Friday, May 23, 2008

Not a bad first day

What started out as a potential bust quickly turned into quite an evening! We entered into the chase a bit late in the game and from the wrong direction. Storms moved quickly from south to north and we were approaching from the East which is not great. It seemed like the sky was a mess of unreadable clouds. So we dropped south to Ness City, KS and then headed west once we could see the rain-free-base and rain boot (area where tornadoes usually form). It was about 15 miles to our west and we headed towards it. As we got closer the clouds got more defined and a wall cloud became very prominent. It didn't take long for us to notice the first funnel cloud which twirled below the wall cloud for a minute and then dissipated. Another funnel cloud would then form and dance for a minute before dissipating as well.

While we didn't see the funnel touch down, radar did indicate the super cell as a tornado, and then later when we didn't have as good of a view of the storm, we heard spotter reports of a visible tornado touch down... our tornado.

Since I had never seen a funnel cloud before I felt pretty good about the chase. We decided to head back to Hays as it was getting dark and we got caught in a bit of a hail storm which pounded hard on the Jeeps soft-top. Thankfully it was only dime sized hail!

Top left image shows one of the two funnel clouds we saw near Ness City, KS. Below that is video of that same storm a little earlier. Bruce scolded me for standing on my jeep sidesteps when there was lightning. I promptly jumped down. Below that is an image of me next to the T.I.V. outside a hotel in Hays, KS after the chase day.

Also, we passed the famous T.I.V. (Tornado Intercept Vehicle) from the storm chasing show on Discovery Channel today and then later got an up close look at it when it was parked in a hotel near ours in Hays (I'm pretty sure every storm chaser in America is in Hays, KS right now). We got to take a look inside and snapped a few photos. It is quite a vehicle! Reinforced and designed to actually withstand a direct hit from a tornado. Don't worry, thats not our plan!

Tomorrow we head for Nebraska where convective outlooks look good for another ideal chase day and this time we will be in better position, earlier and approaching from the south. Stay tuned!

Click here for more pictures!