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07/15/04 REPORTS: Central & Northern Plains, Southeast

Larry J. Kosch

With the prelimimary SPC storm reports tallying 12 tornadoes nationwide so far this evening, it's time to post your first hand chase/storm reports. Thanks.

Just returned from the Orchard, NE storm. I got on the storm about five minutes before it tor warned at 6:54 central. A spotter reported a tornado 8 N of Orchard. I was just SE of town, but could not see the tornado, did get a good shot of the wall before the rain wrapped it. I stayed just south of this storm until it went outflow and then got some good pics from the backside. Here are a couple quick digitals. I leave for Missouri Saturday, so will have to post the rest when I get back next week

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Caught the earth-pounder east of O'neil. I'm exhausted from all the driving, so the pics and the details come tomorrow. But that was one heck of a storm (or storms -- two storms merged, but they afterwards they still always had two distinct mesos), a few rope funnels, and one *beautiful* white cone tornado that stayed on the ground for a good 10 minutes. The motion on that thing was incredible, spinning like a top.

Thank you, weather gods! :notworthy:

Midnight Chase

I was scheduled for video with an early deadline after 4:00 a.m., so I had already decided that I would get up at the first sign of a storm. A little after 1:00 a.m. the skies started to rumble over St. Joseph, so I got up, showered, got the gear together and headed out. Followed a large storm south of Faucett, Missouri, where the base took on a rounded appearance with nice electrical activity. I kept dismissing what looked like rotation around the bottom of the base, thinking if anything the storm would just go severe and leave it at that. So I went ahead south to Kansas City, hopeful of getting lightning against the city skyline. Got that - and then some. As the meso approached from the north it was clearly rounded ... classic mothership (at 2:30 in the freakin morning, for gosh sakes). Trains were going through the Amtrack terminal with lightning wigging out and somewhere over all the noise I thought I could make out the tor-sirens. Sure enough, after the trains were done the sirens were blaring like crazy - what a storm. Got pounded with rain - some pea-size hail and this enormous meso. As the rotation moved east of downtown, some low hanging scud caught my attention ... as it hung over the city I got seriously spooked when condensation appeared to be moving up into the base from the ground ... turned out that it was likely coming off of some of the buildings - but really freaked me out.

It's been a LONG time since I ended up chasing in the middle of the night - and this was seriously spooky ... no one around in the middle of the city, tornado sirens blaring, monster meso ... it was really a chase to remember - will go down for me as one of the most interesting of the year - - - I'll have some stills up later - - - vid will probably be running at least part of the day on TWC. Going to get some daylight stuff now.

What a night ...
Chased the storm in SC SD and NC NE yesterday, caught a lot of funnels and that beautiful white cone. There were also a lot of wall clouds that turned into nothing that I got some great shots of, pics and full report coming when I get off work!
Slept right through the potential tornado which happened at 152 Hwy and Indiana Ave near Liberty (which is only 5 miles from where I live right now). Slept through that and the 60 MPH winds outside and the torrential rain battering the window. Oh well, next time!

Did a bust chase up to Omaha on 7/15 but didn't get past Omaha after realizing I wouldn't get to Norfolk or O'Neill on time to get the tornadic storms. turned around and went home.
A few quick vidcaps from my early morning chase:


Ended up with over an hour of video ... good grief. Didn't take the time to edit/post scenes of the meso closer to KCI, which is where the storm really got with it ... I was ahead of the tor-warning and went right through the affected areas just before the damage apparently occurred.

Best regards,
Mike P.
(or storms -- two storms merged, but they afterwards they still always had two distinct mesos)

I think I have pis’c of both mesos in a wide angel shot. I will have to get the film developed and take a look. I setup on the east storm from the south, several miles N of Clearwater. I thought I had “the perfect interceptâ€￾, BUT the storm was moving south instead of the SE as reported. When I started to get pounded by the rain, I dropped S to hwy 275 and then tried to go west towards Ewing, but ran into the wall again and had to retreat east back to Clearwater. Setup on the west end of Clearwater for a few more shots then dropped south along the Antelope / Wheeler county line until the storm weakened. Nice chase, but wish I could have gotten west to the other meso.
Congrats Ryan! Looking forward to the images. Man I wish I had went to the O'Neill lib. From way sw of that thing around 7pm it looked like a crazy crazy a-bomb. The over-turning upside down convection in the anvil was unreal, going DOWN 1/4 of the udraft height. I didn't get any stills as I was racing to it in the CRAPPY part of the sandhills. Hardly a damn view ever.

Well, guess the pics wait until tomorrow, as the nice photo store that developed my prints decided everything needed to be bumped up two stops, and my slide scanner is back in Lincoln.

I set out at around noon from Lincoln, headed east down I-80, took a north turn at Seward and jotted up 81 towards Norfolk. I crossed the cold front boundary coming north (marked by a sharp line of cu stretching into the distance), but the cap was shoving everything back down. Initially, I was going to camp out at Norfolk, but once I got there and stopped for some cell-data, I realized that there was a: some good stuff going up southwest of me, which made me want to divert (didn't -- no way to get ahead of it), and b: a reasonable chance that stuff would fire close to O'Neil, as the triple point was floating around just north of there in South Dakota. This looked promising, as the SPC's meso page had the best shear plotted in this area. I drove west down 70, as I wasn't sure how far south the new convection would begin (and didn't want to end up north of it -- the road options out there aren't what I'd call extensive). Got to 281, pointed north, and was off. Looked quite cool -- I could see two boundaries, one to my west, one to my east, both converging north in the distance. As I was headed up 281 towards O'Neil, I saw a storm go up in what turned out to be South Dakota. This storm plowed up another storm in front of it; both were crossing SE into Nebraska by the time I got to O'Neil.

