5/24/04: REPORTS: NE/KS/IA/MO tornadofest

Dec 4, 2003
This thread is set aside for firsthand chaser reports of the Nebraska/Iowa/Missouri/Kansas action, their photos, and responses. Secondhand reports must go into the NOW: thread. Thanks.
Can't talk long - things still going on - but we caught a tornado today near Maryville, Missouri - the same storm that prompted a tornado emergency later near Bethany - very cool torn - but super HP storm - very hard to see until we got right up into the slot - believe that I got to call in the first report of a wall cloud on this storm west of Falls City, NE ... the storm moved quickly to the river - which sucked - we had to go way out of the way. Took 45 minutes to catch back up to the tornado - fortunately Kiesling got it as it was going over the river bottom near Mound City.

Will provide some pics and more details later - big damage path.

Mike P.
Here are a couple pics -

<img src=http://img47.photobucket.com/albums/v143/mikeperegrine/Skidmore_Tornado1.gif>

<img src=http://img47.photobucket.com/albums/v143/mikeperegrine/Skidmore_Funnel.gif>

In the video, as the tornado lifted and we got this funnel, the rotation is just super cool - wish you could see it - - - there were a few young folks from OU there filming it with me ... not many chasers in Skidmore today :)

As for the account - I'm more tired now than I was after Saturday! ... What a crazy mixed up chase!

Left St. Joseph at 1:00 p.m. and went west of Hiawatha, where we immediately intercepted a couple of lines of building cumulus. Met a couple chasers there and shot the breeze for a while ... waiting for something to get its act together ... several areas of updraft, not much organization. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a long shelf building into some downdraft to the north - so we got in the car and were like - 'let's just go watch it and see what it does.' We could also see some additional growth to our south, but I wanted this one since it was a little closer to the WF - We got up under it and the shelf cleared up nicely and then a wall cloud formed and began to rotate. We watched it for a bit, then I decided to go ahead and call it in ... called it to EAX first, and they thanked me for the information since the storm would eventually move into Holt Co., but suggested I go ahead and call OAX and tell them as well. Called OAX, who went ahead an issued a tor-warning on the cell as it was west of Falls City. We chased the storm down some bad muddy roads (these storms were SO HP it wasn't even funny) ... we chased it all the way to the river as it crossed over south of Craig, Missouri near Bigelow ... but of course the stinkin river stopped us just as it was getting good. In case you didn't know - river crossings suck ... we ended up taking the crossing to the north, which probably set us back - and it ended up taking us 45 minutes to catch up to the tornado.

Came off I-29 at Craig - stunned motorists everywhere - I knew it had come through recently. Tons of people stopped - one car off the road. Then I took route C (the only nice thing about this was it went straight through the spot where I was raised and I know the roads - it still sucked - but would have sucked much worse if I didn't know where I was going). We got into the damage path on C almost immediately and realized that it must have been a fairly significant tornado. Large trees down, power lines down, etc. Followed the damage path down route N, where there was also quite a bit of damage. One house we came upon with trees down had a ruptured propane tank that was spewing gas like crazy - very scary. Stopped and told a patrolman - then finally caught up with the storm at Skidmore, where it was doing what you see in the pics. We followed north of Maryville - storm was moving quite fast at this point and I was almost out of gas ... I decided to go back to Maryville and get gas, at which point we simply could not follow any more - the storm moved into an area of exceptionally bad, twisty, hilly roads ... no way. It was on its way to Bethany/Albany ... where extensive damage is reported tonight.

Came back to St. Joe, uploaded the previous message - edited video, and then went after round 2 in NW Missouri - back to Holt County we went ... caught another cell that was tor-warned - nice wall cloud for a bit ... bad structure, as the rest of the day ... took a while for it to get its act together ... no tors out of that one. Storms started lining out and becoming outflow dominant. Got back to St. Joe, was pulling into my garage, when the radio went off - a spotter had called in a tornado on the ground two miles south of my house. Good grief. I had to go, even though I knew it couldn't be so - so I went to the exact spot they were calling it in and there was a big gust front with some scud. Hmm - called EAX and corrected the report ... have no idea what they were thinking they saw.

