Case Study: November 17th, 2013: A Perfect Setup For Disaster

November 17th, 2013: A day that resonates with so many of us across the great state of Illinois. Typically dates that are remembered in the weather world are not ones that bring on a positive connotation. With this paper I plan on giving an overview of the event, an in depth look at the meteorology behind it, a timeline of events, and also the efforts to restore the hardest hit areas back to normalcy. This type of severe weather episode could be considered a “once in a career” type event for a local forecaster. What made it so unusual was not only the time of year it occurred, but the time of day that many of the tornadoes happened. One listen to the live weather overview [above] will really help you understand how volatile the situation really was.

Some fast facts about the outbreak below:

  • 4th largest outbreak in Illinois history
  • Most tornadoes in the month of November in Illinois history
  • Previous record was 8 in 1965
  • First violent November tornadoes in Illinois since 1885
  • Longest track tornado was 46.2 (Tornado #2)
  • 8 deaths and 181 injuries
  • 10 tornadoes had tracks of 10 miles or more
  • Most severe weather was out of the region by 3 P.M.

day48prob_20131114_1200A bit of a brief overview of the weather leading up to November 17th. Illinois had been a little colder than average in the days leading up to the outbreak. I remember temperatures were well below freezing with even some snow flurries observed preceding this monster trough. To the average person, it was the signs of an early winter. Meanwhile, forecasters were closely watching the spread of weather models for an incoming system progged to impact the Great Lakes over the weekend. Local forecasts showed a warming trend and many people would grow excited at the prospects of a late Indian Summer. While the general public was preparing to enjoy a warm weekend, weather forecasters were fearing the potential for a late season severe weather outbreak. The Storm Prediction Center was one of those concerned parties and placed most of Illinois under a risk for severe thunderstorms four days out.

day3otlk_20131115_0830_prtAs time wore on and we transitioned into Friday, a slight risk had been placed over the Eastern half of Illinois. Still, the weather conditions present across Illinois were not what one would expect preceding an outbreak. From a personal standpoint, I was extremely concerned about the risk for severe weather dating back to Monday or Tuesday [November 12th]. Many times these systems display themselves on weather models, but often fizzle out and end up being a non-event. Many amateur forecasters will hype these events well in advance and end up looking foolish when they do not verify. I tried to be careful with my wording, but I mentioned the potential for some bad weather impacting our area. The next picture below has to be the most ominous “mid to long range” forecast I have given.

Capture

 

day2otlk_20131116_1730_prtBy Saturday it was growing increasingly likely that a major severe weather episode was likely across at least half of the state. Not only would damaging winds be likely, but the increasing potential for strong, long track, and damaging tornadoes.  The Storm Prediction Center issued a moderate risk for severe thunderstorms with the mention of a possible upgrade to high risk. Strong warm air advection was already occurring and there seemed to be a change in the air. No longer was there this cold and wintry feel, but a strong southerly gale ushered in a several degree temperature spike by late night Saturday. As the strong warm front passed through, it sparked a few thunderstorms during the overnight hours. These storms brought heavy rain, hail, and frequent lightning but not much in the way of severe weather. Normally a forecaster would be concerned with these early morning storms. They have a tendency to throw a giant wrench in the going forecast for later in the day. Below are some posts I made leading up to the event.

Capture2 Capture3 Capture4 Capture5From a meteorological stand point it’s hard to find a more classic tornado outbreak for Northern and Central Illinois. Impressive kinematics are common with fall systems, but what makes this so odd was the off the chart thermodynamics. Generally transitional season storms have an abundance of shear but not much instability. When you get a power system with shear and instability, that’s when all the red flags are raised. By early morning the writing was on the wall proverbially speaking. The Storm Prediction Center had upgraded much of the area to a high risk, previous night convection had cleared the area, and skies were mainly clear. A disastrous set of ingredients were about to align themselves across our beautiful prairies.

17_500mb 17_850mb 17_ttd 17_300mbMesoscale and upper air analysis of the kinematic fields revealed an incredibly sheared environment not only favorable for damaging winds, but also tornadoes. A negatively-tilted trough was digging into the Midwest by morning under an amplified pattern. When speaking in meteorological terms…. a pattern can either be zonal or amplified. In a zonal flow, the 500 MB flow is generally characterized by ripples while amplified flow by waves. November 17th’s system originated in an amplified flow with a negative tilt to the trough axis. Negative tilt systems generally have the axis in a northwest to southeast orientation and suggest a stronger storm system. Looking at the 300 MB flow, we can see some great divergence occurring across Northern Illinois by mid morning. Divergence allows the air to rise. Toward the surface, impressive low level wind shear was present with deep layer shear closing in on 60 knots. Low level wind shear was upwards of 35-40 knots. I was a bit surprised at the lack of directional shear. If I could find one caveat with the set up, it would be the areas with the strongest tornadoes lacked the real backed winds you would expect to see in a normal tornado outbreak. Nevertheless anytime you get high amounts of bulk shear, SRH, plus the presence of a boundary  in advance of a power storm system; troubles a brewin’.

16_ehi3 17_lllr 17_sbcp 17_storThermodynamically speaking, this system would be more reminiscent of a late spring/early summer type event over a late fall. By mid-morning, surface based convective available potential energy values [SBCAPE] were nearing 2,000 J/KG which signifies a moderately unstable atmosphere. Low level lapse rates were also steep. EHI or energy helicity index values were at 5 and 6. By definition, EHI values are the combination of CAPE and storm relative helicity values. When you have values 4 or above the potential for violent tornadoes exist. Significant tornado values were also focused across Central Illinois.

  • Negatively tilted trough
  • Strong divergence
  • 35-40 kt of low level shear
  • SRH of 400-600
  • 60 kt bulk shear
  • 2,000 J/KG SBCAPE
  • EHI values of 5-6
  • LCL heights under 750M
  • High Shear/Moderately Unstable

The stage was set, now let’s take an in depth look of what actually happened:

7:00 A.M.: A high risk of severe thunderstorms was issued at the 13z update

A high risk of severe thunderstorms was issued at the 13z update

7:47 A.M.: Just before 8:00 A.M. the Storm Prediction Center released MD 2010 acknowledging the increasing threat for tornadoes across Illinois.

At 7:47 A.M. the SPC issued MCD 2010 highlighting the increasing risk for tornadoes across a huge portion of Illinois

 

8:39 A.M.: A particularly dangerous situation tornado watch is issued for most of Illinois until 4:00 P.M.

ww0561_radar

9:36 A.M.: LOT issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Boone, McHenry [IL] till 10:15 AM CST …AT 933 AM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED 5 MILES NORTHEAST OF BELVIDERE…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 50 MPH.

radar1

9:50 A.M.: TOR ISSUED FOR NW MCHENRY COUNTY DUE TO BRIEF RAPID TIGHTENING OF THE ROTATION ALOFT NE OF BELVIDERE ON THE 1533Z SCAN. ENVIRONMENT REMAINS EXTREMELY CONDUCIVE FOR TORNADOES AND HAD ALREADY GOTTEN CONFIRMED ROTATION AND WALL CLOUD WITH SPOTTER SUBMITTED PHOTO WITH OTHER REPORTS OF FUNNELS AS WELL. ROTATION HAS SINCE WEAKENED BUT THE THREAT FOR RAPID INTENSIFICATION OF ROTATION IN THESE STORMS REMAINS HIGH. 

10:01 A.M.: ILX issues Severe Thunderstorm Warning [wind: 70 MPH, hail: 1.00 IN] for Fulton, Knox, Peoria [IL] till 10:45 AM CST *This storm would be the one to impact Washington*

radar2

10:04 A.M.: Local Storm Report by NWS LOT: 3 W Hebron [Mchenry Co, IL] trained spotter reports FUNNEL CLOUD at 09:50 AM CST

10:17 A.M.:  LOT issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 0.00 IN] for McHenry [IL] till 11:00 AM CST …AT 1013 AM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED 6 MILES SOUTH OF CAPRON…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 45 MPH.

radar310:30 A.M.: Trained spotter reporting funnel cloud approx. 1/2 mile east of Rte 14 & Oak Grove in Harvard moving NNE. Funnel half way to ground

10:42 A.M.: ILX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: <.75 IN] for Logan, Mason, Menard, Sangamon [IL] till 11:15 AM CST …AT 1039 AM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR ASHLAND…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 60 MPH.

radar410:50 A.M.: Storm Prediction Center issues MD 2013 highlighting increasing risk for damaging tornadoes

mcd2013

10:50 A.M.: ILX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford [IL] till 11:15 AM CST …AT 1049 AM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR PEKIN…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH.

radar5

10:58 A.M.: AT 1058 AM CST…A CONFIRMED TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR EAST PEORIA… AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH

11:00 A.M.: Multiple damage reports have come in from Pekin.

11:02 A.M.: Spotter reports “FUNNEL BACK IN CLOUDS. TIGHT ROTATION IN CLOUDS AT COLE HOLLOW AND MUELLER, HEADED TOWARDS WASHINGTON IL AT 35 MPH”

11:04 A.M.: Local Storm Report by NWS ILX: 3 NW Morton [Tazewell Co, IL] emergency mngr reports TORNADO at 11:04 AM CST — at intersection of i-74 and i-474

Just after 11 A.M. TORNADO BEGINS TO IMPACT WASHINGTON

11:06 A.M.: ILX continues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: 0.00 IN] for Tazewell, Woodford [IL] till 11:15 AM CST …AT 1103 AM CST…A CONFIRMED LARGE AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR WASHINGTON…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH.

11:11 A.M.: LSX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: <.75 IN] for Macoupin, Montgomery [IL] till 11:30 AM CST …AT 1106 AM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR PALMYRA…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 65 MPH.radar6

11:12 A.M.: ILX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: 0.00 IN] for Marshall, Tazewell, Woodford [IL] till 11:45 AM CST …AT 1107 AM CST…A CONFIRMED LARGE AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR WASHINGTON…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 65 MPH.

LOT issues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: 1.00 IN] for La Salle, Livingston [IL] till 12:00 PM CST …AT 1107 AM CST…A CONFIRMED TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR WASHINGTON… AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 60 MPH.

radar711:12 A.M.: ILX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Christian, Sangamon [IL]
till 11:45 AM CST …AT 1107 AM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR PALMYRA…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 60 MPH.

radar811:12 A.M.: Local Storm Report by NWS ILX: 3 WNW Morton [Tazewell Co, IL] broadcast media reports TORNADO at 11:03 AM CST — roof damage to week-tv

11:13 A.M.: Local Storm Report by NWS ILX: 4 S Metamora [Tazewell Co, IL] emergency mngr reports TORNADO at 11:11 AM CST — large tornado

11:20 P.M.: Violent tornado passes just west of Roanoke, documented by Adam Lucio – Aerostorms

11:22 A.M.: LSX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Macoupin, Montgomery [IL] till 11:45 AM CST …AT 1119 AM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR CARLINVILLE…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH.

radar9

ILX continues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Marshall, Woodford [IL] till 11:45 AM CST …AT 1117 AM CST…A CONFIRMED LARGE AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR ROANOKE…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 65 MPH.

11:24 A.M.: LOT continues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: 1.00 IN] for La Salle, Livingston [IL] till 12:00 PM CST …AT 1117 AM CST…A CONFIRMED TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR METAMORA…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH.

Video of tornado crossing near Benson, Illinois just before 11:30 A.M.

Aftermath images of Washington now flooding into social media

tornadodamage

Tornado_damage_near_Washington_Illinois_20131117180911_320_240 article-0-197E878300000578-579_964x634 ap_Tornado_ac_131117.jpg_16x9_992 1384830078017-inidc5-6cridit38ee138to0f8a-original

 

 

 

 

 

11:29 A.M.: ILX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Christian, Macon [IL] till 12:00 PM CST …AT 1126 AM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR KINCAID…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 65 MPH.

radar1011:31 A.M.: ILX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Logan, McLean, Tazewell [IL] till 12:00 PM CST …AT 1126 AM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR HARTSBURG…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 60 MPH.

radar11

11:32 A.M.: Local Storm Report by NWS ILX: Washington [Tazewell Co, IL] public reports TORNADO at 11:05 AM CST — numerous homes damaged

11:33 A.M.: LOT issues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Grundy, La Salle, Livingston [IL] till 12:15 PM CST …AT 1128 AM CST…A CONFIRMED TORNADO WAS LOCATED 5 MILES WEST OF MINONK…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH. Video below is of tornado near Minonk.

11:34 A.M.: ILX continues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Christian, Sangamon [IL] till 11:45 AM CST …AT 1131 AM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED 6 MILES NORTH OF PAWNEE…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 60 MPH.

11:39 A.M.:  LOT continues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: 1.00 IN] for La Salle, Livingston [IL] till 12:00 PM CST …AT 1138 AM CST…A CONFIRMED LARGE AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR DANA…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH. Below storm chasers document a large rain wrapped tornado near Dana while another satellite tornado forms

11:43 A.M.: LSX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Montgomery [IL] till 12:00 PM CST …AT 1139 AM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR RAYMOND…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 65 MPH.

radar12

Local Storm Report by NWS LOT: Dana [La Salle Co, IL] trained spotter reports TORNADO at 11:36 AM CST — tornado on the ground north of the woodford – lasalle county line. power flashes occurring.

11:46 A.M.: ILX continues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Logan, McLean, Tazewell [IL] till 12:00 PM CST …AT 1145 AM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED 6 MILES WEST OF BLOOMINGTON…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 60 MPH.

11:50 A.M.: LSX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Randolph [IL] till 12:15 PM CST …AT 1147 AM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR EVANSVILLE…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 65 MPH.

radar13

11:53 A.M.: LSX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Clinton, Washington [IL] till 12:30 PM CST …AT 1152 AM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED 6 MILES SOUTH OF NEW MEMPHIS…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 65 MPH.

11:54 A.M.: ILX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for McLean [IL] till 12:30 PM CST …AT 1150 AM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR BLOOMINGTON…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 60 MPH.

radar14

LOT continues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Grundy, La Salle, Livingston [IL] till 12:15 PM CST …AT 1152 AM CST…A CONFIRMED LARGE AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO WAS LOCATED 6 MILES SOUTHEAST OF STREATOR…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH. RADAR INDICATED THAT THE INITIAL TORNADO MAY BE WEAKENING WHILE A NEW TORNADO WAS DEVELOPING  JUST TO THE SOUTH OF THE FIRST ONE.

11:55 A.M.: ILX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: <.75 IN] for Christian, Shelby [IL] till 12:45 PM CST …AT 1150 AM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED 6 MILES NORTHWEST OF NOKOMIS…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 60 MPH.

11:56 A.M.: LSX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: <.75 IN] for Bond, Clinton, Fayette [IL] till 12:30 PM CST …AT 1152 AM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR BEAVER CREEK…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 50 MPH.

11:57 A.M.: Storm Prediction Center issues MD 2015

mcd2015

 

12:04 P.M: Tornado touches down just outside of New Minden, Illinois

12:07 P.M.: Reports of debris falling from sky Mazon, Morris and near Minooka at 12:07 hours

ILX continues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for McLean [IL] till 12:30 PM CST …AT 1204 PM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR LEXINGTON…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 60 MPH.

12:08 P.M.: Local Storm Report by NWS LSX: New Minden [Washington Co, IL] trained spotter reports TORNADO at 12:07 PM CST — tornado rapidly moving northeast

12:09 P.M.: LSX continues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: 2.50 IN] for Clinton, Washington[IL] till 12:30 PM CST …AT 1204 PM CST…A CONFIRMED TORNADO WAS LOCATED 6 MILES EAST OF OKAWVILLE…AND MOVING EAST AT 75 MPH

12:10 P.M.: LSX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: <.75 IN] for Randolph [IL] till 12:30 PM CST …AT 1209 PM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR BREMEN…AND MOVING EAST AT 60 MPH.

12:14 P.M.: LOT issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 0.00 IN] for Grundy, Kankakee, Will [IL] till 1:00 PM CST …AT 1210 PM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR MAZON…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 60 MPH.

radar15Tornado damage from New Minden:

newmindenphoto

12:15 P.M.: Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens game delayed due to tornadic weather

slide_325712_3124919_free

12:18 P.M.: Local Storm Report by NWS LSX: 2 W Hoyleton [Washington Co, IL] law enforcement reports TORNADO at
12:15 PM CST — tornado on the ground along highway 177 heading towards Hoyleton. location estimated

12:19 P.M.: ILX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: <.75 IN] for Champaign, Piatt [IL] till 1:00 PM CST …AT 1214 PM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR DE LAND…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 65 MPH.

12:22 P.M.: Coal City/Diamond Tornado touches down

12:24 P.M.: LOT continues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Grundy, Kankakee, Will [IL] till 1:00 PM CST …AT 1220 PM CST…A CONFIRMED TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR COAL CITY…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH.

Local Storm Report by NWS LOT: Braceville [Grundy Co, IL] law enforcement reports TORNADO at 12:20 PM CST — il-113 at will/grundy county line.

12:26 P.M.: ILX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Cumberland, Effingham, Jasper, Shelby [IL] till 1:15 PM CST …AT 1223 PM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR BROWNSTOWN…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 60 MPH.

12:29 P.M.: Local Storm Report by NWS LOT: Wilmington [Will Co, IL] law enforcement reports TORNADO at 12:25 PM CST — at il-53 and wilmington and peotone road.

12:32 P.M.: LOT continues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Grundy, Kankakee, Will [IL] till 1:00 PM CST …AT 1229 PM CST…A CONFIRMED LARGE AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR WILMINGTON…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 55 MPH.

Local Storm Report by NWS LOT: Diamond [Grundy Co, IL] law enforcement reports TSTM WND DMG at 12:26 PM CST — houses damaged on lowell lane.

