Home Storm Chasing 2004 06-10-2004-Northcentral KS / SC NE

06-10-2004-Northcentral KS / SC NE Print E-mail
Friday, 30 July 2010 23:56

Total Distance: 1040 miles
Target Area: Hill City, KS, to Kearney, NE
Chase Area: Hill City, KS, to Red Cloud, NE
Maximum SPC Risk category: Moderate

A relatively abnormal situation was shaping up for the central plains as a strong, negatively-tilted shortwave trough ejected out of a western US longwave trough. Nice shear profiles as well as moderate instability was forecast to developed east of a surface low in northeast Colorado, progged to move east-northeastward. Additionally, favorable supercell conditions were located south from the low, east of the dryline. While central Nebraska looked to have the best backed low-level flow, surface moisture was lower there than points southward. So, we targeted the central KS/NE border area, and left OUN by 9:30am.

By the time we got there, we set up shop for a bit as it appeared that TCU were trying to break the cap along the dryline. A storm busted to the south of us, in Trego co., and we headed for it. However, by the time we got close, it looked like garbage, the svr warning was cancelled for it, and radar showed a general multicell structure. Seeing new development to our northwest, we turned around and headed northward. However, after passing through Norton again, the storm in Norton co. heading north went severe. We stopped to watch it for a few, and it appeared to be a nicely-structured anticyclonic supercell for a while. By now, the convection to our northwest looked less impressive, while the storm to the south was cycling up again. So, we headed south again and into far eastern Graham county near the Graham / Rooks / Phillips co interface, where we saw a very nice (structure-wise) LPish storm. The storm was tornado warned, but it didn't appear that it had any chance of dropping a tornado, as it was high-based. We followed this storm northeast as it stayed looking like LP, although it had incredible structure across northern Rooks co., southern Philips co, and into Smith co...

By the time we got south of Phillipsburg (I think that's the town), we saw a brief tornado / gustnado to our east. This started the gustnado fest... In total, I bet we saw 25-30 gustnadoes ... They were absolutely everywhere! In fact, seeing how they were occurring along the RFD gust front under the flanking line (well, the other half of them were occurring behind of the RFD gust front under what appeared to be a second flanking line leading northeastward into the meso), we were not concerned of real high winds, as they were weak, small, generally short-lived (most around a minute), and moved in every which direction. So, we decided to play in them for a while (we drove through 3 of them and ran through 5-6 maybe..LOL it was blast)... By this time, the sun was starting to set, and the base was lowering considerably. We did notice a very nice looking storm to our northwest (it had the largest overshooting top I've ever seen)...

At any rate, as darkness was increasing, we noticed the storm's first real attempt at a significant lowering occurring to our immediate northeast to the northwest of Smith Center. We repositioned and saw the wallcloud become better organized. Suddenly, a large tube of dust kicked up on the east side of the wall cloud, extending all the way to cloud base. The jury is still out on our side as to whether it was just a landspout / large spinup along the RFD or whether it was a legit tornado... Whatever the case, this meso occluded after about 10 mins of some decent rotation. However, a nice lowering rapidly developed to our northeast... And lowered... and spun.. and lowered.. and BAM! A small funnel develops on the side of it, and slowly meanders its way to the ground. Having stayed with this thing since 6p (it was now ~10p) and thinking that it wasn't going to produce given its highly-LP appearance, we saw our first (or second or third depending upon whether two tube rotations the extended more than half way to cloud base (from the ground) will be classified as a tornado) tornado of the day... The tornado seemed to rotate about the wallcloud, as it appeared to stay on its periphery. Full condensation to the ground, vivid lightning behind it made it a nice tornado to view. The tornado stayed in the stovepipe/elephant trunk stage for about 10-15 minutes, before beginning to rope out... We estimate this was near Red Cloud, NE... A large lowering persisted with this cloud, although we had to call off the chase do to other committments (e.g. I have class in about an hour). The supercell continued to show incredible structure for the entire time was saw it. Awesome.

Well, despite driving 1040 miles in 20 hours, it was an excellent chase. While the tornado decided to wait until after dark, the structure was amazing... Additionally, being able to play in the gustnadoes was enjoyable too... Much of the rotation was probably <45mph and smaller than 20 feet in diameter, though there were a few larger ones. This was all behind the RFD gust front, and largely under the clear skies to the southwest of the RFD clear slot. Hey, and a nice tornado to boot. It did look as if the tornado remained in rural areas, thus the reason I have called it a "nice" tornado.

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