If I hadn’t lived through it myself, I wouldn’t believe it. I went through the best of both worlds…from snow to an actual tornado in a matter of hours.
Our chase on Saturday took us further west than expected and by evening we found ourselves chasing a super cell in central Colorado. When you are on a storm, it’s easy to lose track of time and, in all honestly the conditions surrounding you. This super cell was in a weakening stage. The next thing I know I look up from the dashboard and the temperature which had been in the low seventies had dropped to 45 degrees. Within a matter of minutes, it was hailing and the temperature was down to 40 degrees . No wonder it was weakening! As we moved north, the hail became mixed with snow and in minutes the road was covered with an inch of slush. The ground started to get white and boom!…we were in winter travel conditions. Wow. What happened!
It is now after 7:00 p.m., and we are a long way from home. So we decided that was the end of the chase. We had a 12 hour journey ahead of us. Driving across northwest Kansas, we watched a super cell thunderstorm form to our south as we got back into the warmer air. Moving north the storm encountered the warm front and rapidly intensified. In minutes, tornado warnings lit up the mobile phones. Next thing we know there was a confirmed tornado on the ground.
We all looked at each other and said “Chase on!” Amazingly our road was taking us directly towards the storm. As the confirmed tornado reports continued to come in, we drew closer and closer. Finally it was apparent we were going to have a tornado producing storm pass directly in front of us. The only problem, it’s now dark.
Chasing tornadoes at night is challenging and a little more potentially dangerous. However we knew we were in a good position and it was very clear on radar where the circulation was so we felt confident that we were safe.
On a positive side, the storm was a prolific lightning producer and it continued to light up the night sky. It was easy to see the wall cloud and sure enough, there came the tornado. As it turns out, our road grid kept us directly west or south of the storm for approximately an hour. We continued to watch the storm cycle producing numerous touch downs. At one time, we saw multiply vortexes and what’s known as a cone tornado. Cones are relatively wide. I think we were all a little astounded and amazed at our good fortune.
The cameras were definitely getting an intensive workout and we were in awe. We have included a couple of pictures but the one we have of the multiply vortex cone is a pretty grainy. However we have others that were taken with better cameras and lighting conditions. Those will be coming soon. But for the moment, just wanted to get something up to let you know we finished the chase with a bang and on a high note. From the white gold to a multi-vortex tornado in three hours is as good as it gets. My perfect day.
Steak dinners for everyone. (That’s the chaser tradition when you capture a tornado!)