12:36 P.M.: ILX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: <.75 IN] for Champaign, Douglas, Piatt [IL] till 1:15 PM CST …AT 1232 PM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR HAMMOND…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 60 MPH

radar16

12:37 P.M.: Local Storm Report by NWS ILX: 1 N Altamont [Effingham Co, IL] law enforcement reports TORNADO at 12:34 PM CST — estimated half mile wide

12:39 P.M.: ILX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 1.00 IN] for Clay, Effingham [IL] till 1:30 PM CST …AT 1237 PM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR OMEGA…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 65 MPH.

12:44 P.M.: ILX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: <.75 IN] for Champaign [IL] till 1:15 PM CST …AT 1242 PM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR CHAMPAIGN…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 70 MPH.

radar17

12:45 P.M.: Gifford Tornado touches down and heads for town

12:46 P.M.: LOT issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: 0.00 IN] for Cook, Will [IL] and Lake [IN] till 1:30 PM CST …AT 1240 PM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR MANHATTAN…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 60 MPH.

radar18

12:48 P.M.: Local Storm Report by NWS LOT: 2 S Manhattan [Will Co, IL] storm chaser reports TORNADO at 12:39 PM
CST — south of manhattan

12:50 P.M.: ILX issues Tornado Warning [tornado: RADAR INDICATED, hail: <.75 IN] for Vermilion [IL] till 1:30 PM CST …AT 1246 PM CST…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR THOMASBORO…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 65 MPH.

radar19

 

12:53 P.M.: Local Storm Report by NWS LSX: 1 SW Centralia [Marion Co, IL] amateur radio reports TORNADO at 12:21 PM CST — significant structural damage to numerous homes with vehicles overturned. unknown number of minior injuries on noltings road. amateur radio reports TORNADO at 12:21 PM CST — significant structural damage to numerous homes with vehicles overturned. unknown number of minior injuries on noltings road hoffman road and sycamore.

12:54 P.M.: LOT continues Tornado Warning [tornado: OBSERVED, hail: 1.75 IN] for Cook, Will [IL] and Lake [IN] till 1:30 PM CST …AT 1251 PM CST…A CONFIRMED TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR FRANKFORT…AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 60 MPH.

Tornado damage from Gifford hits social media

Rick Danzl/The News-Gazette Destruction in Gifford Monday November 18, 2013.

Tornado damage from Coal City/Diamond hit social media

528a4a0bb7979.image1:07 P.M.: Major outbreak shifting eastward into Indiana

mcd2018

Just like that, the fourth largest tornado outbreak in Illinois’ history has exited the state. Behind it a trail of 25 tornadoes, 8 deaths, and hundreds of injuries. The towns of Washington, Diamond, Gifford, New Minden, and others were highly impacted by these tornadoes. Below I will assemble information on all of the tornadoes from that day.

Tornado #1: Pekin, Peoria County – 10:52 A.M. – EF-2 

pekin

Survey Results:

This tornado crossed the Illinois River from Peoria County at 10:53 AM CST. It tracked through the northwest side of Pekin before lifting 2 miles northeast of Pekin at 10:54 AM CST. Approximately 179 houses and 6 businesses suffered major damage, while 182 houses experienced minor roof damage. In addition, 3 apartment buildings lost their roofs, a power substation had minor damage, and hundreds of cars were damaged. Ten people were injured.

Tornado #2: Washington to Dana, Peoria-Livingston Counties – 10:59 A.M. – EF-4

washington

Survey teams from the NWS offices in Lincoln and Chicago surveyed this tornado.

The tornado initially developed over the southeast portion of East Peoria, and then headed northeast. It reached a maximum intensity of EF-4 as it entered the city of Washington.  It then continued northeast, moving through Woodford County, reaching the Woodford/LaSalle County border near Minonk, a total of 34.5 miles. The tornado then continued northeast into far southern LaSalle County near Dana, then moved into Livingston County, finally diminshing 2 miles east of Long Point. The track length in LaSalle and Livingston Counties was 11.7 miles, with the peak intensity in these two counties as EF-2.  The total tornado path on the ground was 46.2 miles.

Central Illinois Tornado Survey: Washington

Tazewell_Woodford_111713 washington_ge6 washington-tazewell washington

 

 

 

 

 

damage

Tornado #3: Litchfield, Macoupin County – 11:30 A.M.EF-1

MAXIMUM EF-SCALE RATING: EF-1
FATALITIES: NONE
INJURIES: NONE
BEGIN TIME/LOCATION: 1130 AM CST 6 MILES NORTHWEST OF LITCHFIELD
END TIME/LOCATION: 1134 AM CST 6 MILES NORTHWEST OF LITCHFIELD
MAXIMUM ESTIMATED WIND SPEED: 75 MPH
PATH LENGTH: 4 MILES
MAXIMUM PATH WIDTH: 50 YARDS

Despite photographic evidence of a large tornado northwest of Litchfield, only minor damage to power poles and one barn was observed. Most of the area where the tornado occurred was bare farm fields which did not have any damage indicators.

Tornado #4: Dana – Long Point, LaSalle-Livingston Counties – 11:43 A.M. – EF-0

LaSalle_Livingston

.SATELLITE TORNADO EAST OF DANA ILLINOIS SOUTH OF LONG TRACKED TORNADO…
RATING: EF-0
ESTIMATED PEAK WIND: 75 MPH
PATH LENGTH /STATUTE/: 3 MILES
PATH WIDTH /MAXIMUM/: 50 YARDS
FATALITIES: NONE
INJURIES: NONE
START DATE: NOV 17 2013
START TIME: 1143 AM CST
START LOCATION: 1 E DANA IL
START LAT/LON: 40.9587 / -88.9251
END DATE: NOV 17 2013
END TIME: 1146 AM CST
END LOCATION: 2 SSE LONG POINT IL
END_LAT/LON: 40.9800 / -88.8840

* DISCUSSION: THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HAS RECEIVED STORM
CHASER VIDEO OF A SATELLITE TORNADO WHICH FORMED SOUTH OF THE
LONG TRACKED TORNADO THAT MOVED FROM WASHINGTON ILLINOIS INTO
EXTREME SOUTHERN LASALLE AND SOUTHWEST LIVINGSTON COUNTY. THIS
TORNADO ONLY LAST A FEW MINUTES AND NO DAMAGE HAS BEEN CONFIRMED
WITH THIS SECOND BRIEF TORNADO.

Tornado #5: Breese, Clinton County – 11:47 A.M. EF-1

breesetrack

MAXIMUM EF-SCALE RATING: EF-1 
FATALITIES: NONE 
INJURIES:   NONE
BEGIN TIME/LOCATION:  1147 AM CST  7 MILES NORTH OF BREESE
END TIME/LOCATION:    1148 AM CST  7 MILES NORTH-NORTHEAST OF BREESE
MAXIMUM ESTIMATED WIND SPEED:  100 MPH
PATH LENGTH:                   0.4 MILES
MAXIMUM PATH WIDTH:             50 YARDS

A weak tornado touched down near the intersection of Jamestown Road and Low Bridge Road and moved east nearly a half mile before dissipating.  It destroyed a garage, removed shingles from a house, destroyed a pole barn and snapped a number of large trees. This tornado was photographed by numerous people.

breese_02

Tornado #6: New Minden, Washington County – 12:04 P.M.EF-4

washingtoncountymap

MAXIMUM EF-SCALE RATING: EF-4
FATALITIES: 2
INJURIES: 2

BEGIN TIME/LOCATION: 12:04 PM CST 4.4 MILES SOUTHWEST OF NEW MINDEN.
END TIME/LOCATION: 12:13 PM CST 2.6 MILES NORTH-NORTHEAST OF HOYLETON.

MAXIMUM ESTIMATED WIND SPEED: AT LEAST 166 MPH
PATH LENGTH: 10.6 MILES
MAXIMUM PATH WIDTH: 200 YARDS

The initial tornado touchdown occurred near Interstate 64, about 4.4 miles southwest of New Minden, blowing a tractor trailer off the interstate and causing minor injuries to the driver.  The tornado then began moving towards New Minden.  The worst damage was a few miles southwest of New Minden, where a small farm sustained a direct hit.  The outbuildings and barns sustained varying degrees of damage, but the homestead was totally destroyed with only the foundation remaining.  The damage at the homestead was rated EF-4, and two fatalities occurred at this location.

The tornado then raced northeast, hitting New Minden, and producing significant damage to the Lutheran Church and to several homes just northwest of the church. Damage to the two homes was rated EF-3.  The tornado continued northeast, producing sporadic damage to just north of Hoyleton. A farm 2 miles west-northwest of Hoyleton sustained significant damage, as did a newly constructed home 2 miles north of Hoyleton.  Damage at these two locations were rated EF-2.  The tornado then veered a bit northwest and dissipated.

Tornado #7: Hoyleton, Washington County – 12:14 P.M.EF-1

MAXIMUM EF-SCALE RATING: EF-1
FATALITIES: NONE
INJURIES:   NONE
BEGIN TIME/LOCATION:  1214 PM CST 3 MILES NORTHEAST OF HOYLETON
END TIME/LOCATION:    1218 PM CST 3 MILES SOUTHWEST OF CENTRALIA 

MAXIMUM ESTIMATED WIND SPEED:  95-100 MPH 
PATH LENGTH:                   4.9 MILES 
MAXIMUM PATH WIDTH:            100 YARDS

As the EF-4 tornado dissipated another tornado formed one mile to the east.  This second tornado produced sporadic damage nearly 5 miles. The damage was rated EF-0 to EF-1, with the most widespread damage occuring near the Flying M Ranch, 3 miles southwest of the city limits of Centralia, Illinois.  The tornado dissipated only 3/4 mile west of a large mobile home park in Wamac.

Tornado #8: Pana, Christian County – 12:15 P.M. – EF-1

pana

The tornado developed near the intersection of Almond and Elm Streets on the north side of Pana. Damage was done to siding and roofs of homes. Several trees were knocked down, damaging 3 cars. Power lines were also downed. The tornado continued to the north-northeast doing damage to a home and destroying an outbuilding at East 400 North Road. The tornado dissipated about 2 miles to the north-northeast in an open field.

Tornado #9: St. Elmo-Altamont, Fayette-Effingham Counties – 12:22 P.M. EF-2

stelmotrack

MAXIMUM EF-SCALE RATING: EF-2 
FATALITIES: NONE 
INJURIES:   NONE
BEGIN TIME/LOCATION:  1222 PM CST  4.6 SOUTHWEST OF ST. ELMO
END TIME/LOCATION:    1232 PM CST  6.9 NORTHEAST OF ST. ELMO
MAXIMUM ESTIMATED WIND SPEED:  120 MPH
PATH LENGTH:                  11.5 MILES
MAXIMUM PATH WIDTH:            200 YARDS

A strong tornado developed between Highway 40 and Interstate 70 about 5 miles southwest of St. Elmo.  The tornado destroyed a barn, depositing the debris downstream into the adjacent open field.  The tornado continued northeast across Highway 40 damaging a few outbuildings and silos on a farmstead.  The tornado strengthened and grew in size as it moved just to the west of St. Elmo.  Here it caused significant damage to three homes and severe damage/complete destruction to numerous outbuildings.  Two of the houses were moved from their foundations. This damage was rated EF-2.

The tornado continued northeast toward the St. Elmo Golf Club, causing singificant damage to trees and destroying a garage and two outbuildings at a residence located on St. Elmo Country Club Road.  The tornado continued northeast crossing County Highway 2150, County Road 2300, Illinois Highway 128 (Fayette/Effingham County Line), and finally dissipating just northeast of the intersection of North 200th Street and East 1300th Avenue.  Most of the damage observed along the remainder of the path was to trees and small outbuildings.

weststelmo

Tornado #10: Coal City – Wilmington, Grundy-Will Counties – 12:22 P.M.EF-2

Coal City_Diamond

* EVENT TYPE: EF-2 TORNADO

* INJURIES: 3

* ESTIMATED BEGIN TIME/LOCATION: 11/17/2013...1222 PM CST
                                 3 MILES SSW OF COAL CITY IL
                                 LAT 41.24 LON -88.30

* ESTIMATED END TIME/LOCATION:  11/17/2013...1233 PM CST
                                4 MILES NNE OF WILMINGTON IL
                                LAT 41.35 LON -88.13

* PATH LENGTH:  12.9 MILES

* MAXIMUM ESTIMATED WIND SPEED: 122 MPH

* MAXIMUM ESTIMATED PATH WIDTH:  200 YARDS

* DISCUSSION:  THE TORNADO FORMED JUST NORTHWEST OF THE INTERSECTION
OF E BRACEVILLE RD AND S CARBON HILL RD WHERE SEVERAL SOFTWOOD TREES
WERE UPROOTED. THE TORNADO THEN QUICKLY MOVED NORTHEAST JUST NORTH
OF E REED RD WHERE A FAMILY RESIDENCE SUSTAINED VISIBLE DAMAGE TO
ITS EXTERIOR...AND A METAL BUILDING SUSTAINED ROOF AND EXTERIOR WALL
DAMAGE. DAMAGE AT THIS LOCATION WAS CONSISTENT WITH ESTIMATED WINDS
OF 95 MPH OBSERVED AT THIS LOCATION.

A SINGLE FAMILY RESIDENCE SUSTAINED CONSIDERABLE DAMAGE NEAR THE
INTERSECTION OF BERTA ROAD AND SPRING ROAD WHERE TWO PEOPLE WERE
INJURED. THE TORNADO CONTINUED INTO A SUBDIVISION NORTH OF SPRING
ROAD WHERE WIDESPREAD MINOR DAMAGE OCCURRED. SEVERAL HOMES RECEIVED
MORE SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE INCLUDING PARTIAL LOSS OF ROOFS AND SECOND
STORY WALLS. THE TORNADO CONTINUED NORTHEAST ACROSS COUNTY LINE
ROAD. CONSIDERABLE DAMAGE OCCURRED TO BUSINESSES ALONG DIVISION
STREET BETWEEN COUNTY LINE ROAD AND I-55 INCLUDING AN RV STORE WHERE
NUMEROUS VEHICLES WERE DAMAGED.

CONSISTENT EF-2 DAMAGE WAS OBSERVED JUST NORTHWEST OF THE RT 113 AND
I-55 INTERSECTION...WHERE A HOUSE OBSERVED SIGNIFICANT EXTERIOR
DAMAGE. THE TORNADO LOST INTENSITY AS IT TRACKED JUST WEST
OF I-55 CAUSING WIDESPREAD TREE DAMAGE...BEFORE CROSSING I-55 NEAR
WIDOWS RD WHERE SEVERAL HARDWOOD TREES WERE UPROOTED. THE TORNADO
CONTINUED NORTHEAST AFFECTING A PHEASANT FARM...BEFORE FURTHER
WEAKENING AS IT MOVED NORTHEAST INTO THE MIDEWIN TALLGRASS PRAIRIE.
FURTHER DAMAGE TO SEVERAL METAL STRUCTURES WERE OBSERVED JUST WEST
OF RT 53 WITHIN THE MIDEWIN PRAIRIE...BEFORE LIFTING EAST OF RT 53.

Tornado #11: West Liberty, Jasper County – 12:25 – EF-1

westliberty

Touch down occurred in village of West Liberty, along northern two roads of town.  Traveled east-northeast about 3.5 miles across Ste. Marie Rd.  Damage in town included several homes with roof damage, siding blown off, trees uprooted and broken at the trunk, and three utility poles broken.  An older one story house with a weak roof had roof blown off and two exterior walls collapsed. Semi trailer turned over.  About 1 mile to the east, several barn roofs blown off; at least one barn demolished. At least one pole broken a mile east, along 1700th Street.

Tornado #12: Garrett, Moultrie-Douglas Counties – 12:30 P.M. – EF-1

garrett

The tornado touched down in an open field about 3.5 miles northeast of Lovington, then tracked northeastward and crossed into Douglas County about 5 miles north of Arthur at 12:37 PM CST.  In Moultrie County,  major roof damage occurred to 8 homes, while 1 garage was destroyed and 17 outbuildings were severely damaged. Numerous trees and power poles were snapped.  In Douglas County southwest of Garrett, the tornado damaged the roofs of 3 homes and 5 outbuildings, as well as numerous trees and power poles. It crossed U.S. Highway 36 and tracked into the town of Garrett where it damaged the roofs of about two dozen homes and mobile homes before dissipating.

Tornado #13: Manhattan-Frankfort, Will County – 12:42 P.M. – EF-2

Manhattan_Frankfort

* EVENT TYPE:  EF-2 TORNADO.

* INJURIES:  NONE.

* ESTIMATED BEGIN TIME/LOCATION: 11/17/2013...1242 PM CST
                                 3 MILES SE OF MANHATTAN IL
                                 LAT 41.41 LON -87.93

* ESTIMATED END TIME/LOCATION:  11/17/2013...1248 PM CST
                                2 MILES SSW OF FRANKFORT IL
                                LAT 41.47 LON -87.87

* PATH LENGTH:  5.5 MILES

* MAXIMUM ESTIMATED WIND SPEED: 125 MPH

* MAXIMUM ESTIMATED PATH WIDTH:  200 YARDS.

* DISCUSSION: A SEPARATE TORNADO FORMED FROM THE SAME THUNDERSTORM
WHICH PRODUCED THE COAL CITY TORNADO...TOUCHING DOWN SOUTH OF W
BRUNS RD AND EAST OF S KANKAKEE ST SOUTHEAST OF MANHATTAN ILLINOIS.
THIS SEPARATE TORNADO RAPIDLY INTENSIFIED CAUSING EXTENSIVE DAMAGE
TO 5 HOUSES ALONG W BRUNS RD...WITH THIS DAMAGE CAUSING THEM TO BE
UNINHABITABLE. NORTH OF THIS HOUSE DAMAGE...4 HIGH TENSION POWER
LINE TOWERS WERE BENT. EF-2 DAMAGE WAS OBSERVED AT THIS LOCATION
WITH WINDS ESTIMATED AT 125 MPH. DAMAGE TO MULTIPLE TREES AND POWER
LINES WERE OBSERVED AS THIS TORNADO CONTINUED NORTHEAST...BEFORE
REACHING W DRALLE RD WHERE CONSISTENT STRUCTURE DAMAGE WAS OBSERVED.
DAMAGE TO TWO HOUSES WAS OBSERVED ALONG THIS ROAD WITH DAMAGE ALSO
SUSTAINED TO AN ADJACENT BARN TO THE NORTH. A SEPARATE FARM TO THE
NORTHEAST ALONG S SCHEER RD HAD ROOF DAMAGE TO THE
RESIDENCE...DAMAGE TO A METAL BARN...AND TREE DAMAGE ALL CONSISTENT
OF EF-1 INTENSITY. AS THE TORNADO WEAKENED ALONG RT 45...DAMAGE TO
ONE METAL STRUCTURE WAS ALSO OBSERVED...BEFORE THIS TORNADO LIFTED
JUST SOUTH OF W STEGER RD.

