Day 2 - May 30

CHS Witnesses Its First Supercell and Tornado

It did not take very long for the CHS Chase Team to catch and experience its first supercell.  Our plan-of-the-day was to drive from Norman, Oklahoma to Goodland, Kansas to meet up with Mike Ridgeway, teacher at Robert Stuart Jr. High in Twin Falls, Idaho.  With Mike was student Pierre Tuscow.  Enroute to Goodland, which is in northwestern Kansas, the team witnessed several areas of thunderstorm development; however, we had to rendezvous with the other half of the team.

After meeting in Goodland, we headed briefly north on highway 27 to Wheeler, Kansas (my favorite place), then east along US highway 36.  We traveled at least three hours before catching up with the convection we had seen earlier in the day.  The storms had dropped golfball sized hail near Smith Center in northcentral Kansas.  These storms began to weaken; however, new storms were forming to the east and northeast near Concordia.  We continued east to intercept.  The result was several supercells in a tight cluster in which we were in the middle.  The two closest cells each produced very distinct wall clouds, banding, and a brief tornado touchdown.

We decided to pursue the northernmost cell since it had the most prominent features.  A nice hill was found in very open country that provided us with an unobstructed view of the wall cloud.  The storm produced a brief tornado touchdown before producing a large cone at the base of the wall cloud for about one minute; however, this cone never touched down.  Typical of many supercells, the storm began to turn toward the right of its former track or to the southeast toward our location.  Since a rule of storm chasing is to have an escape route, we were able to easily avoid the worst of the storm.

The entire system began to form in the a Mesoscale Convective System (MCS) which is a large organized area of thunderstorms that typically forms during the nighttime hours in the Plains.  These systems can produce tornadoes; but, the main product is heavy flooding rains, large hail, and damaging winds.  We headed quickly south but the developing MCS caught up with the team and pounded the chase vehicle with quarter to golf ball sized hail.  Fortunately a local gas station in Concordia, Kansas provided shelter to our vehicle.

We had to travel all the way back to Dodge City, Kansas due to the fact we would be meeting with Pioneer Productions the next day.  We arrived in Dodge at around 3 AM.  All in all we traveled 1076 miles on this chase day alone.

Spectacular Sunset

photo by Brad Farrington

Wall cloud and small tornado northeast
of Concordia, Kansas

photos by Don Wheeler
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