06/30/05 REPORTS: Central Plains

Joey Ketcham

For the first time in my chase career, I was placed in a situation that I hope to never encounter again.

All I can say is WOW! What an expected chase day this evening. Where to start…. Early evening storms began to develop in and around the Woodson and Wilson county area during the 5 and 6:00 hour. They soon became tornadic prompting a tornado warning to be issued.

The storms were moving in a south, to southeast direction placing the counties of Cherokee, Labette, and southern Crawford in it’s path. After watching the storms as they progressed, I made a last minute decision to head out west on Highway 400 and intercept the storms as they rolled through.

I began my adventure heading west with the ability to see the strong supercell to the north. The storm was headed towards the McCune area, so I decided to head a bit further west to the intersection of Wallace Rd. and Highway 400. This would place me at an intersection where I had a paved south road in case I needed to bail.

Across the street from the volunteer fire dept. at Wallace Rd and Highway 400 was a vacant lot I decided to pull off onto, here I was able to observe both a shelf cloud and beaver’s hail to the north and northwest. The beaver tail was actually more north of McCune Kansas.

Reports of funnel clouds and tornados soon began to pour in, I heard reports of a tornado near Thayer Kansas, and then a report of a tornado north of Parsons Kansas, which would place the tornado to my NW. I decided to hang out there at the intersection longer, shortly afterwards a Labette county Sheriff’s Deputy arrived to join in on the storm spotting.

Soon the firefighters across the street began rushing inside and the deputy discovered a developing funnel cloud right over us. I turned around and the deputy lead the way and I soon followed as we headed south on Wallace Road as the funnel began descending to the ground. The winds were very violent, at least 80 MPH and branches were literally flying horizontal and just breaking in half. It was hard to keep my expedition on the road.

The Deputy headed to the first house we came upon and took shelter there, I continued south and ended up at a farm house that was occupied by an elderly man. The man’s house faced south, he was sitting in his drive way in a lawn chair completely unaware of a tornado just to our north, which was heading south – southeast. If I hadn’t stopped, chances are he would have been caught out there.

I pulled in, jumped out and advised him we needed to get to shelter now. At this time as we entered his garage the winds picked up to an Est. 80MPH or so. We headed to his basement and all I could see out the window was dust, debris and such being kicked around. The tornado passed barely to our north, thankfully.
After the tornado had passed, I headed back to highway 400 and headed back east towards home knowing I wouldn’t be able to catch up with the storm now. We did run into heavy rains, some small hail, and gusty winds. The tornado ended up staying on the ground making it’s way into southwest Missouri.

I got a couple pictures, and a radar grab. Nothing spectacular. It was quite the day!





NOTE: In a previous thread I stated I gave up chasing, I have. I, however, am going to continue storm spotting for the county though.. in case anyone gets confused.
Dick McGowan and I left Lawrence about 3p.m. with an initial target of Emporia, KS. Soon after leaving town we encountered our first storm of the day near Overbrook which provided a few good shots of a monstrous shelf cloud. Knowing that storms tornadic potential was pretty low we hurried down highway 75 towards a new storm that formed near Emporia. Soon after a tornado warning was issued for Coffey County. For a couple of minutes the storm showed good orginization and decent rotation but never could get its act together and soon we broke off of it and headed southwest towards the eventual storm of the day.

We then met up with Eric B'Hymer and as we neared the base of the storm near Matfield Green it really started to get its act together and had an LPish appearance to it with some great structure. Soon after a tornado warning was is issued for it and a good wall cloud developed. It was about this time that precip took us over so we jetted south to try and get ahead of the storm in blinding rain and hail. There is definately not a great road network in the Flint Hills and the only paved road in the area (Highway 99) just had to be closed due to a bridge being out. So basically we had to backtrack 15 miles back north to Madison and then we played catch up with the storm for the next hour and a half. This proved to be a very crucial mistake as we never were able to get fully ahead of the storm after that and had a low contrast backside view. After getting into decent position we saw possibly a funnel or two but the storm's HP characteristics really made it difficult to make any sure assumptions. A couple minutes later we heard of a reported half mile mile wide tornado 4 miles NE of Parsons. The funny thing about that was that we were within a mile of where the tornado was reported and did not see anything except a couple ominous rain shafts. But again it was getting dark and the contrast was pretty bad so we probably just couldn't see it from the perspective that we had. Soon after we hit highway 400 and headed east towards McCune. It was at this time that another tornado was reported just west of McCune a mile or two to our east. I am pretty sure that I saw the tornado (the same one that Joey Ketchum was near) but visibilty was so bad we had to rely on lightning for illumination and the one decent chance I got to get of video of it I was on the phone and wasn't concentrating on videoing. Soon after this a hail core hit us and it was a lost cause after that due to poor visibilty and the uncertainty that if we drove any further est that we might have driven into the tornado. So we pulled off the road and took a beating from the hail which resulted in a cracked windshield and and numerous hail dents to Dick's Blazer. After this we decided to call the chase off as tough of a decision as it was and it was only worse as we continued to hear reports of tornadoes to our east.

All in all the day was more than we could have asked for and if the storm had produced before dusk we would have probably been in a good position but it is very hard to chase HP giants after dark and we would have been in an even better position if we hadn't ran into that closed road.

Here are some pics from the day although I seemed to be camcorder happy for most of the day. I think Dick got a lot more stills than I did so hopefully he will post some of them.

The funniest part of the day was when we were taking lighting photos afterwords and a guy drove up and starting talking and was like "I've driven all over the god damn county and haven't seen any damage" He acted pissed that he couldn't find anything that had been hit.

Meso on Coffey Co. storm

Near Matfield Green

East of last location

Near Buffalo

Lightning on the way home...


I will try to get some vid stills further east when tornadoes started to be reported.
Darin summed it up well. Ditched the original tornado warned cell 2 miles south of Beto's junction, after losing it's rotation. Took off west for the newly fired cell, into Madison, KS where wall cloud was taking shape. Saw someone's video on TWC of Neosho Co. tornado :) . Slid and hydroplaned a lot, and saw hail of many shapes and sizes. Windshield wipers shredded, windshield cracked, numerous dents. Not bad for a milk day.

Photos big, Click on thumbnails. :)