Tornado #14: Villa Grove-Broadlands, Douglas-Champaign Counties – 12:44 P.M. – EF-3

villagrove

A tornado touched down 3.7 miles northwest of Tuscola at 12:44 PM CST, and was on the ground for 18 miles.  The roof of a house and 2 outbuildings were damaged during the first 2 miles of the track. The tornado strengthened after it crossed U.S. Highway 45 doing major damage to 2 homes, several large farm buildings, numerous power poles, and a garage. The tornado then turned to the east, damaging the roofs of two homes and destroying several outbuildings. It then crossed I-57 near mile marker 218, where it destroyed a mobile home just east of the highway. The tornado did major damage to several more roofs and outbuildings before it merged with another tornado 2 miles west-northwest of Villa Grove, turned back to the northeast, and crossed into Champaign County about 1.5 miles northwest of Villa Grove at 12:52 PM.  The tornado continued across southern Champaign County before lifting 2.7 miles north-northwest of Broadlands at 1:02 PM CST. The tornado moved through open fields for the first 2.5 miles in Champaign County, then took the roof off 1 home, destroyed about a dozen outbuildings, snapped numerous power poles and trees, and did roof damage to 6 homes.

Tornado #15: Tuscola, Douglas County – 12:45 P.M.- EF-1

Touch down occurred in the country north of Tuscola, just west of I-57. The tornado crossed the interstate and did minor damage to two residents and destroyed several farm out buildings. The tornado then traveled northeast and merged with the Villa Grove tornado, just northwest of Villa Grove.

Tornado #16: Gifford-Wellington, Champaign-Iroquois Counties – 12:45 P.M. – EF-3

gifford

A tornado touched down in an open field about 1 mile southeast of Thomasboro at 12:45 PM CST and rapidly moved to the northeast. In less than a minute it increased in intensity, causing damage to 3 nearby farms and pushing 2 farm houses off their foundations. The tornado moved through open fields for about 2 miles at which time it widened to nearly 1/4 mile wide and became wrapped in rain. It destroyed 3 homes, several outbuildings, and damaged a few other homes before it moved into the town of Gifford. The rain-wrapped tornado was about 1/2 mile wide when it moved through the center of Gifford. Nearly 30 homes were destroyed, more than 40 suffered major damage, and around 125 had minor damage. Around 15 businesses sustained moderate to major damage and the roof of a school was peeled back. Hundreds of vehicles were damaged or destroyed. The tornado tracked for another 5 miles to the northeast, destroying 3 homes and numerous outbuildings, damaging several other homes, and snapping many trees and power poles. Six people were injured in Champaign County, with damage estimated around $60 million.

The tornado then crossed into Vermilion County about 3 miles north-northeast of Penfield at 1:00 PM CST, tracking northeastward across rural northwest Vermilion County. The tornado destroyed 1 home, 20 outbuildings, and a camper. It also damaged 7 other homes and snapped numerous power poles and trees. The tornado weakened as it moved out of Vermilion County into Iroquois County about 3.7 miles west-northwest of Hoopeston at 1:14PM CST.  Damage in the Vermilion County portion of the track was around $2.5 million.

Tornado #17: Beecher, Will County – 1:01 P.M. – EF-1

Beecher

* EVENT TYPE:  EF-1 TORNADO.

* INJURIES:  NONE.

* ESTIMATED BEGIN TIME/LOCATION: 11/17/2013...101 PM CST
                                 5 MILES SE OF BEECHER IL
                                 LAT 41.30 LON -87.55

* ESTIMATED END TIME/LOCATION:  11/17/2013...102 PM CST
                                6 MILES SE OF BEECHER IL
                                LAT 41.31 LON -87.54

* PATH LENGTH:  0.8 MILES

* MAXIMUM ESTIMATED WIND SPEED: 100 MPH

* MAXIMUM ESTIMATED PATH WIDTH:  150 YARDS.

* DISCUSSION: THIS BRIEF TORNADO QUICKLY DEVELOPED SOUTH OF E 12000N
RD CAUSING DAMAGE TO SEVERAL HARDWOOD TREES...THEN MOVING NORTHEAST
WHILE SNAPPING A SOFTWOOD TREE. THE MORE SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE CAUSED
BY THIS TORNADO WAS TO A FARM JUST NORTHEAST TO THE INITIAL
TOUCHDOWN...WITH A LARGE BARN SUSTAINING SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE TO ITS
ROOF AND OUTER WALLS. CONSISTENT DAMAGE WAS NOTED WITH TWO ADJACENT
METAL BUILDINGS SUSTAINING PARTIAL ROOF LOSS...SEVERAL SOFTWOOD
TREES SNAPPED AT THE BASE OR HALF WAY UP...AND WITH DEBRIS TOSSED
ALMOST 1000 YARDS TO THE NORTHEAST. IN ADDITION...A TRACTOR BLADE
WEIGHING ABOUT 400 POUNDS WAS MOVED 60 FEET AND A GRAIN PIPE THAT
HAD BEEN RIVETED TO THE SILO NEXT TO THE BARN WAS RIPPED AWAY AND
MANGLED AND LOFTED INTO THE FIELD. DAMAGE AT THIS LOCATION WAS
CONSISTENT WITH ESTIMATED WINDS OF 100 MPH. THE TORNADO THEN
CONTINUED NORTHEAST THROUGH A FARM FIELD WHILE WEAKENING...THEN
CAUSING MINOR STRUCTURE AND TREE DAMAGE ALONG E DELITE INN RD.
NORTHEAST OF E DELITE RD...THE TORNADO LIFTED IN AN ADJACENT FARM
FIELD.

Tornado #18: Allerton – Westville, Vermillion County – 1:03 P.M. – EF-2

westville

This tornado touched down in an open field 2.8 miles northeast of Allerton at 1:03 PM CST. The tornado tracked to the northeast for about 15 miles and did major damage to 2 homes, roof damage to 4 other homes, and destroyed 9 outbuildings, 4 garages, and 2 grain bins. Numerous trees and power poles were also snapped. The tornado crossed State Route 1 about 2 miles north of Westville, impacting the villages of Belgium and Hegeler where 1 person was injured. Nine homes sustained major damage, 26 had significant roof damage, and more than 100 had minor roof damage. The tornado also damaged more than 50 mobile homes, numerous garages and vehicles, and destroyed about 25 outbuildings. The tornado crossed the Vermilion River and moved through about a mile of forested area before dissipating 4.4 miles northeast of Westville and 3 miles west of the Indiana border. Total damage was estimated at $9.5 million.

Tornado #19: Opdyke, Jefferson County – 1:05 P.M. – EF-1

* EVENT TYPE………EF1 TORNADO

* EVENT DATE………SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2013

* EVENT TIME………105 PM

* EVENT LOCATION…..1.5 NE OF OPDYKE

* PEAK WIND……….107 MPH

* MAX PATH WIDTH…..25 YARDS

* PATH LENGTH……..0 MILES

* INJURIES………..0

* FATALITIES………0

* DAMAGE DETAIL……BRIEF TOUCHDOWN ON THE NORTH SIDE OF

INTERSTATE 64. SEVERAL TREES WERE SNAPPED.

Tornado #20: Sims – Fairfield, Wayne County – 1:08 P.M. – EF-2

* EVENT TYPE………EF2 TORNADO
* EVENT DATE………SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2013
* EVENT TIME………108 PM – 120 PM
* EVENT LOCATION…..SIMS TO FAIRFIELD
* PEAK WIND……….134 MPH
* MAX PATH WIDTH…..150 YARDS
* PATH LENGTH……..10 MILES
* INJURIES………..0
* FATALITIES………0

* DAMAGE DETAIL……TORNADO TOUCHED DOWN IN THE SOUTHWEST SIDE OF
SIMS. QUICKLY INTENSIFIED AND DESTROYED A DOUBLE WIDE MOBILE HOME ON
THE NORTHEAST SIDE OF SIMS. THE TORNADO CONTINUED NORTHEAST AND
CROSSED HIGHWAY 15…PRODUCING TREE AND POWER POLE DAMAGE. THE
TORNADO MOVED EAST AND MOVED ACROSS THE WAYNE COUNTY
LANDFILL…DAMAGING THE BUILDING ON THE GROUNDS. THE TORNADO
CONTINUED INTO THE NORTH SIDE OF FAIRFIELD AND PRODUCED MAINLY MINOR
DAMAGE TO HOMES.

Tornado #21: Wellington, Iroquois County – 1:19 P.M. – EF-0

Iroquois_2_Wellington

RATING:                 EF-0
ESTIMATED PEAK WIND:    80 MPH
PATH LENGTH:            4.6 MILES
PATH WIDTH:             75 YARDS
FATALITIES:             NONE.
INJURIES:               NONE.

START DATE:             NOV 17 2013
START TIME:             119 PM CST
START LOCATION:         1 MILE SE OF WELLINGTON IL
START LAT/LON:          40.5283/-87.6691

END DATE:               NOV 17 2013
END TIME:               123 PM CST
END LOCATION:           4 MILES NE OF WELLINGTON IL
END LAT/LON:            40.5805/-87.6171

DAMAGE: FOUR FARMSTEADS WERE IMPACTED WITH SEVERAL LARGE TREES
DOWNED OR WITH THEIR TOPS SNAPPED. ONE OUTBUILDING HAD ITS ROOF
TORN OFF.

Tornado #22: Albion [North], Wayne-Edwards Counties – 1:29 P.M. – EF-2

* EVENT TYPE………EF2 TORNADO
* EVENT DATE………SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2013
* EVENT TIME………130 PM – 144 PM
* EVENT LOCATION…..7 NW OF ALBION TO 6 NE OF ALBION
* PEAK WIND……….130 MPH
* MAX PATH WIDTH…..300 YARDS
* PATH LENGTH……..8 MILES
* INJURIES………..0
* FATALITIES………0

* DAMAGE DETAIL……MAIN DAMAGE WAS TO TREES WITH NUMEROUS ONES
SNAPPED. A NEW ADDITION TO A HOUSE DESTROYED. ATTACHED GARAGE
DESTROYED WITH 2 VEHICLES TURNED 180 DEGREES. TWO OTHER 100 YEAR OLD
BARNS…STILL IN USE…TOTALLY DESTROYED. SEVERAL 100 YEAR OLD TREES
SNAPPED OR UPROOTED ALONG BONE GAP ROAD. OTHER RESIDENCES IN THE
AREA HAD MINOR DAMAGE.

Tornado #23: Albion [South], Wayne-Edwards Counties – 1:30 P.M. – EF-2

* EVENT TYPE………EF2 TORNADO
* EVENT DATE………SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2013
* EVENT TIME………133 PM – 138 PM
* EVENT LOCATION…..6 NW OF ALBION TO 4 N OF ALBION
* PEAK WIND……….112 MPH
* MAX PATH WIDTH…..100 YARDS
* PATH LENGTH……..5 MILES
* INJURIES………..0
* FATALITIES………0

* DAMAGE DETAIL……THIS TORNADO WHICH TRAVELED JUST SOUTH OF THE
FIRST TORNADO DESTROYED 2 MACHINE SHEDS AND A BARN WITH A HIP ROOF.
SEVERAL TREES WERE SNAPPED ALONG THE PATH. MORE THAN ONE EYEWITNESS
TO 2 TORNADOES ON THE GROUND AT THE SAME TIME.

Tornado #24: Bellmont-Allendale, Wabash County – 1:44 P.M. – EF-2

* EVENT TYPE………EF2 TORNADO
* EVENT DATE………SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2013
* EVENT TIME………144 PM – 154 PM
* EVENT LOCATION…..7 N OF BELLMONT TO 3 S ALLENDALE
* PEAK WIND……….127 MPH
* MAX PATH WIDTH…..225 YARDS
* PATH LENGTH……..10 MILES
* INJURIES………..1
* FATALITIES………0

* DAMAGE DETAIL……4 HOMES WERE DAMAGED AND TWO MOBILE HOMES WERE
DESTROYED. ONE MOBILE HOME WAS THROWN ACROSS THE ROAD AND THE FRAME
WAS WRAPPED AROUND A TREE. ONE WOMEN INSIDE WAS INJURED. ANOTHER
NEARBY MOBILE HOME WAS TURNED ON ITS SIDE. ONE HOME HAD PART OF THE
ROOD LIFTED OFF. GARAGE OF THE RESIDENCE WAS DESTROYED BUT MOST OF
THE ARTICLES INSIDE WERE LEFT UNHARMED. DEBRIS FROM THIS RESIDENCE
WAS THROWN SEVERAL HUNDRED YARDS. SEVERAL OUTBUILDINGS WERE
DESTROYED.

Tornado #25: Brookport-New Liberty, Pope-Massac Counties – 2:23 P.M. – EF-3

* EVENT TYPE………EF3 TORNADO
* EVENT DATE………SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2013
* EVENT TIME………205 PM-256 PM
* EVENT LOCATION…..WOODVILLE KY TO 3 MILES NW OF EDDYVILLE KY
* PEAK WIND……….145 MPH
* MAX PATH WIDTH…..500 YARDS (AVERAGE WIDTH APPROX. 225 YARDS)
* PATH LENGTH……..42 MILES
* INJURIES………..13 PLUS
* FATALITIES………3 (Massac County, IL)

* DAMAGE DETAIL……IN MASSAC/POPE COUNTIES: DOZENS OF MOBILE HOMES DESTROYED, MANY BLOWN 100
FEET OR MORE. ONE HOME LEVELLED WITH DOZENS OF HOMES, GARAGES,
STORAGE BUILDINGS, BUSINESSES AND OTHER BUILDINGS STRUCTURALLY
DAMAGED. SEVERAL CARS AND A SCHOOL BUS TOSSED AROUND. AT LEAST
HUNDREDS OF TREES SNAPPED AND UPROOTED. DAMAGE WAS IN BROOKPORT AND
ALONG AND NORTH OF UNIONVILLE ROAD TO THE OHIO RIVER SOUTHWEST OF
HAMLETSBURG, AND RATED EF-3. ONE FATALITY OCCURRED IN BROOKPORT…WITH THE
OTHER TWO OCCURRING BETWEEN BROOKPORT AND UNIONVILLE.

So what have we learned from the November 17th outbreak? There were many wins to take away from this event from a forecasting standpoint. This event was very well advertised! Not only did I hit the event hard in the days leading up to it, but the National Weather Service and Storm Prediction Center really brought their A game as well. Hundreds of tornado warnings were issued with a very acceptable false alarm ratio. The general motto is to “not miss the big ones” and I believe as a whole the NWS was at 100% on warning accuracy for strong or violent tornadoes.  We can chalk this up as a case where hype, continual reminders, and even a little fear was warranted. A tornado outbreak that occurred during the off-season, on a Sunday, and in the morning is as unusual as our weather gets!

12,160 total views, 0 views today


Case Study: Why I Didn’t Chase Super Outbreak II

This passage I am about to type is going to partially replay the events of a historically tragic tornado outbreak …. the likes of which may never be duplicated. In this piece I will overview the event, incorporate a timeline, interject my own thoughts, and discuss why I did not chase. Super Outbreak 2011.

Overview:

110427_rptsApril 27th had many factors going against it on the onset of the day. What I most amazed is how those negative factors ultimately proved meaningless in terms of detouring an outbreak, but in fact aided in it’s destructiveness. For example….. when chasing we look for boundaries, a trigger, clearing, moisture convergence, etc. April 27th started off stormy for portions of the outbreak area… many of those areas stayed stormy all day. A tornadic linear MCS was traversing MS/AL region at the start of the period seriously complicating matters. SPC forecasters nailed this setup many days in advance, but it is impossible to predict mesoscale anomalies 3-4 days in advance. All signs were pointing at a widespread severe weather outbreak with associated risk for tornadoes, but the question was how this MCS came into play. As it turns out only half the risk area was affected, in turn sparing much of Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia from a memorable severe weather episode. Further south wasn’t so lucky. In the end 300+ lives were lost, thousands injured, billions of billions of dollars of destruction, cities changed forever, and a new found respect for Mother Nature.One word to describe the event on 4/27/11. Textbook. Everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING fell into place. Normally in terms of tornado outbreaks, all ingredients come together partially enough to kick off a few supercells with associated tornadoes. Some of the better known outbreaks have a lot of those ingredients put together but a little to much of one thing and not enough of the other usually makes those outbreaks significant but not historically epic. This wasn’t the case on April 27th. Every single ingredient was present for an outbreak of epic proportions. Furthermore, each quantity of every ingredient far surpassed the minimum quantity to get things going for a sustained period of time. What does this mean? In terms of an outbreak, a lot of vital ingredients need to be put together and utilized at the right time or else one will wane and wreck the setup. It does no good to have 3,000 CAPE with zero forcing from a shortwave ejecting out or outflow boundary to name a few. Furthermore it also does no good to have non-zero CAPE with 800 m2/s2 helicity values and no trigger. There are a lot of potential days that have a few thousand CAPE, several hundred helicities, exceptional divergence in the upper levels, but a badly timed shortwave.

