05/22/04 REPORTS: NE, KS, IA

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Larry J. Kosch

This gives me an opportunity to set up a REPORTS Thread, even though current severe weather are breaking out all over NE and IA. Currently, there are six TORN-warned counties in SE portion of NE.

Hope everyone is safe and sound so far. Sounds like someone had a close call near Hastings in the NOW thread.

Play it Safe!! 8) LJK.
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This is what it looked like east of Columbus Nebraska. Note the hail in second pic. If you can see the hail that far away it's big. It put down baseballs to Blair. No clue how I did not lose a window other then the fact that the largest ones aren't as widespread. Could only get this view for so long before around tennisball sized hail would fall. Then you'd sneak east right up behind this amazing rotation......could not stray too far or you'd start getting smacked with large hail. Had one chance to punch east of it but could not leave this view. More pics tomorrow or later tonight. Congrats to all who bagged a tor or two. Hope no loss of life today.

Damage in Lancaster, Saline Counties in NE

Things are kinda sketchy right now, but CH 8 NEWS TV reported power lines down in Wilber and heavy damage to the Hallam Power Plant in SW Lancaster County in NE.

Flash flood warnings have been issued for Lancaster County in NE. Water was reported over HWY 77 near Princeton, NE, which is south of Lincoln NE.

Winds were gusty during heavy rains in Lincoln NE. A local radio station, KLIN, reported wind gusts up to 37 mph.

A second TORN warning has been issued for Lancaster County some time ago. Another tornadic storm is following in the same path as the first tornado did thru southern Lancaster County.

CH 7 Website posted a storm report on their website:


My wife and daughter has taken to bed. I offered to take the first watch until things calm down around here. Personally, its hard for me to relax and fall asleep in stormy weather.

Hope everyone came thru this stormy weather ok. Will be much interested in hearing about a certain chaser's close encounter with a tornado near Hastings. Take Care! 8) LJK.

I'm not sure what else to say. The Wilber/Hallam/Firth supercell was easily the meanest, nastiest, ugliest storm I have ever witnessed. And when that rain-wraped tornado finally did show it's face, I was in awe. I Intercepted the storm after playing catch-up with the earlier cell that fired up east of Columbus, well to the north of my target (I had been in Wilber around 4:30). I raced up US 81 to get there. I guess I was a little trigger happy after Wednesday's bust. After observing that the storm had become outflow dominant around North Bend, I hauled it south after hearing about a storm in Thayer/Fillmore Co. that was quickly gathering strength.

Opon reaching Lincoln, massive CG's were dropping in and around the city......from waaaaaay out in the anvil. I was impressed. I caught some fellow chasers doing about 85mph trying to get south of the monster on Hwy 77. I turned west on blacktop into Hallam, and took the road another 4 miles west, straight towards the cell as CG's were dropping all around. NEVER seeing this intensity before,l I questioned my rationale for my driving any closer to this thing. I headed south into Clatonia and continued another 4 miles west, then 2 miles south, setting up a great position on the SE flank of the storm.

Here's where it got interesting. I observed what I thought was a wall cloud with 3 separate funnels reaching out, but never producing. The rest of the storm was simply ugly....in a good way. I had never sen such an intense rain core. After observing for almost 5 minutes, I panned towards Wibler to my NW. I could se a shelf, which I thought was....peculiar. I'm thinking "Okay, wall to the south, wall to the north, so.....what's in the middle??" Sure enough, about 2 minutes later, finally close enough to see the contrast, a large, dirty funnel appeared. It hit me that I had been watching it the whole time. If you didn't KNOW it was there, you would have no idea it was there. Hence, I think we could see a lot more injury reports, simply because it was so rain/dust-wrapped. The circulation, best guess, was easily 1/2 to 3/4 mi. wide. I was speechless. after drifting a little too far north, fearing a right turn, I backed off and cut south, venturung back east to Hwy 77. By then, the tornado had all but destroyed the small town of Hallam, the town where I had just passed a group of kids on their bikes only 30 minutes prior.

I punched the core after it had obviously gone linear, south of Firth. Firth was a Ghost town....no power, a few tree limbs down. I headed north out of Firth towards Norris Elementary and High School. I was not prepared for what I saw. The north side of the school (Elementary) is all but destroyed. Power lines, sheet metal, trees are everywhere. From what I saw in the lightning flashes, I can only speculate on the damage. I would not guess anything less than F3 damage at that location, and it's immediate north.

