Freeport to Argonia Kansas tornadoes
of May 29th 2004

 

All images and text
© copyright Gene Moore


 

After the Crystal Springs, Kansas tornado dissipated another strong tornado formed to the southeast near Freeport, Kansas and moved northeast. This was on a different updraft on the south side of the storm. The plan was simple, drive east and meet the tornado coming north. The roads were dirt but generally not muddy like the skiddish route I took to stay up with the last tornado. I had to pass a few chasers as I drove east. That's sometimes challenging because most chasers are watching the tornado more than they are for approaching traffic. I didn't have to drive fast to get this done; I didn't figure I would beat the tornado anyway so I just tried to get within reasonable photography range. As the tornado passed me I had to pick a path through about a half dozen damaged farmsteads, busted power poles with lines in the road and the usual blocking trees. The damage to the houses was not that bad and I figured no one was injured. That was good, I didn't want to get out of the vehicle and have to run across downed power line, that's a good way to become part of the problem, as opposed to helping out. After all, it was easy to see this one coming and there were advanced warnings. As one point I did have to navigate a roof lying in the road, but that was the biggest debris. The elephant trunk tornado turned into a cone then ingested massive amounts of dirt and dust as it crossed plowed fields. Also, the storm was intensifying during this time and the tornado swelled out as large as the wall cloud surrounding it, giving the funnel the classic wedge appearance. After the Freeport tornado passed to my northeast is appeared to dissipate. Shots of the rotating wall cloud south of Argonia from other chasers confirmed this. Another second tornado developed out of the circulation on the back side of the storm and passed near Argonia but did not hit the town. This tornado had a very orange appearance in the setting sun. In my shots I took out some or the reddish orange because it seem to be a bit more that I saw during the actual event.

 


   
 

This was my front page cover shot for a while. It shows the original tornado on the south side of the circulation (right side of image). On the left side the dirt being lifted was becoming tornadic as the whole wall cloud became a tornado. The Manchester, South Dakota tornado did the same thing last year. Something to keep in mind if you're under one of these things when it decides to double its size. The inflow jet along the ground on the south (left) side of the image was made up of dirt and smoke from a nearby fire. I'm not sure if the fire was lightning set though.

 

   
 

In this shot the tornado is beginning to consolidate into one rotating mass as it crosses the road in front of us.

   

Here we have a more consolidated funnel under the ragged wall cloud and collar cloud. At least I guess we can call that lighter outside rings of clouds a collar. That's what Fujita named it decades ago, but the original example from the Fargo storm was smooth.

 


    
 

Traffic ahead, fortunately the road surface was close to perfect for chasing. Damp enough not to kick up a bunch of storm obscuring dust, but not muddy. The rural roads in this part of Kansas are full or rock which helps in wet conditions.

   

The wall cloud around the tornado lifted a bit in this shot making it looks somewhat taller. It was soon after this image that I pulled over and shot video. These images were taken with a Canon digital camera.

 

   
 

The Freeport tornado wrapped up in rain and was difficult to see. Shots from chasers east of the storm looking west show it dissipated and this new tornado formed. This funnel moved north to threaten Argonia KS but didn't hit the town.

   

Another shot of the tornado in the setting sun. This was really a beautiful scene with rain curtain wrapping around the funnel. Unfortunately the bright sunset was burning out much of the small details.

 

   
 

This is one of my final shots of this tornado as I decided to press east. I would have to get out on hard surface roads and navigate the hordes of chasers and other vehicles on the road plus drive through Argonia. I was sure this would slow me down.

   

Catching only brief glimpses of the Argonia tornado as I drove north this shot shows what I thought was the final rope out. That said, I can't prove this was not another smaller tornado. I'm taking the word of other chasers that had a better view looking west as I drove north.

 

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