Silver Lining Tours vans rolled in Kansas

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May 1, 2004
3,381
425
21
Springfield, IL
www.skip.cc
Via Facebook:

As many of you are aware, we had a very unfortunate incident happen last night. While chasing the Lawrence, KS tornadic supercell, we were hit with a rain wrapped satellite tornado 2 miles southeast of the parent circulation.

We were hit by a rain wrapped satellite tornado that was not very close to the main mesocyclone.

There was nothing we could have done differently, as we were in fine position
A van is visible in NWS Topeka's damage photos from the survey. Here's a map of the location:

18507

Not drawing any conclusions here, but either NWS Topeka or the above accounts are in error, misunderstanding something, or incomplete in information.

The damage survey sure makes it look like they were hit by the main tornado, but I've seen significant errors in surveys before. But even so, the impact location is in line with the latter part of the track, so I'm struggling to come up with a scenario that jives with the above accounts.

:\

I'm not pointing fingers or trying to tear people down. People I like and consider friends are involved here. I worked hard on the El Reno Survey with lots of other folks because I didn't want to see any more friends killed by tornadoes, so that we could learn and better ourselves.
 

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
2,475
2,129
21
St. Louis
stormhighway.com
Based on that information, it isn't inconceivable that there could have been a satellite circulation that occurred coincident with, or just before, the main tornado spinup, then merged with it. The dogleg at the start of the path at least leaves that possibility open.

The long gap in DIs immediately after the dogleg also presents the possibilty that that initial track segment was a satellite, with the main circulation producing the DIs further downstream.

Aerial photos might be able to shed some light on those questions, as I understand damage to crops in fields are not DIs that would be recorded in this data.
 
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May 1, 2004
3,381
425
21
Springfield, IL
www.skip.cc
Based on that information, it isn't inconceivable that there could have been a satellite circulation that occurred coincident with, or just before, the main tornado spinup, then merged with it. The dogleg at the start of the path at least leaves that possibility open.

The long gap in DIs immediately after the dogleg also presents the possibilty that that initial track segment was a satellite, with the main circulation producing the DIs further downstream.
Totally. It's entirely possible the survey is in error and that a satellite has been lumped in with the EF4. This exact error happened on the Pilger/Wakefield damage survey of June 16, 2014.

Satellite or not, I'm still struggling to see how they could have been comfortably south of a tornado producing region by a span of miles. They'd still be directly in line with the part of the storm that produced the EF4. The best case scenario I can come up with is they were watching a separate (old and occluded perhaps) meso to the northwest, a (satellite) tornado came out of flanking updraft base over them, then the storm pivoted or a new mesocyclone cycle started to the south and downstream of them afterwards, taking on a similar track of the satellite.

It could happen to anybody.
I don't know what happened here, and these storms are extremely complex. I was on the Luray to Tipton supercell and it was producing a myriad of tornadoes in complex configurations.

But we need to stop saying "it could happen to anybody." There are people out there that this will never happen to. They simply don't position themselves under or near parts of the storm that could possibly produce a tornado. I'm not one of those people. I've been impacted by weak circulations a couple of times while positioning under the horseshoe. I elect to take on that risk with my chase partner's consent. Is it ok for a tour to do the same? I don't know.

It's not an innocent accident to be hit by a "satellite". When you're under the base of a supercell, you're taking on the risk of being impacted by a tornado. Everyone needs to acknowledge that and take responsibility for their actions because lives are on the line.
 
Jul 16, 2013
221
112
11
Joplin, MO
But we need to stop saying "it could happen to anybody." There are people out there that this will never happen to. They simply don't position themselves under or near parts of the storm that could possibly produce a tornado. I'm not one of those people. I've been impacted by weak circulations a couple of times while positioning under the horseshoe. I elect to take on that risk with my chase partner's consent. Is it ok for a tour to do the same? I don't know.
It absolutely can happen to anybody, but I agree most chasers won't be in that position. But you can't say that saying "it could happen to anybody" is wrong.
 

J Holder

EF2
Mar 30, 2005
129
9
6
Osage city, KS
I don't know these people and I don't know what their intentions were at the time, but I have to wonder why a tour group was punching the core of a near zero visibility HP supercell with a history of producing rain wrapped funnels earlier in its life cycle.

Liability waivers? Unless they are properly worded AND comply with Kansas state law (since the accident happened here) they're worthless. Even then, a waiver doesn't prevent a lawsuit nor keep the operator from having to shell out thousands of dollars in legal fees to gain a dismissal.
 