So that's it - I'm pooped.

Mike P.
I just talked to Blake Naftel on the phone. He's with Tempest Tours this week with Bill Reid, Keith Brown, and Brian Morganti, and he said that today was the "chase of his life" and that he saw "every kind of tornado imaginable". I think they totaled 7. Just thought I would pass that along. I'm sure that one of them will post more later.

I didn't chase today; I worked.
Need to add Oklahoma to the list ;)

We (new chase partner) intercepted a pair of Tornadoes today. One was very visible near the Alfalfa area on the Caddo/Washita County Line. The other was just east of there. We had wrapping rain curtains and what appeared to be a dust cloud in the rain around 2-3 SE of Eakly and I just checked and there was a tornado report 2 SE of Eakly. We started with that storm just N of Hobart (read target town), and followed it all the way through. Very good chase for my first one in over a month (April 23 was my last). Looking forwards to the rest of the week, especially possibly Friday, which could be huge.

Pictures coming soon

Oklahoma not on this list...it's all good. I chased in the great state of Oklahoma becuase I didn't feel like going all the way to Kansas City and driving back late tonight and having to work all day tomorrow. That's besides the point.
Two buddies and I got to Alfalfa and saw condesation about 5 miles west of Alfalfa. Totally caught us by surprise since there was only a severe t-storm warning on it. We saw that tornado, punched the storm (opps) and missed the other tornados it produced. We hooked back around and ended up in Ft. Cobb America...got golfballs...fun stuff. Went back to Norman and enjoyed the light show...good times.
Very tired, took the old man out today on his first chase so he could see why I am missing work so much. We got one tornado by Albany, Missouri. Pretty sure that was the name of the place, and saw three funnels after that. I kept on hearing on weather radio reports of a violent tornado on our storm when we got closer to Bethany and Princeton. I sure didn't see it but we didn't have the best view with trees and hills constantly blocking our view. On our way home we saw the damage east of Chillicothe, the truck that was tipped over was back up again, but there was also some roof damage to a house, some sort of a sheet metal silo in the middle of the highway, and several trees were snapped. Not to bad of a day, my dad was pretty pumped to see a tornado and I was just glad I got the chance to show him one.
I've got some really good pictures of tail end charlie (hope thats the right wording) off that monster that started in south central NE. I'll get them posted as quick as I can and my full report.

I didn't get to see any tornadoes, but I did get to see a storm that, in my eyes, was extremely beautiful. I could careless whether or not I see a tornado in my lifetime. The only thing I hope for is a well shaped supercell, and that's what I got to see today.

I hope to god that no one was hurt today. Does anyone know the official tornado count from today?

6-14-2004: I FINALLY got some pictures and my account up. The reason it took so long is I really wanted to build a new website for my chasing, so here it is: http://praelium.mudmagic.com/justin/ Its not done yet, but the account for today is up.
[Broken External Image]:http://www.extremeinstability.com/stormpics/04-5-24-10.jpg

[Broken External Image]:http://www.extremeinstability.com/stormpics/04-5-24-20.jpg

Chased a very cool suprecell in sc NE. One point it had 3 tornadoes on the ground at once. Most the tornadoes were relatively small, but still nice. Congrats to those bagging today. A down day or two is starting to sound nice. There were ALOT of chasers on this storm, especially as it got into the evening hours. All well behaved as far as I could tell. Whoever honked at me I hope you weren't upset I was going slow, as I JUST pulled onto the highway. It's wise to slow when topping hills like those. I did have my first frustrating experience with the long lines of chasers however. Someone up there gets going too slow and those in the back have a tornadic supercell biting on their heels. It wasn't that bad at all, but it is a sort of scary thought. So if you are ever a "lead" chaser please don't gawk while driving slow on shoulderless highways, there are folks behind you. One point it was cars as far as the eye could see ahead...lol. Uploading video of the Chester Nebraska larger tornado tonight....save as for it will be at the bottom of the page....


