Storm Chase May 19, 2012: Non-Supercell Tornados in Kansas and Shredded Wind Turbine


chase images, video, archived weather data and log by William T. Hark, M.D. Video (HD) and pictures available for licensing


Chase day video highlights
of multiple tornadoes

Wide angle and close-up enhanced view
of shredded wind turbine


I started the day with fairly low expectations. The SPC had issued a slight risk from Iowa through southwest Oklahoma with 5% tornado risk for central Kansas into east central Nebraska. Moisture return from the Gulf was fairly modest but there was decent upper level flow. The expectation was for a quick transition to a linear storm mode along the front in Kansas. I was starting in Wichita, Kansas and had initially targeted either northwestern Oklahoma or north-central Kansas. I wasn't confident or enthusiastic about either target. The 12Z WRF showed convection in a north-south line (Nebraska through Kansas just east of Dodge City and into the western part of the Texas Panhandle) by 2200Z. The line slowly shifted eastward with a southern terminus about the level of Kiowa County in Kansas. If one was to completely believe the model, it also predicted an isolated supercell in EllisCounty, Oklahoma at 00Z. The 12Z HRRR showed an isolated cell 2130Z near Great Bend and a later isolated cell forming by 2330Z near Vici in northwestern Oklahoma. There was also an opportunity in south-central Nebraska. I also liked NAM that should more southerly 850 mb winds in southern Kansas rather than predicted veered winds farther north in to northcentral Kansas and Nebraska. I stuck with the more southern targets, and I headed west toward Pratt. I planned on checking more data, getting lunch and then deciding on a target. I could still blast north as necessary but I didn't see a need to go rushing off immediately.

I had a nice lunch at the Serva-Teria in Pratt while checking more data. They have a nice lunch buffet with a “down-home” atmosphere. I could also sit by the window and keep an eye on my chase vehicle and also use the Cradlepoint wi-fi from that vehicle. Robert Balogh met me at the Serva-Teria, and we looked over more data. Our area was looking more promising. We left the restaurant and decided to wait at a nearby Walmart parking lot with a nice view of the sky. There was a large chaser convergence including Charles Edwards, Mike Theiss and his wife Andrea and George Kourounis who are all with Cloud 9 Tours. We also saw Tim Marshall and the assorted Doppler on Wheels/University groups along with Sean Casey and his TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle). The storms had initiated in a linear mode by 3 PM along the cold front. The appearance was very unimpressive. Robert Balogh and I, in separate vehicles, headed north on 281 toward the linear storms. The storms were high-based. By 3:44 PM, we saw our first landspout in Stafford County. After the initial landspout, we followed the storms and met up with Canadian chasers, Dayna Vettese , Brad Rousseau and Simon Eng at 4:18 PM, and we watched some rotation in the clouds. With large hail approaching, we turned east on 50 and south on S. Langdon road along the line of storms. They were still high-based. We became separated from the Canadians, and we shifted east and then further south on 14. At 5:34PM, we could see a distant landspout under high-based storms. We passed through Kingman, Kansas at 5:42 PM and could see a funnel to the west. Two miles south of Kingman, we stopped on 14. The funnel was still present, now to our northwest at 5:46 PM. To our southwest, we could see a nice landspout that was initially visible at 5:44. It lasted until 5:45, and the funnel reformed at 5:46 PM. The funnel to the west of Kingman and the landspout to the southwest were visible at the same time. The high-based storm was slowly shifting toward us. By 5:47 PM, the funnel to the northwest (west of Kingman) had lengthened and narrowed to a nice rope tornado that briefly touched-down. It did not have the typical landspout appearance of the other tornadoes. With increasing hail and rain, Robert and I left the area and headed farther south. Additional landspouts were developing to our west. At 5:57 PM, 3.8 miles north of Rago, we saw a nice landspout to the west and another was visible further south along the line of storms. We watched the two tornadoes for about 5 minutes and then continued south passing through Rago at 6:09 PM. At the intersection of NW 150 and 14 in Harper County just south of Duquoin, we stopped and met up with Canadian meteorologist Brad Rousseau who had just proposed to meteorologist Dayna Vettese in front of another landspout to the southwest. We took a few pictures at 6:17 PM and blasted west on 150 to get a better view of the landspout. This landspout initially appeared weak and similar to the previous landspouts. With a nice road west, there was the opportunity to obtain closer images. The dusty slow-moving tornado was initially just south of 150. We parked at approximately 6:22 PM and watched the storm cross the road. The tornado was moving into a large wind farm. We shifted slightly east at 6:24 PM after a police officer yelled at us to “move!” The tornado was to the northeast. Our second viewing point was at the intersection of NW 150 RD and NW 40 Ave at 6:26 PM. (150 is an east-west road and 40 is a north-south road). We watched the tornado shred a wind turbine and pass between other turbines and oil wells. I was able to obtain nice zoomed close-up video segments of multiple vortices. At 6:31 PM, the tornado was to our north. NW 40 Ave was a direct route north to the tornado, but the road was very muddy and slick, and we elected not to chance an intercept. A solid wall of rain and hail prevented further progress to the east and that rain and hail was increasing in our area. Robert and I shifted slightly west on NW 150 to get out of the rain. There was another weak-appearing tornado to our southwest at 6:34 PM. We could see the main tornado to the northeast and by 6:42 PM, the tornado was white and nicely placed with a wind turbine in the foreground. The tornado faded into the rain as it dissipated. This tornado was the one that crossed 14 and was filmed at close range by Cloud 9 Tours. We had to wait for the rain and hail to shift farther east before we could leave the area. The evening ended back in Wichita with a traditional post-tornado intercept steak dinner at Hangar One Steakhouse. Robert Balogh, Dayna Vettese, Brad Rousseau, Simon Eng, John Mann, and I enjoyed a nice chaser dinner to celebrate our intercepts. Jason Persoff, who had given John Mann a ride from Denver to join up with Robert, missed dinner as he needed sleep. Jason was on the northern side of the storms and also saw some nice tornadoes.

