Sunday, May 20, 2012

Much More Than Expected in South Central Kansas 05/19/2012

Chasing is always full of surprises.  Sometimes we head out to a target with hopes of a significant event only to get sunburned in a cap bust.  And sometimes we head out prompted by a bad case of Supercell Deprivation Syndrome (SDS) on what looks to be a probably waste of gas, only to be caught off guard by what we find.  Saturday May 19th, 2012 was such a day.

Gene and Jason Caster met up in Cordell, OK and headed out at about 11:30 am for an initial staging point at Pratt, KS.  As we passed Medicine Lodge a short line of agitated cu was visible to the NW and by the time we arrived in Pratt to fuel up and set up for the chase we had towering cu and before long some rather high-based cells which we observed for a bit from the Wal-Mart parking lot.  First good sign that this would be a memorable chase...initiation within 25 miles of our staging point.   Eventually we headed N toward St. John and then E on US 50 toward Stafford encountering a bit of penny-sized hail on the way.  We set up on an initial observing point just E of Stafford at noted that, although the storm bases were quite elevated, there was some strong cloud-level rotation as RFD cut into the storm as it moved ENE.

Deeply-cut RFD slot with all kinds of crazy motion near Stafford at 4:01 CDT:

As the storm approached our position we drifted E just ahead of the hail and precip.  From a position just NE of Sylvia we noted what we thought at the time was a long-lived gustnado to the SW, but in hindsight after understanding how the system developed, realized was probably a landspout.

View to the SW near Sylvia at 4:33 CDT. Probable landspout under a rather high updraft base:

Moving E with the system we turned S on SR 14 as the line of severe storms built SSW stopping here and there to observe and photograph..  At CR 50 we turned E and set up a mile or so west of Varner.  At this point a rotating column of dust spun up under the cloud base several miles to our W and very quickly a nub funnel was obvious above it.  This was most definitely a tornado!

Ground circulation under high updraft base W of Varner at 5:34 CDT:

Nub funnel and ground circulation W of Varner at 5:35 CDT:

As thin rain curtains developed and moved across to the N both the ground circulation and the funnel dissipated.  At about this point we noticed another nub funnel about 5 miles to our SSW and a few miles even further SW a column of rotating dust.  For sure a landspout.

Dusty landspout SW of Varner at 5:37 CDT:

We continued to wait as the earlier circulation approached us and a cone funnel appeared just after 5:40 CDT and slowly extended toward the ground, at first just stirring up dust and then eventually the tornado condensed fully - a bit of a surprise given how high the cloud bases were.

Tornado about 2 miles W of Varner at 5:44 CDT (HD Video Capture):

The tornado began to wrap up in rain and some golf-ball sized hail began to fall, so we made a quick departure and after clearing the precip a few miles E of Varner noticed a rope tornado (probably landspout) just S of a large precipitation shaft to our SW near Kingman.

Rope tornado on edge of shaft of heavy precipitation at 5:48 CDT:

At SR 17 we turned S toward Midway and Murdock as the storms back-built SW and from a position along SE 100 AV observed these landspout twins. (I intentionally framed them on either side of the tree.)

Twin Landspouts to our SW at 6:19 CDT:
As we continued S the right hand landspout continued to strengthen just S of the precipitation shaft and be came very dusty.

Looking SW toward Spivey at 6:23 CDT:

As it strengthened among the towers in the wind farm it began to behave less like a landspout and more like a classic supercell tornado.   From a vantage point just S of the SR 42 junction W NE 100 AV the condensation funnel became more evident as the surrounding dust lessened...and yet another small landspout made a brief appearance a couple miles S of the main tornado.

Two tornadoes yet again! Wide angle shot at 6:28 CDT:

The Rago tornado in all its destructive glory! 6:30 CDT

As this long-lived tornado eventually began to wrap up in rain and meet its demise we headed E and then S. Having already had an encounter with golf-ball sized hail that cracked the moon roof of the chase vehicle, we gave the storm what was perhaps too wide a berth and as such had only  a rather distant, low contrast view of the Harper area tornado.  As that circulation approached our position 10 miles NE of Harper the storm system began to weaken it seemed so we headed toward area E of Anthony  to take a quick look at the tail-end and then called the chase.

Chase Data:
Team Chase: Eugene Thieszen with Jason Caster
Miles: 534
Tornadoes: 9

No comments:

Post a Comment