Tornado Just Before Striking Hallam, Nebraska (5-22-04)

I have captured a frame from some video I shot southwest of Hallam, Nebraska on May 22, 2004 at around 8:30 PM CDT. This was north of Highway 6 east of Hastings and Tobias and NW of Beatrice. I was shooting the lowering scud in the foreground not knowing what I was filming until I reviewed the video and saw the "wedge" like structure BEHIND the "action" I was filming. I annotated the frame and included it below ...

As you can see, something very "serious" was inside this HP supercell monster that only took 1 lightning bolt in the right place to reveal!

The Hallam tornado WAS produced by the same supercell that produced the photogenic "elephant trunk" tornado filmed by chasers earlier but it was NOT the same tornado that hit Hallam later near dark.

Timeframe of Photo??

Hey CD,

Thanks for coming up with that video still of the Hallam "wedge" as you called it. I'm kinda questioning the time of the video still. You indicated that the frame was shot at 08:30 p.m. I have a link to a tornado path map that indicated the time the tornado was in Hallam:

If I read the map right, the tornado was in Hallam at or about 08:35 p.m. If your distance to Hallam was correct, that wedge would have to travel about 60 mph to get to the town. Can anybody else verify the time the tornado hit Hallam??

At any rate, your video still is probably the closest shot that anybody has gotten of the tornado before it hit Hallam since it was dark and rain-wrapped.

Thanks for sharing the photo with us! 8) LJK
There was another cell on the heels of that one . I was in Daykin about 9pm and there was a cell between Daykin and Hallam then ( and to the n.w and s.w. of Daykin) I've been trying to grab a good still from video but I can't get that frame.
I have a small video HERE at the 1:36 mark you can see the lowered area to the right on screen.

Might be a complete different storm though
Video Review

Dave S.,

I reviewed that video you posted on this thread earlier. It looks like you can see the lowerings again at the 1:41 and at the 1:56 marks.

I looked at the video using RealPlayer. I kept hitting the play/pause button to get the lightnings to stay on at the right time. At the 1:41 mark, your orange "stop ahead" sign is just going by. You see split lightnings that lit up both sides of the lowering. But the best shot was when the red STOP sign was going by at the 1:56 mark. If you hit the pause button just right, you can see the entire cloud lowering plus some dust clouds and what looks like a horizonal funnel to the right.

Thought I would tell you what I saw. I know you had to turn back for safety from the hail. Still would have been tough getting that Hallam tornado on video with the darkness, hail and all.

8) LJK.
I have posted seven video grabs from the videotape I shot with my 3CCD VX1000 MiniDV camcorder during the rope out stage of the Dewitt, Nebraska tornado; and prior/and or during the organizing stage (not witnessed) of the Hallam, Nebraska tornado to our NE. I have labeled the video frames with time code information; direction/barring/storm vector, and other tidbits of information I felt may be useful to this on-going discussion.

The video frames can be viewed at:

Bill Reid and I approached the Dewitt, NE tornado from the east; I believe (need to recheck the audio) passing through the town of Hoag, NE before meeting up with the secondary Tempest Tour van (driven by Keith Brown and Brian Morganti). We could see a beastly meso directly to our N with screaming 40-50kt inflow; as we passed through Hoag. Our group proceeded N on HW103 and pulled off at a graveyard apx. 7 miles S/SE of Dewitt as the rope out stage of the tornado was in progress. This tornado was low contrast from our view (looking N/NE); and was not apparent until close examination that it was indeed a tornado (looked like low danglie scud to us at first). The Hallam tornado was reported on the ground at 8:25pm CT (as per the NOAA WX/AHR statement); it was at this time the rope out of the Dewitt tornado was ongoing as per our observations and time code. Unless someone has some contradicting evidence to intervene here which I may be missing; the Hallam tornado was ongoing/or in the stages of rapidly developing; at the time I shot my video between 8:22-8:32pm CT.

Here's the best I've gotten out of that vid so far . This is n.e. of Daykin around 9pm so I know it's not the Hallem.
A few moments after I turned back west thinking I'd go after the storm n.w. instead, D.Drummond passed going east so I turned around figuring the hail must be clearing , even if he did have plastic wrapped

Other night ones are here

[Broken External Image]:[/url]
Hallam tornado

This is the best footage of the Hallam tornado I've seen...I believe it was shot by the stormgasm guys near Wilber just as it was becoming a gigantic wedge. The link is below. They also have a video clip on their website. It appears that they are just north of the tornado SW of Hallam and just NE of Wilber, NE.
Here is my account of the Hallam tornado (plus Columbus supercell and post Hallam tornado damage survey)

At times, I could barely see the edge of the tornado but it was very dark. The inflow was incredible. I was using a TRV-900. Jeff Piotrowski may have gotten better footage as he was using a VX 2100.
This was an amazing chase though I hate the feeling of knowing a town is getting destroyed and there is nothing one can do.

