Storm Chase May 28, 2013: Bennington, Kansas Wedge Tornado




chase images,log, video links and archived radar and data by William T. Hark, M.D. Video (HD) and pictures available for licensing. Click on images to enlarge



HD storm chase video of the Bennington, KS tornado



May 28 was an absolutely amazing storm chase day. I was chasing in a large group including Robert Balogh, Scott McPartland, Dave Lewison, Chris Kridler, Dayna Vettese, Brad Rousseau and Greg Stephens and the TWN weather crew of Mark Robinson and Jaclyn Whittal. We started in Hays, Kansas unsure of the target area. Potential targets included northeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas and eastern Kansas. The Texas panhandle was another possibility but too far. Although there was significant instability, upper level winds were fairly weak. Eventually, we drifted east and then south to Great Bend to keep both Kansas areas in play. We noticed clearing of the cumulus to the west. Better moisture was eastward. We went northeast on 156 through Ellsworth at 3:33 PM, then east on 140 through Salina, Kansas. The cumulus appeared agitated. Initially, we were following a developing storm just east of Salina, but it died as soon as we reached it. Meanwhile, a larger storm suddenly exploded on the edge of Salina and moved slowly northward. We stopped briefly at 4:28 (1800 Ave & Barn Road) to observe it before going north through Solomon. The storm was gradually strengthening. At 4:50, we turned west on 18 toward Bennington. The storm was directly to our west. The road options were limited. There was a wall cloud by 5:24 pm and funnel at 5:30 PM. I don't know if the funnel touched down due to trees but it soon dissipated. We all stopped on a dirt road just east of Bennington to watch the storm. At 5:33 PM, I wanted to get a bit closer, and I turned back west on 18 with Robert. The others stayed behind. Another wall cloud formed and was a bit more prominent. Robert and I passed through Bennington at 5:35 PM. The Bennington tornado sirens were activated. On the west side of town, we pulled over at 5:36 PM with a nice view of the storm. The road was lined with numerous chasers. There was rising scud under the storm. It appeared to be shifting southward. The area of rotation widened and then became directly west of our position. The inflow was increasing by 5:42 PM. Unfortunately, the road did not continue directly to the storm but stopped at a north-south road. The storm structure was beautiful with inflow tail and banding. A tornado formed at 5:45 PM directly to the west. We were parked just east of the town of Bennington. The tornado appeared stationary and was getting bigger. At times, rain would wrap around it. We were ready to blast east at any time since the storm seemed to be moving directly toward us having taken a rightward turn. Looking back, I probably could have gotten much closer since the tornado was more stationary. The tornado was becoming rain-wrapped by 5:55 PM. We shifted eastward a bit, briefly stopping before continuing through town. Judging distance was difficult with a rain-wrapped tornado that could be approaching our position. The east escape route went through a town and there was the potential of getting blocked by a railroad crossing. We stopped on the east side of town at 6:06 PM. The tornado was barely visible through the rain. This farther view did give a nice perspective of the whole storm. Since the storm was still fairly stationary, Robert and I drove back west and parked by Scott and Dave on the west side of Bennington at 6:12 PM. The storm was a mass of rain though we could briefly see a faint cone at 6:17 PM. We watched the storm for a while before heading west to investigate some damage. Luckily, the tornado was mainly over open countryside. With decreasing visibility, we ended the chase. We all met for a steak dinner, the traditional post-tornado meal at a restaurant in Salina.

We were on the storm from a small towering cumulus through producing a tornado that remained nearly stationary. Unfortunately, thanks to social media, we saw images from chasers who were much closer to the storm or had a better viewing angle. The tornado was mainly stationary instead of shifting eastward or northeastward as expected. This would have allowed a very close approach. At the time, we couldn't judge the distance and didn't want to get too close. Almost always, someone will have better photos or videos. I am very pleased with my chase results. The tornado was rated EF3 based on a damage survey and was up to one mile wide. Per the National Weather Service report, 2 mobile doppler radars were within 5-6km of this tornado and did sample winds around and above 100m well in excess of 166 mph. In fact they measured winds of 247 mph at 100m. I am happy there were no serious injuries or deaths.

Developing storm, 4:28 PM
View from 1800 Ave & Barn Road

The "Auto Club," 4:29 PM

Developing storm, 5:00 PM

XM Radar Image, 5:00 PM

XM Radar Image, 5:20 PM

Developing funnel, 5:30 PM
View to west, just E. of Bennington, KS

Close-up, funnel 5:30 PM

Wide view to the west, 5:30PM

Lightning, 5:33 PM

Heading west on 18
toward Bennington, KS 3:34 PM

View to west, parked along 18
west of Bennington, 3:39 PM

Wall cloud, rising scud and
rapid motion, 5:40 PM

XM Radar Image, 5:40 PM

Tornado-warned storm, 5:44 PM

Tornado! 5:45 PM

XM Radar Image 5:45 PM

Tornado, 5:47 PM

Robert Balogh photographing
the tornado, 5:47 PM

Tornado, 5:49 PM

Close view, tornado, 5:49 PM

Bill Hark photographing the tornado, 5:49 PM

5:52 PM CDT

Wide view tornado, 5:53 PM

Zoomed view, 5:53 PM

Wide view, tornado, 5:53 PM

Wide view, tornado and storm,
from east side of Bennington, 6:02 PM

Wide view (highly processed) of the
tornado and storm from east of Bennington, 6:02 PM

Rain-wrapped tornado, 6:04 PM
View from east of Bennington

XM Radar, 6:05PM

6:13 PM, Watching storm from
west of Bennington. Dave Lewison,
Robert Balogh, Scott McPartland, Bill Hark

6:25 PM CDT

6:31 PM

6:45 PM

6:48 PM

6:52 PM
. . . .

GPS Chase Map with Observation Points and Tornado Track

Archived Weather Data

12Z 500 MB, 00Z 500 MB 12Z 850 MB, 00Z 850 MB 850 MB 2300Z Surface 1323Z
Sig Tor 20Z Dewpoint, winds 20Z CAPE 2300Z 12Z NAM 500 MB 2100Z
12Z NAM 500 MB 0000Z 12Z NAM 850 MB 12Z NAM Surface 2100Z 12Z NAM CAPE 2100Z
12Z NAM CAPE 0000Z 12Z NAM Precip 0000Z 12Z NAM Surface 0000Z 15Z RAP EHI 2300Z
10Z RAP 500 MB 0000Z NWS Tornado Track . .

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All images Copyright 2013 William T. Hark