Tornadic storm and massive mesocyclone in Trego, Kansas: May 22, 2008

 

 

chase images and log by William T. Hark, M.D.

 


YouTube Video of the massive meso in Trego County (2 min 15 sec)

This was a very frustrating day due to rapid storm northward motion over poor road networks. The SPC had a moderate risk and 15% risk of tornadoes across western Kansas that was later updated with a small area of high risk and a 30% probability for tornadoes in west-central Kansas. A large and deep upper level cyclone was developing from a trough across the Great Basin area. A mid-level jet max was predicted to move into the chase area by the evening. There was a surface low in Colorado, with southeast surface winds across Kansas, dryline extending south from the low and a warm front across Kanas. Warm moist air from the Gulf was moving into the region from the southeast. The dewpoints were already in the mid 60's for west central Kansas by 9:30AM.

I started in Colby and waited until lunch time checking data. Eventually, a line of storms developed to the east in a north-south line. I decided to head south toward Scott City on 83 by 1:55PM to intercept the more discreet appearing cells that were near Garden City. These storms were moving rapidly north. I turned east at Scott City on 96 and awaited the first storm. I had a nice view to the south at 2:35PM (1P). I shifted slightly east on 96 and waited by the Lane County line. The storm developed a wall cloud and funnel-like lowering by 2:49PM (2P) but then the storm lost some of its structure. (Image of me watching the storm toward the west at 3:08PM (3V) and photo of horses watching the DOW (4P)). I shifted back west for a better view of the storm as it approached the area. North of 96, it strengthened. The storm motion was almost due north and very rapid. I couldn't follow this storm due to the poor road network. More storms were forming to the south. I waited for the next storm that also passed to the north. There was another wall cloud and inflow bands (5P) associated with this storm by 4:30PM as it also moved north of 96. Again, following it would be difficult due to road options. I was also waiting for the next and largest storm as it was approaching Dighton. That storm was moving slightly more northeast of north with better opportunities to follow it. I drove toward Dighton, stopping to get gas in the town as tornado sirens wailed in the background. The DOW and crew were also at the Kwik Shop at 4:50PM (6V). I was worried the storm would drop a tornado before reaching Dighton. I drove south on 23 to intercept it. The storm was to the southwest. I barely made my east option by 5:16 as I skirted the edge of the hail core. I turned east on a dirt road (county road 1543) to get away from the approaching storm. The road went south, then east before turning back north. I was going north on Turkey Red by 5:23PM. This allowed me to safely follow the storm northward, but I lost some position.There may have been a funnel on the storm when I turned north. There was a nice wall cloud (7V) (enhanced view (7V)) at 5:27PM. I drove north playing catch-up to the storm that was to my west.At the intersection on county road 80 and Turkey Red in Lane County, I observed a spinup tornado (8V)under a wall cloud at 5:30PM. I headed north on 380 Rd following the northward moving storm (9P) to my west. Keeping up with the storm (10P)was difficult. At 5:37 PM, I turned east on 96. The storm (11V) was to my northwest. I drove north on another dirt road (county road 523) just west of Beeler. The storm was still to my west and strengthening. It also had a lowering (12V) at 5:46PM. I reached route 4 by Utica, then north on 82. I was barely keeping up with the storm as I blasted north on the dirt and gravel road. At 6:12PM in Trego County, I could see a massive meso (13P)with rapid rotation. I approached the storm (14V)as it was lowering. At 6:15 PM, I filmed what I thought was a massive wedge tornado (15V) south of Collyer. Huge clouds of dust swirled into the storm (16V). The underside was dark and obscured by dust. The storm (17V) became wrapped in rain. I followed it northward (18V) along dirt roads, jogging slightly eastward to stay away from precipitation. I was going north on 110 Avenue at 6:25PM. I saw a nice funnel and larger lowering (19V) (enhanced image (19V)) at 6:29PM to my northwest. There may have been a tornado. I had to get closer. As I reached a small grove of trees at 6:30PM, I found the road was blocked by fallen tree limbs (20V). Arrggg!!. As I was getting ready to turn around, several carloads of chasers arrived. Working together, we were all able to move the fallen branches and trees (image of me running to help move branches (21V). I continued north along with several other chasers in a small line. The storm was getting away. I finally reached I-70. At the exit, I saw the TIV again with their entourage. I followed the storm northward on 283 past Wakeeney and Hill City. I ran into Cloud 9 Tours at 7PM and saw another lowering on the storm to the west at 7:06 PM. We turned around north of Hill City to avoid a rain wrapped meso. I called off the chase due to darkness and poor visibility. Later in Hays at a steak restaurant, I chatted with Charles Edwards, George Kourounis, and Mike Theiss of Cloud 9 Tours. ( image of part of Cloud 9 Tours (22P)) They were east of the storm that I was on and closely observed a brief tornado to the east of the meso 6:30PM. My "wedge tornado" was actually a very low rapidly rotating mesocyclone. I couldn't see the ground from my viewpoint. Oh well, it was still very cool to watch. Over all, a disappointing storm chase due to the many reported tornadoes. I saw only one confirmed tornado in Lane County but the large rapidly rotating meso was very cool and better than many tornadoes that I have seen. I also saw numerous wall clouds and funnels. Thanks to Dave Lewison for some nowcasting.


(1V)

(2P)

(3V)

(4P)

(5P)

(6V)

(7V)

(7V) enhanced

(8V)

(9P)

(10P)

(11V)

(12V)

(13P)

(14V)

(15V)

(16V)

(17V)

(18V)

(19V)

(19V) enhanced

(20V)

(21V)

(22P)


Baron XM radar images and GPS Image


3:11 PM CDT

4:10 PM CDT

4:20 PM CDT

6:15 PM CDT

Position on GPS while
filming the massive meso


V - Video still P - Image from digital camera

 

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