2021-05-24 REPORTS: KS, OK

Jesse Risley

Staff member
Apr 12, 2006
Macomb, IL
Today certainly over performed from what I was expecting. We started out targeting a couple of cells that went up near Tribune and moved towards Scott City. When it became clear that the cell was well south of the boundary we tracked north up 83 to Colby.

A couple of discrete cells started producing brief tornadoes near Gem, so we stayed on the storm since it was obviously interacting the boundary with generous 0-3 km CAPE. The storm finally started cranking up right before 0z and ended up entering the town of Selden, crossing the road several times right in front of us in close proximity.

We ended the chase about a mile east of Selden when we came upon a semi driver that was overturned. Once we help to get him out of the cab it was discovered that he had no injuries, but at that point I had had enough.

Overperformed indeed! After the excitement of the previous few days in Colorado we kicked around the idea of taking the day off. But we woke up in Colby and the outflow boundary was nearby, so we checked out late, had a leisurely lunch and then started following that cell. We sat on it for a few hours near Rexford and then busted east of Selden once it went nuts. I've seen some pictures of the destruction. Hopefully, no fatalities.

The pictures below were taken east of Selden looking west.


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I made probably the most bone-headed decision of my 12 years of chasing, opting to leave that storm in Gem and drop way south to Garden City. Not really sure what I was thinking. There was a moment where it looked like outflow had taken over, and it started to look junky on radar, and like it was back-building and turning linear... but clearly it wasn't. I'll be kicking myself over that one forever! As a consolation, the Garden City storm was beautiful.
MODS: May want to change this thread title to Reports? I was going to create one, but saw that the posts here were more Reports-related so wanted to keep everything together.

I would put Selden 5/24/21 in my top 3 career chases and it was probably my closest proximity to a tornado. The day did not begin well. I targeted the outflow boundary which at the time was near Leoti, and my GPS failed to tell me to turn left off 40 onto 25. It tried to send me on numerous dirt roads after that, but they were all a bit muddy and I wanted to avoid them. I went all the way to Sharon Springs, got gas, checked radar, and saw that storms were already forming in a line that extended south, with the northern cell just east of Leoti. My options were to drop south to Tribune and east from there, to the south of the northern severe-warned cell, but that would have meant core punching the cells to its south. The storms were already east of 25, so I backtracked on 40 all the way to Oakley and 83, which was the next south road. This seemed futile, as the road network really sucks in that area.

Suddenly I noticed the tiniest tornado warning polygon ever, on a cell back near Winona, where I had just come from. The polygon was so small because the storm was stationary. I couldn't believe there were three or four tornado reports on this thing, as the storm looked like nothing at all. One report specifically said "landspout," but I suspect they all were.

There was no way to intercept the storm as there were only dirt roads heading north and they were already encroached by precip. I watched the storm from 40 and planned to head up 25 toward I-70 once the storm moved in that direction, but it was very slow moving.

This storm weakened and then I noticed the cell near Colby with a tornado warning. I went north up 25, east on 24, and up the perfectly-oriented SW-NE 83 from Rexford to Selden. The relative position of the storm to the road, and the path of the storm relative to the road, could not have been better. The action started with a touchdown around 6pm, and a later touchdown crossed the road and had multiple vortices although not a fully-condensed funnel at that point. Crawled along on 83, past some debris in the road, a destroyed grain container, and saw a tipped over rail car on my video but did not notice it at the time. Saw the same toppled tractor trailer that Jesse photographed; pretty sure that had to be one of the two foolish truck drivers I saw continuing to plow ahead without regard to the tornado (and the RFD).

Wish I had immediately gotten ahead of the tornado instead of having to cut back through the RFD once or twice to stay with it as it tracked northeast, but you know how it is, when that touchdown occurs you want to watch it and not be repositioning; and there were so many chasers I was worried I wouldn't find another spot to pull off. Around 6:30pm the storm had encroached onto the road and I didn't feel it was safe to slice the hook again and continue on the northeast road, so I dipped south to 23 and went east. I tried to go north again to Dresden, but the hail core was already over the town. I decided to just bail out, as the only option was route 9 that continued east for too long with no north option until 283. In retrospect this may have been a bad decision, as the storm turned east and probably stayed north of route 9, but it looked HP by then anyway. I had success and there was no reason to push my luck.

Spent the night in Colby and was treated to a surprise mammatus show after dinner, associated with the southern storms near GCK.

Took mostly video but too lengthy to upload from my iPhone as-is and don't feel like editing right now. Wish I had more time to use my DSLR for pics and video, but iPhone was much easier to use one-handed while crawling along the road following the tornado.


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There is a Go Fund Me page for Selden tornado relief. I would encourage anyone that chased that storm - or any storm chasers - to donate.

Started this day in Leoti like most chasers. Once that storm fired we began chasing down a few dirt roads. Big mistake. Ended up stuck in the mud for about an hour while waiting on a 200$ tow. During that time I noticed the Leoti storm getting messy and lining out quick. I also noticed the boundary continuing north with a discrete cell firing up in NW Kansas. Once free from the mud we began blasting north, catching up with the first tornado producer near Brewster/Winona. Witnessed three different brief touchdowns from that storm before bailing to the new cell at Colby. Witnessed a brief rope tornado outside of town, then began heading towards Rexford.

