The Haysville Kansas Tornado
May 1991

All images and text © copyright Gene Moore
unless otherwise indicated

Haysville tornado in dust

The Kansas farm roads were numerous enough to provide a path to the next tornado. When I got into position I should have had a great shot, but more airborne dirt blocked the view. The top of the funnel is visible here, although the contrast is not very good. This tornado had been going on for about 10 minutes before I arrived and it looked like it was getting weaker. I could have gotten closer, but getting too close to a tornado with this much dust debris is a guarantee of bad photography. I stayed back in order to see over the top of the dust. As the rope out stage of the tornado started this strategy paid off.



tornado roping out


very thin rope remains

For the last thirty minutes I had not seen one person. I knew hundreds were watching, but not within a miles of my position. It seemed I had the storm all to myself. It made concentrating on the photography and watching the storm an easy task.


The second rope out of the day is depicted here. The tornado was still spinning up a massive amount of dust as the funnel narrowed. Considering the dark area of precipitation adjacent to the funnel it's amazing the circulation stayed over dry ground. It was later reported that motorists on an nearby highway drove into this dust cloud without realizing a narrow tornado was inside.

rope almost gone

  weak debris cloud

The final stage of the dissipation is in progress during this shot. The funnel narrows to a thin strand, but as evident at the bottom of the image, more dust is being carried aloft. After this shot the dying tornado fractured into separate sections. During this time another tornado was visible to the north at a distance of about 8-10 miles. It too was buried in dust and was located near Mc Connell AFB in south Wichita. No photography was attempted of that tornado.

The next move was to get north and try to capture any life cycle of the next tornado. Traveling across south Wichita revealed a storm that had began an outflow process. A gust front was in place, but inflow of moist air continued to keep the storm strong. The storm would have one last gasp of tornadic potential.



East of Wichita near the Augusta Airport a funnel formed under the gust front. It was spinning rapidly, but it was part of a cloud base that was much higher off the ground than any of the previous tornadic attempts. The funnel did spin up a dirt debris cloud for about 5-6 minutes. This wide angel shot shows the debris cloud below the gust front and another shot is included of the rounded developing funnel which is located in the center of the image. This is an example of the weakest of tornadoes. I got quite close to the base of the circulation and noted the winds were rotating at probably 60 knots on the ground. If it had been over a dusty field like the other funnels today the dust cloud would have been more ominous.

Another tornado warning was issued for the storm near El Dorado. The tornadic potential had diminished and the gust front was pushing rapidly east so I broke off the pursuit. While traveling south to the interstate on a desolate stretch of asphalt farm road, I began to encounter vehicles going north. This the type of road that one or two trucks may pass in an hour, but the traffic was getting heavy. Adults, teenagers and many families with kids in the car, all staring at the sky. The radio was blaring tornado warning, tornado warning attracting onlookers to the area. I counted over 100 vehicles passing me headed north, into the core I guess. Fortunately, they weren't around at Clearwater.