Bill Hark
I've finally gotten around to putting together some vidcaps from that evening. I was chasing with Joe Nield and Kevin Peters on 5/22, and we arrived on the Hallam cell just as it was getting dark. We were parked alongside US-77 immediately south of the intersection of route 41 (just south of the big turn to the south on US-77). I started filming around 8:37 to the northwest, which was centered just slightly west of Hallam at the time the tornado would have been moving through town. The OAX damage path shows that the tornado hit Hallam at 8:35 PM, but since it was so large and moving quite slowly, it was likely in or near the town for longer than just one minute. The southern edge of the tornado would have been about 4 miles away from our vantage point.

In all of the vidcaps there is a green pixel on the right side of the image. At first I thought this was a light on a cell/radio tower but after looking closer, it's just a "hot pixel" on the CCD of my camera.

Still not having viewed all my video (taken from the dash cam Digital 8 ; I was mistaken in my previous post by stating we (Bill Reid, Martin Lisius, Kinney Adams, the Tempest group, and I) passed through the down of Hoag, NE - - rather that was Dewitt; and the photos should state/as should my post that we were 7 miles S/SE of Wilber, NE (this makes much more sense; now going over the damage survey video - - - sorry, the amount of significant tornadic events coorilating in a tight timeframe skewed my memory).

All photos should read: "7 miles S/SE of Wilber, NE; just north of the NW bend of HW103". Timecode and storm vector are still correct; but I was mistaken by the town. I'll edit the original text to reflect this.

During our damage survey; which was inconsistent due to closed/flooded roadways and not wanting to venture into Hallam; and from reviewing video; revealed the rope out of a tornado SE of Wilber; which contradicts the damage survey map at:

I'm just a bit confused about this event; nor had time to read any offical NWS survey reports in the days to follow (just catching up now). While the map shows one lone tornado; I seriously beleive there were two; as group 3B (Brian Morganti and Keith Brown) of Tempest Tours followed the original tornado (and obtained amazing video of it) from inception near Dayken until it's rope out (upon meeting up with group 3A (Bill Reid, Kinney Adams, and myself) north of Dewitt/and south of Wilber. Following the stop at the graveyard NORTH of Dewitt; and 7 miles S/SE of Wilber; both groups witnessed the rope out of this tornado. A new reported tornado (by law enforcement) came across the audio track of the dashcam at 8:25pm CT (this being the Hallam tornado).

What am I missing? Still confused. Was anyone else at/and or near the HW103 graveyard S of Wilber between 8:22-8:32pm CT? If so; what did you see? Since our group (3A) arrived slightly late to the reported "large tornado" passing just S of Wilber; what time did this occur/and or what did it look like? Was the tornado we viewed a secondary vortex? The original appearance made this feature (which is a tornado) hard to judge until stopping and watching it closely. The location of the tornado coagulates with the damage track just S of Wilber; which on 23-May we retraced our steps with GPS; damage tracks; and pinpointed exactly where our group was looking at the time of this tornado.

As I said, now with this lone damage track; and other somewhat contradicting reports; what am I missing?

Brian Morganti's photos and brief account can be viewed at:

I'm just a bit confused about this event; nor had time to read any offical NWS survey reports in the days to follow (just catching up now). While the map shows one lone tornado; I seriously beleive there were two;

I'm kind of where you are Blake. Here's my account of what I saw. The photos are pretty much self explanatory. Our location at this time was approximately 44 miles SE of Hallam. Just click on the links.

I have a meeting here in a bit so if there are any questions, I can answer them later today. Have at it.
NWS Archive Hallam Tornado

I checked and found the NWS Archives about the Hallam Tornado:

I hope the information would be helpful to some of you chasers.

If you come into definite agreement that there were actually two tornadoes, I would suggest you contact NWS and forward them your videos to confirm the two tornadoes.

Thanks. LJK. 8)
Go to the radar pics at to see reflectivity as the tornado was entering Hallam... THAT'S why no storm chasers have a good photo of this monster. Sure, some of the strong reflectivities can be attributed to, what I can only imagine to be, incredible amounts of debris, although the distance from the radar still indicates that the radar isn't seeing the lowest parts of the storm. AT any rate, it was completely wrapped up and thus the reason it was difficult to see...

EDIT: LOL I think actually that this is more in response to another thread about this tornado, but it applies here equally as well...

Those images explain a lot; and cause me to come to the conclusion that there were two separate tornadoes rather than one primary long-track tornado. The first tornado roped out and lifted E/SE of Wilbur around 8:25pm CT; during which the Hallam, NE tornado was in the process of developing and rapidly moving NE. But the outlying fact that still puzzles me is there was no apparent break in the damage path we (Tempest Tours) observed upon our damage survey from Dayken to just SW of Hallam; which still screams "lone tornado".

