Video Review: Gene and Karen Rhoden's "Violent Prairies

I've had the pleasure of viewing Gene and Karen Rhoden's "Violent Prairies: The Tornadoes of 2003 and 2004" a couple of times now, and despite the lack of bells and whistles available on the DVD, the incredible footage and the commentary contained within carries the video beautifully.

The video begins with Gene and Karen accompanying Tim Marshall during a damage survey of the May 8, 2003 Moore, OK tornado. Not only do we have the opportunity to observe Tim pursuing his line of work, but we also find out how incredibly well those safe rooms hold up during a violent-class tornado. Whether intentionally done or not I'm not sure, but this introductory piece foreshadows the next day well, May 9. Due to an error in judgement, Gene, Karen, and Tim had to ride out the nighttime wedge under the Britton Rd. overpass as it overtook their position. The fear and excitement of the event as well as the sound of the tornado is conveyed quite well.

Next up, we have Gene and Karen's chase of the insane May 15, 2003 Stratford, TX monster supercell and tornadoes. Both the astounding multi-vortex action in the wedge and the satellite elephant trunk tornado are filmed from close proximity, but what I enjoyed the most from this day was their approach of the wedge from behind later on as it crossed the road. Violent motion of both the tornado and storm structure in this shot made for a very surreal and beautiful scene.

After May 15, we experience some nice structure shots from June 2, 4, and 11 along with the white Stuart, NE tornado from June 9, which effectively lead into the June 24, 2003 South Dakota outbreak and probe deployment mission of the Samaras/Rhoden crews. This portion of the video is by far my favorite and starts off with the intercept and probe deployment on the picturesque Woonsocket tornado before moving on to the Manchester probe deployment. The Manchester tornado is captured beautifully in both the wedge and stovepipe/elephant trunk/rope stage as small pieces of debris float around the teams. How incredibly close these crews were needs no explanation. After the probes are recovered, we're given an insightful look into the data review that night and the discovery of a 100 mb pressure-drop associated with the Manchester tornado.

Chase season 2004 begins with the Rhodens' May 12 chase of the dust-filled tubes near Attica, KS. Along with many tornadoes and incredible storm structure featured this day, we're also treated to a shot very reminiscent of the May 31, 1990 Spearman, TX tornado.

The May 22 high-based and quite photogenic stovepipe tornadoes near Alma, NE move us on to May 29 and the prolific tornadic supercell in south central Kansas, a storm that many will remember for years to come, I'm sure. The tornadoes this storm produced ran the gamut from gorgeous, partially-sunlit stovepipe to monster wedges, and the multiple vortice action was amazing. This was definitely the storm to be on that day.

The video concludes with the June 11 Ft. Dodge, IA storm and two picturesque tornadoes, one of which performed a beautiful rope-out, and the June 12 Mulvane, KS tornado partially sunlit from Gene and Karen's angle as it entered the rope stage.

This is a very well put together video and a great addition to anybody's collection. To order, visit:

Jason Politte
Conway, AR
I've got a copy of that video. Awesome stuff. May 29 multiple vortex and June 11 Iowa rope-out (where the tornado seemed to vanish into thin air) are my favorites.