The Tornadoes of Barton Co. Kansas

All images and text © copyright Gene Moore and Mike Watts
unless otherwise indicated

On 25 May 1997 a supercell thunderstorm formed and moved into Barton Co Kansas. This cell stayed almost stationary for an hour while producing tornadoes ranging from narrow funnels to a large wedge tornado. These tornadoes came from an impressive barrel cloud that rotated violently while spinning funnels to the ground. Most of the action took place in open country near the small towns of Galita and Milberger, KS. The following images were taken by Gene Moore and Mike Watts my chase partner that day. Many of these images on this page Mike's as I drove and shot video much of the time. All images are copyrighted by Mike Watts and Gene Moore.

beginning storm tail cloud /developing meso

The first shot shows the forming thunderstorm with a lowered base in the strong updraft area. This updraft would continue for the duration of the storm, producing numerous tornadoes. The left image is about 30 minutes later, near 1610 CDT when the mesocyclone was beginning to rotate at cloud base. The structure on the left is a tail cloud and is feeding rapidly into the mesocyclone from right to left or east-southeast. The cylinder on the far right became wrapped up in cloud material and produced the first tornado at about 1615-1620 CDT. Images of that tornado will not be shown at this time.

  fun-meter rising

During this image we were shooting a funnel that later turned into the first tornado of the day. This image is about 5 minutes before the the tornado formed. As this tornado was in progress a gust front wrapped around the mesocyclone and occluded the circulation (completely surrounded it). This led to a blast of wind much like a wet down burst in our direction producing 3 condensation gustnados (tornados on the gust front). One of the debris clouds headed for our position and we vacated, fast. We dropped a couple miles south and east, then returned the north. Usually a good strategy after a gust out. While in route I noted a tornado in progress as the gust front cleared. Then the gust front dissipated and a new updraft rapidly formed. Within a few minutes that cloud formed a spectacular rotating barrel as shown in the next set of pictures.

A dark mass under the barrel cloud followed by flashing power transformer and lines were a firm signal we had a tornado in progress. One must see one of these barrel clouds to believe them; well worth the price of admission on a trip to Kansas. The whole cloud spins violently while tornadoes form underneath. The contrast is poor under the barrel cloud, but numerous tornadoes can be distinguished.

video capture - transformer pop
tornado in progress


The dramatic barrel cloud is fully formed in this image and rotating rapidly. A tornado is in progress under the center of the circulation.

2nd tornado forms to the right.  

This image shows the main tornado in progress under the center of the circulation. A second small tornado has formed to the left and a faint debris cloud is visible. The tornado in the center continued to be the dominant vortex while other tornadoes formed and dissipated. The main tornado would break down into suction spots (smaller tornadoes) then reform into a large tornado.

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