Honey Bend, IL, Tornado
This tornado formed north of Litchfield, IL, on April 19, 2011, and crossed I-55 near the small town of Honey Bend, IL, causing EF-2 damage. This was my first April tornado and my first Illinois tornado.
The first Field Studies of Convection course kicked off on May, 21, 2011. We left Champaign, IL, at 7am targeting northeastern Kansas. When we arrived near Overbrook, KS, at midafternoon, towering cumulus were already building, and we watched those clouds mature into a supercell with mammatus right before our eyes.
We followed the storm northward and caught this view of a rotating wall cloud with a funnel-shaped scuddy appendage underneath it. Taken near Carbondale, KS, on May 21, 2011.
We continued to follow the supercell northward, toward the southern suburbs of Topeka. The storm exhibited nice structure at this point, as well as a couple of funnel-shaped wall clouds, one of which is visible in the background above the pickup truck. Looks north from near Wakarusa, KS, on May 21, 2011.
Supercell over a Lake
The storm continued northeastward, skirting Topeka, and produced this large wall cloud over what I believe was Lake Shawnee, southeast of Topeka. Not bad for the first day ever of my field course. Taken May 21, 2011.
After initially targeting an HP supercell in southeastern Kansas, two new cells formed to our southeast and displayed rapid rotation (these cells later merged near Joplin, MO, producing that tragic EF-5 tornado). Here is a view of one of those cells as it came over the small town of Columbus, KS, as sirens blared. Although the wall cloud was rather small, the scud fingers were rotating rapidly and the vertical motion was quite intense. Taken May 22, 2011.
Spinning Top West of Oklahoma City
After circumnavigating and killing one storm in northwestern Oklahoma, we headed for another supercell northwest of the Oklahoma City metro. This storm did not display much rotation down low, but the midlevel mesocyclone was nothing short of spectacular. Taken near Calumet, OK, May 23, 2011.
These are the type of wall clouds that produce large, intense, tornadoes. Though the visibility on this High Risk day was less than stellar owing to haze (we were only 10 miles away - hence the contrast enhancement), we were able to observe tornadogenesis of the El Reno I tornado that later ripped through portions of northwestern Oklahoma City. Looks west toward Lookeba, OK, on May 24, 2011.
Finger of God
The EF-5 El Reno I wedge tornado disappears behind a bluff and later becomes wrapped in rain completely before ripping a path of destruction through part of northwestern Oklahoma City. Looks toward Hinton, OK, on May 24, 2011.
Vilonia, Arkansas, Destruction
Our chase on May 25, 2011, took us eastward to cotton country and the Delta Region of eastern Arkansas. We passed through Vilonia, AR, en route and witnessed some of the devastation from an EF-2 tornado on April, 25, 2011.
Hazy Arkansas Supercell
On May 25, 2011, we watched a rapidly-moving supercell develop near Beebe, AR, and move northeastward into the swamps of the White River. This was our view when we met the storm on the other side - we were able to make out a large wall cloud despite the omnipresent haze of 2011. Taken near Fair Oaks, AR.
This storm was hauling northeastward at 55 mph. Having no way of keeping up with it on the Cartesian road grid, and with no corssing of the Mississippi River in sight, we stopped after over two straight hours of driving and watched the storm and associated wall cloud quickly fade into the hazy distance. Looks northeast from near Whitehall, AR, on May 25, 2011.
After abandoning our first storm, we found it impossible to catch any of the other storms to our south - they were just moving too fast. We thus retreated to Little Rock, AR, for the night and caught a nice sunset mammatus surprise courtesy of the storms to our east. Yes, I realize the foreground needs work. Taken in North Little Rock, AR, May 25, 2011.
Oklahoma Tornado Damage
While waiting for storms to form on May 27, 2011 (they didn't), we drove through the Chickasha and El Reno I tornado damage paths. This scene of sheet metal wrapped around a snapped tree is from south of Calumet, OK.
Sun on a String
Even when storms don't form, the Plains can still provide some of the best sunsets around. This one occurred northwest of Watonga, OK, on May 27, 2011.
Some prefer the simpler view, so here's the May 27, 2011, sunset without the artistic power lines. Taken northwest of Watonga, OK.
Garden of the Gods
On May 28, 2011, we made the long haul from Oklahoma to Colorado Springs, CO, in the hopes of seeing upslope convection. The storms were late, we were early, so we toured Garden of the Gods waiting for storms.
Garden of the Gods Path
An easy walking path runs through Garden of the Gods park. I highly recommend it if you are in the area! Taken May 28, 2011.
From the Garden of the Gods to the Rockies
The rocky outcroppings of the Garden of the Gods stretch off into the distance while the Rocky Mountain foothills beckon (we did not partake in those). Taken May 28, 2011.
Shelf Cloud Vortices
We targeted the Sand Hills of Nebraska on May 30, 2011. Though the convection was primarily linear, the highly-sheared environment allowed for several non-tornadic vortices (and some gustnadoes) to form on the leading edge of the line. We penetrated a gustnado and noticed that many were reporting gustnadoes as tornadoes.
Kearney, Nebraska, Shelf Cloud
As the cold front occluded the dryline, the squall line began to race eastward. We beat it to Kearney, NE, but false tornado reports continued, prompting tornado warnings for Kearney. As sirens wailed, hotel guests hid in the hallway, and we stepped outside of a look. Taken in Kearney, NE, May 30, 2011.
A Super 8 sign stands against a backdrop of mammatus following a squall line in Kearney, NE, on May 30, 2011. (If you're wondering, I have no corporate sponsors and I'm in it for the science, not the money.)
Hill City, KS, Supercell
A broad, low, wall cloud hangs beneath a supercell updraft base near Hill City, KS, on June 1, 2011.
Little Red Tractor
This tractor doesn't look so big compared to the HP supercell passing behind it. This tractor may have been the one to pull us out of the mud about an hour later, so I probably shouldn't poke fun. Taken north of Paradise, KS, on June 1, 2011.
Kansas HP Supercell
The supercell thunderstorm we followed from Hill City eastward to north of Paradise, KS, took on full-fledged HP structure as we neared the muddy end to the day's chase. Taken north of Paradise, KS, on June 1, 2011.
Post-Mud Shelf Cloud
After being rescued from the mud (kudos to an anonymous farmer and to my friend Larry Frank for assisting), training supercells to our northwest formed into a line with a shelf cloud at the leading edge in the fading light. Taken north of Bunker Hill, KS, on June 1, 2011.
Sodus Point, NY, Rotating Wall Cloud
I wasn't planning on chasing any storms when we met up with Herb Stein following a lake-effect snow research meeting in Upstate New York. Our plan was to check our Sodus Point when a storm popped up. The lowering on the right is a rotating wall cloud. In NEw York, when thunder roars....go fishing! Taken June 11, 2011.