Storm Chase May 24, 2004

Jeff Piotrowksi and I left Omaha early and drove to the town of Pawnee City in southeastern Nebraska. Today was a high risk day for possible strong and damaging tornadoes. The extreme shear (change in wind direction with height) was amazing. One could see clouds moving in different directions. Any storm that developed would quicky rotate. Since we couldn’t get data in Pawnee City, we headed to Beatrice and checked weather data in the library. There were two areas of concern. One was in southeastern Nebraska and northeastern Kansas. The other area was west of Beatrice. When a storm developed in southeastern Nebraska, Jeff and I headed southeast to Humboldt. The storm was churning and rotating. A rapidly rotating wall cloud developed but it was sheared off the storm. The storm then appeared less organized. After some thinking, I decided to head back to the areas west of Beatrice after considering the data along with some advice from Tim Vasquez. Jeff decided to follow the current storm into Missouri. There were already storms forming west of Beatrice. I had to hurry since the best tornadoes often occur early in a storm’s lifecycle. I blasted west on 4, then on 136 through Beatrice to Fairbury, Nebraska. I was already hearing tornado warnings for those storms when I was still far away. I was worried since I’d hate to be caught between the storms and miss all the tornadoes. I plotted an intercept to the most southern tornadic supercell. I tried to go west to Hebron but the hail-filled core blocked my path. The storm was moving south-southeast at 25 miles per hour. I turned around and dropped south at Fairbury on 15, then briefly west on 8 to the small town of Reynolds. The storm was to my west and approaching. I went south on Bismark road and crossed into Kansas. To my west, I saw a slender tornado. I filmed it until the rain and hail increased. I continued south, and crossed into Kansas. At 5:14 PM, I sighted a tornado to the west. The tornado lasted for a few minutes and was between Mahaska and Haddam in Kansas. As the tornado became rain wrapped , I went south toward the next storm that was forming. This was the most southerly supercell in a cluster of storms. The mesocyclone was rotating but no tornadoes. It did produce a funnel cloud. This was one of the most beautiful storms that I have seen. When the storm began to die, I headed toward Topeka, Kansas. Supercells were moving into the Topeka. I could see classic appearing supercell thunderstorms with anvil, overshooting top, flanking line and main updraft. I was frustrated because of the winding roads and slow trucks; however, I was able to get into the general Topeka area. Severe storms were erupting over the city. My television was showing live video of tornado in either downtown Topeka or Lawrence. I drove south by Topeka on 75 but couldn’t get into position. I may have seen a tornado when I was south of Lyndon (on 75 by turnoff to 31) looking north at 8:42PM but it was getting dark. When it was dark, I ended the chase. Thanks to Tim Vasquez for forecasting help and to Jack Kertzie for nowcasting. He helped me avoid the dangerous portions of the storms after dark. I still haven’t heard from Jeff Piotroski; however, the last storm he was on when I left produced a tornado. I hope he saw it. Congratulations to Jason Persoff, M.D. who saw several tornadoes. He was following the same storms that I did, but reached them much earlier then I.
I am staying in Topeka, Kansas.

Bill Hark
Here are some images. Click on (or cut and paste) these links:



Huge rotating supercell


Distant view of the supercells that struck Topeka and Lawrence, Kansas.


Possible tornado south of Lyndon. View is looking north.


Basically a repeat of Saturday, where any storm we were near wouldn't produce but every storm an hour away went gangbusters. Targeted Auburn, arrived before noon, and were all over the initial cell NW of Falls City. Had been sitting doing tripoded video for 15 minutes when it went t-warned, and I was thinking maybe we'd finally have a bit of luck. Well, just as soon as it started looking interesting, a new rain core developed rapidly and swooped in from the SW, killing our view and sending golfballs down at us.....we moved south to avoid further stones and found ourselves with tough decision #1: drive the 15 miles south then 20 miles east across the river, or let it go and hope like hell the dryline would produce. We let it go and rocketed west.