Mesoscale and Stormscale features and synopsis:

As alluded to earlier, this outbreak feature all of the right ingredients. Telling you is one thing, showing you is another. I am going to provide sets of data from before initiation, during initiation, and during the most violent of tornadoes. I will post the images and make captions underneath them and then below that I will explain the significance of such a model and what to look for when looking to forecast major tornadoes and severe weather. April 27th was the 3rd day of 3 consecutive severe weather outbreak days. It was unknown the extent this outbreak would be, but it had the potential to be huge. At the onset a tornadic MCS was moving through the outbreak area producing winds over 80 mph and many strong tornadoes. Normally when an MCS moves through early in the morning it kind of puts a damper on things knowing it had to be timed just right to kick a boundary, clear out and allow for destabilization, and hopefully not contaminate the atmosphere. As the MCS was moving through and causing severe damage it was becoming increasingly feared that all this MCS would do was kick down a boundary somewhere for the inevitable barrage of tornadic supercells to train on. Areas hit hardest by the MCS were hit 100x’s worse by violent tornadoes no more than 6-8 hours later.

day1otlk_20110427_1200_prtww0230_radarJAN_12_obs250_110427_12

In this we have established that upper level winds were strong and diverging promoting maximum lift over the outlook area. The 500mb chart shows a significant trough digging into the mid-south and an impressive jet max speeding around the base of the trough just before peak heating. Speed shear was there… but that doesn’t make a set up alone. Many times there have been impressive speed shear, but no directional shear and storms fire up and line out right away. Below I will show you the lower level wind fields and explain just how INSANE this set up was.Important to not the classic divergence in the upper levels promoting maximum lift. At 12z this was located just behind the MCS with maximum lift occurring over N. MS. You can see divergence by winds in C AR blowing out of the SSW and winds in C MS blowing WSW. 125 kts of shear rounding the base of the trough.

300_110427_12500_110427_1212_700mb

Shear is just one piece of the puzzle. High shear events are common in the early months and generally produce a low visibility, grungy, sloppy mess of rainshowers that rotate and produce tornadoes. While the environment is conducive to producing tornadoes, it is less than desirable from a chasing stand point. We have already established shear was off the charts…. how about some other factors into the development of thunderstorms.It is important to note that each of the 4 charts I have shown have featured winds blowing mainly out of the WSW or SW at varying intensities. Again… exemplifying speed shear. What this means is if a storm goes up it will have the capability to move along but since there is no turning with height and only a uni-directional profile… storms will basically form into lines with attendant potential to bring down some of those powerful winds through downdrafts. There was plenty of strong speed shear with 4/27, but was there directional shear?12_850mb
To review there are four ingredients to the development of sustained thunderstorms… shear, instability, lift, and moisture. Shear was MORE than adequate. What about instability? As early morning storms were moving through the north-central regions of Alabama…. most of southern Alabama and Mississippi were allowed to clear out and warm into the 80’s.  Even at 7a most of the areas clear of cloud cover were baking and very conducive to supercell development as evidenced by this plot of EHI values.You better believe there was directional shear…. even early on. The most STUNNING map I have seen was an H85 plot about 22-23z of winds out of the south at 75 KTs!!!!!!!!! That is nearly 90 mph south winds overlaid by a H50 jet max blowing out of the west at 100 mph and upper diverging upper level winds at a similar speed. Classic. Now a lot of times the upper level winds will be weak, but mid level winds and low level winds will be strong so a storm will be able to form, but rain on itself and eventually commit suicide. On the flip side there is a lot of times where shear is just to strong and every tower will just topple over on itself. In the case of 4/27 upper level winds supported sustained storms, mid level winds promoted updraft rotation, and low-level winds were EXTREMELY conducive to violent rotation and/or tornadoes. So visualize a south easterly surface wind, a southerly low level jet, a southwesterly H70 wind, a westerly H50 wind and a diverging H25 flow… all at increasing speeds the higher up you go. You may visualize a hodograph that looks something like this.

12_ehi3

 

It was clear to where the boundary was and associated convection to the north.This was worrisome to forecasters as that airmass would have a long way to go in just a few hours. Without instability thunderstorms may not form in northern Mississippi, northern Alabama, and southern Tennessee. This was also another pretty stunning occurrence. Normally a warm front will slowly usher in warm moist air into areas that had previous storms… basically a battle between cool stable air and warm unstable air. On the 27th the ENTIRE air mass basically shifted. There was no battle. By 16z EHI values in previously storm ravaged area were already very high. Way before peak heating.

16_cpsh

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
To go off topic a smidge…. a lot of days have these ingredients in place. Not to the magnitude and quantity, but still have ingredients in place. How many Iowa days out there will have temperatures in the 80’s, dews in the 70’s, very good shear, but no spark? The key to most severe weather episodes is the spark…. whether it is a surface low, dry line, pre-frontal convergence boundary, out flow boundary, shortwave, sea breeze… ANYTHING to induce lift. A poorly timed shortwave or frontal passage will result on many a busted chase. Unfortunately for residents of the south…. there were 3 main sources of lift at the WORST possible time (peak heating)The stage is becoming set. Insane shear with moderate to extremely unstable instability give us 2 values of severe weather formation. Moisture was already pooling into the region. With such a strong low level flow and the Gulf within sneezing distance, it wasn’t hard for upper 60/low 70 dew points to shift with the air mass. Temperatures in the 80’s and dews in the 70’s provided an extremely volatile environment. Would there be a spark? The last thing missing is lift.
 
 

Source of lift #1 – Outflow boundary laid down by previous day thunderstorms. After the MCS moved across northern Alabama it left a remnant boundary that slowly drifted north and stalled out near the AL/TN border SW toward the Tuscaloosa area.

Source of lift #2 – Cold front/surface low/warm front. An intense center of low pressure was churning in the ArkLaTex area and started ejected NE toward the Ohio Valley ….

Source of lift #3 – Upper level shortwave overspreading the area during peak heating which steepened lapse rates

Some days you can’t buy a source of lift, others (like 4/27) you don’t have a shortage of them. Unfortunately all three of these sources of lift erupted during peak heating and with more than adequate instability and shear in place the favored mode was supercells. On top of all four ingredients being more than sufficient, that aforementioned outflow boundary just added MORE low level turning and likely was the culprit of the most violent of tornadoes in N. AL.

Just after the 1700z time frame the jet streak was just entering MS overriding the surface low, on top of the short wave over spreading the area . The result? Thunderstorm development in SE AR/N MS. While storms weren’t very organized to start the second they started to race ENE into better wind profiles they quickly turned supercellular and started dropping tornadoes. As the day progressed the already impressive parameters turned into unfathomable.

22_eshr 21_srh3 21_stpc 22_ehi3
It was tough to bear…. at the second it was happening I was numb and just stood frozen. I had to be at work in a few minutes but I stood there. One pant leg on, toothbrush in mouth, completely frozen in time. I thought for sure that was an EF-5. I thought for sure I watched an EF-5 hit a city live and destroy a major college campus. It wasn’t easy to take. Later it was ultimately rated a strong EF4 but no matter the strength or size… it changed the face of Tuscaloosa forever.Textbook historic tornado outbreak plots above. Notice the effective bulk shear numbers… supercells generally thrive in the 25-40 kt range….. when you have 90 kts of bulk shear…. a puff of smoke from a camp fire will rotate. There was one point in time where a 30dbz rain shower with no lightning was tornado warned. Some times weather models like to pre-cast these values 10 days in advance and you throw them out because you think “no way that could ever happen.” As I was watching this event unfold I was looking at these values REAL TIME and thinking “no way IS this happening.” As the low level jet ramped up …. winds just above the surface were gusting to more than 90 mph aiding intense low level turning and basically guaranteeing major tornadoes. In the end this outbreak will probably be the biggest on record and will live in infamy.

Thoughts/Personal reflection:

Days leading up to this event, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to chase it due to starting my new job. I had been closely monitoring the situation and knew some where in the south SOMEONE was going to “get it”. Models did an extremely good job at handling this storm system as well as the Storm Prediction Center, local NWS offices, and local media outlets. This event was predicted more than 5 days in advance. Everyone had sniffed out what mother nature had up her  sleeve. She decided to throw a major curve ball though. That line of storms that formed in MS overnight and raced across MS and AL was an event within itself that was overshadowed by the tremendous tornado outbreak that soon followed. That MCS produced many strong tornadoes and killed people. Had the 4/27 outbreak not occurred, the early MCS would have been a pretty big story. Not only did it injure and kill people, but it destroyed vital lifelines by knocking out power to more than half the residents of N. AL. Not only were residents without power, tv, and radio…. but the storm also knocked out NWR transmitters all over N. AL. The recipe for disaster was there in an atmospheric level and a sociological one too. It would be almost impossible to say whether or not more lives would have been spared had that earlier line of storms not destroyed many lifelines…. but one would assume that it wouldn’t hurt the chances they had to survive. As storms developed, news webcams captured amazing footage of tornadoes affecting Cullman, Tuscaloosa, and Birmingham. Perhaps the most HORRIFYING sight I have ever seen was watching ABC 33/40 live as a major tornado touched down just outside of Tuscaloosa and ground it’s way through the southern business district toward the University mall area and points northeast. I had seen tornadoes on webcams before, I even watched the one that hit Cullman earlier. To see this 3/4 mile wide tornado churning into a major population center sent chills up and down my spine. I inevitably knew people were dying live. I couldn’t see them dying, but I knew they were. With each mile this monster moved, it threw roofs, vehicles, houses, everything miles away from it. Amazingly enough many of these tornadoes had tentacle like vorticies streaming out a mile or two ahead of the main vortex. It was the fabled “dead man walking” that legend has it you see before you die.

A bright side on the outbreak (if there was one) was it brought national attention to one of the great tv meteorologists of all time …. James Spann. I am a member of NWSchat and have seen James in there from time to time. He came off as a brash, no nonsense type of guy that carried an attitude about him. I didn’t know what to think of him. I had watched some of his archived newscasts of tornadoes hitting the Tuscaloosa/Birmingham areas in the past, but never got a good feel. I must say though, watching all the coverage of 4/27 live with James Spann made me respect the man an infinite amount. You don’t get much better than that. He kept his cool during the worst tornado outbreak anyone is ever going to see in their lifetimes. His own family at risks, friends and coworkers potentially set up to be killed, he carried about his business in a professional way and undoubtedly saved thousands of lives…. I will never forget his words during the Tuscaloosa tornado…. “All you can do is pray for those people!” Another bright spot was the SPC and NWS offices that coordinated the event. Amazing job forecasting, amazing job getting warnings out, and exceptional teamwork. Most will say “well with such a text book outbreak, it should have been a slam dunk anyway”…. It was that and so much more. Everything was executed to near perfection… the only gripe I have is that some offices totally abandoned the tornado warning and started issuing tornado emergencies. While it was a dire situation, it seemed like everything was a tornado emergency and I fear in the future events that people will think it is “only” a tornado warning. To recap my thoughts on 4/27…. This day was the biggest of the big. The most textbook outbreak I have ever seen, the scariest one I could have fathomed, and the most emotionally taxing situation I have ever witnessed live. A day I do not care to repeat.

My decision not to chase: 

I have chased for 15 years now. It was always my dream to chase that classic tornado outbreak with amazing supercells, huge wedges, and any storm I choose. It was supposed to be like that. I guess I was semi blinded by my own personal gain that I didn’t realize for such an outbreak to occur… many will die and many mores lives changed forever. I had always pictured an outbreak like this to occur in the middle of no where, where you can see for miles, and the only thing disturbed was cows, trees, and wildland. I like to think I am a pretty recognized chaser, and pretty recognized chasers chase just about anything anywhere. Multiple factors prohibited me from chasing anyway, but with this set up… I just had no desire to. Since I started my new job, I didn’t have enough time accumulated to call off so right off the bat I was down in the count. Coupled with the fact I was on limited funds all year and couldn’t get out that much it was a no brainer that I couldn’t chase. I didn’t want to chase this dream set up anyway and I will explain why…..

Reason #1 – Terrain –  I knew this set up was going to be in heavily hilled and wooded areas of the south. There is something unsettling about chasing a major tornado outbreak when 90% of the time I will be looking at trees.

Reason #2 – Human Impact – This had a huge potential to effect millions of people throughout the south…. What happens if multiple major cities were hit? What happens if I have another field incident in the path of one of these monsters in the middle of an area I can’t see?

Reason #3 – Storm Motion – This was probably my main deterring factor, coupled with #1. This was such a classic tornado set up, but was not ideal for those chasing it. Storms moving 70 mph with 1-2 mile wide tornadoes on windy roads up on mtn tops and valleys. Even if I did catch a glimpse of a tornado I wouldn’t get a good view without being in a dangerous position. If I had chased I would have targeted W. AL west of Tuscaloosa on I 20 at the MS/AL border. Would I have gotten tornadoes? It was hard not to that day, but I can’t say with certainty that I would come home satisfied… especially knowing those tornadoes killed.

Reason #4 – Documentation – Eluding back to #3… I chase storms for personal passion. To document Mother Nature and to do my part in helping the warning process. With such fast storm motions, dangerous roads, and populated areas being nuked… I don’t think any worthwhile documentation would have justified the trip down there. I cannot justify a trip down there simply because it is “my passion” and I want to be a part of “history”. Sorry that is just not the type of chaser I am…. Furthermore I think it pretty shallow to use the “it fuels my passion to chase every single set up” line. Please. Most of the people saying that are the ones that never had to work a day of their lives or lift a finger without something falling into their laps. If I don’t think I can successfully document a weather event and do so safely then I just sit it out…. there will be other storms. Maybe not another outbreak like this, but you can’t see every single tornado of an outbreak and most of the people I know got crappy footage for 3 minutes while dodging trees and low visibility.

Reason #5 – Mentally – Perhaps the longest lasting impact of chasing a set up like this would be how it affects me afterward. Had I been on I 20 chasing the supercell into Tuscaloosa, the things I would have encountered after 5:10 P.M. would have lasted me an eternity. Greensburg/Moore/Hallam/ choose your tornado disaster and talk to the people who saw it first hand. That type of memory doesn’t go away. I would for sure have not been the same chaser. I am used to seeing people at their worst working as a firefighter and assisting with the ambulance. Those are mostly medical issues…. not gruesome tornado aftermath injuries….. How would I deal with seeing a 6 year old missing half their body or an 83 year old with a 2×4 impaled through their chest. I get the risks every time I go out and chase, but most of those set ups are in the middle of no where and away from towns . 4/27 seemed to have something personal with everybody in the south. No towns in the areas went completely unaffected and communities that took a direct hit will never be the same. I honestly think I would enjoy chasing a little bit less had I been witness to that.

You may or may not agree with my reasoning not to chase even if I was capable to. It is just my opinion and doesn’t take any of my passion away. If I had unlimited funds or rich parents I would be out there every single chase day in the plains. I am not a huge fan of deep south chasing based on sour experiences in 2002. I am not a storm snob and definitely possess the knowledge to keep up with chasing in unfavorable areas, but it really isn’t worth it to go out of my way to prove to others that I can do it. I have seen many people commenting on how others are “afraid” to go chasing in the deep south. Such asinine statements hold no water with me. I could just as easily say most people don’t have the balls to crawl into a burning building. Take what I have written as a learning resource, wise words from someone who has done it, or just as garbage from someone who likes weather.

2,743 total views, 0 views today


Training: Three Keys Toward Your Safety

A key to safety is being able to understand simple, but vital, terminology in the weather community. I don’t expect everyone to know the ins and outs of weather or to even understand some of the words that seem so basic to me. I hope by running my weather services that I can get my following to understand three basic concepts. The first concept is that everyone knows what county they live in. The second is to teach people where to find their county on a map. Finally, and maybe most importantly, it is to get everyone in the mindset in heeding weather call to action products and understanding what they mean. If I can accomplish those three goals in my career, I believe my viewers will be much better prepared for impending bad weather. Being prepared makes you much more likely to remain safe!

US-IL-Chicago

Chicago (shown in red) is a small part of the larger county (Cook) that surrounds it.

The first step is getting everyone to recognize what county they live in. Situational awareness directly corresponds with self preservation. Most people in the metropolitan area know that Chicago is located within a large county. What some DON’T know is that that county is not named “Chicago” County. Unlike other large cities such as Baltimore and St. Louis, Chicago is located within Cook County. It is important to understand that the largest city in the county does not automatically mean the county is named after it. For example, Joliet is located in Will County, Bloomington is located in McLean County, and Rockford is in Winnebago County. If you already knew this, you’re in great shape! Those of you who live in Champaign, Peoria, Rock Island, and De Kalb have a bit easier time remembering what county you live in. You may ask why you should know what county you live in? The answer is simple. The National Weather Service and Storm Prediction Center issues convective and non-convective watches and warnings for specific counties. While those watches ultimately include the larger cities encompassing those counties, people are often given a false sense of security when they don’t see their town listed. This is why these products are county based. If Grundy County is under a watch, it includes EVERYONE with a Grundy County address and not just Morris. If you can accurately recite the county you live in you are a third of the way to being a safer and well informed citizen.

