"Violent Prairies" - The Tornadoes of 2003 & 2

Gene Rhoden

The 2004 chase season was, by anybody's standards, a bumper year in terms of tornadoes. After a sputtering start in April - May exploded onto the Plains with at least one multiple-tornado day per week. Lasting into early June, the year of 2004 will be known for it's photogenic tornadoes that didn't, thankfully, effect many populated areas.

Now resting on our laurels after many months of intense chasing in Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa, we found ourselves with a slew of tornado video sitting in our laps. Tripoded (or otherwise) video of photogenic tornadoes lasting for literally hours.

In view of this, we decided to make our first Highlights Video since 2002. Christened "Violent Prairies" (because that's just what they've been for the past couple of years), this video will document the tornadoes of 2003 and 2004 in one compilation. Main points of note will be tantalizing shots from June 24th 2003 (only tantalizing because we were constantly forced to stop videoing and move because of the tornadoes), and some of our most spectacular multiple-vortex tornado footage to date (an angry deep blue wall cloud/tornado roils over the Prairies with orange dusk backlighting) from May 29th 2004, near Conway Springs Kansas.

To view information regarding our new Highlights Video - please see this link:-


What a season it has been....

Gene (& Karen) Rhoden

EDIT 8/2/05: Violent Prairies will be available for purchase indefinitely.
Well I finally got to see this video and it is simply incredible. I don't know what more one could ask for. I would venture to say it very well could be the best chase video I own and I have over 100 videos. Ok, I'll say it, it is the best video I own. There is so much to cover I don't know where to start.

Explaining exactly how I watched it might say something for the video. I got it out of the mail box and had stuff to do, but just wanted to put it in real quick to look at a chase or two. So I put it in the dvd player and walk over to the hallway to take my jacket off. I then kneel down behind the recliner to take my shoes off. I pull the back of the chair backwards and lay over it with my knees on the ground. I was in that position for close to 2 hours. I couldn't turn it off and I kept thinking sooner or later I would. I ended up watching it all right there like that.

The stuff about the May 8, 2003 OKC tornado was interesting as well as the May 9, 2003 OKC encounter at night. Ummmmm. Very interesting segment. I have never seen a chase video where people are riding in helicopters to look at the damage! Those were just interesting pieces to watch.

The May 15, 2003 TX storm was spectacular. You don't get to see such motion in a rotating updraft all that often. Gene evidently knows just where to stop when going north in the RFD. I was waiting for the hail to hit, but they were just far enough south to not get pulverized in the thing. It was just an amazing storm to watch, even after you can't see the tornadoes. I was drawn more to the video after the main tornado is mostly rain-wrapped.

I will be leaving several chases out on here, trying to just hit the 'main events'. After a few early June chases, including a very nice white tornado near Stuart NE June 9 we get to the day of days. Their June 24, 03 footage was of course incredible. This whole segment is addicting because of all the stuff you get to see. Before I die I want to see such violent motion as they witness this day. If you missed this day the segment might make you crazy. One must love it when after seeing several flat out amazing tornadoes you get to see more just playing around on the horizon. They are at the location of the probe that got the direct hit and off on the horizon this ragged updraft is putting down this nice tornado. What a day that was.

They have several cool events in 2004...to say the least. The May 12 Attica KS storm from their view is just, well, as amazing as it gets I think. It is probably my favorite segment on the video as they are northeast of this incredible mesocylone. It is other-worldly crazy. It is this striated machine and it also has a nice tornado under it! When I first got the glimpse of it I said to myself, "good gravy". I don't recall having ever said those two words together before...ever. Storms just don't have such a complete package like that that often. It is a definite must see.

May 22 brought an amazing tornadic supercell in sw NE. Yet again we get to see a highly visible supercell with a tornado planted in the middle of it. Pretty cool when a storm like this one that would make a lot of people's chase years hardly even registers on what else is on this video. It is a GREAT storm and tornado and having to try and fit in with the rest of the video, lol.

May 29, again sc KS. Their early view to the east of the first wedge(I think it was) is dramatic. Crazy motion and crazy coloring...sigh. The next wedge was the Aronia tornado(I think) and it is probably the best back lit tornado of the year. The thing just churns away making circles as it does so and always changing size and orientation. It was like it was created with just chasers in mind.

So, anyone looking for tornado video, I'd have to say this is where you should stop first.