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Sep 29, 2011
632
562
21
47
Fort Worth, TX
www.passiontwist.com
There are two versions of this incident, the one we're all getting publicly, and the one behind closed doors. But I find it odd that the "community" seems to have developed a habit of turning the other cheek on these incidents rather than scorning those involved. In the past, getting hit by a tornado was considered the Ultimate Sin, and anyone who even came close was burned at the stake. And in all the damage control PR releases, not one word about "we made a mistake" or anything like that. It's being spun as they were innocent victims, but that only applies to the tour guests.

So which is it? A simple double standard with which free passes are reserved exclusively for the famous/popular, or are people so desensitized to these accidents they simply no longer care or are angered by irresponsibility?
 
Dec 9, 2003
4,840
119
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Oklahoma
Not drawing any conclusions here, but either NWS Topeka or the above accounts are in error, misunderstanding something, or incomplete in information.

The damage survey sure makes it look like they were hit by the main tornado, but I've seen significant errors in surveys before. But even so, the impact location is in line with the latter part of the track, so I'm struggling to come up with a scenario that jives with the above accounts.

:\

I'm not pointing fingers or trying to tear people down. People I like and consider friends are involved here. I worked hard on the El Reno Survey with lots of other folks because I didn't want to see any more friends killed by tornadoes, so that we could learn and better ourselves.
So, seeing the preliminary track that Skip showed, I decided to go pull the data from the nearest radar (TWX 88D). The radar was ~40 miles from the start of the preliminary track location, and the radar beam on the lowest elevation angle was centered ~1.2 km AGL. I have no information about the tilt of any tornadoes from this height down to the ground. It's not unusual for the circulation associated with tornadoes to be tilted (sometimes by 45 degrees or more). What follow is a very quick look at data from the lowest elevation angle only. It's mainly done out of curiosity about the start of the tornado. At this point, this might as well go into an event discussion thread.

It looks like there was a small circulation of some sort before the start of the tornado track by several miles around ~2255 UTC.
20190528_225531.png

It looks like this circulation moved generally ENE:
20190528_225650.png
20190528_225824.png20190528_225941.png

A larger area of convergent, cyclonic rotation was located to its north during this time. Unfortunately, between 2300 and 2303 UTC, it's not entirely clear how this situation evolved. By 2303 UTC, there's a small indication of the earlier circulation, and the larger-scale circulation remains centered generally a mile north. However, by 2304:40 UTC, indication of the original, smaller circulation is again apparent ~1 mi to the south of the larger circulation.

20190528_230309.png
20190528_230444.png

After this scan, the velocities begin to intensify more significantly, or at least those that are associated with the parent circulation do. Note that there isn't particularly significant gate-to-gate shear yet, at least nothing like what we see later.
20190528_230624.png

So, did the original, small vortex that moved ENEward from ~2255 to 2305 on onward go on to become the "Lawrence" tornado as the preliminary survey indicates (perhaps when it became better situated within the broader area of convergent, cyclonic rotation), or was it a separate tornado? These data, by themselves, cannot answer that question; a more thorough analysis is needed.

*This is an extremely cursory analysis of the TWX data, and it is far from conclusive at this time.*
Edit: What little speculation I had wasn't needed and has been removed.
 
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I think it's risky to speculate as to what occurred before the entire story is known. I would defend any chaser including "you know who" until the facts are known. Past issues do not always relate to the current situation unless you need to establish a history of negligence. I have assisted at multiple accidents as an EMT where it seemed quite obvious what occurred, only to discover during a witness and reconstruction expert deposition that something entirely different lead to an accident. We don't know, for example, if they encountered a road block, giant hail or chaser convergence that required a last minute course change. So everything is speculation until the entire story is known. Also, every comment on this site WILL be reviewed by legal researchers if it comes to that, as they searched every possible social media and discussion group following TWC's two disasters.
 
May 22, 2005
26
13
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Pelham, AL
Jeff Snyder was on to something with the radar images in his post above.

I surveyed the area today. I am not passing judgement or trying to get anyone in trouble. Mistakes happen. However, I felt compelled to find out what happened from a scientific perspective. This is a case that all chasers can learn from, and perhaps it could result in more caution being exercised.

