Chase Date: May 24, 2016
Chrystal Ceniza, Jari Ylioja, Jena McShane
Adam Lucio, Dick McGowan, Darin Brunin, Stephen Jones, Alex Bartholomew, Alec Scholten
Miles Logged: 371
States Chased: KS
Tornadoes Witnessed: 10
Largest Hail Encountered: 2"
Severe Risks: SPC Outlooks
Breakfast and Pre-chase
After waking up late after sleeping in a bit, I worked on a few items for work and then edited a few videos from Texas on Sunday the 22nd before grabbing a shower and heading to The Diner in Norman for breakfast. After breakfast, we headed out immediately, leaving Norman a little late – just before 2pm.
The target was going to be northwest of Woodward, possibly Buffalo or even into Kansas near Coldwater. It all depended on where the outflow boundary/dryline intersection was. With a shortwave glancing from the NW, the further north that happened the better chances we could see some big tornadoes.
We made great time, stopping in Woodward for a bathroom break, and then again in Buffalo where we ran into Adam Lucio and topped off our tank. The first signs of storm development was happening further northwest than I had expected south of Dodge City, but it was right on my target – where the OFB and Dryline came together.
It was a race up 183 to 160 west to 283. The storm became tornado warned about 4 or 5 scans into its lifecycle while I was still down on US160 near Ashland.
We continued north to Minneola, coming into view of the base pretty shortly after turning north. It seemed like this would be a pretty epic storm just from the look at the beginning. Very beefy wall cloud, good rotation.
We headed north towards Dodge City, passing Minneola and pulling west on a side road about 5 miles north of Minneola and heading about 5 miles west on that before stopping to tripod video of the first touchdown.
It became apparent pretty quickly that this would be a long life cycle tornado and that we needed to get closer, since it was still to our northwest and didn’t seem to be moving east at all, or very slowly.
We headed west a couple of miles and the road we had planned to turn north on was magically paved. Talk about a gift horse.
We headed north, roughly paralleling the tornado with multiple quick stops for photos. I still don’t think I realized the tornado was moving north and couldn’t understand why I kept getting in rain wrap around due east of the tornado. Eventually we got Northeast and got a little bit of time to take some video/photos.
Eventually we came upon another paved road and decided to make a run west for a close intercept. As I was driving somewhat close (within 1/4 to 1/2 mile) I was passed by Reed as he just about drove into it, and we both ended up fairly close as the dust cloud around the base broke a bit with the tornado roping out. It continued to travel in rope out stage for a few more miles and we stopped to take photos again.
We headed north and suddenly realized a house had been hit and pretty much wiped clean, so I headed to the house driving fast all over a bunch of debris. I blew a tire, it was leaking loudly when we opened the door, and another was losing air afterwards.
Change Flat Tire
We ran to the house, and found the residents of the house coming out of their storm shelter. The look on the wifes face was downright sad. She was seeing her house gone, everything gone. She was in shock and immediately asked us what she should do.
We helped her and her husband out of their shelter with their dogs and got her to sit in Stephen Jones’ vehicle. Stephen and Alex pulled up right behind us. I also had to deal with a flat tire and an ongoing tornado to our east. I setup a tripod and Jari and I worked together to change the tire.
Chrystal and Jena watched the tornado, very photogenic. There was even 3 at once at one point.
Once we got the tire changed, family had shown up for the residents of the house and we headed out, being more careful with the debris on the way out. They had 3 pickup trucks at the house, we were only able to see 2 in wide open fields. No idea where the third one ended up. Very crazy what power a tornado has.
As we got back onto the road a big tornado was in progress to our north on the west side of Dodge City. It morphed into a fat stovepipe at one point and almost a wedge as we played catch up. Knowing the roads was good and we caught up with the next mesocyclone/tornado family northwest of town thanks to the road from 54 to 400 and then the US 50 along the west of town by the Casino.
We also got lucky that we were able to get around a police road block in NW DDC and continue north on 14th.
We continued north and saw 2 more tornadoes at once near the Landfill and came across a propane tank that had been thrown into the road, spewing gas. One of the most ‘Oh shit’ moments of any chase was driving by that and getting the heck out of there.
Some more navigation down a poor dirt road, this time on a spare tire. I managed to keep the car on the road and had to go slow. Unfortunately the storm was a HP blobby mess by this point and wasn’t even tornado warned. We saw one more brief tornado near Jetmore before giving up for the day in Jetmore.
It was at this time i realized I had another tire problem and we needed air for my front left tire. The back right was the one with the spare. We waited out the rain and hail in Jetmore at a gas station before filling up with air and heading back south to Dodge City where I had booked rooms at the Hampton Inn.
A celebratory steak dinner was had by many that night at Central Station in Dodge City! What an amazing chase day.