Chase Account - Monday 17th May

From Columbus, Nebraska - chasing around Russell, Kansas - back to Hays, Kansas

Tony Gilbert, Terry Fryer, Sam Jowett and Ali Dibb

Previous Day Next Day

After yesterdays excitement we didn't see todays pattern as quite so dynamic, but it turned out to be the best chase of the holiday.  The overnight stop in Columbus gave us the opportunity to study the models again giving us an initial target of Salina in Kansas.  Some discussion between Tony and a group of US chasers revealed a WiFi point there, so that's where we decided to head.  Having arrived I noticed by email that a few of the other chase groups should be nearby, so fired up the GMRS radio and said hello.  Found both Stu Robinson's and James Banham's groups there along with some more US chasers.

The skies were quite lively and the air warm and humid, particularly noticeable after the drive from behind the cold front.  Clearest skies to the S and the strongest convective parameters towards Great Bend encouraged us to head SW, that and the fact Stu's (more successful) team were heading that way.

En route we could see anvil to our NW as the CAP was clearly breaking around us, so a quick stop in the little wild west village of Claflin and use of their library allowed us to see these would probably be the dominant storms of the day, so we punched W to position ourselves on the southern cell, just N of Olmitz.

As can be seen in the first 3 photos to the right, the anvil is crisp and the flanking line strong, but the updraught and rain core meagre!  Although we initially expected this to become the dominant cell as its anvil overspread the northern cell, its development suggested otherwise.


Flanking Line Tower

Precip Core

At this point the N cell had already developed a wall cloud and thanks to a good call from Stu (I'm not sure if I would have made the decision quickly enough) we all decided to blow off the S cell and hammer N on an intercept course. Wall Cloud
It appeared as though the wall cloud was almost directly over the I70 near Russell and the cell was tornado warned thanks to the radar signature, so we decided to stick to back roads rather than risk getting stuck on a closed interstate.  The rapid rotation was evident (and is from these photos) so we were pretty confident that it had to drop a hose at some point.

Wall Cloud

Wall Cloud

Wall Cloud

Wall Cloud

Wall Cloud


Wall Cloud

Wall Cloud

Rear Flank Downdraught

Rear Flank Downdraught

Wall Cloud



We simply kept jogging E along a dirt road about 3 miles S of the interstate with the wall cloud running slightly S of E, directly to our N.  A perfect chase situation, if this cell was going to perform we would be able to get some awesome, crisp, close up footage.

(Photo on the right shows from left to right, Stu, Terry, Graham and Paul just waiting to capture the moment.)

As time wore on and the wall cloud gradually overspread the road we were on, it became clear that a tornado probably wasn't going to manifest itself, perhaps because the whole area was being undercut by the cold front.  Even in the inflow notch we had winds coming from the storm rather than the clear air to our S... this wasn't going to feed it!
As the RFD started to wrap around we decided to push back E again finding tarmac and hoards of other chasers.

The lack of decent inflow eventually killed off the storm, the wall cloud dissipating and the storm started to rain out.

It hadn't produced a tornado but it was an awesome chase having very few other chasers about and being able to run close alongside such a powerful and dynamic storm.  The motion in the cloud base had been mesmorising and was the only decent chaseable storm within the entire region.  Score!

We then made the trip back to Hays amongst many other chasers to make use of the wireless internet in the bar of the Holiday Inn and plan our last chase day.

Here a few lightning shots grabbed from the camcorder during the chase

Lightning Lightning

Lightning Lightning

Lightning Lightning

And some video footage... beware of downloading on dial-up. (To view locally, please right click and choose save target as)

Lightning strike behind funnel - 3.5MB

Wall Cloud on approach - 17MB

Wall Cloud on approach 2 - 24.5MB

Wall Cloud driving alongside - 10.5MB

Funnel trying to develop - 44.5MB

Wall Cloud up close - 22MB

Wall Cloud and cell structure - 18MB