The following images indicate what I think occurred. It is likely that a wall cloud was visible to the northwest of the tour group. However, it seems that a tornado (probably not visible) was already in progress to their southwest which went on to merge with the circulation to the north. The messy nature and volatile evolution of this storm was something probably more common to Dixie Alley. We see lots of small tornado signatures like the one observed in this case.

Slide2.PNGSlide3.PNGSlide4.PNGSlide5.PNGSlide6.PNGSlide7.PNGSlide8.PNGSlide9.PNG
 

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
2,475
2,129
21
St. Louis
stormhighway.com
The radar images seem to depict a Hesston-Goessel style handoff/merger rather than a satellite (old tornado is pulled into the meso of the new one). In their position, you would normally expect to be in RFD with westerly winds. Is anyone aware of papers done on surface wind fields during these types of handoffs? Seems like it would be very complex and confusing for a chaser especially without any visual reference. We've seen a couple examples of these in recent years (Pilger-Wakefield 2014 and Dodge City 2016).

In any case, the data appears to be consistent with their account of the event. I personally don't see a reason to doubt it yet, given this and their reputation/track record.
 
Mar 2, 2004
2,263
271
11
Wichita, KS
www.facebook.com
It absolutely can happen to anybody, but I agree most chasers won't be in that position. But you can't say that saying "it could happen to anybody" is wrong.
I gotta split the agreement here... there is nothing wrong with saying "it can happen to anyone", but to use that as an excuse to sweep it under the rug is also not correct.

It's not easy to get hit with a tornado... in fact, one could argue NOT getting hit by a tornado is one of the easiest part of storm chasing. Many of us, including myself, can spin stories of times we have been hit in some form or another. So yes, it CAN happen to anyone, and it has before. And mine encounter in 2008 was part of a research mission and that involved me and my occupants getting closer than we would on our own. But even still, it's not easy to get hit by a tornado.

But here is the issue... we understand, all of us do, that there is an inherent risk in what we do. We interact with severe weather, meaning we will increase our risks of being hit by tornadoes, struck by lightning, clobbered by hail, etc. It's part of it. And when there are a couple people (or only you) in a car, and those people fully understand the risk, you may take the occasional bigger risk than you would, say having a van full of people, most of whom do not fully understand the inherent risks.

The issue at matter, in my opinion, is that they had vans full of paying customers. And two of those vehicles were hit by a tornado because they were in an area of higher risk of being hit by tornadoes. Who cares whether it was a satellite, the EF-4, whatever. Satellites are nothing new, and yes, highly unpredictable. But why would you be in that situation to begin with when you have four vanloads of people. This isn't a question of them being accidentally hit. Of course they were... but what were they doing there?

Look, in similar situations in the past, I have made judgements as to how to approach similar storms, and it's often just me, or myself and a partner. We understand the risks, and in a few cases, opted not to take them because of the danger. When you have people in the vehicle with no experience or little knowledge of severe weather, you're making that decision on their behalf. And this was clearly the wrong decision. Sure, it could happen to anyone, but it happened to them. And the question is why? Because they took a risk to be in an area of the storm that posed this kind of danger.

I am not going to play the what-ifs and ask where would they be had people been killed, seriously injured, etc. The fact of the matter is that these people were taken into a dangerous area of the storm and they got hit. A risk which should not have been taken under the circumstances. Lack of predictability of satellites, unforeseen changes paths, etc, are not excuses. Because we DO know those things happen, and they can happen in those areas of storms, and low and behold, they were hit. Radar presentation indicated something significant going on, and they elected to proceed into a low visibility area with an ongoing strong circulation cleared evident on radar.

I am happy to know that the injuries were minor, and that things worked out the way they did in that manner. And I hope that the outcome of this is nothing too serious for those involved. But I just wrote a lengthy article regarding risk-taking in storm chasing, and this to me, for any group carrying multiple people whom they are responsible for, was a bad decision and an unnecessary risk and they ultimately got lucky.

Whatever legal action comes from this is moot... it's not our concern. We were not involved, and whatever transpires with that will happen as it will. And I hope it favors SLT as best as possible. The issue here, and in my opinion, is the biggest concern, is what were they doing in a region of the storm where something like this can happen with a group of inexperienced people who ultimately did not sign up to be tossed off the road. You on your own or with a couple of your chase partners, have at it. But would you as a chaser with your wife and kids, take a risk like this?

I don't care what their track record was prior... they certainly can't say that now. And six years ago today, three very experienced friends of mine with a very lengthy track record had it happen once. Only once, folks... that's all it takes. It's my hope we would've learned something from that by now.
 
