Beautiful tornadoes near Howes, South Dakota: May 24, 2010




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


YouTube Video of Howes Tornado (Hit reload if screen is blank)

What an amazing chase day! I started the day in Valentine, Nebraska. There were some chase opportunities in western Nebraska and Kansas the previous day but I blew them off and chose to get much needed sleep. I expected Monday to be a much better day.

With an approaching short wave trough, surface low that was expected to shift across South Dakota and warm moist air from the south, a significant severe weather outbreak was expected especially along the warm front and ahead of the low with better backed surface winds. The best chance of isolated cells would be near the warm front. I was worried about fast northerly storm motion. If one was caught behind, catching up to the storm would be difficult. Storms were also expected to develop unusually early.

I drove north to Murdo, South Dakota and then west and north again to the town of Philip. I wanted to be close to the warm front and ahead of the surface low. My own target was originally Eagle Butte. Tim Vasquez preferred Howes. The chase would be difficult due to fast northerly storm motions and poor road network. After gas and a lunch from a gas station, I drove north and sat on a hill watching the sky. I was relunctant at that point to go farther north until I could see were storms were forming. The air was unusually warm and humid with a gusty southeasterly breeze. At 1643 Z (10:43 MDT), the temp in Phillip was 78, dewpoint 67 and southeasterly surface winds. Eventually, there were sheared cumulus congestus increasing in numbers and size by 12:05 PM MDT. Soon, storms exploded to the south, east and southwest. I ran into Charles Edwards and Cloud 9 Tours while back at the gas station. As a group, we headed north on 73. Initially, the storm to the east appeared dominant but it was racing north over an area of poor road network. The southerly storm was dying. The rapidly developing southwesterly storm was the target.. It was moving northward. The road (73) turned west and we headed toward the storm. There was a ragged wall cloud and inflow band by 1:07 MDT and funnel/tornado was visible by 1:20 PM MDT. We raced northward to get ahead of the storm as the funnel became a cone tornado. We stopped near Howes and watched it move closer to road from 1:22 PM to 1:30 PM. We went slightly west at Howes (State Road 34) rather than turning north so that we could watch the tornado cross the road. The storm structure and tornado was beautiful. We blasted west as the tornado approached from the south. There was a small church and we positioned ourselves to get the church into the foreground for tornado video. The nicely lit, well contrasted tornado moved across the road less than 200 yards from me. It reached the other side of the road at 1:34 PM. A car, coming toward us, barely missed being hit by the tornado. Wow, they were stupid and lucky. There was a small satellite vortex associated with the main tornado that most of us missed. I later saw it on my video. I wasn't able to see the tornado anymore by approximately 1:37 PM. While watching a tornado, there was an eastbound vehicle that passed right by the tornado. The car barely made it. We headed back east, then north on 73 in parallel with the storm toward Faith. I could see another tornado by 1:45 PM. It was a nice white cone tornado but more distant. Luckily, the northbound road paralleled the storm. The tornado was visible until 1:49 PM MDT. There was another brief rope tornado that I only caught a glimpse before it disappeared behind a hill. The storm along with additional storms merged into a line. The chase was over for the day and we headed to Rapid City for a nice celebratory steak dinner. Steak is the traditional meal after seeing tornadoes. I saw multiple tornadoes including one that crossed the road ahead of me. I am glad it passed over open countryside and there was no obvious damage.

HD Video Stills

Digital Photos

XM radar image at 12:55 MDT

GPS chase log


Archived forecast model, surface and upper air data for May 24, 2010

Day 1txt 11 AM CDT Day 1 graphic 16:30 Day 1 Tor % 16:30 Storm Reports
12Z 250mb 12Z 500mb 12Z 700mb 12Z 850mb
9Z Surf Analysis 1643Z Surface 16Z SPC Meso T,Dew 16Z SPC Meso CAPE
16Z SPC Meso SigTor 16Z SPC Meso 1km EHI 1231Z Sat 1655Z Sat
00Z NAM 18Z 850 00Z NAM 00Z 850 12Z NAM 18Z CAPE & 00Z 00Z NAM 00Z CAPE
00Z NAM 12Z Dew 00Z NAM 18Z Dew 00Z NAM 00Z Dew 12Z NAM 18Z Dew
12Z NAM 00Z Dew 00Z NAM 12Z Pcp 00Z NAM 18Z Pcp 00Z NAM 00Z Pcp
12Z NAM 18Z Pcp 00Z NAM 18Z Sfc 00Z NAM 00Z Sfc 12Z NAM 18Z Sfc
12Z NAM 00Z Sfc 00Z NAM 00Z SRH 12Z NAM 18Z SRH 12Z NAM 00Z Temp
12Z RUC 21Z Temp 12Z RUC 21Z Sfc 4KM WRF ref 1800v006 4KM WRF ref 1900v007
4KM WRF ref 2000v008 06Z NAM 18Z Sfc 10m 06Z NAM 21Z Sfc 10m 06Z NAM 00Z EHI
NWS report and
damage survey
NWS damage path map . .

Go to to May 25, 2010

All images Copyright 2010 William T. Hark