Illinois-map-showing-Fulton-CountyKnowing your county by name is not enough. I strongly urge everyone to take a look at the map I provided to the right. Are you able to name you county on it? If you can, that is great! I challenge you to name me all the counties surrounding yours as well. The real geography pros can tell me what counties are where that aren’t near their location. Can anyone tell me what county is highlighted in red here? The point I am trying to make is that knowing your county is one thing, but physically seeing it on a map is just as important as knowing it by name. Most weather products are in a visual form. When you’re watching T.V. the scroll at the bottom is generally free text of the locations impacted, but there is also a map with certain counties highlighted with whatever product is in effect. Using the map to the right as an example. Say this particular county was under a tornado warning. It pops up on your television screen and you DON’T know that county or by name or shape. What if that was your county? What if it was the county next to yours? You don’t want to be having these questions in a severe weather situation. It is important to familiarize yourself well in advance especially if you live near the border of multiple counties. Being able to discern this type of thing is key in early preparedness on a severe weather day. If you see all the counties to the west and southwest highlighted by an important warning, you can pretty much assume your county is next. Don’t wait for your county to activate it’s sirens or call to action policies. If you are prepared beforehand, you’ll be way ahead of the game and be two thirds of the way there!

slide9All the geographical knowledge isn’t worth a word I’ve said if you simply do not know basic weather terminology or do not believe in acting when advised to do so. The most confusion among the general public is the difference between a watch and a warning. To me it is completely cut and dry, but I understand some people just have a tough time grasping it. The National Weather Service created a nice graphic [found to the left] explaining the difference between the two. I will also explain some easy to remember ways to tell the difference. Like the graphic to the left explains, a watch should be seen as a caution sign. Think of a traffic light and it’s laws. Green is day to day life. A green light is proceed through your day at your leisure. A day without any watch, warning, or advisory should be hypothetically considered a “green light.” What happens when that green light turns yellow? In weather terms, a yellow light would be when the National Weather Service issues any type of watch. Whether it is a severe thunderstorm, tornado, flood, or winter storm. To the hypothetical motorist, a yellow light can mean one of two things: #1 – you slow down and prepare to stop or #2 – you accelerate and keep going about your business. The yellow light, though, was an attention grabber and told you CAUTION something changed. Atmospherically speaking, a watch is the NWS way of letting you know “something changed.” The weather is no longer smooth sailing and has become favorable for severe conditions. This is where people begin to get confused, but following the traffic light example is a way to alleviate that. Green means go and yellow means caution. Now we get to the dreaded red light. When you’re driving and see a red light you stop because you don’t want to cause or get in an accident. This should be the same in your line of weather thinking. The NWS is telling you to STOP and take heed of the situation. Red lights in the weather community generally mean that severe weather is occurring or about to occur. Think of it as a child that tried to sneak around to eat a cookie. When your mom sat in the next room and said “I am watching you,” if you were anything like me that was an alert that it was favorable for something unfavorable happening to me. As things progress and that delicious cookie is in your hands, you hear a rumbling and notice your mom at the doorway exclaiming “I am warning you!” That’s your cue to take action and head for cover! One more time…. watch = caution / warning = danger.

What happens if you are one of those people that just refuse to take action and refuse to believe any of the watches or warnings? I strongly urge you to rethink that stance. The NWS is here to help us. They get no financial gain for issuing watches and warnings. I’ve had some people saying that the NWS was in business with big box stores because their doom and gloom forecasts send millions of people running for supplies. Quite the conspiracy wouldn’t you say? 😉 The NWS does not issue warnings because they are bored or feel like it. They are almost always warranted! The job of an NWS forecaster is not an easy one, especially in Northeast Illinois with millions of people inhabiting it. I do NOT envy the job of the forecaster that must decide whether or not to issue a tornado warning for any part of Cook County. I do concede that more times than not your specific location will NOT see severe weather or a tornado, but that’s not because the forecaster got it wrong. Tornadoes generally last under a minute and effect a small area of real estate. Tornado warnings are generally issued for 30-45 minutes. The tornado that hit my house last year had already lifted before the warning was officially issued. A tornado occurred, but the warning went on another 30 minutes. Those downstream of me did NOT see a tornado and they have experienced another occasion where “nothing happened.”

I firmly believe that following these three steps will help you become better prepared for the weather that is sure to come our way this year. Please know your county, know how to find your county, and know what each weather advisory means. It could be the difference between life and death. To those pessimists out there I say this: Living in the “believe it when I see it” mindset is dangerous…. what do you do when this is your “believe it when you see it?”

WashingtonILTornado-027-624x466 Photograph_showing_the_damage_to_houses_and_trees_in_Washington_following_the_11-17-2013_tornado 23993214_BG1 1384783564000-AP-Severe-Weather-Ill

18,679 total views, 0 views today


June 16th, 2014: Nebraska Tornado Outbreak

Date: June 16th, 2014
Location: Stanton, Pilger, & Wakefield, Nebraska
Event: Supercell & Violent Tornado Outbreak

It was the last day of our mini-chasecation out to the Plains, more specifically Nebraska. We bunked with Stephen Jones and Kim Howell near the Sioux City, Iowa area and were awoken to morning convection that was severe warned. Adam being Adam, decided to run across the street to the casino just as warnings were being issued. I tried to contact him to come back as we were about to get hit with high winds and hail, but he was a lost cause. Instead I grabbed his keys and attempted to take some photos of the incoming line. I only was able to get one or two bolts of lightning before I gave up. Immediately after the passage of the storm, the atmosphere recovered and the stage was set for powerful supercells to erupt. I was concerned that this convection would “grunge” up the atmosphere and make it hard for thunderstorms to redevelop that afternoon. A quick look at satellite imagery quickly alleviated that doubt. The set up itself yielded impressive parameters [shown below].

19_stor 19_500mb 19_srh3 19_ehi3 19_shr6 19_sbcp 19_850mb 19_ttdTo the lay person, what I posted was a bunch of jumbled lines and colors. To storm chasers, forecasters, and more weather savvy people I posted a witches brew of ingredients for a volatile day across Northeast Nebraska. The basic four ingredients for severe weather were present: lift, moisture, shear, and instability. CAPE values as high as 6,000 J/KG, 50 kts of bulk shear, strong surface and H85 flow, an outflow boundary, and approaching shortwave. Questions were if these storms would actually form due to the presence of a strong cap. The four of us went over to Perkins and awaited a group of other friends/chasers.

ofb

By 18-19z it was clear that supercell thunderstorms were likely. The earlier day’s convection had laid a nice outflow boundary [dashed in red] that would bake under the strong June sun. The atmosphere was already on fire and all this outflow boundary did was act as gasoline. We had watched a few weak showers form along the boundary and decided that those would be where we needed to be as they would not remain weak showers for very long. All in all those cells were 40-50 miles to our southwest so we needed to step on the gas to make it in time. At about this time, new products were issued from the Storm Prediction Center which further convinced us to step up the pace.

day1probotlk_20140616_2000_torn_prt day1otlk_20140616_2000_prt mcd1015 pdspilger

As we continued on, it was clear that these storms meant business! They were barely showing up on radar and the the sky was just filled with a giant updraft and anvil. Along the way a PDS watch was issued and the SWODY1 was updated to include significant to violent tornadoes. 2014 had been a disappointment thus far, would today be the day that Mother Nature takes her gloves off? All signs were pointing to yes as we approached Wayne.

10341720_298535370306303_1329128932318163213_nIt looked like Mother Nature detonated an atomic bomb across Northeast Nebraska just after 20z. We needed some gas for the chase so we fueled up just as the storm went severe thunderstorm warned. It wasn’t hard to see why as visually this convection was rock hard. I looked up to see the storm’s anvil spreading out with razor sharp edges. Still 30 miles way, we needed to get a move on to avoid missing the show. I tried to pull up NWSChat and other software, but data was sparse out here. We decided to try to by-pass the town of Wayne, but ended up on some less than favorable roads that slowed us down. Looking at the latest radar update, I didn’t need to say a word. I simply pulled up this song and hit play.

As we got back on the main highway, Adam and my phone went off simultaneously. TORNADO WARNING. Here we go! We were still 10-15 miles to the northeast of the updraft area and were beginning to get into some heavier precipitation. Adam had flashbacks as were drove by his infamous intercept in October 2013. This area was decimated by a nearly 1.5 mile wide EF-4 tornado. You can read about his intercept HERE. We made progress south on NE15 until we hit US275. To our west a giant supercell growled and spit out lightning, heavy rain, and dark skies. We had a decision to make. Do we go west along US275 toward Stanton, or do we go south toward Pilger and then go west. My vote was south and then west, but it wasn’t that easy. Just south of Pilger there is a river that basically threw a monkey wrench in my plans. The next question was do we want to be north or south of the river. We ultimately decided to go into Pilger and head west out of town on 840th Road. At this point in time, Mother Nature really decided to get MAD. For the next five minutes her and Thor decided to throw thunderbolts at us and Pilger with a positive bolt of lightning every 2-3 seconds. Everything was getting hit. Trees, power poles, farmland. It was an assault unlike I have seen! I recorded some of it that is linked just below.

Pilger Lightning Storm

As we pressed on in a slowed and cowered state, we began noticing a dark object in the rain ahead of us. There were tornado reports to our west at the time, but being just on the southern fringes of the core was not the ideal spot. As we moved closer, it looked like one giant wedge on the ground. At the time we couldn’t confirm, but after analysis later we in fact viewed the EF-4 that impacted the Stanton, Nebraska area. We continued driving up the road until it dead-ended. Our only option was to go north and further into the core. The storms general motion was to the east/northeast and I was weary of driving north. The last view of the tornado was to our west/southwest, so I figured heading north into it’s path was a bad play. It was either turn around and go back east toward Pilger, or go north up to the main highway and continue west. We decided to slowly head north toward 275. As we approached the highway, we both noticed something wasn’t right. The wind was howling from the north to the south. A lesser experienced chaser may not understand what was going on here, but Adam and I knew immediately. There was SOMETHING else brewing behind us to the south. This observation sent us to the realization that we needed to go EAST on 275 and not west. We traveled little more than a mile before we saw it. In the field to our south by about 3 miles. A large bowl lowering. I commented “This is going to tornado” and sure enough within 30 seconds we were watching as multiple vorticies danced around the center of the main funnel.

10359215_370016689824837_4341173833117649093_nWe documented the tornado as it began to grow. At one point we thought it was moving more northerly than easterly so we decided to head up the road a little bit. It was clear though that the tornado was moving east/northeast. We turned down 570th Ave and watched as a now large cone tornado was crossing the road 3/4th of a mile ahead of us. I got out and documented it as 60-70 mile per hour winds buffeted us. I looked up and noticed the sky seemed literally 20 yards over us as the tornado continued to churn to the east. I started taking some stills while Adam videoed. All of a sudden I heard this unmistakable and frightening roar. A roar reminiscent of 5/20/2013. I looked up and saw large black objects getting tossed about and noticed a tiny water tower on the tornadoes left edge. It was Pilger. The town we had been through not more than 10 minutes prior. This violent tornado was plowing through it and there wasn’t a thing we could do. Immediately my heart sank and we both let out this groan …. The one thing anyone hates about chasing is the life impact these gigantic beasts possess.
10469358_298904056936101_5868381260323779027_n
It was also at this time that I noticed another tornado was touching down to the east of Pilger. In this environment, I wasn’t surprised to see a satellite tornado touch down. I was surprised at what happened for the next hour! The tornado that impacted Pilger continued northeast out of town and ultimately was rated a high-end EF-4. It unfortunately killed a small child and basically traveled across the heart of the town.
10489644_298904016936105_6313334760903360783_nMeanwhile, the other tornado rapidly strengthened and grew to the size of the former tornado. We were witnessing violent tornadoes ongoing at the same time less than a few miles from one another. Having two tornadoes at once isn’t that uncommon in big set ups. What usually happens is the former tornado will eventually weaken and hand off to the new tornado. What made this event so unique is that the former tornado didn’t weaken. In fact it stayed every bit as violent. This was something that was unprecedented! Never have I seen a case where two violent EF-4 tornadoes were ongoing at the same time within the same storm. We darted down 275 as emergency vehicles darted past us for Pilger. We crossed the damage path on 275 and the devastation was complete. There were already workers and emergency personnel assisting the residents of a farmstead that had been hit. We made it to the 275/15 JCT just as the tornado that hit Pilger briefly lifted. The East Pilger tornado was still going strong 2 miles to the east, but this violent circulation was still putting down vorticies in the trees less than a mile away. Noticing that law enforcement blocked off the road ahead, we did a U-turn and headed back east on 275.
10401372_298903986936108_3617367394135662809_nFor the next 45 minutes we jockeyed for position with two simultaneous wedge tornadoes as they sped off to the north/northeast. There was even a point where it looked like three tornadoes would be ongoing. Several miles later we lost track of the original Pilger tornado as it seemed to combine with the East Pilger one. To make matters worse, the RFD had wrapped around the tornado and obscured us from a clear view. We needed to head east and then north. A few moments later, another area of strong rotation developed just ahead of the previous tornadoes. Within minutes this rotation was putting down vorticies. This was the birth of another EF-4 tornado near Wakefield. We positioned ourselves 4 miles south of the tornado and watched it’s progress. Suddenly out of the rain, the other tornado was doing a crazy rope out. The new mesocyclone, combined with the RFD winds, were kicking this tornado out at speeds near 90 miles per hour as it revolved around the new tornado. Over time this tornado also grew to massive proportions, but thankfully weakened before it hit Wakefield.
mcd1020
10414894_298903913602782_7032614661913092068_n
 
Our pursuit north to the tornado was sidetracked by unfavorable roads and drivers. We had to make a long detour through Pender and up NE9. By the time we got to the storm again, it had visually weakened. No longer was there a menacing wall cloud or signs of rotation. The updraft itself seemed much skinnier as well. It was still tornado warned, however, so we continued on to just south of Emerson. We let the rotation pass directly overhead, but did not observe anything tornadic. We decided to let the storm go at this point and count the our tornadoes with other chasers near us. It was at this time that I noticed a big cone lowering off to our northeast from the departing storm. It looked pretty convincing, but I was unable to confirm if it was another tornado. Others further northeast have stated they saw it touch down, but I haven’t seen much in the way of compelling evidence. Our attempts to go help out in Pilger were thwarted as they put out a message saying they wanted no outside help into the town. I found that odd, but we continued on to Sioux City and ate a nice dinner. After a lengthy dinner, we emerged in Sioux City and noticed something off with the sky. There was a gigantic rounded base overhead with wild cloud turbulence and even some rotation. Was the day not over yet? We watched it as it moved off to the east, but noted no severe weather or threat. We met up with Matt Cumberland and split a room across the river. Another line of severe thunderstorms was set to move in and we stepped out to get some photographs.
001 022 023 027
All in all, Mother Nature woke up in the biggest way possible. Unfortunately it was in the form of violent tornadoes impacting civilization. Luckily there were only a few deaths with the violence these storms possessed. From a personal standpoint this day will probably go unmatched. Two simultaneous violent tornadoes for several miles is something you dream of on a cold winter’s night. I don’t think I will ever witness something as impressive until Mother Nature provides three violent tornadoes side by side by side.
pilgertornado

 

Stats:

Winds: 70 miles per hour

Hail: .88″ 

Tornadoes: 5 + 1 questionable

Miles Driven: 300

13,023 total views, 0 views today


May 31st, 2013: Tragic Central Oklahoma Outbreak

Date: May 31st, 2013
Location: El Reno, Mustang, & Tuttle, Oklahoma
Event: Violent Supercell & Tornadoes

day1otlk_20130531_2000_prt

I was hesitant to chase this day. I had to pull some strings at work to stay out and blow off a few obligations back in Chicago. The day looked marginal up until 12-18 hours ahead of the event. By morning, a moderate risk was out for much of Central Oklahoma. There was even talk of a potential high risk. Some well-known chasers were also being typical with hype and making statements such as “this could be the costliest and deadliest day in history.” How could you blame them? Just 11 days after an EF-5 tornado destroyed most of Moore, Oklahoma again. The potential was there, but the target area couldn’t haven’t been more obvious. See below:

21_500mb

21_sbcp 21_ttd 21_850mb 21_300mb 21_mucp 21_lllr 21_shr6 21_ehi3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To set the stage for the day, an excellent mixture of shear and instability would combine to produce violent supercells across Central Oklahoma. By 4:00 P.M., extreme instability with CAPE values near or above 5,000 J/KG created an explosive environment. Bulk shear greater than 50 knots would promote storm maintenance and organization. The big X-factor for the day would be the progged surface low development near Childress. Supecells were likely all along, but storm mode was unclear due to unfavorable low level directional shear. Veering winds would really hamper any tornado threat had this surface low not developed. As the low strengthened, winds began to back just to the northeast of the low. By peak heating, dew points pooled just to the northeast of the surface low. Basically all the ingredients for violent supercells and tornadoes were pooling in an area just west of the Oklahoma City metro area. Everyone’s target was El Reno and for good reason! Some sample social media excerpts below:

may31 may312 may313

mcd0907We spent the better part of the day at Ben Holcomb’s place. The target area wasn’t that far away from us so we didn’t feel the need to waste gas and drive around. You could feel the energy in the air. From the explosive atmospheric energy to the nervous human aura. This area was raked for the past two weeks by severe thunderstorms and devastating tornadoes.  By 3:00 P.M., a MD was issued for Central Oklahoma mentioning that a PDS [Particularly Dangerous Situation] tornado watch would be needed soon. Parameters [mentioned above] were pretty well-established and it was only a matter of time before the cap was broken.  Looking outside from Ben’s, a very established area of low level cloud streets were streaming north-northwest. This signals the resurgence of low level moisture and is easily viewed on radar products. By 3:30 P.M., the Storm Prediction Center pulled the trigger on the watch. Watch probabilities were very high and the discussion was equally as daunting.

ww0262_radar
...THIS IS A PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION...

  * PRIMARY THREATS INCLUDE...
    SEVERAL INTENSE TORNADOES LIKELY
    NUMEROUS VERY LARGE HAIL EVENTS TO 4 INCHES IN DIAMETER LIKELY
    NUMEROUS DAMAGING WIND GUSTS LIKELY WITH SEVERAL SIGNIFICANT
    GUSTS TO 80 MPH POSSIBLE

  DISCUSSION...AN EXTREMELY UNSTABLE AIR MASS HAS DEVELOPED ACROSS
   MUCH OF CENTRAL/EASTERN OK THIS AFTERNOON.  THIS WILL LIKELY RESULT
   IN RAPID DEVELOPMENT OF SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS THIS AFTERNOON AND
   EVENING ALONG THE DRYLINE OVER WEST-CENTRAL OK...AND ALONG A WEAK
   BOUNDARY EXTENDING NORTHEASTWARD INTO NORTHEAST OK.  DISCRETE
   SUPERCELLS CAPABLE OF EXTREMELY LARGE HAIL AND DAMAGING TORNADOES
   ARE POSSIBLE.  DAMAGING WINDS WILL BECOME AN INCREASING THREAT
   THROUGH THE EVENING.

