June 19, 2018: Tornado near Keenesburg, Colorado

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Tour 4 was treated to a great tornado on the last day of the tour just about an hour north of the Denver metro area near a small rural town named Keenseburg. This was the second day that supercells which started near Boulder took the exact same path. Just the evening before this event, we were in Keenseburg experiencing large hail and torrential rain. In fact, due to the heavy rains on the previous day that soaked the rural roads (dirt), we opted to stay a bit further south so that we could not only keep a better eye on two tornadic supercells (one to our North near Keenesburg, and one to our south moving towards Simla), but also keep the vehicles wheels on solid roads.

After the first tornado of the day near Keenesburg ended, we quickly moved south and then continued east allowing the storms to chase us all the way to Limon, where we intercepted another tornado. However, due to it being occluded in heavy rain and our light was quickly diminishing, it was as nearly as photogenic as the earlier tornado, even though we were much closer to it.

May 29, 2018: Southwest Kansas Tornadoes

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We started this day on Tour 3 in Colby, Kansas up near the Colorado/Nebraska border and headed south with an expected forecast of tornadic storms near the Dodge City, Kansas area. Our timing was pretty spot on, we stopped in a small town just north of Dodge City to fuel the vehicles up and supercells were already building in the area, there were two of them. Just as we got back on the highway, the one closest to us began a phase of rapid intensification, and produced our first tornado of the day.

Just on the northern limits of Dodge City we pulled over as Brian thought he saw a contrasted edge hidden in a wet core under the base of the northern most supercell. Sure enough, with a bit of straining – the elusive tornado began to show itself! It wasn’t the easiest tornado to see and the cameras had a difficult time with it, but it is visible in the photo posted here (the contrast had to be blown out of the photo to bring the tornado out in the photo – this tornado was wrapped in heavy rain, not always visible, but in this case it was).

After the stovepipe tornado roped out, we quickly made our way through Dodge City as the storm was approaching from the west. We had to go all the way through the city to catch our next highway which would take us east and allow us to stay ahead of the storm. After we were 10 or so miles ahead of the storm, near a small unincorporated town named Kingsdown, we stopped and setup the cameras. We now had the more southern supercell heading straight towards us and it was looking better than ever!

We decided to let the storm pass just to our north and as it did, it produced an incredibly low hanging wall cloud that was quickly rotating. The entire base of the storm seemed to be dragging the ground, literally about a one-mile wide area of rotation right in front of us. Its difficult in these situations to see any specific spin-ups on the ground, but the entire rotating base had basically become a giant multivortex wedge tornado! The tornado report from 2235 confirmed the tornado: https://www.spc.noaa.gov/climo/reports/180529_rpts.html

May 27, 2015: Canadian, Texas Panhandle Tornado

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May 27 included one of the most memorable tornadoes of the 2015 season.  We started the day in Oklahoma City and drove into the eastern portions of the Texas Panhandle with our target being near the town of Canadian.  The setup was a May classic for the panhandle, temps were in the mid-80s while the dew point was in the mid-60s with steep low-level lapse, creating strong instability with MLCAPE values in excess of 2500 J/KG.  It didn’t take long for the abundant moisture to break through the cap and cumulus towers begin forming.  We witnessed the first couple of tornadoes of the day from a distant viewing point of about 10-miles, and then moved into position to await the arrival of the storm (due to limited roads) while it was cycling through a reorganization phase.  A few miles before the storm made it to us, it quickly tapped into some deep, moist air and ramped up to the point of tornado insanity.

May 28, 2013: Bennington, KS Monster Wedge Tornado

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Storm chasing often involves long drives over vast distances.  When we awoke in the morning of May 28th in Hays, Kansas, and checked the forecasting data, I knew this wasn’t going to be one of those often days.  We were, more or less, already in our target area for the day.  By early-afternoon, we had driven from Hays to Salina, a whooping 95 miles, which took a little under an hour and a half.  This was one of those days where after several days of 400 miles plus, your tour guest begin to wonder if you really know what you’re doing.  The “norm” is driving, and driving a lot.  Today, we’re sitting in a parking lot an hour from where we started and we’re waiting.  It’s days like this that requires a lot of patience for the forecaster.  It’s easy to second guess yourself and drive away from your target area, only to realize your mistake in hindsight.  Lucky for us, Salina, KS is one of the few stops along I-70 that includes a Starbucks (bonus!).

By mid-afternoon the cumulus field that had developed in advance of the dryline was boiling over our heads.  We watched the clouds form that cauliflower-like shape, almost as if a nuclear bomb had been detonated.  One of those updrafts would become the focal point for the storm that created the monster of 2013.  We had no idea as of yet what was to become.  We literally sat and watched the storm appear from blue sky, turn into a storm and begin to organize.  We drove another 10 miles to the north and then parked, where we parked would become our final viewing place for the rest of the day.  Within an hour, a tornado formed nearly right in front us.  It morphed into a giant wedge, perfectly backlit with strong contrast just the west of us.  The best part, it didn’t move!  This storm was anchored into position and dug its heels in deep, literally spinning over open farmland and giving us the show of the year for more than 40-minutes.  All that patience had paid off!