I stopped to check data; both of these storms had mesos both visually and on radar. Actually, they looked rather frighening as they began to roll in just east of town. Eventually, they merged into one another. While in O'Neil, I saw several rope-like funnels form high up on the westmost meso; one of the funnels managed to wrap around into a corkscrew before it dissapated. I let the storm slide by, as its motion was south-southeast, too southernly to follow on Hwy 275, a NW/SE road. (The core on this storm looked absoloutely vicious!) Once the westmost storm slid by (or, I should say, western core slid by -- it was all one big storm by this point in the shape of a giant horseshoe on radar), I then took an old farm road as far east as I could to get a good view of the eastern storm as it slid by. This storm is the storm that put down the conical white tornado directly to my east-northeast. It was on the ground for a good ten minutes starting at around 6:50ish CST and was beautiful -- my only regret is that I couldn't get closer (like I said, not a great road network out there); I shot the pictures from a good 5 or 6 miles away. But it was beautiful to watch with the naked eye, which is why I chase, anyway. The motion was extremely violent; the top of the cone, which was fairly large, completed a revolution every two to three seconds. The bottom of the cone, before it touched the ground, had lots of smaller "fingers" that would come into being and dissapate quickly as they rotated with the cone. Interestingly, because of my vantage point, I was able to see the atomic convection tower just above the meso stretching high into the sky. The convection was strong enough that I could actually see the clouds billowing upward; normally, I have a hard time detecting convective movement with the naked eye.

After the tornado lifted and the meso of the second storm was to my southeast, I got on 275 to get as close as I could without entering the core. I got to the outskirts of Ewing right after the tornado supposedly came through. No tornado damage, though I'm guessing the RFD did a number on the town; lots of branches down (I stopped for a few minutes to help some locals clear the highway), some power wires down, etc. The core was just intense looking (partly because of the angles of the sun); the scene litereally went from clear skies to 100% obscured by precip in about 1/2 mile. I could see it flying in sideways from the north at a rapid pace (producing a wonderful 180 degree rainbow), then actually taking a bit of a wrap to the east as I looked a few miles to the south. Needless to say, I didn't drive into this! Once the core passed, I drove into Ewing and looked with sadness at the wonderful storm as it rolled away to my south. No more chasing it; while there was a south road option if I wanted to drive further east (through the weaker bands of precip), the storm's core completely obscured everything to my south, so it would have been pointless. I wasn't brave/dumb enough to core punch this thing.

After a year of mostly just catching nice spinning sups with sculpted wall clouds, getting to see a beautiful white cone was the icing on the cake. The whole trip reminded me of why I like to do this: I got to see Nebraska, got to meet some locals ("Yup, that wasn't more than an F2 at first, but then it definately got goin' to an F3! I was right under it at first!"), got to experience the zen of sitting all by myself underneath one of God's fists. And then I got to sit there with a big fat grin on my face as I watched the winds dance in a white circle for ten minutes. If that's not worth a day's worth of gas and two skipped meals, well, I don't know what is. :)

Good job Ryan! It sounds like about the time you were in Ewing, I was just down the road in Clearwater on the other side of the mesos. Anyway here is a pic from the SE side looking back to the NW. It shows the E storm in the foreground (big doughnut), and then in the bottom left you can see the lowering from the W meso. Kind of cool! After the storm weakened, and I let it pass overhead, I was able to capture this beautiful Antelope County sunset

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Great Shots

Those were great shots Ryan, way to go!! You were doing all the right things that a storm chaser should do, including deciding not to punch the core in order to keep following the storm past Ewing. By the way, I hate to be nit-picky, but that nice town you camped in was spelled O-'-N-E-I-L-L.

That last photo in that series you posted I had questions about. Was that shot showing the rear of the storm departing Ewing? To me it looks like either a hail shaft or rain caught in a RFD. Was there any strong downward wind motion associated with the rain?

Anyway, great chase, great photos. Kinda made me wish I was tagging along. :roll:
Re: Great Shots

Originally posted by Larry J. Kosch

That last photo in that series you posted I had questions about. Was that shot showing the rear of the storm departing Ewing? To me it looks like either a hail shaft or rain caught in a RFD. Was there any strong downward wind motion associated with the rain?

Anyway, great chase, great photos. Kinda made me wish I was tagging along. :roll:

Thanks for the kind words, Larry!

In the last photo, yes, that was the "back" of the storm -- the northern end of it. There was medium to strong downward motion in the precip; some horizontal motion, too. Not ridiculously fast, but faster than one normally sees precip falling from the sky. I could see it streaming south quite quickly to my east-southeast. I honestly expected to encounter some good winds as I got closer to town; usually a "rain foot" like the one dead ahead puts you in for a good wolloping. And, perhaps the town had just received a good walloping -- there were tons of branches down and one of the locals was up on a ladder looking at his shredded roof. (Left those pictures out because they were boring. ;)) But winds were calm at my location when I snapped the last photo in the series, and I was only about a half mile from the precip, so I figured that it probably wasn't the RFD. Given that it appeared the wind damage had occured a few minutes prior to my arrival, I guessed the RFD had already been to town. Looking southeast, the rain was also "turning" to the east at its southermost point. I assumed that this was the core of the storm that had wrapped around to the western side of the meso, but if it wasn't, I think you'd have to be right -- it'd be the rain wrapping into the RFD. Either way I wasn't pushing forward any further! :shock: