Almena, Kansas Tornado
3 June 1999 - section 2


All images and text © copyright Gene Moore unless otherwise indicated.

wide shot of tornado in rain tornado advancing northeast

At the time of this image the tornado had become more stable and gave the appearance it would be down for quite a while. The rotating rain and falling dust remained a problem, but the funnel was obvious through the obscuration.

 

The chasers behind this tornado were probably getting a better view as the visibility behind the tornado cleared up. Anyone to the east and northeast would still be having problems seeing the tornado, including the residents of Almena.


tornado becoming somewhat tilted wide shot of tornado and mesocyclone

The next two wide shots show how the large funnel continued to change shape. Note the dramatic arc of clouds in the foreground curving northeast, then back into the tornado.

 

Another wide shot of the storm show an interesting feature in the striated rain just east of the tornado. In the enlarged shot of this image examine the rain area to the east of the tornado. A persistent feature that extended at a 45 degree angle may be seen in the image. This portion the of the storm had previously produced numerous funnels.


becoming brighter behind the funnel nearby tornado buried in rain and dust

This would be our last shot of the tornado before we moved north to the town of Almena. Clearing continues behind the vortex with considerable rain and dust leading the funnel across the prairie.

 

The tornado fills the windshield of the vehicle and the lens of the camera during this shot -- actually not fitting in the lens. The funnel was obscured more than ever from this position. It was located just to the north-northwest of Almena. We decided to wait and shoot the tornado from behind thus taking advantage of the clear slot immediately following the tornado. After this shot we moved back to higher ground.

We regained good visibility of the tornado as it moved north-northeast of our photography position. It was further away than the last scene but easier to see and photograph. A huge debris swirl contained numerous suction spot vortices imbedded in the dust.

  dramatic scene just north of Almena


tornado moving northeast dirt lights up orange and brown

A wide shot of the tornado as it continued to move northeast. The sun was burning out the western portion of the tornado and only light precipitation fell to the east of the funnel.

 

The tornado begins to turn orange from the combination of the evening sun and the dirt lofted in the air around the funnel. At this time we remained stationary in order to take advantage of the better visibility.


orange funnel in sunlight tornado moving further northeast

Violent motion was visible around the base of the funnel as more sunlight brightened the back of the storm. We were beginning to see the funnel extending far into the storm as dry air eroded the clouds near the top of the funnel.

  At this time the tornado was fading into the haze and we are forced to move northeast. During our trip through the northeast portion of Almena a second small funnel spins up a debris cloud of leaves and small limbs. This funnel approaches the highway and forces us to get out of the path. Other chase vehicles are also scattered by the small tornado.


bulges and contortions move up the funnel narrowing tube

Chasing down the funnel during the dissipation stage led to a dramatic scene. The tall funnel, gleaming in the sunlight presented a dangerous obstruction to travelers headed north into Nebraska. Just ahead of us a truck pulls to the side of the road to watch.

 

The tornado had been in progress almost 25 minuets at this time. The ground under the funnel was churning with mud and standing water.


favorite shot rope tornado

This is my favorite tornado shot of the 1999 season. The large tube hanging out in the sunlight with the road leading to the tornado. A scene like this is what chasing is all about.

 

The final rope out scene plays out in the distance. Not the best exposure on this shot but you get the idea.


second rotating supercell

The final storm of the day was a rotating cell that developed behind the original tornadic cloud. This storm was the one that produced a small tornado on the northeast side of Almena. A weak circulation spun up in the trees and was about 100 meters wide then quickly narrowed to about 30 meters wide as it crossed the highway. It managed to startle a few chase crews including us. We made a hasty turn and allowed the small debris cloud a path across the road that would not include us. It's possible this circulation persisted for as much as 5 miles to the north. The rapidly spinning base and lowering maintained strength through the rural farm land. A later (unofficial) damage survey turned up scattered F-0 to F-1 damage along the highway. It's not clear if this second tornado was the culprit or it was wind damage associated with the first cell. Regardless, we got a nice sunset out of the deal.

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