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Jan 16, 2009
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Kansas City
.... However, it seems that a tornado (probably not visible) was already in progress to their southwest which went on to merge with the circulation to the north.
I can confirm the rotation at this location as we drove in this exact spot on 56 highway and had winds shift around us from south then to north. I told the people in the vehicle that we had just drove through a weak tornado.
 
Jun 16, 2015
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Oklahoma City, OK
quincyvagell.com
I surveyed the area today. I am not passing judgement or trying to get anyone in trouble. Mistakes happen. However, I felt compelled to find out what happened from a scientific perspective. This is a case that all chasers can learn from, and perhaps it could result in more caution being exercised.

The following images indicate what I think occurred. It is likely that a wall cloud was visible to the northwest of the tour group. However, it seems that a tornado (probably not visible) was already in progress to their southwest which went on to merge with the circulation to the north. The messy nature and volatile evolution of this storm was something probably more common to Dixie Alley. We see lots of small tornado signatures like the one observed in this case.
After reading this and reviewing other posts, due to my location with respect to this storm, this has me taking a step back and deeply pondering this situation.

The vans that I saw were the vans in the tour group. Based on time and location, there's no denying that.

What Matt said about the wall cloud to the northwest and a possible ongoing tornado to the southwest is key. I was just north of Globe, KS, which as a reference point, is only a short distance southwest of Lone Star Park, around or shortly before 6:00 p.m.

I saw a muddled wall cloud to the northwest, but I soon realized that I needed to get east and away from this rapidly organizing storm. It was a few minutes before the tornado started that I was already being rained on and wind was picking up. I realized this by probably about 6:00-6:02 p.m. Based on another post I made and video evidence, I was driving through the road that curves around the south side of Lone Star Park at 6:05 p.m. This was only a few blocks away from where the incident happened and likely within 1 to at most 2 minutes as well. Way too close to this storm, but what Matt said makes sense. I am not justifying my own location, but originally I thought that a tornado was close to forming to my west/northwest, when in reality, one may have already been forming to my immediate southwest. It's easy to see why something like this could happen, as well as with the Tim Samaras case. As a storm chaser, you want to be close, but you arguably need a buffer of at least 1/2 to 1 mile to truly avoid satellite tornadoes/new spin-ups/debris, etc, when there is limited or poor visibility.

With that said, I still think it's hard to make a case for a tour group being that close to a tornado or potential tornado that is rain-wrapped. Storm motions were quick (meaning not a 10 mph drift) and visibility was poor. This is not a situation like Dodge City, where you have a slow moving storm over open land with crisp visibility. I was being more aggressive than usual with this storm chase, but if I had others in the vehicle with me, there was no way I would be that close. As I was driving through the park, I knew in the back of my mind that I was very close to a tornado. Too close. I admit that and this event will have me being more careful and aware in the future.

So, I am mixed on this situation, but if I'm being honest, I think a tour group has to be more careful. It is very hard, if not impossible, to justify being as close to a tornado as they were in this particular scenario. I was essentially right there with them, but I chose to bail east and narrowly avoided the path of the tornado myself.

I'm not sure it matters, but if I have time later, I will backtrack and plot my exact locations with times, as it may be relevant to this situation. Luckily there were no serious injuries and hopefully we can all look at this objectively and learn from the situation. I wasn't even as close as them, but I will think twice about being that close again in the future.
 
Jan 16, 2009
554
474
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Kansas City
Via Facebook:






A van is visible in NWS Topeka's damage photos from the survey. Here's a map of the location:

View attachment 18507

Not drawing any conclusions here, but either NWS Topeka or the above accounts are in error, misunderstanding something, or incomplete in information.

The damage survey sure makes it look like they were hit by the main tornado, but I've seen significant errors in surveys before. But even so, the impact location is in line with the latter part of the track, so I'm struggling to come up with a scenario that jives with the above accounts.

:\

I'm not pointing fingers or trying to tear people down. People I like and consider friends are involved here. I worked hard on the El Reno Survey with lots of other folks because I didn't want to see any more friends killed by tornadoes, so that we could learn and better ourselves.
They got hit by a tornado that actually formed just south of 56 highway that we also drove through (See Matt's radar and damage report above). At the time we drove through it had just started and was weak. We watched as we drove along that winds were coming from the north then a few seconds later to the south meaning rotation. They probably did the same thing yet it was a bit later and more NE and at that time the tornado has strengthened to a dangerous point. My opinion only is that it was not a satellite and was the actually the early stage of the wedge.
 
