Tornadoes - Part 3

Unusual Lighting Conditions

All images and text © copyright
Gene Moore
unless otherwise indicated

The image shows a tornado in progress northwest of Virgil, Kansas on May 30th, 1982. This is the intermediate stage of the largest tornado I have ever witnessed. It was the third of four tornadoes we would photograph that afternoon and had been on the ground for about 20 minutes. Ten minutes after this photo was taken the funnel faded from sight to our northeast.

These tornadic storms formed on a warm front that was moving slowly across eastern Kansas. It was anchored by a low pressure system centered near Wichita. In addition to these cells, other severe storms developed further west in the vicinity of Wichita, but did not become tornadic.

This part of eastern Kansas is in the Flint Hills, a picturesque area not known for its road network. We fought our way through dirt roads, severe storms and past two other tornadoes to finally get this shot. In the beginning the tornado was many times wider than it was tall, a real "wedge", but photography was impossible. All the tornadoes in this area were over open country which was very fortunate for the local residents who have learned to accept this as part of spring. Perhaps if I had another shot at it today I could do better, but then it's only water vapor and that's long gone.

large tornado nw of virgil

Dissipating Tornadoes - The Rope Out

contorted rope and dust

Many tornadoes follow a life cycle ending with the tube then rope stage. The rope stage may lead to a contorted funnel that resembles a string from a distance. It may break up into sections and still keep a circulation on the ground. Tornadoes can be dangerous in the rope stage. This was proven during research of tornadoes that hit during the rope stage and caused F-5 damage, the worst damage which leaves only the foundation of a well built house. The images show two different rope stages. The first one near Haysville, Kansas is buried in a huge cloud of rotating dust. Injuries occur when unsuspecting motorists drive into these dust clouds that may not rotate very fast on the outside when a narrow tornado is buried deep inside the obscuring dust.

Dissipating Tornadoes - The Thinnest Rope

Thin rope tornado  

The second image is of a thread like rope in the last minutes of a dying tornado in Kansas. This is about as narrow as the rope stage gets before the funnel begins to break into sections. Strong winds associated with the storm may drive the narrow funnel far away from the parent mesocyclone before the circulation ceases on the ground. A rope this narrow is still capable of strong damage especially if it's the dying stage of a violent tornado.

A Morning Tornado

  Morning tornado

During the years that I have chased I have only photographed one tornado in progress before noon. This tornado is near Seymour, Texas occurred 5 minutes before noon making it officially my only morning tornado. It occurred about one year after the Seymour tornado on the previous page. Their paths were not very far apart and both would have been visible from this location.

The storm responsible for this tornado formed about ten in the morning and was rotating after eleven AM. The funnel did damage a new well built barb wire fence with steel fence posts allowing a survey of its width. This tornado was especially loud with a audible roar at two miles distant from the funnel.

Suction Spot - and Parasite Vortices

  Two suction spots

This shot demonstrates secondary vortices in association with a large tornado better that anything I have seen. From the center of the road to the left is all tornado, a little less than half of it. From the center of the road to the right note two separate columns of condensation extending from the cloud base to the ground at about a 45 degree angle. Each is a separate small tornado about 50-75 meters wide. Some dirt debris may be seen near the ground from the outer vortex. These two funnels or suctions spots are rotating around the larger tornado at a very high rate of speed. They were also rotating around each other or turning over as they made the turn to the north. An amazing sight. Additionally, in the photo look to the right of the road by the third power pole from the right. A huge splash is visible from the base ball hailstones being hurtled by the strong wind in association with the tornado. Another smaller splash occurred in the center median.