We switched on over to the local news stations since the Oklahoma City metro is very good with covering severe weather. Almost too good as we will see a little later on…. Surfing through the local media channels, there was already live coverage before any storms even developed! I had never seen that before. A couple channels were even plotting storm tracks on towering cumulus clouds. Chasers out in the field were reporting on cumulus clouds as well. There was definitely a lot of hype surrounding the day.  Just after 4:00 P.M., the hype became realized as a trio of radar echoes developed along the US 281 corridor.

initiationInitiation! We set off from Ben’s apartment as a thunderstorms filled the western horizon. It was pretty surreal being in bright sunshine, but seeing giant storm towers 40 miles to the west. The whole western sky from northwest through southwest was filled with anvils and updrafts. It was as if the army was aligning their troops for the invasion into population. Our chase actually started off pretty doomed. We made a slight calculation error by staying in the OKC metro on a Friday afternoon during rush hour. Even more so there was construction on the bridge connecting I 35 across the Canadian River. These relatively infant storms were already severe warned as we struggled to get to Highway 9 in Norman.

201305312233zBy 5:30, several supercells had developed from North-Central Oklahoma south into the western Oklahoma City metro. The NWS was watching two storms in particular. The first one was to the north near Hennessey, while the second was east of Hinton. Storms went up in a pretty large cluster, but the a few dominant updrafts were expected to take over and provide the best chance for damaging tornadoes. We neared Bridge Creek as the sky was filled with intense positive lightning strikes. This was noteworthy considering we were still over 20 miles from the precipitation center.  A few minutes later, spotters started to report a wall cloud with the Hinton storm. We were still a little too far away to view any discernible features, but we were on the right track.

It was at this time that a fatal navigation error made by another chaser in Ben’s ride probably saved a near fatal experience for us. Adam and I usually aren’t the “follow the leader” type. We did, however, follow Ben because he lives in the area and has a good idea of the back roads. When we reached Union City, we thought our plan was to head north along US 81 toward El Reno and intercept the storm as it crossed 81. What we did though was turn west on 152. Adam and I couldn’t figure out this move, but we trusted our predecessors and figured it was some sort of short cut. At this time I snapped a few pics of the storm below:

IMG_4395 IMG_4400 IMG_4402 IMG_4412Tornado warnings were issued for the area and anticipation mounted. The storm itself was very menacing looking! PWAT values were greater than 1.5 and it wasn’t hard to notice that as the core of this storm was a deep blue, green color. Lightning exploded at a downright scary rate as we progressed deeper into the storm’s grasp. Our shortcut found us on a windy, gravel road as we approached the river again. We had intermittent views of the storm, but couldn’t really pick out anything interesting. We saw a lowering off to our northwest, but it looked rather unorganized. We found a river crossing and hit Reno Road as the updraft area of the storm was now just northeast of us. We had fallen behind the storm thanks to the river and our westward turn. We had fallen into a data hole, so our observations would be strictly visual. We traveled east on Reno Road as traffic flew back west blinking their lights at us. SOMETHING was brewing.

IMG_4404I thought I made out a white cone tornado a few miles to the east before we were swallowed by the RFD. I couldn’t confirm it, so we pressed on for a closer look. We proceeded to Courtney Road just after 6:00 P.M. Winds were howling out of the north and visibility dropped. Ben slowly pressed on with Adam and I to follow. Traffic from the east had stopped so we were the only ones brave enough to hook slice this supercell. We hit Heaston Road and Adam and I started to smell this really foul odor of natural gas. An audible howl/roar was heard at this time and I commented “I think we are in a pretty bad spot!” Adam agreed and I think Ben subconsciously heard it as he slammed on his brakes and turned around. We retreated out of the bear’s cage and met on the side of the road where we both said “NOPE!”  *Upon further review of video and radar data, it was determined that we drove into the outer circulation of the now violent tornado; it passed just 1 mile to our east and grew to a width of 2.6 miles wide*

936211_182015898624918_449410480_n 181267_182015938624914_1754482935_n 8466_182015948624913_2130036858_n 936151_182015965291578_1374023581_nIt was at this time that several chasers were hit by this tornado. A very powerful beast, this tornado developed rapidly and deviated from the storm’s east/northeast motion. It accelerated southeast and caught numerous chasers off guard. You can search any Youtube video out there from the event. Thinking back to our navigational error, I have some reflections. Our chase style is typically aggressive in nature. We probably would have been one of those chasers that were right up in the bear’s cage and likely impacted by the tornado. As fate or luck would have it, that error likely saved us from impending doom.

To get back on track, we bailed back to 152 and caught glimpses of what we thought was the t0rnado to our northeast. As we hit US 81, the storm was well off to our northeast and the road toward El Reno was blocked off by police. We thought we would get ahead of the storm and head east toward Mustang. The storm looked to be along the I-40 corridor. We figured if we got out ahead of the storm we’d have a clear view into the notch as it entered western Oklahoma City. The supercell was in a transitional phase. The tornado occluded and the storm itself morphed into a cluster of supercells centered on I-40. We headed into Mustang just as destructive winds slammed into the town from the north. The RFD was wrapping around a newly developed tornado near the Will Rogers Airport. It was eerie driving through town as winds howled, shingles flew off roofs, and power poles snapped. Our data wasn’t working so we turned to local radio. Wall to wall coverage of the situation at hand. We headed south on Highway 4 until we hit the river bridge…. that’s when perhaps the scariest and most frustrating moment of my chasing career occurred. *Photographer unknown*

992899_10101470995694727_1357264746_nYou are definitely not seeing things. 4 lanes of traffic + 2 lanes feeding onto SR4. All of these people were evacuating south out of the storm’s path. We couldn’t figure it out! We crawled south for 30 minutes and only made it to the end of the bridge. Being stuck in traffic is frustrating enough on a good day! The local media personalities were telling people to evacuate south out of town and effectively helped clog the roads. This advice actually harmed people even further. The overall storm motion this day was east to east/northeast. Any weather savvy person, however, knows that supercells generally want to deviate and turn right. So telling everyone to flee in the middle of a metro area with violent weather just to the north is a recipe for disaster since these storms in fact deviated and started heading toward the southeast.  At this time we had a tornado to our northeast and another strong couplet to our northwest. With traffic moving at 5-10 MPH, we were sitting ducks now stranded on the Canadian River bridge. Visually I could observe this large wall cloud out my window to the northwest, at any moment a big tornado could set down and end the lives of hundreds of people. We creeped onto the opposite side of the bridge and then bolted along the shoulder for the nearest west road. Our plan was to get off the main roads and head toward the storm since everyone was heading away from it. We made it to our road and only had to deal with a couple of people. We wanted to head south a few miles to 152 and then blast west to Tuttle and Minco where we would reevaluate the situation. Traffic was packed again at 152, but we were able to turn west after a couple of minutes. It was at this point where our worst fears became realized. The aforementioned circulation to our northwest had rapidly lowered to the ground. I commented to Adam that those clouds were moving really fast and before I could finish my sentence a big vorticy slammed to the ground. A tornado was developing just 2 miles to our northwest.  Since storm motion was to the southeast, we floored it and tried to get west so the circulation would pass behind us.  The tornado churned in the field northwest of us and didn’t appear to be moving from left to right as we anticipated. It just got bigger. The first rule of chasing is knowing the direction of the tornado… if it isn’t moving side to side and is getting bigger it means it’s heading right for you. We were in big trouble. *Watch terrifying video below*

After our narrow escape, the three of us had enough. We bailed west to Minco just as another circulation was developing west of town. Not taking any chances we floored it south on US281 and planned to head to Chickasha. Traffic had other ideas and we finally blasted west to Anadarko and waited for the severe weather to exit the area. During the experience, our phones kept blowing up with people very concerned about us because some chasers had been hit and it was plastered all over social media. One storm spotter even rolled his vehicle into a flooded creek and nearly died. This was this spotters 2nd close encounter in that general area with a near death experience. This is why it is very important to utilize proper training and common sense. We limped back through the damage path after dark as a horrific flooding situation was taking place across the metro. The supercells transitioned from a tornado threat to a heavy rain threat and produced several inches of rain. Our drive up I-44 looked extremely bleak with several hours of heavy rain producing thunderstorms. We wondered if we would even get home or would the roads be flooded out. We made it a good 7 hours before we realized a big problem… *shown below*

226653_180325442127297_1628804526_nWhile driving through the damage, we encountered a flat tire in rural Missouri. Luckily Adam had a spare so it was only a minor setback. We limped home and I was back in my house by noon. I tried to take a short nap before work, but I was too tired to sleep. I sucked it up and went to work that day and returned back to my house by midnight. It had been well over 36 hours since I last slept and I was overdo for a fatigue induced coma. Just as I crawled into bed, my phone started blowing up asking if I had heard the news. That if it was true? I was out of the loop so I had to find out what they were talking about…. Apparently three storm chasers had been killed by the tornado that we bailed from near El Reno. Not just any three chasers though. 2 powerhouse, famous names in our community and another up and coming chaser/photographer.

Over the years, there’s been some nasty rumors after a tornado where people see a Spotter Network icon very near the tornado and assume the worst. In this case, though, these chaser’s were not using Spotter Network publicly. For the next several hours there was a lot speculation, rumors, and facts being whirled around social media. It wasn’t until the next morning that it was confirmed. Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and researcher Carl Young were impacted and instantly killed by this tornado. The impact of that alone is staggering from a chaser level. No storm chaser had ever died by a direct impact from a tornado before. The community was reeling, but it hit at a much deeper level for some of us. While I can’t say I was best friends about any of the individuals that are deceased, I did have casual conversations with Tim on Stormtrack as well as Paul on Facebook. In fact, Adam and I had talked with Paul and Carl a few days earlier at a local Walmart. Human impact aside, losing a few of the most recognized and respected chasers to an event like that really makes you think about what you’re doing out there. While not the safest chasers out there, they certainly had the talent and ability to put themselves in the best position to get their research. The tornado of May 31st was just so different and epic in proportions that even the best were taken by surprise. The chasing community will never forget May 31st, 2013.

overview2

ElReno_PNS_graphic_final2

ts_ps_cy_520

 

Stats:

Winds: 80 MPH

Hail: .50″

Tornadoes: 2

Miles Driven: 1,200

 

6,214 total views, 0 views today


May 20th, 2013: Devastating Moore, Oklahoma EF-5

Date: May 20th, 2013

Location: Moore, Oklahoma

Event: Supercells & Violent EF-5 

Summary: 

A day that will forever live in memory. Started the morning in Ponca City after another successful chase yesterday. Our plan was to head south into the Oklahoma City metro area as a base location until things became clearer. We met up at Ben Holcomb’s place with several other chasers just after noon and monitored mesoanalysis. Things were primed across Central and Southern Oklahoma. The higher probabilities were to the south, but we still hung around the metro as we saw a very faint boundary laying across the southern metro. We got baited down to Purcell as supercells developed and started moving into the area. One storm in particular looked like an atomic bomb going off and quickly stopped us dead in our tracks as we made it to Purcell. Upon further analysis this storm could not be ignored so we turned around and went after it. We met up with in Newcastle just as it began to produce a violent tornado. Over the next hour the town of Moore would be hit with their 2 EF5 in 15 years and 5th overall tornado. We watched in horror as this tornado chewed through town. We dipped south and intercepted another storm that produced a weak tornado near Stratford. We returned north to Shawnee where we stayed the night with other chasers who were in shock at what just unfolded.

Full Account:

I woke up around 10 A.M. after staying up way later than I should have. Thunderstorms kept developing overnight across Northern Oklahoma and I was overdosing on the idea to shoot some more lightning pictures given the display Mother Nature put on yesterday evening. Another moderate risk was issued for Central and Southern Oklahoma. Risk for some tornadoes, but mostly a large hail threat with any supercell. Hi-res guidance and wind profiles were not advertising a big tornado outbreak, but a few strong ones would be possible. We gassed up in Ponca City and headed south toward Ben Holcomb’s house in Norman. We made it down into the OKC area by 12:30.

On the trip down, I started getting this awkward feeling. It was almost like really bad anxiety. It doesn’t quite make sense to me, but I felt like something bad was going to happen. I didn’t know what that feeling was or why it was there. It was a nervous energy that I haven’t felt very often while chasing. I had chased hundreds of storms before and never felt nervous (except for my very first chases.) Going back to my first chase log (here) I was terrified of storms and was anxious any time one would be predicted. Those same feelings started flooding back to me as we neared the Oklahoma City area. It wasn’t a high risk or a day where an outbreak was likely, it just didn’t feel right.

19_ehi3 19_srh3 19_shr6 19_lllr 19_mlcp 19_sbcp 19_500mb 19_ttd Meteorologically speaking, it was a fairly typical severe weather day for Spring in Oklahoma. A stationary boundary was draped from west southwest to east northeast up the I 44 corridor. A dry line was progged to develop and intensify as it mixed east to near the I 35 corridor. A triple point was also forecast to develop near or just west of the Oklahoma City metro area. Very warm moist air was in place across Central Oklahoma with a series of disturbances ejecting out of the Southern Plains. Low level shear was a little bit lacking, but that would be overcome with the presence of boundaries. 0-6 KM shear of 50-60 kts more than supported supercells to form. As we got to Ben’s house a mesoscale discussion was issued (below) stating the risk for some tornadoes and the possibility of a watch.

mcd0726

Ben and I were looking over the special balloon launch sounding and one of the close matches was the May 20th, 1957. This is when a violent F5 tornado plowed right through the Kansas City suburb of Ruskin Heights. Ben and I both looked at each other and chuckled “Heh, yeah right.” By now it was just after 1 P.M. and the first few storms started to fire near Lawton. Once the first echo intensified, the Storm Prediction Center pulled the trigger on a tornado watch (below).

ww0191_radar

Upon closer look of the special sounding and satellite, we noted a very subtle boundary laying east-west across the metro area. Low level directional shear was pretty dramatic near this subtle boundary. Ben and I both noticed this and went “hmmm.” By now the tornado watch had been blasted all over social and local media. The Oklahoma City area does not take severe weather potential lightly. The NWS in Norman also put out a strongly worded Hazardous Weather Outlook at this time:

TIMING...
ALTHOUGH SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS WILL BE POSSIBLE FROM 1 PM THROUGH 
MIDNIGHT...THE PEAK HOURS FOR SEVERE WEATHER...INCLUDING TORNADOES...
WILL BE BETWEEN 3 PM AND 8 PM THIS AFTERNOON AND EVENING.

IMPACTS...
TORNADOES...POTENTIALLY STRONG WITH LONG TRACKS...ALONG WITH BASEBALL 
SIZED HAIL AND DAMAGING WINDS ARE LIKELY WITH THE STRONGEST STORMS 
WITHIN THE MODERATE RISK AREA. PING PONG BALL SIZED HAIL AND WINDS TO 
ABOUT 60 MPH ARE EXPECTED WITH THE STRONGER STORMS WITHIN THE SLIGHT 
RISK AREA.

RECOMMENDED ACTIONS...
STORM SPOTTER GROUPS AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT PERSONNEL ACROSS THE 
RISK AREAS SHOULD PLAN FOR SEVERE WEATHER OPERATIONS FROM 1 PM UNTIL 
MIDNIGHT.

DISCUSSION...
THE WEATHER SITUATION TODAY VERY MUCH RESEMBLES YESTERDAY. WARM...
UNSTABLE AIR WILL AGAIN LIE EAST OF A COLD FRONT/DRYLINE COMBINATION
THAT WILL BE OVER WESTERN AND CENTRAL OKLAHOMA...AND WESTERN NORTH 
TEXAS. VERTICAL WIND PROFILES WILL AGAIN SUPPORT ROTATING UPDRAFTS
AND SUPERCELL THUNDERSTORMS...ESPECIALLY IN THE MODERATE RISK AREA.
A SLIGHTLY WEAKER CAPPING INVERSION IS INDICATED...WHICH SUGGESTS
A SLIGHTLY EARLIER BEGINNING OF STORM DEVELOPMENT...COMPARED TO
YESTERDAY. STORMS ARE EXPECTED TO BE FAIRLY SPARSE EARLY IN THE
EVENT...THEN MERGE INTO SMALL CLUSTERS DURING THE EVENING.

moore1

Things started to happen fairly quick here. Echo tops on the storms to the southwest were rapidly growing and moving into an environment increasingly favorable for supercells. A few chasers at Ben’s started to get antsy and took off south after the storms. We plotted their course and figured they’d end up around Pauls Valley near 3 P.M. We held off a little longer. The northern most storm near Chickasha started to weaken while the ones further south near Duncan intensified. At 2:00 P.M. OUN pulled the trigger on a pair of severe thunderstorm warnings (below).

moore1

Alright, it was go time. Adam, Joe, and I took off south from Norman and gassed up near Riverwind Casino. The time was 2:10 P.M. A new storm started to develop to our west over Bridge Creek. It immediately went severe warned for damaging winds to 60 MPH (below). We didn’t necessarily pay attention to those storms as closely as we should have. We were focused on the supercell near Rush Springs as it was headed in Purcell’s general direction. We wrote off the Blanchard/Bridge Creek storm because we figured the inflow would be cut off by our storm to the south.

moore2

We fueled up and made the short drive down to Purcell. At 2:25 P.M. I happened to look over my right shoulder out the window and my jaw hit the floor. The most atomic bomb looking structure I had seen since June 7th, 2009 in Oregon, Missouri. This is where we almost made a noob mistake that would have cost us the day. I pointed out the cell to our northwest and the low level circulation that appeared to be developing on the TDWR. It caught Adam’s attention as well so we pulled off in Purcell to decide what we wanted to do. If we continued south, we would have completely written off the first storm which probably would have led to a night of heavy drinking. Radar and a quick picture of the storm is provided below.

