Late Day Tornadic Supercell and Tornadoes
Near Newport, NE - 5 June, 1999

We spent the day hanging out at Bassett Lodge & Range Cafe, a hotel and restaurant in Bassett, Nebraska waiting for the storms to develop. We were just south of the warm front and the dryline was located a little southwest of town. The activity was capped in our part of the state and storms had already developed to our southeast and east. After enduring numerous severe and finally a few tornado warnings we took off down the road to inspect the storms near O'Neill. As we neared these cells they looked very good then slowly lost their structure. We heard one tornado was reported earlier, but current activity did not look tornadic. It seemed to be a carrot to draw us into Iowa causing us to miss the show out west. After deciding we had been suckered we hot-footed it back west. A spectacular storm was building on the western horizon. The storm we had waited for all day and we might miss it!

All images and text © copyright Gene Moore unless otherwise indicated

tornado beginning to spin up dirt Randy Halverson videos the tornado

As we neared the supercell located just south of Bassett we watched a tornado develop under the flanking line which was located south of highway 20. Normally, this would have been an easy shot for a 200 mm telephoto lens, but the dense haze was destroying the visibility. The images I got were low contrast and won't be inclued. While driving, we watched the tornado grow into a trunk then complete it's life cycle as a contorted tube and rope funnel. We were only a few miles away when it dissipated. A spectacular wall cloud and twin stacked tail clouds covered the highway ahead of us. The show was far from over.

A second tornado developed northwest of Newport and proceeded northeast over open country. During this time only the bottom third of the tornado is obvious in the images, but the funnel and it's accompanying structure extended almost to the top of the picture frame. Again, the haze kept all the structure from being shown. A few chasers did get favorable views of the funnel with good backlighting. We were reluctant to move north after the tornado for two reasons. First we would lose our contrast and second, we were told that the road was a dead end. This was a tough decision.

tornado visible between trees wide angle - dense debris cloud

This was our best view of the tornado and it was spinning violently as it traveled north-northeast. A large rotating cylinder of condensation was visible above the tornado. Soon after this shot the decision to take off to the north was made. Time was running out, it was getting dark.

After running out of film I grabbed another camera and snapped off a few shots. Unfortunately it had the 24 mm wide angle mounted which reduces the size of the tornado more than 50 percent. You should be able to make out a dark debris cloud at the base of the funnel.

funnel nearing road north tornado thinning

In this scene the tornado is about to cross the road about 2 miles north. A laminar collar cloud may be seen just above the funnel. The wall cloud behind the funnel reduced the contrast and made photography difficult. My shots were falling to about 1/30th of a second. Not good speed for moving down the road. The brake lights of another vehicle that was chasing with us stopped a quarter mile up the road.

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A narrowing tornado is shown in this image after it crossed the dirt road. The tornado was beginning to dissipate in this image, although debris was still churning around the base of the funnel. Sense we did not know when the road would dead end we traveled back south to the pavement before going east then north again. We followed the violently rotating storm into South Dakota on route 137 with about 200 other chase vehicles. Chaser Chuck Doswell was able to pull one last tornado out of the system. He caught it on a video capture in the lightning. The Dakota skies remained on fire until well after midnight.

For more information see John Monterverdi's June 5th page with analysis maps.