Quinter KS Tornado or my

Oh Rats ....Chase Day

 

All images and text
© copyright Gene Moore

 

This was a lean year for getting out on the road. New job duties kept me near home much of the season. Fortunately I bolted north for a couple of very good days in northern Kansas. The setup was classic for large tornadoes, a strong jet stream flow over a slow moving warm front. Very unstable air was parked across Kansas ready to light off during the afternoon hours, I couldn't have scripted it much better. Unfortunately on day two of this two day tornado binge I made a series of mistakes that kept me from getting good storm photography . I missed the first tornado crossing I- 70 by moments then caught in 2 miles north of town. Unfortunately it was wrapped in the rain. We could see the tornado, full of white suction spots very well just ahead of us, but it was not photogenic at that time. I elected to blow off the tornado since it was headed further north of the warm front and into an area of poor visibilities. We dropped back south, through Quinter and continued south for 12 miles on a mud and water filled country road. A few minutes after we arrived a funnel formed about two miles to our SSW and looked like it would hit the ground near us. We were on high ground with a perfect view , but the funnel dissipated. The area on the south side of the cell persisted with rotation, but no tornado developed. Within a few minutes a very strong inflow jet formed about a mile to our north. A stream of clouds was rushing west under the base and into the rain. At the time all I could to the west was rain. Convinced the next tornado would be on the south or southeast side of the storm I held my ground, then we saw an unmistakable shape in the rain, a developing wedge tornado. The rat race chase was on.....back up the muddy road trying to catch the tornado. Not that I could ever go that fast though, otherwise I would have been in the ditch.

 

 

Large wedge tornado about three miles NW of our position. Light rain and haze was still cutting into our visibility of the tornado, but the strong motions in the funnel were obvious as we tried to play catch up on the mud.

These shots were made with a 50mm lens; I couldn't get to my 85mm in the back seat while fighting the road.....which was pretty typical for how the day had gone so far.


 

In this scene it seemed we were gaining on the tornado but it remained pretty low contrast from this angle. It would be our best view when the tornado was this wide.

The vortex remained a 2 for 1 wedge (twice as wide as tall) as we tried to make time north, it was moving at 35 MPH, we could only do 45 MPH in the mud. The path is was leaving was only 2 1/2 miles west of the road we were on; under normal conditions we could have made up that distance in a few minutes, but not today. Also, it's never wise to follow in behind a tornado like this as downed power lines and poles will soon end the pursuit.


   
 

At this time the visibility was getting better between us and the funnel, but unfortunately this was about as good as we could hope for until we got to the Interstate.

 

The tornado narrowed and went into a wild suction spot phase as it was nearing Interstate 70. Also this is the time it started to turn more westerly and away from us.


 

We were getting a much better view of the tornado at this time, but it was getting further west and we were approaching the town.

This was my last shot before driving into the south side of Quinter where my view was blocked by trees and houses. Meanwhile another group of chasers had positioned themselves along I-70 for a better view as the tornado approached from the south.


 

When I turned on to I-70 the vortex was only four miles west. I thought I had it nailed, but it just was not meant to be on this day. Meanwhile, Bill Hark was getting some of the best shots I've seen in years.

It's amazing how many chases are make or break when only a few miles or a couple of minutes are needed to get into position.

In the shot below as you can see I finally caught up with the tornado, but not long before it dissipated. At least I got to witness one of the better tornado days on the plains, even though the whole thing was a rat race.


   

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