May 19th was an unexpected very successful chase day with multiple tornadoes. Most of these tornadoes originated from non-supercell processes. These events can be very difficult to predict but everything came together on this date. The last tornado was later rated EF-3 and by the end of its lifecycle, appeared to be a more typical supercell originating tornado. For more detail about this event , see meteorologist Jon Davies' analysis.

Interior of my chase vehicle.

The TIV and others awaiting
initiation in Pratt, KS.

Engineer, Tim Marshall and his
tornado PODS for ROTATE.

Charles Edwards & Robert Balogh
watching initiation.

Linear storms north of
Pratt, KS at 3:18 PM.

First landspout, 3:44PM CDT
Stafford County,KS.

First landspout, 3:44PM CDT
Stafford County,KS

Brad Rousseau &
Robert Balogh, 408 PM.

Developing storms 4:08 PM CDT.

Watching the storms 4:19 PM.

Tornado to the SW at 5:46 PM
View from 2 mi S of Kingman on 14.

Tornado to the NW at 5:47 PM
View from 2 mi S of Kingman on 14.

Tornado to the west from 14
at 5:57 PM CDT.

Two tornadoes visible at 6:02 PM
The funnel to the right is now
dissipating. View from 3.8 mi N of Rago.

Landspout tornado at 6:03 PM. View to
the west from 14; 3.8 mi N of Rago.

6:17 PM. Brad Rousseau & Dayna Vettese soon
after his proposal. At the
intersection of NW 150 &14 in Harper County.

Heading west on NW 150 Rd.
6:18 PM CDT.

Heading west on NW 150 Rd.

Heading west on NW 150 Rd.
6:21 PM CDT.

6:22 PM CDT. View to the west
on NW 150 Rd

Bill Hark filming the tornado
Photo by Robert Balogh

6:27 PM

Robert Balogh and the tornado

Bill Hark and the tornado
Photo by Robert Balogh

Multiple vortices

Enhanced image of wind turbine
blade ripped by the tornado.

View to the north at 6:31 PM from the
intersection of NW 150 RD & NW 40 Ave.

Another tornado to the SW
at 6:34 PM.

6:42 PM, view to the northeast
from NW 150 Rd.

Radar Images with GPS Positions

3:28 PM CDT

6:00 PM CDT

6:35 PM CDT

Approximately 6:36 PM CDT

Chase Route and Tornado Map (Adapted from the survey by the National Weather Service in Wichita, KS)


Archived Weather Data

7 AM Convect Outlook 7 AM 250 MB 7 AM 500 MB 7 AM 850 MB
8:33 AM Surface 1:07 PM Surface 12 PM Surf/Dew SPC Meso 8 PM Surf/Dew SPC Meso
12 PM SbCAPE SPC Meso 12:45 PM Satellite 3:45 PM Satellite NAM Surf 7AM val 1 PM
NAM Surf 7AM val 7 PM NAM 500 MB 7 AM val 1 PM NAM 850 MB 7 AM val 1 PM NAM 850 MB 7 AM val 7 PM
NAM SREF 7 AM val 1 PM NAM SREF 7 AM val 7 PM NAM CAPE 7 AM val 1 PM NAM CAPE 7 AM val 7 PM
NAM Precip 7 AM val 7 PM NAM CAPE 7 (twistdata) val 4 PM Sig Tor SREF 10 AM Sig Tor SREF 1 PM
WRF Reflect 5 PM WRF Reflect 6 PM WRF Reflect 7 PM RAP Reflect 7 AM Val 4 PM
RAP Reflect 7 AM Val 5 PM HRRR Reflect 9 hr val 3 PM HRRR Reflect 10 hr val 4 PM HRRR Reflect 11 hr val 5 PM
HRRR Reflect 12 hr val 6 PM HRRR Reflect 13 hr val 7 PM 7 AM Surface Plot Witchita NWS Report and 5/19/13 Storm Reports

Go to May 20, 2012

All images Copyright 2012 William T. Hark