For those referencing radar images in this thread: keep in mind the potential spatial and temporal resolution of the features being discussed and the spatial and temporal resolution, beam height, and potential data issues of the radar at the exact point of interest. What you see in the data is not always what you get at the surface and vice versa. This could be a potential player in these types of incidents, which is why if you don't have good visibility on what is going on, it's probably best to hang back.
 
Jul 5, 2009
851
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
It’s now in the mainstream media.


For those without a "subscription" and who are out of WP views for the month: Outline

The article links back to this very thread here on ST.

Same author - Matthew Cappucci - that wrote the article posted in this other thread:

 
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May 31, 2018
12
13
1
18
Richmond Virginia
It’s now in the mainstream media.


The article links back to this very thread here on ST.

Same author - Matthew Cappucci - that wrote the article posted in this other thread:

Of all the titles that could have been used, I think this one fairly forgiving and will likely not have a big impact on the news cycle. Today is also the anniversary of the 2013 El Reno tornado, which might occupy more attention from TWC if this makes it over there.
 
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Jul 16, 2013
221
112
11
Joplin, MO
I gotta split the agreement here... there is nothing wrong with saying "it can happen to anyone", but to use that as an excuse to sweep it under the rug is also not correct.
I think people are putting too much thought into what I said and taking it out of context. By no means am I brushing the incident off and using that as an excuse to sweep it under the rug, that was never what I meant. I was just simply stating that anyone in that position, that close to the meso, that it could happen to them. It's all dependent on how the person chases. Personally I keep a good distance between myself and the tornado, and I keep aware of the environment around me so the chances of me being in that position is slim to none. If I did end up in said position, that's me being irresponsible and putting myself in a situation that could have been avoided.
 
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K. Gentry

EF0
Apr 12, 2019
23
16
1
NC
0528_lawrence2.jpg
Not exactly sure when the van flipped with respect to the rotation tracks (vorticity) above. It was stated they were 2mi SE of the parent circulation. It most definitely happened during the earlier stages of production. The rotation track can show the approx position of the meso/tornado. The scaling is tricky. If you were to use the ruler on GE, you would get measurements between 1.15 to around 2 miles between the objective point of damage and the subjective point of the meso. Notice how the damage path more closely aligns the rotation track as the vorticity ramps up to over .023/s (in my limited experience with MRMS, I believe these values can be a decent amount lower with tornadoes. There is no threshold/correlation between RT's and tornado paths that I know of).
 
Mar 30, 2008
1,185
891
21
Norman, OK
www.benholcomb.com
I honestly don't remember. I scoured twitter last night and I was sure I saw them, but I'm starting to wonder if I was duped because I couldn't find them anywhere. I thought it was Connor or Gage that posted it, but I don't find it anywhere on either of their twitters.
 
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Jul 5, 2009
851
536
21
Newtown, Pennsylvania
It’s now in the mainstream media.


For those without a "subscription" and who are out of WP views for the month: Outline

The article links back to this very thread here on ST.

Same author - Matthew Cappucci - that wrote the article posted in this other thread:

If you can access the WP version, read the comments. Of course there are the usual people hating on storm chasers, saying we are fools, social Darwinism at work, etc. Ignorant people claiming tornados are worse today than in the past. Pisses me off, wish I had a subscription so I could respond. I recommend whoever has a subscription should leave a comment of their own. Anyway, there are several comments of the following nature, which I have to admit are hard to argue with. This is the type of thing I do worry could prompt some sort of action against our activities, although I confess to not knowing what that could really be as a practical matter. Comment below from a “Kristine Matlock.” In addition to this, she later has a comment accusing Roger Hill of deleting negative comments from his FB page.

“What this article isn’t telling you is that 23 first responders were tied up with these damn “tourists” while residents of Lawrence needed help. 4 ambulances were needed & it took 3 hours to clear this. If you want to experience tornados, move to tornado alley. This was the 5th tornado I’ve been through in 5 decades living in Kansas, so your chances are good if you move here. Some areas were totally devastated, but jerks think it’s fun to come watch tornadoes & the destruction they cause. Some of these jerk storm chasers had drones flying into people’s damaged homes right after the storm, while people were accessing the damage & trying to pack up what was salvageable. Nice to know others hardships is entertaining to these jerks & that they have no respect for first responders that put their lives in peril.”