As the storm we'd let go began producing tornadoes, we realized that we were right back in the same position we'd been in Saturday, with all the tornadic storms east or well west of us. Listened to tornado after tornado coming out of the US81 corridor storms in S Nebraska/N Kansas as we kept getting closer and closer.....finally came into view of the updraft as the storm split......the right one produced a brief, rain-shrouded cone tornado near Cuba, KS at around 5:22pm (this was the same tornado reported 9 NW of Linn, KS at 5:29pm). Of course not even this one great moment of an otherwise crappy day could be untainted, as Yours Truly had the damn vidcam on 'pause' throughout the tornado......first time I've botched a nader that way. Fortunately, my partner Eric Collins DID get video.

Later the same storm produced a nice funnel near Linn that lasted a few minutes, but by this time the base was so high nothing was coming all the way down. Followed the storm east until we noticed the new rockets SW of Topeka. Headed for those.

Got into the nasty stuff on US75 south of Topeka as a rotation with upwards of 115-120 kts of shear got going near Osage City. But of course since we were under it, it did squat. Followed 75 down to Burlington, where we made our final pitstop for drinks and a nowcast call. Decided to drive south on 75 towards Yates Center and watch the updraft base via lightning, but then decided to throw in the towel. Ten minutes later the storm went t-warned. It was that kind of day, that kind of weekend.

Good news is another reputable chaser confirmed our possible tor near Franklin, NE on Sat, so for all our stress and effort (covering no less than 2,071 miles with no overnight stays) Sat & Mon, we managed 2 tornadoes. No one cares because we weren't nearly in them or all over TV, but it's a great thing for a chaser who just wants to see tornadoes.

I had to chuckle when I learned there were tornadoes in OK, while we spent all day in KS/NE chasing our tails and nearly busting. Visual is tough with overcast :)
Ended up in the Harveyville/Osage City/Lyndon area yesterday. Got on the Harveyville cell at initiation, was looking pretty good around 7:19pm as precip curtains began to wrap around - very nice structure as well. Between about 7:25 and 7:40 lots of scud was condensing below the base very close to the ground - which makes me wonder about the tornado reports in that area. Then the cell started to get seeded by a new cell to the SW so I went south on US 75 through Lyndon and down to I-35....all the while an awesome barrage of CG was shooting down from the anvil....by the time I got to I-35 darkness was setting in and stuff was continuing to fire further and further off to the SW so I broke off the chase.
Just a quick report before I head down to oklahoma from topeka today. I and Kanani and the rest of the gang targeted Beatrice,NE as our start. we left from council bluffs (hope we are fondly remebered at applebees after 9 hrs of food, drink, and video of saturday). we saw the storm blow up south 25 milesof hastings thanks to wxworks and was on it right as it dropped it first tornado of the day. we then hooked up with the sherriff of Thayer county who stuck with us the rest of the time (and got a team shirt for him and his wife). to make a long story short, we tracked this cell ESE until after it crossed into kansas and gusted out but that wasnt until after 8 tornadoes on video and one of th best lookin supercells I have seen in years. Still have 11 days of vacation left but hard to top 2 high risk chases in a row and 2 full tapes of tornadoes from both days.
I am finally waking up and scraping the sleep and tornado dust out of my eyes!

I was in York Ne around 1:30, at a data stop and saw the Cu's start to bubbe around Kuckolls County. Headed south on 81. As I was just about paralell to it, it became svr warned. I then headed west on 136 to intercept it. As I topped a hill along 136 I could see out to my NW a huge stovepipe. SPC hadn't even tor warned it yet! Unfortunately they were doing road work on 136 and they stopped all traffic :evil: !!! I told the guy holding the stop sign... "Hey there is a tornado just off to the NW!". He seemed unconcerned... unbelieveable!

