The Hunter Becomes the Hunted in Mason City
2004 05 16
KS to NE
We left Concordia at around after some data analysis. It looked like there would be
two areas where severe storms would be possible: one in northern
USA Today photo at the BBQ by Mark Zimmerman. The arrow points to my hand.
We got to
Photograph of the Doppler On Wheels trucks
and the Tornado Intercept Vehicle in
We decided to pull off of I-80 at
We had a look at some radar and
found that storms were starting to pop southwest of
Photograph of the beginnings of the
Photograph of things getting more ominous
We headed farther west at , then north to Overton at . We had a great vantage point here near the top of a hill and set up the tripods again. Only a few other chasers could be seen in the area. Additional storms were winding up and soon a well-defined rotating wall cloud was visible to our west, with a sharp-edged hail and rain core to the northwest. As the storm moved northeast, the wall cloud edged closer to our position. Ragged bits of cumulus were now rotating below the wall cloud, but a funnel cloud was nowhere to be seen.
Photograph of a rotating wall cloud and hail shafts near Overton, facing northwest.
Photograph of well-defined rain and hail core west of Overton, facing roughly west.
Photograph of second rotating wall cloud and well-defined rain/hail core near Overton, looking southwest.
Photograph of dancing scud beneath a rotating wall cloud near Overton, looking roughly northwest.
Photograph of complex cloud structure as the low-level mesocyclone
passed close by, near Overton facing north.
As the wall cloud passed just north of us, the pressure at our location dropped enough for my ears to pop. If there had been a tornado, we weren’t able to see it. We saw tornado footage from the area on the Weather Channel the next day that showed debris swirling at the surface with no funnel cloud so, who knows, maybe we did see a tornado. And of course Jim Leonard and crew saw a tornado at a location just to our east and George and crew, having chosen to head north this day, happened upon a tornado too. Sigh.
We left the hill near and got onto some very rough and muddy roads to the north.
The roads were in such terrible condition that the truck felt like it was going
to shake apart. Nearly an hour later, we saw a cell developing to the west and
decide to intercept. Dave Patrick called and agreed that this was the best way
to go. We stopped to get some pictures of a dramatic shelf cloud as this storm
approached, but then the truck suddenly developed severe steering problems. We
were forced to break off the chase and head to the nearest town -
When the roads weren’t full of ruts, they were like “pudding”. Mark had some white knuckle driving to do.
Green skies ahead of the shelf cloud, then another view of the shelf cloud facing south.
Funnel cloud look-alikes – scud fingers along the leading edge of the storm outflow.
Photograph of shelf cloud bearing down on
As we sat in the truck and
pondered our options (and bad luck), a new tornado warning came up on the
weather radio. It was for our area. In fact, it said that the tornado would hit
With the rain, there would be no way for us to see where the tornado was coming from. And if we needed to move quickly, we couldn’t count on the truck. Plus, the saloon didn’t look all that tornado-resistant. We decided to limp off to the north as far and as quickly as possible. We yelled to some people out front of the saloon that a tornado was coming then headed off.
To the north of
When we arrived back at the
saloon, the place where we had been parked was under two feet of water. Some of
the locals said they saw a funnel cloud south of town, but
Dramatic mammatus clouds to the rear of the storm.
Looking down the tracks from
Mark finally emerged from his
discussions with Pat, not looking all that happy. Who knows how much this might
cost? It could be a trip ender. At the saloon, we all met Pat and his wife,
Janis, and they offer to feed us and take us in for the night. Now that’s
When we arrived at Pat and Janis’ house, their youngest son, Cole, told us that we could come in only if we were hockey fans. No problem there…we’re Canadians! We met their other two boys, Luke and Nick, and had a quick tour of the place. Pat and Janis made a wonderful pasta dinner and we ate at around Afterwards, we showed them a bit of video from the trip. Then we were off to bed. I don’t think any of us had trouble sleeping that night.
Mark and Pat wrap up negotiations behind the saloon, and Mark looking like a man with a sick truck.
All text and images by Dave Sills Copyright 2004
except the USA Today photo by Mark Zimmerman.
Unauthorized use prohibited. All rights reserved.