Unusual tornado south of Hays, Kansas on May 26, 2021 - thoughts?

Jan 14, 2011
St. Louis
I observed this strange tornado deep within the main RFD of the Hays, Kansas supercell on May 26, 2021. This happened at close to the same time as, possibly during, the main large tornado that most chasers documented this day south of Hays. I only saw it because my road network ended to the south and east as I tried to keep up with the main meso/tornado to the north, and I had to backtrack west to Highway 183. This would have been southwest of the main tornado, occurring just west of Highway 183 about a mile north of Schoenchen.

This is the feature out of which the tornado would develop, about a minute prior, looking due west about 3 miles east of Highway 183.


Condensation reached the ground for about 20 seconds. Dashcam wide-angle of the tornado:


Video camera zoomed in:


I would have never seen this without being forced to backtrack west.

The cloud feature clearly is marking another RFD gust front curling north into where the tornado formed, right where you'd expect one to be if this had an updraft above it. You can even see what looks like a clear slot above it. But there is no updraft overhead, and this doesn't look like a typical occlusion with a dying tornado cyclone that re-condenses as it ropes out. No, this looks like a *new* tornado circulation that developed entirely within the RFD of the main storm. The feature also appears very shallow, not connected with a deep meso or anything above it but originating from something horizontal along the RFD-like gust front, like a horizontal tube that tightened at one end and spun down to the ground. I'm really not sure what to make of this, I've never seen anything like it in any other chase account. Curious to hear any thoughts and if anyone else saw this?


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I have seen anti-cyclonic tornadoes around the RFD and behind large tornadoes before but this appears to not be anti-cyclonic. Those are usually attached to the structure of the cell producing however. On DDC day the triplets formed with a tornado under two different mesos with the third forming in the area between the two. This one seems to be all alone and in the second shot almost like an LP storm when it drops a weak tornado. In this case I think this is something similar to what I saw in Colorado a few years back that ended up being impressive scud. Either way cool feature and something else to look for when chasing.
I didn't get great video of this, as I wasn't expecting it and had to scramble to get a camera on it. It didn't last very long, the condensed phase was maybe 20 seconds in duration tops. I uploaded the short zoom clip from my a-camera, along with a 5x wide-angle timelapse from the dashcam that shows the evolution of the feature:

There were other chasers closer to it that might have seen it, although they would have to have diverted their gaze from the main tornado to the north. I've never been able to find another angle of it.