Crystal Springs Kansas Tornado
and the beginning of the May 29th Outbreak

 

All images and text
© copyright Gene Moore


 

Two strong storms formed in NW Oklahoma near the Alva area during the later afternoon hours of May 29th. One of these cells too over and became an LP (low precipitation) supercell with a rotating wall cloud and funnels. The first linked shot shows a rotating column of cloud material that soon developed into a horizontal funnel that stretched along the cloud base, it was difficult to see and photograph. After this event the storm moved northeast near the Oklahoma border and begin to look like it was done for the day. At this time another complex further south begin to produce severe weather and warnings. As the rather anemic looking supercell crossed the Kansas border near Kiowa, Kansas it began to strengthen with new convective towers developing on the south and west side of the complex. Individual updraft started to rotate producing a series of weak circulations on the ground behind the storm. One of these spun up the first small tornado of the day, a contorted rope tornado with a rather large debris cloud that only lasted a few minutes. My photograph of this event is after much of the funnel dissipated, but I still captured the remaining rope segment after the low flat debris cloud dissipated. At this time I was trailing the storm and didn't want to lose time stopping for a minor event.Note, most chasers refer to this as the Anthony, Kansas tornado but it was not that close to Anthony and moved through the community of Crystal Springs.

 
  early wall cloud - west flank   funnel descending - first debris cld
 

A rotating wall cloud formed in the vicinity of Midway, a very small town in southern Kansas. This was an isolated lowering in a long flank of towers stretching to the west of the precipitation from the storm.

   

I was rather shocked at how fast a funnel cloud formed from this lowering. At first it appeared weak and typical of tornados on the back side of a storm when there is a stronger flanking line to the southeast. Already a weak dust cloud was rotating on the ground under the funnel.

 


   early wall cloud - west flank   funnel descending - first debris cld
 

Many times weak funnels such as this remain tilted or sheared out behind the storm. They touch down briefly and then dissipate. This funnel became more vertical and the rotation strengthened. At this time it looked like a substantial tornado may form.

   

The first streamers of condensation extended to the ground as the dust debris clouds spun faster. After this image I made a move to the north to get into better position. All the roads were dirt with a light coating of mud; I expected the chase would get more difficult very quickly.

 

   
 

Dear me, I do hate power poles, can't they bury all these stupid things. The newly formed tornado was still giving me a little time to catch up, but it was moving north about 25, I really needed east ....not north.

   

One of the great scenes of the 2004 chase season as the concentric wall cloud and perfect funnel pass behind a Kansas farmstead.

 
   
 

I had to leave the vehicle for a moment to get these shot under the high lines. I do hate to stand under electrical wires during a forming supercell, but this shot was too much to pass up, it would only last for a moment. The tornado continued north and I had to stay in pursuit.

 

   
 

The low sun angle lit up the debris cloud and the base of the funnel. Meanwhile I'm searching for a path north without obstructions. I hate shooting with one hand while driving a 4X4 on a muddy road. Fortunately I was alone on the road at this time, but that would certainly not last!

   

The tornado appeared to be crossing the road in front of me and still lofting massive amounts of dust into the air. So far, it didn't look like it had stuck any of the farms in the area.

 

   
 

This is getting good, but I can't escape the high lines. I may have to stop up here very soon. I had a series of brides out and closed roads to my east.

   

Chasers up ahead, I didn't want to park in front of them, I do try not to be rude. Also, the rotation was getting much stronger, I had to stop, even through it was a bad spot. This is a video capture of one of the few lightning bolts that struck near the tornado, most were well off to the east.

 

   
 

I continued to shoot with the video camera mounted on a tripod in front of the vehicle, to get out of the gusty winds. Meanwhile the picturesque tornado crossed in front of us.

   

So, what's going on here; my bet is the tornado crossed from open grassy fields to plowed fields. The amount of dirt lofted in the air was increasing as the tornado appeared to get stronger.

 

   
 

Video captures of the chasers in front of my by about 100 yards. Obviously they were enjoying the show as the funnel struck something and many chunks of material were flung out the east side of the debris cloud.

   

Another video capture, the tornado was in a violent stage at this time with a dramatic and turbulent debris cloud growing larger. Another chase crew passes in front of me, I had met them earlier before this tornado developed. They were navigating these muddy roads in a very not all terrain vehicle, but they were doing fine so far.

 

 

This was my last shot before traveling north and west (closed road to the east). I was accompanied by a local police car that was traveling very fast for the mud roads, don't see how he held it on the road, I did well to keep up with mud tires! One of the officers was hanging very far out the drivers side window with a video camera. I wish I had a shot of that, but I absolutely had to keep both hands on the steering wheel, or go into a ditch.

 
 

I like this shot so much I worked on it quite a bit. I removed a large power pole and a bunch of wires. This can be done, but it takes tedious time. The tornado was well northeast after my forced jog west to avoid closed roads.

 

   
 

During this shot I'm driving on concrete for the first time in this chase and I've got a clear shot of the tornado. The orange funnel is gone, but it's still got good lighting and red dirt is glowing in the setting sun.

   

Another shot with a little better composition, there are trees in the way but that's so much better than power lines. I'll have to jog north again very soon as the tornado continues on a more northerly track. Just behind me to my south a house was hit, but I didn't photograph it.

 

Page 2 of the Crystal Springs Tornado