High Risk Tornado Outbreak in Central Kansas

posted in: Storm Chasing | 0
Storm Chase Details

Chase Date: April 14, 2012
Chase Partners:
Cory Watkins

Chasers Encountered:
Ashley Poling, Bill Oosterbaan, David Drummond, Jay McCoy, Scott Peake, Isaac Pato, Bob Hartig, Adam Reagan, Jesse Hines, Adam Lucio, Lorraine Mahoney, Connor McCrorey

Miles Logged: 881
States Chased: KS
Tornadoes Witnessed: 5
Largest Hail Encountered: 2.25"
Severe Risks: SPC Outlooks

Chase Recap:

The GFS had been showing a potential outbreak for the Thursday-Sunday time frame for almost 10 days, and had really started showing Saturday the 14th as a big day almost 5 days out. The SPC maxed out the probabilities, going with a Day 3 MDT risk and a Day 2 HIGH risk.

Naturally, a well advertised setup in the middle of tornado alley in April on a Saturday seemed like every chaser in the world would be out – and it was no different for this chaser.

We headed out, leaving Norman around 10 am and heading northbound on I-35. The original target was near Salina, but Adam Lucio and I decided to head west on US400 out of Wichita towards the Pratt area.

As we approached the Pratt area, a storm started to fire southwest of Greensburg and quickly became severe warned. It wasn’t much later that tornado reports popped up on the storm. Game on, we were off to chase that after a quick gas tank topping off in Greensburg.

Honestly the storm didn’t look the best at first, but did kind of start to wrap up. We followed for a few miles before giving up as it appeared a storm was going up on the rear flank. We went back to that and followed it along the same route.

The storm again looked to get its act together and rotated like crazy. It seemed like a tornado may drop at any moment, and then poof, it seemingly went outflow dominant and looked like crap on radar.

We gave up and headed back down US183 where Adam Reagan captured the best video of the day from any chaser hands down – Me demolishing a turkey! I was heading south when a turkey decided to walk out into the road. There was no way to stop in time and I hit it, and poof, instant turkey everywhere!

The best part of the video is our reactions. I just throw my hands in the air like ‘What the heck are you gonna do?’ and Cory runs around the back of the truck and holds his hands over his nose. Epic.

We continued east on US-400 with a plan to get to Pratt and head south to intercept the next storm coming up. Looking at the beast I left to the north, I felt like I had made a mistake eventhough I thought the storm environment further south was better. There was no way we could have kept up with the storm we just left, however, as it rocketed away at lightspeed.

We dropped south at Pratt, running into some hail a mile before my east option at Sawyer, KS. Unfortunately I gathered some dents in my truck and broke the rain guards on the side, but I did witness this tornado, albeit brief, near Sawyer, KS.

I followed this storm for awhile, heading north of US400 again and deciding it looked like garbage and that the storm to the south was looking better. This was becoming a recurring theme.

It was decided we could make it to Kingman and fill up with gas and get some food quickly before heading down to the next storm, so that is exactly what we did. This would be the storm I’d pretty much end the day on, following it from southwest of Kingman to well after dark short of I-70.

Supposedly there was a brief tornado near south of Kingman, but I never saw ground contact. I was quite the distance away, though.

As we were driving back north, traffic got somewhat bad in Kingman. David Drummond was about 3 cars in front of me, and he bailed on a side road and I did the same following him through the south side of Kingman. Unfortunately I was having data issues at the time and didn’t stream his dukes of hazard move as he went over a huge dip in the road then a bump then another dip. He must have become at least a foot airborne!

The storm started to yet again get it’s act together north of US400 and we continued on, eventually catching up and witnessing 2 brief tornadoes. The first tornado was right in my rear view mirror and the second I had managed to stop for, touched down in the field right next to us a couple hundred yards away. What a pretty incredible sight, although nothing like I had expected so far for the day. So tornadoes 2 and 3 were behind me, and then the storm seemingly fell apart again looking very crappy on radar.

I had to stop and use my phone to reboot one of the ChaserTV servers remotely before we could continue on past Haven, KS.

I got up to US-50 and had planned to head east to I-135 and back down towards the monster storm coming out of Oklahoma, but the storm started to take a better shape on radar and lightning began to ramp up. I decided it was foolish to try and bail at that point. Foolish it would have been as the show really started going.

Between Burrton and Hesston Tornado #4 touched down and grew to be a big cone tornado. Unfortunately the Kansas State Police felt the need to road block the road we were trying to get down into the city of Hesston while the tornado was multiple miles away and moving away from us, which delayed us a bit.

Once they allowed traffic to flow again, we headed into Hesston then north witnessing another tornado. This time the tornado was a stovepipe and lasted for approximately 5-8 minutes before seemingly dissipating.

I continued on heading way east and getting ahead of most of the rest of the chaser hoardes and getting up KS-15 to US-56 east. The storm had yet again lost most of its shape and I figured it was time to call it a night, but continued along as lightning again ramped up.

We could see a huge wall cloud to our north, but could see nothing underneath it between lightning strikes as we drove by Canada and Marion. We headed north on US-77 and stopped about 5 miles up to get some stills. I managed to catch one with a new tornado underneath, but couldn’t get any sort of video because my battery had died and we didn’t find the other battery right away.

This would be Tornado #6 and the last one of the night and would grow to be a very nice cone and elephant trunk and possibly stovepipe shape as we drove north towards it near Lost Springs, KS.

We gave up near Herrington and called it a night, but little did we know the night was still plenty of hours long.

We headed back to the Kansas Turnpike down US77 and then got ourselves really close to the monster supercell going through Wichita. It seemed we were in a safe spot, but the winds changed direction drastically and made me worried for a couple of quick moments.

I got a text message from David Drummond saying he was in trouble, and got ahold of him and Jay McCoy. He was stuck in Wichita and needed a tow, so the next couple hours would be spent towing him to a nearby hotel and then taking David out for dinner at the ihop where I got eggs and steak.

All in all Cory and I returned back to Norman around 430 am to find Cory had a flat tire. What an absolutely crazy day!