moore3

mcd0728 The Storm Prediction Center issued another meso-scale discussion mentioning the tornado threat increasing in vicinity of the triple point and then further up the stationary boundary. We cut west to the Dibble area just as our storm was upon us. It was just after 2:30 P.M. and our target storm was not doing so well. The core dropped in intensity, there were no more hail reports being received out of it, and no low level rotation. We really had a decision to make at this point. The storm to the north was looking really good to me. It had the classic “three cell alignment” that I feast over. Any time storms develop in that explosive environment and they develop in threes, I always target that southern most storm. It was developing great low level rotation, but remained unwarned. (Our position below.)

moore4

Joe and I didn’t want to go south. I don’t think Adam did either, but if we made the decision to blast north we’d be putting ourselves out of position for anything to the south and ran the risk of encountering metro traffic which would hamper our efforts. Using the TDWR was invaluable. Every minute it updated, the low level structure became more impressive than the last. I think seeing this finally convinced everyone that we NEEDED to get north as quick as we could. We took off toward Blanchard up State Route 76. At 2:40 P.M. Norman issued a tornado warning for Newcastle, Moore, and southern Oklahoma City. They also issued one for the storm to our south, but that one looked far less impressive. We were plenty satisfied with our choice to head north.

moore5Rotating wall clouds were being reported on both storms now. TDWR looked amazing. We were only 12 miles south of the storm and detoured around Blanchard. It was becoming clear that a tornado was imminent, but we were just far enough away from the cell that we couldn’t see it. At 2:50 P.M. we were just south of Newcastle at the H.E Bailey Spur. We could see a giant updraft ahead of us, but it was too hazy to see the base. Funnel cloud reports started coming in as we pressed on toward town. It was about to show time. At the current time it had not occurred to me what was happening or where it was happening. (below)

moore6

Joe had the live feed from a local news station up and we watched as a slender cone shaped funnel descended from the cloud base. We were about 6 miles south of it and couldn’t see the horizon now due to the trees and buildings of Newcastle. We listened intently as the helicopter reported the circulation touching the ground and debris starting to be picked up. Here we go! As we got into the center of Newcastle, police flew by us just as a large wall cloud came into view to the north. We knew exactly where they were going and what they were going to. Block the road. We came up to SR 130 where we went east off the main highway. The river was two miles east of us, but Portland Ave extended north to near the I-44 exit. We thought we would get a better view that way, avoid the roadblock, and not get caught in traffic. Our position shown below at 3:01 P.M.

moore7

Joe was giving us a play by play as we went east on Fox Lane. This was a heavily residential area and our view was blocked by homes and trees. The last we heard there was a fairly sizable cone tornado just north of Newcastle. The radar presentation was intense. Gate to gate shear was highly indicative of a powerful tornado in progress. Again, it still didn’t register to me what was happening or where it was heading. We had a one tracked mind and it was to get into position to see it. Our phones went off in unison of a tornado warning. Upon reading the text, we knew how dangerous the situation had truly become. Tornado Emergency for Southern Oklahoma City. Our position below at 3:05 P.M.

moore8

moore9By now a very pronounced debris ball was apparent on base reflectivity. We turned north on Portland Avenue and saw the giant meso hovering over a random hill. Was Mother Nature really going to keep us from seeing this tornado? Every single time we think we will get a view, something happens. If it’s not police road block, it’s buildings and trees, and now a random hill. Spotter network reports were coming in of a large tornado, but that could mean anything. Tornado size is so subjective to the person and many times a slender cone is reported as large. Piecing together the clues, however, we knew something significant was probably occurring. We just couldn’t get in position to see it. I jokingly said we should pull over and run up the hill to try to get a better view, but Adam pressed on past a grove of trees. That’s when everything came together in my head. It finally dawned on me what was happening and where it was going.

tor

“Oh my God, that’s going to nail the metro!” Those were the first words out of my mouth. I was in shock.

moore10

We stopped right as the road curved at the river. The time was 3:08 P.M. and a mile wide wedge was crossing less than a mile in front of us. It all hit me at once. This was going for Moore. Of all places for it to hit it had to be Moore. What gave me an even more eerie feeling was that it was following almost the exact same path as another famous Moore tornado. On May 3rd, 1999, a violent F5 tornado developed near Amber and traveled northeast along the I-44 corridor through Newcastle, Moore, and Oklahoma City. It was such an infamous tornado that residents and meteorologists alike only reference it by date. Everyone that lived in the area knows what “May 3rd” means. I couldn’t believe it and still had hopes that it would somehow miss the metro altogether. A tornado of that size and power doesn’t just disappear.

moore11

From our position, the rear flank downdraft wrapped around the tornado and obscured it. We never saw the tornado again. What we did experience though will send chills and still gives me goosebumps. I can tell you the exact minute this tornado plowed into Moore. From the time the tornado passed across the northern sky a waterfall sounds was present. Pretty typical sound from a tornado in the open land. At 3:10 P.M. that whooshing sound changed into an audible ROAR. This was a sickening roar. It didn’t sound like jets or a freight train to me, it sounded like a giant bulldozer scraping asphalt off the ground. Louder and louder the roar grew even as the tornado moved further away. All this told me was that it was now in Moore and something catastrophic was happening. I began to worry about my friends now. I have several friends that live in Moore, most of them are chasers. I worried about their families and their homes. We watched there for the next five minutes as the roar began to lessen. We were in shock.

moore12A sickening debris ball was plowing right through downtown Moore. We wanted to go up I-44, but knew that would be impossible. We were trapped on the wrong side of the river. I wanted to go to Moore and help. I didn’t care about chasing anymore, but there was no easy way to get there. We had to backtrack through Newcastle and down to Highway 9. I turned on the radio as it was simulcasting the live television play by play of the tornado. As we made it to Highway 9, the tornado was approaching I-35. From all accounts the tornado was still going strong. Reports of a large tornado at 4th Street and I-35, then 4th Street and Bryant, and 4th Street and Sunnylane. It was plowing right through central Moore. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but it was 3:20 P.M. on a Monday. As we were passing through Newcastle I saw a yellow vehicle that sent chills up and down my spine. School bus. School. Violent tornado. Dismissal. Children.

At 3:30 we made it to I-35, but noticed no one was going anywhere. You couldn’t get north if you tried. We saw Ben submit a spotter network report: Tor — — Spotter is 4 miles E of MOORE, OK ( county) [35.329/-97.424] — Big cone shaped tornado about to cross sooner and SE 134th. We crawled up to Highway 9 in Norman and went east. There was nothing we could do to get to Moore, we decided to try to blast east to get out ahead of the storm again in case it was still ongoing east of Lake Stanley Draper. By now the tornado had begun to weaken and we actually listened live on air as it dissipated on the western bank of the lake. Traffic in the metro was horrible. Nothing we didn’t expect though. We finally maneuvered our way around Norman and went north on a road just outside of Pink. By now our storm was north of I 40 and had dramatically weakened. We debated on what to do. Emergency vehicles, utility trucks, and other vehicles were flying east toward the tornado stricken area. We didn’t want to interfere so we headed east to Shawnee. Another supercell was strengthening 50 miles to the southwest and headed for Stratford.

moore13

We blasted south out of Shawnee. It was 31 miles south to Stratford. The tornado was 34 miles west of Stratford and moving east at 20 MPH. We knew the environment of this day and just witnessed a historic tornado. This storm would be treated the exact same way. We stepped it up a notch and wanted to beat the core to US 177. We barely beat the core to the highway and now had a slight visual of the updraft base at 4:50 P.M. Our position and radar image is below.

moore14

We made it into Stratford as the updraft area was still 7-10 miles to our west. This area of Oklahoma wasn’t so chaser friendly in terms of terrain. Trees and hills peppered the land, but we were able to find a flat spot just north of town. The storm was headed in our general direction so we waited for it to come. A well defined wall cloud with alligator mouth appeared to the west. A confirmed tornado was reported at this time, but initially we couldn’t see it. Photo below.

moore15

We started to notice some rapid motion on the left side of the wall cloud. I zoomed my camera in and saw a funnel dangling down. Another tornado was in progress, but quickly dissipated. Photo of the tornado below.

IMG_2932

We watched for several more minutes as the tornado dissipated. The storm was on it’s way out as well. It quickly weakened and dissipated. We met up with other chasers on the side of the road and all caravanned back into Shawnee to a local Applebees. On the way a sobering LSR was released from Norman: Local Storm Report by NWS OUN: Newcastle [Mcclain Co, OK] broadcast media reports TORNADO at 02:56 PM CDT — lifted around 336 pm. estimated path length of 20 miles thru newcastle, moore, and south okc. preliminary damage rating of at least ef4. I looked on social media and saw some pictures of the damage. I had no doubt it was an EF-5. There appeared to be entire neighborhoods flattened and it looked like a school with very heavy damage. No word on a death toll, but I knew there were deaths. We made it into Shawnee just as another supercell blew up over Oklahoma City. We briefly debated going after it, but decided against it. It was headed in the general direction so if something were to happen we’d be position already. We met up with some good friends at the Applebees and discussed the event. Instead of the usual celebration of seeing a tornado, we were all in awe at the aerial footage of Moore. They were focused on an elementary school where there were reported children trapped. We ate and then decided our next move. It was a long drive back to Chicago, so we decided to stay in Shawnee the night and get a good nights rest. Throughout the night the death toll continued to rise. From 12 to 25 all the way up 92. We thought this tornado would claim more lives than the Joplin one a few years prior. Thankfully there was a huge discrepancy and that 92 figure was erroneous. Unfortunately 24 people did die including 7 children at Plaza Towers Elementary School. A terrible day and a tornado that I will never forget. I knew I had a bad feeling about the day, I felt something bad was going to happen, but I never would have guessed another EF-5 would hit Moore.

IMG_3004

IMG_2987

tor tracks

Green – May 20th, 2013 – EF-5

Red – May 3rd, 1999 – F5

Blue – May 8th, 2003 – F4

2,899 total views, 0 views today


June 17th, 2010: Historical Minnesota Tornado Outbreak

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

I almost didn’t chase this day. Almost. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I had a family obligation on Friday, the 18th, at 7 P.M. My usual chase partner Adam Lucio and I talked about this set up for a couple days and decided it would be well worth the trip. However, I needed to make it a one day affair and he had plans of chasing multiple days in a row. Rather than risk going solo and then marathoning it back to Chicago (already on no-sleep) I decided to sit this one out. It was hard to do but in my eyes family comes first. I made that decision on Wednesday night at 5:30 P.M. I signed on AIM to tell Adam that I don’t know if I could make it when Skip Talbot IMs me and asks if I was going to go. He was going, but his Verizon aircard broke, his phone broke, and his robotic camera dome was giving him issues and wanted to know if  I would be going. I told him the situation and he made an offer I couldn’t refuse. We all agreed to meet at Skip’s house, caravan up to his cottage near Montello, WI, chase Thursday, and then we would take turns driving back Thurs night/Fri morning. Rather than giving up a potential great chase day, I immediately agreed. Adam and Deb came and got me at my place and we were on our way. It was only 30 minutes to Skip’s house; we loaded up the gear and headed north for Wisconsin. It was around a 4 hour drive from Chicago to Montello. We arrived there around midnight, looked over data, and went to bed.
 

 

From the get go I liked southwestern Minnesota. No convection moving through, nice Theta-E ridge, clear skies, 3-4k CAPE, great moisture return and it was a little more removed from the dryline/cold front. Adam pondered if we should go north toward Fargo. I liked my southern target, but could certainly see and understand why he would want to go north. My big caveats with going north were A.) I didn’t bring my passport and didn’t want to risk being cut off by the Canadian border and B.) I just felt that the window up there would be very small due to the front overrunning the convection and quickly causing it to become linear. I felt southern Minnesota was the best chance to get a long tracked supercell before a squall line from the west overtook it. Turns out Adam, Skip, and I all were right on.
 

 

 The next morning we woke up at 6 A.M. and grabbed a bite to eat at Sparks grill in Montello. Usually Adam and I never stop and eat breakfast before a chase as we like to be on the road early in case the storms decide to fire quickly. This breakfast place was spectacular. I ordered the corn beef hash and it was just scrumptious. We were in and out of there in 25 minutes and on the road. We wanted to leave early, because everything pointed to convection going up north at noon and the rest of the dry line blowing up by 2 P.M. We were 5 1/2 hours away from Worthington, MN and knew if we left by 8 we would be there by almost 2. We drove west the length of Minnesota only stopping to fuel up in Austin. By the time we got near the Worthington area we started noticed a Cu field to our west and south. Encouraging! Since Skip and I had no data and Adam’s AT&T wouldn’t allow him to use roaming, we were strictly visual this chase. Skip and I led the charge with Adam and Deb following us all the way to Luverne. It was here that I finally got signal on my cell phone and decided to look at the COD analysis page. The satellite showed 3 distinct bands of TCu stretching from Fargo to Omaha. We thought we were in a good spot; the SPC even MD our area. It was getting close to show time. After only 20 minutes sitting in Luverne, a big cell popped up 100 miles to our north. Adam and I usually have this philosophy that the first cell that goes up is the sacrificial lamb if you will. By that we mean when towers have been fighting the cap for a while and one finally breaks through, the cap eventually wins the battle and the storm never really establishes itself. But having broke the cap it creates a weakness and allows other storms to fire at will. May 22nd, 2010 was an exception. That storm that day blew through the cap and was up to 50,000 feet in 30 minutes.
 

 

 Anyway, we figured the dry line would light up south along it and we would be on the tail end charlie. We sat and waited, huddled around my cheap radar on my 2 inch droid screen. As the next update came in, the storms to north grew and expended in coverage eventually become tornado warned. Meanwhile we were sitting under a baking sun with TCu still firing all over. When would one of these become established? Skip was looking for WiFi so we hunted all over town searching for a hotspot to no avail. We finally gave up and decided to sit and watch the sky. Adam’s AT&T finally regained service and we actually had data. The storms up north in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota were making our hearts sink. 9-10 tornado warnings with confirmed tornadoes on the ground 160 miles to our north. To our east a band of showers developed off the supercells in northern Minnesota. At first we thought nothing of them, but when we looked to the eastern horizon we could see massive towers going up from northeast through southeast. I was confused at this point. We were sitting directly on the convergence boundary with good moisture aided by a strong 20 kt southeast surface flow. CAPE was up to 3,500 and the cap was virtually gone according to mesoanalysis. Nevertheless we sat and watched as tower after tower to our east went up and anvil-ed out. Finally we threw in the towel on the Worthington-Luverne target and decided to make a run at the now severe warned line developing.
 

 

Visually they looked linear from behind. There were so many rock hard updraft towers in such a confined space along the eastern horizon. We thought for sure the dry line had advanced much further east than thought and was now just firing off one big squall line. We had great low and mid level flow, but the upper level flow was wacky. We started getting that sinking feeling in our stomach that we drove 9 hours from Chicago only to bust on linear storms that were 50 miles to the east of us and heading to the northeast at 50. Instead of pouting and throwing in the towel we all decided to floor it east on 90 back to Worthington before going up toward Windom. Along the way, the northern most cell in the line became tornado warned and broke away from the trailing convection. It was a good 100 miles to the north and we figured we wouldn’t have a chance at it. On my phone radar it looked like the stuff to the east and southeast had become one big severe warned QLCS. After getting to Windom, we continued east in hopes of punching through the back end of the line and reappearing out ahead of it just to get a shelf cloud shot to somewhat salvage the chase. I didn’t know what was warned and what wasn’t so I pulled up COD’s severe weather warnings page. As I figured the cells we were on were severe warned with a plethora of tornado warnings for the storms way up north. After a couple of more refreshes I was shocked to see a tornado warning pop up in extreme northern Iowa. Hmmmm. I pulled up Des Moines radar (on COD’s 1 km radar site) and was pleasantly surprised to see a cell pop up within the last 30 minutes and become supercellular. I wasn’t sure if Adam was aware of it and told him that Skip and I planned on dropping south and east for that storm and ditching the cells in front of us.
 

 

He was on top of things and too noticed the cell and already figured out a route to it. Getting to this storm meant core punching one of the severe warned ones. Not a big deal. We hit it from behind just southwest of Mankato and noticed a lot of turbulent motions going on with a rather high base. Scud was being inhaled almost off the tree tops while CG absolutely littered the emerald prairies. The storm we were core punching was become surface based. We didn’t want to hang around and play with it though. We knew that the tail end charlie was 25 miles to our south southeast and that the current cells inflow would contaminated by the outflow from that storm. I had lost cell signal just north of Blue Earth and called Adam for an update. We said the core of the tornado warned storm would be over I 90 in 45 minutes. We were 3 miles north of I 90 so I wrote it off and encouraged Skip to continue on to 90 and then shoot east. Well little did I know was that Adam’s radar had timed out on him and it was nearing a half hour old! We got on 90 and went east about 2 miles before we got slammed from south by a 50 kt crosswind. Almost immediately heavy rain and small hail was peppering us on 90. We needed to punch it east and get ahead of it. Not an easy thing to do while battling 50 kt winds, blinding rain, scared motorists and a storm moving northeast at 50 miles per hour. For 10 minutes we battled this thing and finally won just north of Kiester.
 

 

We pulled off at exit 134 and followed that east a mile until we turned south on SR22 and headed south for Kiester. Upon arriving in town a lowering was evident 5-6 miles to our west. We nudged up the road a bit to get a better look at this lowering. I actually got out of the car and attempted to stand on the bumper to get a better view, until a CG barrage unlike any other started raining down near us. Not the most ideal setting to film needless to say I quickly retreated back into the car. After a few minutes it was clear that this lowering was not rotating and was actually being pushed out at us by outflow. However, we noticed a new cell merging with this storm from the southwest. I never got a picture or video of it (I should have) but it was a beautiful little LP structure with a tiny rounded base that was 2-3 miles removed from the former storm. We went back north through Kiester and back east on County Highway 46. Upon doing so Adam, still behind us, texted me saying Roger Hill had a tornado out of that merging cell. I looked back and couldn’t see anything as precip was now falling and obscuring my view. I told Skip to punch it east and we did. Out of the rain I began to see the base again and a nice little lowering. I yelled at Skip that we may have something but needed to get east for a better view. He obliged and we made it to 640th Ave. before turning south.
 

