Chase Date: May 24, 2021
Scott Peake, Jesse Risley, Darin Brunin, Daniel Shaw, Charles Peek, Aaron Jayjack
Miles Logged: 746
States Chased: KS
Tornadoes Witnessed: 5
Largest Hail Encountered: 1.25"
Highest Wind Encountered: 90MPH
Severe Risks: SPC Outlooks
The Selden Kansas Tornado was one of the craziest of my chase career. I was involved in a motor vehicle accident as well as getting very close to a not-very-strong tornado.
We started the day in Colby, Kansas at the Hampton Inn. I started my usual morning forecast and quickly figured out this one would be “easy”. The outflow boundary from the previous nights storms was clear as day on the visible satellite. How could I mess this day up? Stick with the boundary.
Before leaving, I decided to renew my stay for another night. Ran into Daniel Shaw and Charles Peek down by the front desk and caught up with them.
We hit the road in the afternoon, heading down to the Leoti area. Brittany drove since I had some work to finish up on the way. As the storm near Leoti started to mature, I finally was able to log off for the day.
In search of hail, we headed into the core by driving up highway 25. There was not much of any hail to be found, so I decided to head back south. Somewhere along the way, I lost data and would stay that way for the next hour it would seem. I watched the storm north of Leoti struggle with multiple updrafts and lack of strong backed surface flow. It also seemed to be pretty high-based in my opinion, but it was Western Kansas.
Western Kansas Roads suck
I started to travel down a dirt road. I made it a couple miles down before conditions seriously deteriorated. Multiple roads were covered fully in water. The only real option was to bail back west to Highway 25. Unfortunately the roads would be a huge detriment, and I was pretty convinced the storm was trending more linear than anything from observation. A decision was made to go north.
Eventually I got a blip of data, and a message came through from Bill. He had seen 3, maybe 4 tornadoes. My heart sank. I got grumpy as hell. It seemed like we had busted, and did it with an “easy” forecast. I continued north on 25.
Eventually I managed to get back to Colby right on the heels of the tornado warned storm. I thought that perhaps we saw a tornado off in the distance, but I can’t say for sure.
Gem Kansas Tornado
As we got to the rain free base area of the storm, I decided to head north on highway 439. Shortly after heading north, we saw our first tornado of the day. It was brief, but the funnel condensed most of the way down.
The cloud motion was crazy. We sat on the side of the road for a few minutes observing the storm before heading up into the core. I gambled on a road that looked like it was perhaps more improved. Most of the roads in western kansas are dirt, and most turn to awful mud when wet. Somehow, amazingly, this road had not been soaked and was pretty solid to drive on. I was able to sit in the cage and observe as the storm morphed.
Upon reviewing footage later, we witnessed at least 1 brief tornado up in the cage before heading east.
Running into Darin Brunin
Heading east, we eventually got to a paved option at highway 36. I pulled over and got out of my car when Darin Brunin pulled up behind us. We sat and watched the storm briefly before deciding to head back south.
As we were driving south, we saw a funnel form to our right. The funnel was mostly condensed, and I was able to confirm ground circulation with a debris cloud underneath. It lasted 1-2 minutes or so, before the mesocyclone became enshrouded in rain.
Selden Kansas Tornado One
I returned to US-83 in Rexford, turning left, back northeast. US-83 would keep us parallel to the storm on a paved option for awhile. We made multiple stops on US-83 before stopping just short of Selden a mile or two. A beautiful elephant trunk/stovepipe with a nice debris cloud at the base.
This tornado lasted for approximately 10 minutes. Brittany and I wanted to get closer, so we jumped in and approached where it was going to cross the road. The tornado morphed into a beautiful rope as it dissipated over the road in front of us.
Main Selden Kansas Tornado
I continued northeast on US-83 towards Selden before I realized a mesocyclone handoff had happened. I was under the new collar cloud, and it seemed possible that a very large tornado was about to drop. I ended up backing up down the road to get out from underneath until it planted.
This tornado was larger and seemed more violent in a multi vortex fashion. I continued down 83, watching vorticies dancing in front of us and next to the road. There was plenty of debris flying through the air including something big that blew in front of another chasers car.
As I was heading into the town of Selden, I had a traffic accident with another chaser. Both of us were OK and I was able to get my car home afterwards. No air bag deployment, thankfully.
After about 10 minutes of being on the ground, the tornado would dissipate. We were given an awesome display of nature as the tornado moved into the open fields just outside of town.
We came upon an overturned semi and that ended the chase. The driver was alright.