Storm Chase May 25, 2012: La Crosse, Kansas Tornado and Kansas Gustnadoes


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



I was chasing with Robert Balogh and we started the day in Lawrence, Kansas. We planned on targeting the triple point. There was a cold front across Kansas and approaching upper level trough. I liked the predicted backed winds ahead of a low in Kansas but had concerns about the cap delaying storm development until after dark. The SPC had issued a slight risk for western Oklahoma through Kansas and into Nebraska and Iowa with a small area of 5% tornado risk. Our target was Rush Center, Kansas. We headed west in cool, cloudy and murky weather. When we reached Hays, Kansas, we turned south and within a few miles, the sky became sunny and the temperatures rose from the upper 60's to low 80's. We stopped in Rush Center, a ramshackle little town with a gas station. We waited and chatted with numerous other chasers who began to arrive in town. Dave Hoadley was the first of many chasers to join the convergence. The massive chaser convergence included Jeff and Kathryn Piotrowski. Jason Persoff also soon arrived. We were in contact with Scott McPartland, Dave Lewison, Chris Kridler and the Canadians who initially waited in a nearby town before shifting over to Rush Center. After a couple of hours, storms developed and we drove north and east following the main storm. We had headed north on CR 584 and had noticed an unusual lowering on the storm by 5:50 PM. We stopped at the intersection of CR 310 and Ave D at 6:00 PM and watched the lowering more prominent by 6:18 PM. The lowering developed an inflow tail. We stopped again on Munjon Rd near Walker Rd, 3.7 miles south of Walker, Kansas in Ellis County. A brief gustnado formed in the blowing dust visible under the storm. It quickly dissipated but another larger and more isolated gustnado ,(wide view of gustnado) formed at 6:38 PM. We followed the storms and were caught in large amounts of blowing dust. Another gustnado may have impacted our vehicles. I got separated from the group after we followed the initial storm to the interstate. I tracked the storm eastward on I-70 but the storm was becoming more elevated. There was a nice wall cloud to the west of Russell, Kansas on a different storm and further development to the south. I turned west on I-70 at 7:46 PM and could see that wall cloud to the west of Russell. I headed south, passing on a tornado-warned storm for the larger, more isolated tail-end storm to the south. This one was on the warm front. At 8:18 PM, I turned west on 4 toward a massive storm . I could also see the smaller rotating storm to my north. By 8:29 PM, the storm to the north had a nice dark wall cloud against an orange sky. It really hurt to leave the northerly storm. I continued west through La Crosse, Kansas and saw a massive wall cloud. I stopped on 4 about 4 ˝ miles west of La Crosse at 8:50 PM and watched the developing wall cloud,(later view of wall cloud). There was nice contrast with an orange sky and frequent staccato bolts of lightning. I waited and watched the wall cloud tighten with increased motion and inflow bands. A tornado at this time would have been nice as it would have been well-contrasted against the orange sky. That nice sunset faded as darkness arrived. I could see rising scud and a needle funnel directly west at 9:07 PM. A large funnel was clearly visible by 9:13 PM but it was too dark to see ground circulation. The storm had beautiful structure in addition to the developing tornado in the fading light. It was definitely a tornado by 9:17 PM, and I could clearly see large ground circulation at 9:21 PM. There was a brief power flash to the south of the elephant trunk tornado. I was now using a slow shutter speed on the video camera and could only see the tornado through the viewfinder except when the entire storm was lit by lightning. I was still watching the tornado at 9:23 PM from my same position as I had started at 8:50 PM. With darkness, rain and the approaching tornado, I decided to end the chase as I don't like chasing after dark. Unfortunately, I did miss a nice photo opportunity as the tornado was starting to “rope out” and a new tornado formed. The lightning flashes illuminated the tornadoes for decent still images. I headed east through La Crosse. Luckily, I missed a small unexpected accessory tornado that damaged part of downtown. I eventually ended the night in Great Bend, Kansas.

Chaser convergence in
Rush Center, KS

Dave Hoadley and Bill Hark
Rush Center, KS

Initiation as viewed from
Rush Center, KS at 5:28 PM

Unusual lowering at 5:57 PM
north of Rush Center, KS

Drs Robert Balogh & Jason Persoff
watching the first storm

Gustnado at 6:38 PM

Wide angle view of storm with
gustnado at 6:39 PM.
Brad Rousseau watching the storm

Blowing dust from the storm

7:47 PM view toward Russell, KS of
storm with lowering

Heading west on 4 toward large
storm west of La Crosse, KS at 8:18PM

Smaller tornado-warned storm with
wall cloud. View to the north
from 4 at 8:27 PM while
going west to larger storm

Wall cloud at 8:51 PM. Image taken from
4 west of La Crosse, KS

Wall cloud at 8:59 PM

Tornado at 9:16 PM, view to west
from 4, west of La Crosse, KS

9:17 PM

9:22 PM

Weather Data, Radar Image and Tornado Path


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All images Copyright 2012 William T. Hark