As soon as I saw the circulation, I knew it was a killer. Simply an unbelievable storm. I know there were others that were on it. It's one I won't soon forget. I do have video, and I will be talking to someone about possibly including it on a website, since I do not have my own.
I know this is against the "Reports" rules, however it's a report and pics on behalf of my good friends Jonathan Smith and Rob Mitchell (who I've chased with on my chase vacation since 1999, but not this year)...

They intercepted the Beaver City, NE tornado at around 5:30pm or so from Highway 89 east of town looking SOUTH:

<img src=http://www.underthemeso.com/misc/beavercity1.JPG width=400 height=300>

<img src=http://www.underthemeso.com/misc/beavercity2.JPG width=400 height=300>

and a second tornado similar in appearance just after 6:00pm approximately 5 miles WNW of Alma:

<img src=http://www.underthemeso.com/misc/alma1.JPG width=300 height=400>

Mike U.. on behalf of Rob Mitchell and Jonathan Smith
The Weathervine gang, Garry Wellman, and his chase partner Travis observed two or three tornadoes with the initial supercell that moved from Thayer County into Jefferson and then Saline Counties. I may have observed a tornado west of De Witt, and another near Plymouth after dark, all pending video review. I didn't get a good look at any of them.

We targeted an area from Hebron to Red Oak and left Schuyler about 12:30. We reached York and stopped to check data. We decided York was a good location and waited for over an hour, watching bubbling cu as the boundary remained in place. I analyzed the intersection of another outflow boundary oriented from north to south which seemed to intersect the main line of cu around Hastings.

We watched the McCook storm rotate and hook on radar, and watched the storms to our north form as a line of linear multicell clusters along the cool front/wind shift. Later, these cells morphed into one of the first supercells to earn a tornado warning west of Omaha. Our area remained quiet as the cap eroded from west to east. We grew restless, and though our instinct was to remain in place, when activity fired to the east of the McCook supercell, we rolled west on Interstate 80. I thought it might be possible that the widespread anvil from the McCook storm and cluster might rob our target area of some instability. Also, this activity moved so quickly that it seemed possible they would overtake any storms firing in front of them.

Twenty minutes after we left York, the storm in Thayer County, over our original Hebron target, erupted and became severe as fast as any storm I’ve ever seen. We bolted south to Hastings then back east on State Road 6. We intended to flank the storm to the north, then cut in front of it using 81 or 15 southbound. However, as we gained on it rapidly, the storm split, and the northern core bulged out in front of us, blocking our path with golfball and baseball hail. At this point, my heart sank, knowing we would have to return west, then south, then race east to flank the storm from the southern side. It seemed almost no time before the phone rang and Doug Kiesling told me he heard reports of a wedge tornado north of Hebron.

By the time we reached 103, we’d turned the corner on the supercell and I drifted through the abandoned streets of De Witt while a mournful tornado siren blew across the quiet, windless village center. A large wall cloud hovered over the grain elevators as a few brave cornhuskers stood in their doorways and watched the lowering pass to the northeast. Earlier I'd observed a massive lowering twisted at the bottom in a strange configuration--this may have been a tornado on the ground, but didn't seem so at the time.

This storm produced mesocyclones on several sides, and as this wallcloud loomed over De Witt, another tornado tore through Wilbur. We continued skirting the southeast corner of this storm as the sun set, recording blockish wall clouds, funnels, and needle protrusions.

As for overall observations, Weathervine, Garry, and Travis detected part of the first wedge tornado as we sped toward the storm from behind. They also saw this tornado (or another) illuminated by lightning as a stovepipe. I believe I might have seen the former, not the latter, but cannot be certain.

Later, as many chasers gathered south of Beatrice, several of us observed a massive lowering to the northwest, later reported by law enforcement as a tornado on the ground. I’m not certain I saw this when it was touching down. Overall I don’t have a sense that I had a good look at any of these tornadoes. On a night when many people may be searching for family and friends, or just a place to sleep, it hardly matters.

Our thoughts are with the people in this corner of Nebraska tonight.
This was a scary chase!
Our target was Hastings were we had Hi speed internet. ~In an almost virtual chase we were able to see this serous situation evolve as the morning and early afternoon wore on. Eventually the cell near to Mc Cook seemed to become dominant and we elected to target it as we were worried that it would become tornadic as it engaged the deeper moisture around Hastings.

