certain area. For 2003 and 2004 there was many wide spread big events offering a lot more photo oppurtunities.

- Largest September tornado outbreak – 101 on Sept 5-8, 2004 (Hurricane Frances)
- Largest June tornado outbreak – 95 on June 24, 2003 (South Dakota’s largest outbreak)
- Largest “extended” tornado outbreak – 336 tornadoes in 9 days, May 3-11, 2003
- Most tornadoes in a year – 1819 in 2004
- Most tornadoes in a month – 543 in May 2003
- 6 additional monthly tornado records: 148 in February 2008; 179 in August 2004; 297 in September 2004; 117 in October 2001; 150 in November 2004 and 2005; 99 in December 2002
- Most tornadoes from a tropical cyclone – 127 from Hurricane Ivan in 2004
- Most tornadoes in a season from tropical cyclones – 339 in 2004 (Ivan 127; Frances 106; Jeanne 42; Charley 25; Gaston 20; Bonnie 18; Matthew 1)
- Widest tornado – 2.5 miles in the F4 tornado at Hallam, NE on May 22, 2004

The top 6 states for tornadoes in 2003:
Texas: 154
Illinois: 119
Kansas: 92
Nebraska: 81
South Dakota: 81
Missouri: 80

The top 6 states for tornadoes in 2004:
Texas: 178
Kansas: 124
Iowa: 120
Nebraska: 111
Florida: 104
Colorado: 84
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Yes there have been some very nice tornadoes and for those that came for short bursts at least you had opportunities to chase and perhaps get a tornado or two. But I agree there are others years that easily surpass 2010 for those who have chased in the past. Tin tornado numbers, this year is my second best as I have suggested in another thread. My best year was 2004 but 2001 was also awesome given my friend David and I chased the White Deer tornado. That ranks as my best tornado experience ever!

Putting things in perspective, if I could wind back the clock, I would kill to have a shot at the June 2 to June 9 1995 storm chasing period. From photogenic supercells and tornadoes as well as wedge fest, wall clouds to the ground, mile wide wedge and a couple of F5's, that year imo from a chaser perspective is up there with the best - almost sacred. Even Vortex 1 was able to get valuable data during that week!

Anyway, each year has its own surprises and disappointments and this year had its fare share. But I just love coming to the great plains as it removes from the sanity of missing variables of Australian storm chasing! A few chasers in our group chased for the first time and really got to see first hand no matter what is thrown at them in Australia, Tornado Alley is at another level in storm chasing - the real deal!


Jimmy Deguara
Apr 18, 2005
IMO 2004 had the most 'photogenic tornadoes'; lots of incredible setups with crawling, cyclic tornadic supercells. 2004 was awesome, but 2003 was my favorite; it seemed to be a violent stovepipe/wedge fest from April-June.

Apr 29, 2004
Norman, OK
I'll date myself: 1991 was the year

3/21 Ada OK, Caney OK
3/26 NC OK, Hutchinson KS
4/2 NW OK
4/12 Near Enid OK (my top chase ever)
4/26 I-35 corridor outbreak (Wichita-Andover, Winfield, KS; Red Rock, Oologah, OK)
5/10 Lazbuddie TX
5/11 Campo #1 (see my avatar)
5/15 Laverne OK
5/16 Wichita #2, Catoosa OK
5/26 Woodward OK, El Dorado KS tornado-fest
5/29 TX PH

This is probably not an inclusive list.
I'm not qualified to judge a most photogenic year, but want to remind all that 2010 early on featured the January 21 tornado in Huntsville, AL, that was widely video'd and photographed. Since we seldom see storms that are classically structured here, let alone followed by a dry line that allows both back viewing and sunset lighting, this one opened the door--almost literally, for me, as I went through it, lost three trees but no damage.

It doesn't begin to compare to the Colorado and South Dakota shows we've been watching, but it was photogenic for these parts.

Here's three minutes of stills assembled by a guy on Youtube. Warning: antique fire siren gets old quickly, lowering volume may improve the viewing experience.!