Great video! Thanks for producing it.
Originally posted by Mike Hollingshead

So, anyone looking for tornado video, I'd have to say this is where you should stop first.

Great video! Thanks for producing it.

I'll second this! I don't have any other DVDs to compare this to but I will say it is excellent.
Wow, thanks to Mike and Andy for such blazing reviews!

We are just satisfied with knowing that our footage and production is being enjoyed by so many people......that's what makes it worthwhile.
Yep.. I concur with the above comments. Just got mine last week. After watching I had to wipe the drool from the floor, and my eyeballs dried out because I didn't blink once!
Just wanted to add a WOW!!! also. Excellent tornado footage in this film! Aside from all the visible tornado's which are stunning, the early segment of the night chase is particularly spooky to me. Can't see the tornado but the roar as it passes made my neck hairs stand on end (I'm betting it did for Gene and company too! :shock: ) This segment also has my new favorite quote from Tim Marshall....

::::Someone wakes up in the vehicle (Karen I presume) from all the commotion, apparently not knowing what is happening and says; "Whats going on?":::: Tim replies- "oh nothing, just a little tornado"....ROFL After it passes, a lightning or power flash illuminates the wedge as it moves away. Scary stuff!

Excellent video, I highly recommend it! Thanks Gene for getting this out so quickly too!
That is one of my favorite quotes, too.

May 9, 2003:

Karen R: "What's going on?"

Tim M: "Just a little tornado."

Then a few minutes later the lightning illuminates a giant wedge.

Some other lines I got a kick out of:

May 29, 2004, while watching a tornado in Kansas:

Gene R: "It's a two-tone tornado!" (Referring to how the sunlight is making the bottom part of the funnel appear much brighter than the top)

A little later while watching the same tornado:

(Distant dog barking)

Karen R: "That dog sure sees it."
WOW! Gosh......thanks guys for all the amazing positive comments on our production!!!

I am very glad you all enjoyed it greatly.....it took us quite some time to make considering that it contains two years' worth of footage - 2003 & 2004 rather than just 2004. It is old-fashioned and down-to-earth.......and we're somewhat bashful about the lack of jazzy music or graphics, but for us it is simply about the storms, and nothing else matters. If anyone is in love with the weather, it's my husband......and that's why he spent 2 weeks until 3:00am making this video!

From the aerial helicopter damage survey of the May 8th Moore tornado, to the compact, frightening June 24th 2003 section, to our laid-back, beautiful Iowa tornadoes.......we are thoroughly delighted that you enjoyed this production so much and thank you all for your positive comments of enthusiasm. To know that our DVD has brought enjoyment to so many is very special!

Karen Rhoden


I, for one, am grateful to have live soundtracks and NO music on the video. While I don't mind music drops when running titles between segments, I'd rather hear road noise, radios, comments and hopefully, actual storm sounds. It may be because I make music for a living and just enjoy being away from it once in a while, but the beauty of storms needs little enhancement, especially when the cinematography is as outstanding as it is on Violent Prairies.

How about hijacking the IMAX rig and hauling it around this year, you two? I'll bail you out.

Dave Gallaher
Huntsville, AL
It's been nearly a decade but hopefully, someone sees this. If anyone knows a good way to contact Gene please let me know. Some of the footage he's captured, such as the Brown County SD cyclical supercell and the Manchester tornado, is incredible and I'd very much like to see it. I am looking to buy both the Tornadoes of 2002 and the Violent Prairies DVDs, if any copies even exist.
Karen and her now husband Jason Politte have recently resurfaced on YouTube posting some of their old tornado videos from the 2000s, including Mulvane '04. She may be able to help you, although I don't know the details of her split with Gene it seemed rather sudden. Don't want to reopen any old wounds, so to speak.

Karen and her now husband Jason Politte have recently resurfaced on YouTube posting some of their old tornado videos from the 2000s, including Mulvane '04. She may be able to help you, although I don't know the details of her split with Gene it seemed rather sudden. Don't want to reopen any old wounds, so to speak.

Yeah, I've heard. The only reason I haven't contacted them was because of the reason you mentioned. However now that I think about it, I believe it couldn't hurt to ask since I am solely interested in the footage of the dvd's and not in any personal details. It would still be nice to get in contact with Gene so I could ask about his experience working with Tim Samaras and guiding the Graphic Films IMAX crew back in 2002.