Eventually we intercepted the cell as we hauled West just East of Alma on 136– just in time to see Roger Hill and SLT tour 3 blasting eastwards! (they had seen a tornado just 5 mins earlier) We followed this cell East for some time – never actually seeing a tornado but just one funnel that never made contact with the ground. This become disorganised (visually) with the cell and it become difficult to read it!

After driving hard east we re-targeted the same cell?? Or another development West of Wilber – As we drove through Wilber we could see that the town had been struck as there was significant tree and house damage – Helen reported that she saw one cars damaged! We wanted to push East and then south as we assumed that the tornado was too our North – but then things got really confusing – the NOAA radio was screaming tornado warnings and tornado reports were come through on the local radio that towns ahead and behind us were being struck – the road was blocked East of Clatonia by downed trees and power lines so we turned around back to Wilber – as Radio reports of another tornado (might have been the first one – but delayed) were originating from Wilber again and also to North

At this stage we were totally wrapped in rain, with no access to data and feeling a tad alone. Sensibly we took control of the situation and called a halt to our progress just inside Wilber. I contacted Mark on the cell phone who has a Baron and he was able to plot us an route out of there – which ended up as being North and West of Wilber.

We did not intend to get involved in the Wilber mess – it was just on route (that we thought was safe) to our overnight stop. The morel of this tale is to ensure that you always have access to a 100% reliable internet and radar connection – some thing that I will address for my 2005 campaign.
I was on the Wilber storm. Thanks Lance for your helpful nowcasting. I was driving towards the storm as it went up and it did not take long before there was a lowering east of Hebron Belvidere, I saw two funnels drop out the bottom but never made it down as far as I could tell. Not sure on exact locations of tornadoes but the first one had the meanest looking wall cloud I have ever seen and quickly became a large wedge. Second tornado was a white cone when it first touched down, and ended up becoming a dirt filled wedge with white clouds hanging down rotating around it, I wish I knew how to load my video onto the computer but I'm sure someone else will put up a picture there were about a hundred people on the storm. Third tornado was a smaller stove pipe, it was white with a dark backgroung and had some white scud clouds getting pulled into it. The fourth tornado was a beast, I couldn't really see it that well because it kind of was just a huge wall of dirt and rain. I left the storm after it got North of Clatonia and headed South towards home. On my way out I saw one emergency vehicle after another heading back to where I had just came from and I knew what had happened.
Congrats to all who got to see these monsters!! I wish I could have been out, but our local area has recieved some flash flooding friday afternoon, and 4 tornadoes in my county and the county to the west, with the strongest being an f3 destroying 6 whole working operating farms and 2 trailers. This was about 7 miles WNW of Cedar Rapids, IA. The area is still under a flood warning, and it just won't stop raining.

We had some squall lines and garden variety storms roll through the area 2 or 3 times today, some with radar reflectivity up to 65DBZ, which i dont see very often. Nothing major except some small hail. I wish i could have headed out, but i felt obligated to stay in the area incase something major happend.

Again, congrats to all the interceptors, and I will be keeping the families of those who were lost in those tornadoes in nebraska in my mind.

Case Report May 22, 2004

Jeff and I started in South Sioux City South Dakota and drove to the southern side of Omaha, Nebraska to check data. A severe weather outbreak was forecasted with strong tornadoes anywhere from Nebraska through Iowa. We waited and checked data, trying to decide which area to target. Areas of interest included south central Nebraska, extreme south western Iowa and near Columbus, Nebraska. Storms were already firing in western Nebraska. We finally decided to head west on I-80. Although we were initially considering south west of Lincoln, we saw developing storm cells to the north; near Fremont and Columbus, Nebraska. We drove north to intercept them. They initially appeared weak and we considered going south. Then, they developed some rotation and we drove north to intercept the stronger and more southern storm. At 5:47PM, we turned west. When we drove over a hill, the giant low-hanging wall cloud became visible. The entire storm was rotating. A lower area was rotating inside the larger circular area. This was one of the most amazing storms I have ever seen. The center area became more ragged at 6PM. The storm was almost over Columbus, Nebraska. We stopped and watch the storm tighten before rain fell though the middle and the storm began to die. Another wall cloud formed at 6:30 but dissipated. A more interesting storm was forming to our southwest.