Finally got through the construction area and was able to clearly view the tornado. Amazing! I tracked north to get in better position and by that time it had roped out, but the storm itself held together well. Saw many chasers as we tracked it east south east. There were times when the chaser conga line would stop, and those at the end had to deal with spin ups just behind them.. that happened to me more than once :shock: ! Things were spinning up all over the place. I saw two funnels at once! One touched down, the other made it about half way down before dissipating. Over my head I could see small needles that would drop and then connect to one another. Amazing! It was at this point I became aware of a weird sensation...a pain... my forearms were in pain!! I realized it was because I had a death grip on the steering wheel!! :lol:

Not only were there many tornados (I counted at least six) there were many different varieties, and contrasts / colors as it tracked ESE into north central Kansas.

Around Washington County I broke off from this cell, and headed south to the towers that were exploding over Osage County. Finally got underneath them, but at this point it became quite linear. I did hear over the scanner that spotters had reported numerous tornados from this complex as well. It did put on an AWESOME lightning show.... almost continuous!

Wow what a day.
I am posting this for Jason Persoff who caught some beautiful tornadoes on May 24. Below is his account:

Those of you who know me know that I wear a strong cologne: Subsidence, by Calvin Klein. Well...not really...but I have become less and less a tornado chaser over recent years, and increasingly more a storm structure connoisseur. Not entirely by choice, mind you...but the ridge over the Plains during my chasecation annually has made things difficult in recent years.

I don't bemoan this (I do indeed relish storm structure), but the fact that the last tornado that I had successfully chased that had: a) a condensation funnel all the way to the ground, B) lasted greater than 30 seconds, and c) took place BEFORE sunset was in Garden City, KS on May 23, 1997. I have caught many spinups, many gorgeous mesos, several after-dark tornadoes, the occasional multivortex tornado lasting for few moments (Vernon, TX, 2002), but have missed catching many of the spectacular sights I've longed to feel and experience again.

It didn't help that Jim Leonard and I chased on Saturday and missed the gorgeous tornado west of Beaver City, NE, by minutes and played catch up in the RFD all day that day.

Yesterday, however, was spectacular. I started the day in Beatrice. I about fell over when the SPC issued a PDS Tor Watch from 11:30am to 10:00pm (that officially is the longest issued watch I have ever seen, and PDS on top of that...wow). As elevated convection fired to my SE, I started to get happy feet, and almost chased those storms. But, talking things over with Tim Vasquez, there was an area of convergence in a beautiful cu field to the west. When the cap broke, these storms rapidly developed with front flank anvils that were crisp and flat enough seemingly etching white into the blue sky.

I moved west. I was able to catch up with the base of the southern most storm in Thayer County and filmed the first two tornadoes of the day. Two were on the ground simultaneously: one on the occluded north meso, and one on the developing southern meso. The southern meso began to put down highly contrasted, photogenic tornadoes cyclically.


Then another meso south of it began to put down tornadoes. Eventually there were 3 tornadoes on the ground simultaneously (I caught those on video, but didn't have good positioning for stills at that time). Eric Nguyen and I ended up on the same Bob's Road and filmed the tornadoes as they continued to cycle.

Eventually, on the KS/NE border, a beautiful white rope tornado formed (with hellish RFD hail that dented my car and cracked my windshield :)). The tornado was beautiful and I watched it rope out with awe. Some of the photos weren't all that I would have liked, but the RFD was intense.


Heading south, meso after meso formed, each with tornadoes. I lost track at 10 separate tornadoes on this cell and I still haven't fully analyzed the video.

Getting south into N KS, the town of Belleville (?) was under the gun with this beauty.


I continued to head south constantly getting battered by intermittent hail and continuous ponding of road water. Eventually this cell died an unceremonious death as it got undercut.

I then saw cells firing to the south over Topeka and caught most of the action there too.

I have many more photos and vid caps to get, but overall, this was an incredible day. :)

Thank you to Tim Vasquez for safely circumnavigating me out of a hail core during a very dangerous situation (his ability to pinpoint the location of mesos real-time allowed me to make choices in direction that proved potentially life saving--huge thanks). The nowcasting was absolutely fabulous--as usual.

Wooohooo :).

Finally. :)


Jason Persoff, M.D.
Mayo Clinic Jacksonville