Back on the Road…to
2004 05 17
NE to KS
I woke up early enough to see Pat
leave with Mark’s truck at around 7 pm. Janis made some blueberry muffins
for breakfast. Did I mention
After paying Pat for the repairs
(a sum that seemed quite low for the work done), we thanked him profusely then
got back on the road at about . Wow,
what an adventure that was! (After the trip, the three of us pitched in and
bought a weather radio for them as a gesture of thanks. Hopefully,
that’ll keep them safe from those
Janis had let us use her computer
earlier in the morning so we knew that we needed to get to central
We got gas in Russell, and tried to head north from there but the road was closed for construction. So, we headed east on I-70 while cumulus towers started to go up. We found a place to the northeast of Russell to watch, wait and take photos. There were some anvils visible now, but everything seemed to totally mush out after going up. Disappointment started to build.
Photograph of Sarah looking frustrated while we wait for convection to get organized,
east of Russell looking roughly west.
There was only one cell we could see with shafts of rain and that was to our west-southwest. So, we headed back to Russell and found a place with a good view just north of town. This cell rapidly intensified as we sat and watched and soon we heard a severe thunderstorm warning over the weather radio. Okay, this was much better!
Photograph of the lone cell getting our attention due west of Russell,
looking west on the northern edge of Russell.
The cell developed a sharp back edge on the precipitation, which seemed to now include hail. Then a beautiful rotating wall cloud began to form on the south side. Soon after, tornado sirens began to go off in Russell. We were in great position with the storm approaching from the west, and there were no other chasers in view. This was our storm!
Photograph of the sharp edge to the hail and rain, now forming a “foot” due to the RFD wrapping
precipitation behind the rotating wall cloud forming on the southern flank, still looking west.
Photograph of the nicely organized supercell now with rain/hail foot and rotating wall cloud, still looking west.
Next we heard a tornado warning over
the weather radio for this storm and all eyes were trained on the wall cloud.
The growing supercell began to right move, and we realized that the wall cloud
was rapidly moving to the south of us over the town of
Photograph of the rapidly rotating wall cloud moving over Russell, looking southwest.
We planned an escape route to our east that jogged south to I-70, so we sped along that road passing a policeman in a cruiser watching the action. As we rounded the bend to head south, it was obvious that the funnel cloud / wall cloud had picked up speed and would cross the road before we could get south of it. So, we backed off, let it pass, then swooped in south behind it and ahead of the rain and large hail in the hook. The funnel cloud was looking more ominous now, though still ragged. Forks of lightning occasionally danced around it.
Churning ragged funnel cloud, from just south of I-70 looking roughly northeast.
When we got to I-70, we were stunned to see a huge number of chase vehicles following what we thought was our little storm. We decided to take an easterly route that ran parallel and just to the south of I-70 so we could chase and pull off the road safely. A good number of chasers didn’t seem to care and were stopped all along I-70.
We followed the storm as it moved east-southeast and the funnel cloud appeared to become disorganized. Then a new rotating wall cloud developed to the right of the old one. It did this once more before the storm appeared to lose its punch. We let it head of east and dissipate. Once again, we saw no discernable tornado, but got a really good taste of classic supercell behaviour.
Various shots of the wall cloud and the frequent lightning around it.
Photograph of rotating bits of scud beneath the second wall cloud which was now well east of Russell,
looking roughly northwest.
A few new storms were developing to the west, but these appeared to be far less intense and any warnings had been dropped. Mark was still looking for a hail dent or two in his truck, so we entered the core of a compact little cell that was moving just to our north and “played in the hail”, as he says. We did manage to get into quarter sized hail before that storm lost its punch and moved east, but dents were hard to come by.
We found a few more roads of pudding before deciding to punch a very isolated hail/rain core.
We ended up going back to Russell for dinner. Of course, George and crew also ended up in Russell, along with a gaggle of other chasers. We stayed at the Super 8 there (they promised high speed internet, but we couldn’t get it to work). Another great chase day had come and gone.
All text and images by Dave Sills Copyright 2004.
Unauthorized use prohibited. All rights reserved.