Beautiful images of a rotating wall cloud and supercell near Columbus, Nebraska





We blasted south on 77, then drove south to intercept a large supercell moving to the Lincoln area of Nebraska. The storm was splitting and we targeted the “right moverâ€￾. We drove along 41 through Wilber, Nebraska at 7:53PM and dropped slightly south and east. The storm was to our west and the entire storm was rotating. Very hot inflow blasted into the storm. The storm was like a giant rotating cylinder. Inflow bands curved in from the south. Jeff did film a large cone-shaped tornado that was not visible until he reviewed the video. I didn’t have it on my video. The storm was too dark for stills. Unfortunately, we later found out that Wilber was one of a few nearby towns destroyed by the tornado. As it was getting dark, I ended the chase and went to Beatrice to spend the night. I ran into about 10 other chasers including the Weathervine folks.. Two did see some tornadoes but most didn’t. As I was about to unpack, the tornado sirens sounded. A tornadic storm was approaching Beatrice from the west. I drove south and waited for storms to pass the town. Now I am back cheking more data.

Today was a successful day but I didn’t film any tornadoes. A am again saddened by the damage. As I entered Beatrice, ambulances were headed north to the damage paths. At least two towns had significant damage. A also ran into another storm chaser who helped pull some people out of a partially collapsed house.

Bill Hark

my first post....

Here are a couple of quick images from the storm that initially formed the large wedge NW of Hebron, NE. Others mentioned the storm splitting and these images are from the split that headed east just north of 4 hwy. I do have complete video of the forming of the wall cloud and subsequent tornado as well. Here are a couple of images shot with my digital camera. According to the clock on my camera these were shot at 7:22pm
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After this storm my chase partner, Marc Grant and I decided to call it an evening due to impending darkness. On our way home I had a blow out on brand new tires...glad that didn't happen about an hour ealier.

Wayne Sclesky
Originally posted by Lance Maxwell
Well, unfortunately I just read about reports of fatalities in Hallam, Neb. This is very sad news.

While assisting the rescue and fire in Hallam we transported tornado victims to the triage they had set up at the local power plant. After being forced to check in ourselves becaues of a beat to hell truck and them wanting to account for everyone in the area *still confused about this but sporting a Hallam triage checkin number on my hand* We were advised that there were no injuries or deaths at that time.. 12:30am

video of our encounter with the meso and pictures of our Hallam triage checkin numbers will be posted tomorrow..
Managed to put us right in the void of initiation, as storms fired well SW/NW/N of us around 5pm. Decided to wait it out at our original target (Fairmont, where we'd spent 3 solid hours), until t-warnings started blaring forth form all the storms. Finally jetted west towards the Furnas/Harlan Co storm. Listened to it put down tornadoes while we raced to get to it, then watched as it crapped out shortly after we arrived.........meanwhile we're noticing the nuclear BOMB storm just south of Fairmont. Not gonna be a good day.

The Harlan Co storm spun up and wrapped hard with an intense RFD north of Franklin at around 6:45pm, and a large funnel developed behind us (we were still facing west, don't ask me why cause I don't know). I looked over my shoulder to see a snakey white funnel spinning rapidly and descending behind a building. We raced north a few hundred yards and videotaped as it spun like crazy, never visually touching the ground. There were a lot of other people in the area, so if anyone can confirm this thing touched down, please let me know as this would be my sole consolation for this dreadful day. Of course it probably never did.....

Our Harlan Co storm decided to crap out nicely since we had perfect position, so we made a run east for the storm entering Saline Co (which was very near our original target). That storm of course somehow, magically managed to stay 30 miles east of us, despite our forward speed of 60mph VS its forward speed of 15mph. When we got back to US81, I entertained the idea of going south towards a cell in Republic CO Kansas, but decided to keep on the Saline Co storm.

We never caught up to it, and by the time I realized the Republic storm was the one we needed, we were 25 miles east of it, near dark. I shoulda just stayed home. Finally managed to accomplish my worst fear in chasing: totally screwing up an outbreak day that was practically handing chasers tornadoes. Oh well, I guess I'm in the club now.
Here are some radar images taken near the time of the large tornado pictured above. This is Gempak plotting NIDS radar data using the part of GEMPAK called Nmap2. If the image make people mad or they look bad they can be deleted. I'm not an artist so the images just had to be converted from postscript format into jpg.That makes them look pretty bad and too big.
All times are 00:19z or 7:19pm central time.

