2005 JUNE 9: TREGO CENTER, KANSAS TORNADOES

Looking north up Highway 183 from Trego Center, Kansas ~2310z 
(more images below report)

 

In chasing it is often better to be lucky than good, and today I was very lucky and only good enough to avoid screwing up one of the great chase days of the last few years. June 9 deserves a place alongside the best chase days in recent memory, producing a wide range of violent, photogenic tornadoes from south of Lubbock, Texas well into Nebraska.

I witnessed four tornadoes from the storm that began in central Ness County Kansas and moved into Trego County where it wound up and developed several large cones, funnels, and stovepipe tornadoes, along with the most violent rear flank downdraft winds I've ever seen.


500 mb chart from 6-10 at 0z and surface depiction from 6-9 at 18z

A broad trough was in place over the western US and smaller disturbances swung around this and into the central and northern plains, including a 40 knot mid-level speed max forecast to move into the central high plains.  A front stretched from Wisconsin into northern Kansas to a surface low in Colorado while an outflow boundary from an earlier MCS sank southward toward the Kansas / Oklahoma border and the Texas panhandle.  A dryline also extended southward from the Colorado low.  A second outflow boundary lay draped across northern Kansas from south of McCook to near Hill City.  With multiple lifting mechanisms and areas of extreme instability forming south, I initially targeted the Texas panhandle where I thought a chance for large, violent tornadoes existed in an area where the 12z RUC forecasted >4000 j/kg MLCAPE.  I believed that northern and northwestern Kansas would also see tornadoes, but I wondered if they might experience weaker instability, relatively speaking.  I honestly felt as if I were choosing between two excellent targets. I targeted the southern outflow boundary for the chance at extreme instability.

I raced south from Sterling thinking the outflow boundary and dryline would intersect somewhere in the eastern Texas panhandle. But the surface low in southeast Kansas was ejecting faster than the 9z RUC model had shown, and my intersection point was progressing steadily northward. This was a good thing, too, because construction slowed me terribly in Colorado. If there had only been the one storm near White Deer (which did produce a tornado, according to several chasers), I would have been hard pressed to arrive in time.

Here are the entries to my blog as I chased this boundary while fighting construction delays:


Racing south for Pampa, Texas area and dryline/outflow boundary intersection. Don't know if I'll make it, but riding hard to try.


Construction on Colorado 71 southbound killed my good time. Just arriving at Colby now. Luckily, looks like the western end of the OB will stall in OK panhandle, so I can still make Beaver area. Headed south after fast gas stop.


Very glad west side of OB has stalled invof DDC. Construciton on CO 71 southbound slowed me badly; TX PH target would have been impossible. Currently 90 miles north DDC and intend to to stay just east of OB/DL intersection. Wondering what their merger (as mentioned in MD) further north does for lift; interesting to consider. Much prefer idea of init on DL, movement off eastward, then storms intersecting OB nearer maturity. So will likely play as far south as possible to get some seperation between boundaries, depending on DL movement of course.


I revised my target to Beaver, Oklahoma, then finally Dodge City, Kansas. I arrived at Dodge in time for the first small storm that fired ahead of the dry punch. At this time, the Hill City area storm was cranking up, and I knew my friends were up there bagging tornadoes like a shopping spree. My little cell by Dodge died rapidly, and I noticed the storm two counties north, in Ness County, was shaping up nicely. I hurried back up 183 and intercepted this storm about ten minutes before it began exhibiting rapid rotation---the most violent cloud base rotation I have ever seen. It spun and spun and I was amazed that such a violently turning storm was not condensing or even building downward. Then suddenly everything changed.

As the storm snagged the boundary, it began rapidly updrafting new condensation, and the show was on. The first and second tornadoes are so remarkably similar at one stage of their lives, it's nearly impossible to tell them apart, with the perfect collar cloud orbiting each. But the second tornado morphed into a large elephant trunk that touched down ~2300z and began to cross the road in front of me. This was about ten miles south of Wakeeney on 283, very near Trego Center, Kansas. This tornado was on the ground for nearly fifteen minutes. Then it lifted and another came down--not the same funnel; clearly separate post-occlusion tornadoes. This one began moving to the east northeast and I was behind, since I had allowed the tornado to cross the road in front of me. Unfortunately, my camera was zoomed all the way out and so my video makes it look as if I was further from the tornado than I was. Not that it matters, but it was so breathtaking that I stopped shooting digital stills at one point and stared in awe. I like doing that once in a while. The obsession with recording this stuff can sometimes interfere with the actual experience. It's good to put the cameras down for a few seconds and humble yourself before something so majestic.


2301z


2305z

I called Dodge City NWS to report the tornado (I had cell service for once!). Then as I turned east to follow, a large RFD plume was roiling in the field ahead of me. Then I observed an area of flattened vegetation moving rapidly, with some of the vegetation being pulled out of the ground and flung through the air! This was RFD--there's no question. But it was particularly violent and I turned south to escape and took the next east option. Strange as this sounds, that RFD was more unnerving than any of the tornadoes, including the one not far from me.

When I rounded the corner again, a white cone tornado was still on the ground. This was either the third tornado which had never lifted or simply a new one. After this, a new mesocyclone to the west produced another brief tube, and the show was over. The storm elongated and the shear weakened. Amazing what can happen in about four hours.

Special thanks today to Eric Nguyen and Scott Blair for comparing notes on the forecast, and congrats to those guys for the getting the best of BOTH storms, Hill City and Trego County.


Video grabs of tornado #1 @ ~ 2303z Trego Center, KS

 





Tornado #2 from ~2307 to 2311z

 


Tornado #3 ~2317z


Tornado #4 ~2334

ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT 2005 AMOS MAGLIOCCO / NO UNAUTHORIZED DUPLICATION

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