 

As we traveled a mile or two I began seeing what I thought was a cone funnel coming down. I couldn’t be sure since we were dodging trees and houses and only could get a brief glimpse of it. Finally as we crested a hill, we saw a magnificent cone tornado 7-8 miles to our southwest. We continued south on 640th watching the tornado get a little bit bigger. A couple of more trees blocked our view of it and when we re-emerged the cone had changed into a slender stovepipe to the left. That tornado dissipated and another cone lowering started to descend. The lowering immediately came down as an elephant trunk tornado. At first I thought it may have just been the same tornado, but as we approached the circulation it was CLEAR that there were 3 areas of intense rotation. The tornado was on the left side of the meso with a new cone lowering coming down on the right. After 30 seconds we had both tornadoes on the ground at the same time. We witnessed three tornadoes in a matter of 10 minutes. We knew the storm wasn’t done. Not by a long shot.
 

 

The former tornado lifted while the new cone churned away several miles to our southwest. The contrast was poor and we contemplated moving toward the west on one of the county roads. I thought the way to improve contrast was by continuing south and this was certainly the case. The cone lifted after a minute or two. We pressed on and noticed a very large wall cloud was now evident. At this time we made it to 650th Ave. and 140th St. and were looking at a tornado very near Kiester. We set up shop here for well over 20 minutes as these circulations approached. As the multi-vortex moved just to the north of Kiester it wedged out into a very large tornado directly west of us. Tornado maxed out to almost a mile wide as it moved east northeast very near Kiester. The motions were violent as violent can be. CG’s were crashing down everywhere with multiple bolts striking very close to us. The tornado continued to approach our location and continued to be extremely violent. This will be a very high rated tornado I am sure. As the tornado approached it began to inhale and absorb its own tail cloud on the north side. Cumulus clouds were being thrown into the wedge as it neared our location. I called 911. We didn’t have data or a ham radio so I couldn’t make Spotter Network reports. The only thing I could do is dial 911 and report everything I could and I did for the majority of the chase. Nevertheless, despite the warnings I was giving the wedge continued to move northeast away from Kiester.
 

 

As the wedge approached, it lifted but there was still a multiple vortex circulation on going so in my mind it was still on the ground. I zoomed out to try to get a perspective of the structure just as a fat cone fully condensed underneath the left side of the wall cloud. The old circulation that produced the wedge was still producing a multiple vortex tornado. A new circulation developed very close to us just west of us. This photo illustrates the older circulation in the background and the never circulation in the top left-center. We watched both circulations spin violently with the old circulation still putting down fully condensed tornadoes. These were not separate tornadoes, rather spin ups from the same circulation. At this point we tallied a total of four tornadoes. CG’s were still pouring out of this storm. What a crazy/intense supercell; we knew it was going to produce something nasty. The old circulation dropped another large condensation behind the trees (still parent circulation – still counting it as same tornado) while the new circulation kept dropping a cone funnel. I couldn’t see behind the trees, so risking getting hit by lightning, I ran out of the car and down the road to see what I could see behind the trees. Once I got to the edge of the trees I was AMAZED at what I saw 3 miles down the road. Still part of the same Kiester circulation and was fairly long tracked although with intermittent damage. The old circulation was still producing while the new one was still rotating violently. This new circulation dropped an amazing white cone while the old circulation was a multiple vortex cone.
 

The cone was brilliantly churning in the field across the road from us as the old circulation finally occluded. This tornado was number 5 on the day, but quickly retreated back into the cloud base all the while the ground circulation was still evident. We sat there and watched for two minutes waiting to see if this cone would come back down. The rotation was definitely supportive of this. Finally all at once a massive stove pipe crashed down just behind a farmstead a mile to the north northwest. I zoomed the camera in here as I wanted to see the perspective of it to the farm stead. Very close call but this property was spared. The tornado quickly wedged out underneath some of the most jaw dropping structure known to supercells. I was in awe. A day so busted on our part turned into something so treasured. As the wedge moved to the north northeast the structure just continued to get better and better. I couldn’t believe it. I again called 911 to tell them a large tornado was on Conger’s doorstep. It was obvious that they probably knew about it since the area was littered with law enforcement and emergency vehicles but I wasn’t taking any chances. We hoped in the car and went back to 140th and took that east one mile to 660th Ave. As we turned north the tornado had morphed back into a big cone funnel with debris whirl. The tornado then turned back into a fat cone just southwest of Conger. The tornado became stationary for a while, with power flashes and whirling debris. We nudged north another mile as the tornado widenedeven more. We noticed a road block up ahead and decided to turn around and take SR 15 east until it curved north into the town of Conger. We had hoped Conger wasn’t hit but that large tornado was perilously close. As we moved into town it was clear that it missed Conger, barely, to the north.
 

 

We turned east out of Conger as the tornado wedged out again. A satellite tornado danced around it as it moved in the general of Albert Lea. It turned back into a big white Manchester-like conebefore wedging out again. As we were looking for roads, I zoomed out and too my horror realized this tornado was dead set on hitting the west side of Albert Lea. We continued up the road where police had blocked the road. We sat there for 3 minutes waiting when suddenly the police officer started waving us through yelling the tornado had turned and was heading for us. There was a grove of trees blocking our view so I had no idea if this was true or not. Nevertheless we made the ominous drive through Albert Lea. When we re-emerged out of Albert Lea on the east side we realized that rain had obscured our view of the tornado and we need to head back west and south a little. We set up just southeast of the town of Hayward and saw another lowering. The Albert Lea – Conger tornado had lifted in the 20 minutes we were in town, but this new lowering was near if not over Albert Lea. Suddenly another tornado dropped and we had our 7th of the day! We decided to go north, but the tornado dissipated. We figured it would be a great idea to keep up with this circulation as it headed north in case it dropped another tornado. Little did we know amonster was already on the ground in the rain. Lightning sparked out of this great beast as it grew up to 3/4 of a mile wide. We advanced on the tornado as it neared Hollandale. The tornado then transitioned into a slender tilted stove pipe and finally roped out. We followed the storm north into Blooming Prairie unable to see anything else and called it a chase!

 

 

 
Tornadoes: 12
Hail: 1.00
Wind: 40 mph inflow
Close CG’s: too many to count
Strongest tornado: EF-4

4,388 total views, 0 views today


May 22nd, 2010: South Dakota Tornado Outbreak

May 22nd, 2010 – Northern South Dakota Tornado Outbreak/Field Incident

 
We had been watching tCu for a little over an hour up to this point. Each updraft tower would reach higher into the sky before ultimately collapsing. Very discouraging since the main caveat to today’s chase was a pretty stout cap. We knew that IF a storm broke it it had the opportunity to go insane in an extremely favorable environment. As we were gassing up in Gettysburg, SD, our persistent updraft finally exploded and became QUICKLY tornado warned.
 
 
The cell was exploding before our very eyes! It went from a large mass of cumulus congestus to a full blown monster in 25 minutes time. The storm finally tapped into the cold air aloft and continue growing tapping into all the cold air aloft. The anvil soon reached across the whole eastern sky!
 
 
 
We went east out of Gettysburg and turned north toward Hoven. As we got to Hoven the base was in clear view off the west near Akaska. NWS surveys confirm a tornado touchdown at this exact time and this certainly looks like a funnel cloud. However I do NOT believe this was a tornado because there isn’t a well defined wall cloud. I think what we have here is the initial lowering that would become the storms first wall cloud. Beautiful landscape!
 
 
Pretty insane structure at this point. This supercell, still in its infant stage, had text book structure! We sat and watched the supercell mature for 20 minutes! A wall cloud tried to form in the image to the right. I sat and had this evolution tripoded which I plan on timelapsing as time permits!
 
  
 
The next several images (viewed from left to right) shows the evolution the first sustained attempt at a wall cloud. In image 1 rising motion was noted and inflow into the storm was around 15 kts. In images 2 and 3, more scud is drawn into the cloud base and a beaver tail is trying to form on the right. Images 4 and 5 show the wall cloud slowly getting its act together and a quickly developing beaver tail. Also in image 5 you not more scud tags rising into the cloud base. In the last image you can make a well defined beaver tail on the right feeding into the mesocyclone. There was only broad rotation noted at this time
 
 
 
 As time progressed (matter of 5 minutes) the supercell really started to get its act together. The wall cloud was now very pronounced. The first image shows a beautiful beaver tail feeding into the mesocyclone with a well defined wall cloud that started to exhibit strong rotation. The second picture notes a very ominous looking wall cloud that we could tell was on the verge of producing. The bottom images depict a strong RFD wrapping around the mesocyclone. Because of this Adam, Ben, Scott, and I decided it was time to move north to try to keep our visual and to get a closer look at the ground.
 
 
 While we traveled north on SR 47, it was evident that a tornado may drop at any time. We found a dirt road and turned onto it and faced west to tripod the intense rotation located about 2 miles to our west. In picture two, Andrew Pritchard is seen standing outside his vehicle with a large funnel cloud descending for the ground. I guess technically at this point it could be considered a tornado as evidenced in picture three. The middle block of images show the rapid development of a fully condensed tornado. Andrew actually vacated his spot for SR 47. As he did this the funnel dropped and a tornado was born. Pictures 7 through 9 show a beautiful cone tornado at close range. At this point we are looking due west. The tornado was only a mile down the road from us. The RFD was quickly wrapping around the meso, so we jumped back into the car and floored it up SR 47, paralleling the tornado.
 
   
 
The tornado started moving more east northeast than due north at this point. We pulled off about a mile up from where we were previously sitting. We watched as the tornado weakened as it occluded near 47. Apparently at this time the TIV made a successful intercept without Sean Casey in command.
 

 

Not wanting to drive under the violently rotating wall cloud, I got out and filmed as vorticies danced underneath. As I mentioned before, this storm featured an extremely strong RFD. Winds ranged from 40 to 60 kts! Waves of windblown rain rotated around the mesocyclone and blasted us from the west. It was at this time that the initial touchdown of the infamous Bowdle wedge occurred.
 
 
Once the tornadic circulation crossed the road, we continued north on SR47. Now looking northeast, I saw what appeared to be a large wedge tornado in progress. I wasn’t sure due to the fact I was trying to look through a wet RFD. Once we cleared the wrap around precipitation, a clear view of a white cone tornado came into view. It was at this time that the tornado was crossing US 12 and Tim Samaras was deploying his turtle probe!
 
 
 The tornado was now well east of the highway and we had a great intercept route planned out. All of a sudden there was a line of brake lights in front of us. We couldn’t believe it. After three minutes people started turning around and we did the same. The tornado damaged power lines and we needed to turn around and find an alternate route. This greatly hampered our efforts to get a good shot at the wedge.
 
 
 
We found an east route and picked our jaws up off the floor of the car. The sculpting of the updraft was lit up by the sun and allowed us to see into the jaws of this storm. A wedge tornado was in progress at this time, but it is tiny in comparison to mountains of clouds involved with this beast. In the pictures above imagine the right side of the image pulling toward the left and the left side pulling toward the right. It was all wrapping up in the center of the image. Even from this distance, violent rotation was noted. Everything was in constant motion.
 
 
As we made our way north on the dirt roads east of SR47, the beast was lurking underneath the monstrous supercell. Although it was not the view of the wedge I had desired, I am just thankful I was able to capture it. It was also at this time that we realized how close to disaster the town of Bowdle really was. As we drove through town, with sirens blaring, the view to the north was just filled with MASSIVE tornado. Had this tornado hit the town of Bowdle it could have reached EF5 status. I have no doubt in my mind about this.
 
          
 
As we passed through Bowdle, we saw a line of chasers coming south with the faint image of a wedge tornado back there.  As we continued east on US 12, we got ahead of the RFD again and easily make out the 3/4 of a mile wide tornado. In our minds we thought this tornado was hauling due to the fact that the first tornado we saw was easily moving 30-35 kts. As it turned out we floored it east while the tornado seemingly stalled 1.5 miles north of Bowdle. We didn’t exactly get the money shot of this tornado, but we got a unique shot from Bowdle that only the residents of the town would have received.
 
 
We were 5 miles east of Bowdle at this time and realized we were outrunning the storm. The wedge in these photos was either dissipated or dissipating. If it were to still exist it would be back in the far bottom left corner of the set of images. As we drove toward Roscoe we noticed what could possibly be another tornado dropping. I think it was just a nice lookalike though. The supercell was an odd beast. It transitioned from classic to HP at least 3 different times. At this time it was trending more HP. Because of this we decided to drive north a little bit to position ourselves in the notch.
 
 
The next several images are of the most beautiful tornado I have ever seen. As we turned north off of US12 the rain cleared out from the base and a slender cone funnel began to descend.  The tornado snaked its way to the ground and moved slowly to the east a few miles away from us. Simply a breathtaking view. Hard to believe a storm that produced a tornado so sinister could also produce a thing of beauty minutes later.
 
 
The tornado started to dissipate but the supercell exhibited the “mothership” appearance. Scott Bennett was definitely enjoying himself! The storm started to transition back to an HP. This is partly because this beast of a supercell would inhale anything else that tried to develop anywhere near its environment. Whenever a storm went up it would be drawn into the supercell and get absorbed into the updraft. So the storms this supercell was inhaling  would rain into the updraft area and appear that storm was wrapping itself up in precipitation.
 
 
As another storm was being absorbed into the circulation, tornadogenesis was occurring again. This is a prime example why storm chasing and tornadoes in general can be so dangerous. As evidenced in the last shot this tornado was now completely wrapped in rain. Unsuspecting motorists or residents would see a giant rain shield moving in and be completely unaware that a tornado was again lurking within. We jogged back south to US12 and east to the town of Roscoe where we attempted to once again jog north to get into the notch.
 
 
We passed through Roscoe with sirens blaring and positioned ourselves 3 miles north of town. We were in the notch with strong inflow from the northeast. This may or may not be the continuation of the rainwrapped tornado above, but there was definitely a multiple vortex tornado on the ground during this time. The circulation itself was very tight. Rain was wrapped around the entire meso, but it wasn’t heavy. The most interesting to note during this time was the inflow gusting to 50 kts out of the north. I have never experienced this before. The airflow around this supercell was just insane. Our route back south to Roscoe was now cut off by the RFD, so we analyzed our dirt road options. We figured we had three options. Option 1 was just to brave it and punch back south to US12 through the RFD. Option 2 was to go north to the next paved road. That road was 4 miles to the north and would have put us in the core. We weren’t really feeling that due to the fact that heavy rain and large hail were likely contained in there. So option 3 was follow the dirt roads and zig zag our way the 5 miles to the next paved south option, then back east on US12. The storm was moving at 15 mph so it seemed like a no brainer that we could execute option 3 to perfection.
 
 
We reached a T in the road. Once again we were faced with the decision to go north into the core or south out ahead of the circulation. We had given ourselves enough distance that we thought we could safely dart south a mile before heading east again. We met up with L.B. LaForce, Bill LaForce, Bob Hartig, Mike Kovalchick, and the Oosterbans at this intersection. We all had the same general idea. The storm was again featuring classic characteristics so it was clear where the area of interest was. As we sat at that intersection L.B. had returned Adam’s tail light that was blown off by the intense RFD of the earlier tornado. In doing so L.B.’s hat blew off. Adam chased after it and eventually tracked it down and returned it to him. I noticed that a new wall cloud was forming VERY close just off to our south southwest. I recommended we get out of there to our south option two miles to the east. This is when disaster happened.
 
We got 1/4 of a mile down the road when we saw headlights heading back at us. We thought “that’s odd, who would be coming back toward this area” The line was led by Bob and crew, then Scott Bennett, and then us. The vehicle turning around was an English chaser by the name of Nathan Edwards. The road was sloppy but drivable. As we got a mile into the road all of a sudden we see Bob and gang turning around. Well that is odd. Why are they turning around? Almost instantaneously Ben screams “TORNADO BEHIND US.” So Scott and I continued on only to find out…. THERE WAS NO ROAD! It went from dirt road to green grass to crop. #@$@#!!!!!!
 
In a state of confusion 6 more vehicles piled up at the dead end of this “road.” We were all screaming at each other “WHAT IS GOING ON!!!” All of a sudden Ben screams “ANOTHER TORNADO!, TWO TORNADOES!” To my horror I turned around to see this beautiful drill bit tornado (seen below) to our west northwest and a menacing stove pipe (also seen below) to our west southwest.
 
 
We were in a crisis. There was no where to go and no where to hide. A second later, headlights appeared on the horizon. It was NWS DDC meteorologist Mike Umscheid. He is an excellent photographer and was getting amazing pictures before he plotted the same escape route that we had. Unfortunately the road had other thoughts. As we all bottle necked at the end of the road, it was TVN Team Thunder that decided our best option to survive was to bail into the farmers field and cut across to the main road a mile to the east. It was now or never, do or die. We did. We were sliding all over the place having a very hard time navigating the the swampy field. As we reached the end of the fence line, we all turned south knowing the tornadoes we moving east north east. We had to get south and out of the path. As we got into the field a quarter of a mile south of where the road was “supposed” to be, another magnificent rope tornado dropped very near us. Luckily it was to the east of us and moving away.
 
 
 
 

 As we were heading south, we noticed a pond was blocking our egress. It was time to sit and wait it out and pray for the best. I nervously filmed out the window as a wall cloud was clearly visible rotating directly on top of us. Within minutes a scary tornado dropped no more than 50 yards to our east. TVN Team Thunder was closest to this tornado and I am sure got magnificent footage if they weren’t taking shelter under their seats! Multiple vorticies danced about all over the field just around to our east. The most terrifying moment imaginable. Thankfully we came away unscathed. The last image shows the velocity couplet at the time of our field experience.

 
After the tornado, flooding rains fell for almost 45 minutes as we all tried to free ourselves from the field. That was not happening and we all called for help. After a long wait we were finally saved by Bart Comstock. We ended up paying the farmer 400 dollars a person for the damages we caused and walked away with out lives! An unforgettable day!

3,444 total views, no views today