Thursday May 22, 2008

Randy Baker,
Phil Kurimski,
Mark Rader,
Kirk Swain

Hays, KS

348 miles (to Kansas City)
631 miles (Chase)
979 miles (Total)

5 hrs. 30 min. (to Kansas City)
12 hours (Chase)
17 hrs. 30 min. (Total)

Kansas Tornadoes

I met the chase team of Randy Baker, Mark Rader and Phil Kurimski in Kansas City around 10 am and we decided to head west towards Hays, Kansas to wait for storms along the dry line-warm front intersection. When we arrived at Hays, around 230 pm CDT, convection fired to the southwest and headed rapidly north. We decided to head west to Grainfield, then south to Gove on Hwy 23. We saw a nice cell coming at us from the north, however, it quickly outran us when we stopped to take pictures. By the time the first cell had a confirmed tornado, we were too far south to intercept, so we decided to wait on storms to our south. We waited just east of Gove, where we met up with Kirk Swain, then followed the cell north along Hwy 23 as it developed a nice mesocyclone and wall cloud. As we approached Interstate 70 I noticed a low contrast tornado just to our north (around 5:38 pm CDT). Despite being rain-wrapped, we caught some pictures of the tornado by adjusting our camera settings, to account for the low contrast.

We did not have long to celebrate as another cell to the south was developing a mesocyclone and heading northeast. To intercept this cell we headed east on I-70 and stopped 5 miles east of Collyer, where we watched the developing mesocyclone to our southwest. We noticed inflow dust being kicked up to our south with 35 to 40 mph winds. As the storm approached, the inflow became significantly stronger as a tornado developed within miles of our location. The inflow into the tornado was strong enough to completely knock Phil down as I took cover on the downwind side of an overpass. The large dust-wrapped tornado crossed the interstate at 6:38 pm CDT about a mile or two west of us, and was close enough that we could not fit the entire structure in a picture. We were also blasted with sand and tumbleweeds, which were surprisingly more painful than it sounds.

We then headed east on 70 then north on highway 283 to keep tracking the storm as it headed northeast. However the storm became outflow dominent as it moved north of the warm front. We headed back south towards WaKeeney as another tornado warned storm approached. We took cover from the hail, but we had an uneasy feeling about the motion of the rotation area of the storm. Since the sun had already set and we could not see, we decided to book east about 5 miles...just in time! I could visualize a devoloping tornado about 1/4 mile to our south as we left WaKeeney. Our decision proved to be the correct one as a tornado passed through the east side of WaKeeney (where we had originally decided to wait out the hail). It was too dark to get any good pictures. With darkness upon us we waited the storms out in Ogallah to try and get some lightning before calling it a night in Hays.

Near Gove, KS
Developing mesocyclone

Granfield, KS
Rain-wrapped tornado

Granfield, KS
Another shot of the tornado

5 miles east of Collyer, KS
The inflow ingests dust into the developing tornado

5 miles east of Collyer, KS
The large dust-wrapped tornado crossed I-70 to our west

5 miles east of Collyer, KS
The storm moves north of the Interstate

The WaKeeney storm shortly after our escape

Chaser convergence shortly after the WaKeeney tornado