Looking back on the dash videotape; which contains more of the Wilbur storm/tornado than my MiniDV tape; prior to entering DeWitt as Bill and I approached the best from the east (on some local road; don't have a map in front of me attm); what appeared to be a large, very low contrast tornado was visible until we hit a river valley and trees. The meso was huge and clearly visible from our position SE of the meso; heading west towards Dewitt. Inflow was screaming E/SE around 35-40mph; and upon entering Dewitt, we felt the main show was now due N/NE of us - and it very well could have been. However, as we headed N on HW103 towards Wilbur; we encountered the "tornado-like danglie" as I commented on in the video; where upon closer examination, was a tornado doing damage just S/SE of the village limits of Wilber.

I contacted NWSFO OMA on the 24-May; prior to the events that day; and forwarded my entire raw videotape (along with Brian Morganti's) of the actual event and our damage survey/locations. I guess officially it will go down as one tornado in Storm Data; but from real-time ground observations; I still believe there were two separate tornadoes; with a hard to pinpoint (due to flooding, SL winds, etc) break in the damage track E of Wilber.

From what we saw, there were two long-track tornadoes... The Hallam tornado started from the last few images of Marc's, which are similar to what I have. I could be wrong, but that's how I see it.

Does anyone have complete tornado track map from Omaha? The only one I've found was for the Hallam tornado, though I thought I remember the prelim damage assessment stating a couple more tornadoes from the same storm earlier (a brief one in Thayer co. I thought, along with another long-track one)...?
This topic is currently being discussed at great length in the chatroom......
Feedback from SPC


I sent a feedback letter to the SPC about their entry in the local storm reports pertaining to the Hallam NE tornado on May 22, 2004. In the LSR log, it said " Sevral houses destroyed...major damage reported." I sent a feedback letter to them to ask them about the vague entry about the Hallam tornado. This is what I sent them:

Dear Sirs,
I was checking the following web site,, and I found out to my surprise how the Hallam NE tornado was reported. Quote \" Sevral houses destroyed...major damage reported.\" That's quite an under statement. Nearly 90-95 percent of the homes and buildings in that village was heavily damaged. Not to mention how wide the storm damage track (2 1/2 mile wide, a record) was. I think the detail line should be updated to indicate the extensive damage and storm track width.
I'm a member of a group, StormTrack, and we discuss storm damage reports, such as yours, extensively in our forums. This type of under reporting does not diminish the devastating effects of a tornado on a small village like Hallam. Please correct this oversight before negative public opinion about storm reports is raised in our forums. Thanks.

Larry J. Kosch

This is the response I got back from Roger Edwards, a SPC Met specializing in tornadoes and other severe convection:

I appreciate your feedback on this. In principle I agree. Our rough logs, however, are built automatically from the local storm reports (LSRs) sent to us by the warning offices; and we don't have the staffing to update them for every report. That's the commentary which was in the LSR. The final Storm Data logs, which unlike the SPC report log are *not* preliminary, will be more detailed.
Here is the NWS Omaha page on the event:

If you have any more concerns or questions about the Hallam event, please contact Brian Smith of the NWS office on Valley NE. I'm copying
this reply to Brian also.

Roger Edwards
Meteorologist Storm Prediction Center

I hope this will add new information to your knowledge about the Hallam tornado. Thanks. 8)
Roger saw some of the damage from that tornado when he was out chasing in Nebraska this year.
From looking at the High Plains Climate Center path map, I’m inclined to think that there may have been two tornadoes involved — but my “second tornado†is in a different location to Blake’s. Perhaps there were three.

Anyway, the way the damage path decreases in width rapidly to the NE of Hallam, coupled with the strong straight-line winds noted around Princeton — to the NE of where the N edge of the 2-mi.-wide damage path would have been — suggests to me that the 2-mi.-wide tornado dissipated just NE of Hallam, and a downburst bridged the gap between it and the next tornado spawned by the storm; the downburst was then only apparent outside of the tornado track to the NE. Mainly the way the path swings to the right looks very suspicious, as (going by several Fujita diagrams in Significant Tornadoes) that’s how a tornado family would look if it were plotted inaccurately as a single path — and of course the new tornado/wall cloud would be to the SE of the old wall cloud (the one that spawned the Hallam tornado).

Conversely, it could have been the downburst that caused the Hallam tornado to dissipate by abruptly cutting it off. If the downburst was to be recognized where it is on the map, and to cover the end of the Hallam tonado and the start of the next one, it would have had to cut in front of the Hallam tornado, which would have blocked much of its inflow off.