We were very close to bailing south as the storm began to look OFD. It would continue to cycle several wall clouds so we stuck with it. And I'm sure glad we did. A few miles west of Seldon a small tornado began forming before transitioning into a large multivortex. This tornado would take several different shapes and sizes before transitioning into a rain wrapped mess inside the town of Seldon. We were cutoff inside the town by a very angry sheriff who went off on several chasers in front of us. Going as far as to put his hand on his gun out of frustration.

At that point we ended the chase. The tornado dissipated shortly thereafter. A day from being stuck in the mud with all hope seemingly lost to witnessing roughly 7 tornadoes. Best chase of our trip, and I'm fortunate we had the patience to stick with the storm even as many chasers started to bail south.Screenshot_20210601-215946_Gallery.jpgScreenshot_20210601-213023_Gallery.jpg20210601_212812.jpg
This is a day that I will remember for the rest of my life.

I started the day exhausted and worn out, I had chased the previous 4 days in the general NE CO area with a decent degree of success, 5-20 and 5-23 were both successful days with some cool timelapses and photos, while 5-21 and 5-22 were busts on my part. However, high school year-end insanity, all the forecasting and the relentless toil of the hundreds of miles and hours of driving had taken a toll on me. On all my chase days, I carefully examine all the models, searching for consistency on a run to run and model basis, where initiation is favored and where the environment is most supportive of tornados, I do a detailed surface analysis, nailing down the location of all the relevant boundaries and comparing that with what the models are showing, and I write up an exhaustive forecast discussion to get all my thoughts in order and straightened out.

I did almost none of that on this day, instead taking a cursory glance at the latest model runs, and doing a quick surface analysis, but when presented with a bullseye 5% TOR risk from the SPC, like a total chump, I decided to just say the heck with it and drive out there and see what happened. Dad and I were driving in from the North that day, having ended yesterdays chase in the Southern NB PH, and as usual, we were running a little slower than perhaps I would have liked in our sluggish little camper van. I initially almost got suckered in to dropping S to intercept the HP monster that by early afternoon was somewhere around Garden City if I remember correctly, but it was about this time that I saw 2 cells pop up near the KGLD radar station in Goodland, KS. There wasn't much on velocity (yet), but they had that "look" on reflectivity. I dithered for a little bit, opting to stay roughly in the middle between the two areas as I waited to see how things played out. Had I been paying more attention, I would have known that those 2 developing supercells would be interacting with the stalled boundary in NW KS and never even entertained the idea of dropping S, but at last I finally made the decision pursue the Northern cells around when the cell that would go on to produce the Selden, KS tornado was first tornado warned with confirmed landspout tornados. This decision to go North would end up being pretty much being the best decision of my life to this date.

Around 4:00 CDT near Colby, we watched as the Selden Cell merged with the cell to its S, it took a second to reorganize but it produced a brief, needle like funnel cloud which we caught a glimpse of as we rushed through Colby to get a better view of the storm. We set up just SW of Gem, KS and saw the storm produce another brief needle-funnel and then develop a big ol' wall cloud with a fat, stubby tail cloud.


After about 30 minutes, it got rainwrapped and again we rushed up Highway 83 to Rexford, KS, at this time the storm was much more well developed, we were situated just S of the cell at this point, warm air was gushing at our backs, flowing into the storm, it was a surreal experience to watch this storm rotate in front of my eyes.


The storm started to develop a long tail cloud and rotation tightened as it produced an impressive wispy elephant truck funnel cloud that got occluded by the RFD and roped out about halfway down as a pronounced clear spot highlighted the brilliant colors of this storm.


One last time, we rushed up Highway 83, stopping about 4 miles SW of Selden. Dad and I were bickering about where to pull over when I noticed that the storm had cycled and once again, rotation was tightening. Just as we were stopping on a dirt road off the highway that led to a farmers house, I saw a funnel cloud descend, this time with a whirl of dirt at the ground. I could hardly believe my eyes as this beautiful cone tornado took shape about a quarter mile in front of me. For about 4 and a half minutes my jaw was solidly planted in Western Kansas dirt as the tornado swirled and danced, surrounded by stunning icy blue colors.


After about 5 minutes, the tornado got rainwrapped from our perspective and we proceeded to get slammed by the RFD. After the RFD passed, we continued down H-83 for about 15 minutes, catching glimpses of a large, menacing, cone through sheets of rain as the tornado unfortunately impacted Selden, KS with EF-1 damage with fortunately no fatalities. I outlined the tornado here in red, sorry for the crappy quality, it's a screen shot from my dashcam video lol.

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Seeing that local LEO's had closed H-83 through Selden, we decided to call it a day, and we got victory steak dinner at the City Bar and Grill in Colby, KS.

This would end up being my final chase day of my first ever chasecation, I unfortunately missed out on the 5-26 moderate risk day that Wednesday as I had prescheduled a campus visit at OU Thursday, and couldn't both be in two places at once. (I also didn't chase the enhanced risk over OKC Thursday after my campus visit as it turned out to be a colossal flash flood bust). All the same, I'm glad to have ended things on a high note, with my first of hopefully many, many tornadoes.