Base Reflectivity 0.5 degrees:

Radial Velocity 0.5 degrees


Storm Relative Mean Velocity 0.5 degrees

At least I'm not alone then.I might just have to get a laptop afterall ....

I stayed till 11:30 after a storm was done in Beatrice. Funnels but no touches that I could till. Going to bed before I look at tapes.

Anyone heard from David Drummond. I saw a van like his on hwy 5 headed to hwy 15 sporting a few plastic windows now.
Is it just me, or is TWC and CNN out of touch with the outbreak in NE/IA last night. TWC says several homes were destroyed in Hallam and a few people were injured in the entire outbreak, and CNN says there were no reported injuries. What is the true story of what has happened???
Incredible chase day and night. Viewed what must have been the Beaver City tornado from a distance as I approached from the west.Then watched that disipate and thought the outlow was overtaking the updraft when I intercepted the Alma NE tornado before getting rain wrapped. Then was chased trying to dodge baseball hail. Manage to deflect the hail and let the storm pass at an old farm building that has seen many a storm (hoped it would survive another). Was mindful of the rain soaked roads but had no choice but to navigate them to safely get out of the storm path. Some white knuckle driving for a while.Got to see the incredible updraft to this cell as I tried to get back in position. Thanks goes to Fabian Guerra and his crew for there help on this day.
Have pictures posted on my website:
Currently heading back home for the action in Illinois today.
FYI: Governor Mike Johanns is holding a press conference this morning at 9:00 am CST. He declared a lot of counties a disaster area early on last night. We'll know a lot more about injuries after that. But anyone who saw that rain/dust-wrapped monster knows that it was a potential killer.
I'll be heading back down to the Firth area to help with the clean-up this morning. I'll post some pictures as soon as I can.
All I can say is what an insane evening it was.
Got to Beatrice about 5:30 and positioned on Hwy 136 just southwest of town. Watched as one storm exploded basically out of nowhere, went severe and then tornadic (doppler indicated, but in a few minutes, both spotters and law enforcement saw a funnel). Repositioned on 15 just north of Fairbury and watched as the cell cycled, put down a brief rain-wrapped tornado and a second funnel.
By this time, it sounded like the entire atmosphere over southeast NE was exploding, as NWR was constantly announcing new tornado warnings. Discretion was the better part of valor as far as I was concerned, so I pretty much stayed where I was instead of trying to track down tornadoes in an area which was totally unfamiliar, trying to drive and read maps simutaneously (ahhh, the joys of solo chasing :shock: :roll: :wink: ).
Since I don't night chase, about 8pm I decided to try to head out of the area, so I headed west on 136 toward 81, got caught in some quarter to golfball hail (ok, kinda core puched, but it was right in the way :wink: ), then watched as an absolute monster of an HP sup formed off to my north. I think this one may be the storm which produced the Hallem tornado...inflow into the beast was at least 50 mph from the south...looked like watching time laspe. Don't know if it was the Hallem storm, but the timing would have been about right.
Heading back down 81 into Kansas, the lightning was almost constant.

A big thank you to George Tincher for an incredible nowcasting job...George you are awesome!!!
Thoughts and prayers are with the people of NE and IA, especially in Hallam.
Mel, glad you and David are alright...dang, that was bit close :shock: !!

Shane, don't feel bad... I didn't bag a tornado either.. saw a number of rotations though... like you it's something I'm having a hard time dealing with.. how could there be such an outbreak but yet I don't even get a tornado?

I go to the storm that produced the tornado near Alma but by the time I got there it was rain wrapped, I pretty much followed that storm and once it got dark I called off the chase - I never chase at night.

I got to use my new WX Worx system and some things I noted:

1). You can't use it while driving, it won't get a radio signal - which I assumed it would since it would act like a normal XM Radio or something... but I could only get a signal when pulled over.

2). I couldn't use both my WX Worx and my Delorme GPS at the same time, I could use one or the other - but not both. Then once I was done with one, it was damn near impossible to get the other working. I'd disconnect my WX Worx, plug my GPS up and get it going and it'd say "Acquiring" but never went... I'd reboot the laptop and it'd do the same thing.. after disconnect the USB 5 times it'dfinally come up..

I'm just gonna have to get the GPS for the WX WORX system...

anyways, here's some pics I took in the area between Alma and Hastings.

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