May 25, 2012 Storm Chase

Mature supercell over Kansas on May 25, 2012.

If you don’t follow us on Twitter or Facebook, you may have wondered why we have not updated the site in a few days, which is fairly unusual. Well, Mark Ellinwood and myself left the East Coast on Wednesday for our chasecation in the Plains, joined by Jason Foster. Compared to last year, the trip has been quite busy for the first few days. We’ve seen storms every day, but also a few busts (on the 24th in Wisconsin and the 26th in Nebraska).

However, May 25 was a big day for us in southwest Kansas as a disturbance interacted with quality shear and a dry line/warm front intersection to create a handful of supercells that dropped tornadoes.

The first storm formed as we were heading west to our target after leaving Waterloo, Iowa that morning. While it dropped a tornado or two, we decided to run for storms developing to its south. First we hit the middle supercell and saw several gustnados as well as a brief and weak tornado. The storm weakened a bit while we were on it, so we decided to run for the developing “tail end Charley.” Initially the storm remained rather high based, though the structure on it was fantastic and we were treated to quite a show.

As sunset approached, bases lowered and a new wall cloud rapidly formed very low to the ground. The colors of sunset provided brilliant views while the storm came closer and closer to producing tornadoes. Finally, as twilight began to wane and darkness set in, tornadoes began to drop.

The first tornado on the southern cell touched down around 9:15 p.m., with additional ones cycling through at least 10:30 or so. We finally called off the chase after watching the wall cloud not produce for about 20 minutes.

Below is a sample of imagery from the chase…

A gustnado on the first (middle) supercell intercepted along line.

A brief tornado on the first supercell.

Mammatus from the first supercell over La Crosse, Kansas.

Tail end Charlie supercell takes shape west of La Crosse, Kansas.

The second (tail end) supercell continues to develop with occasional lowerings.

One of the early lowerings among otherwise high bases.

A wall cloud rapidly begins to develop at sunset.

Well developed wall cloud in post-sunset light.

The wall cloud is illuminated by lightning heading into dusk.

The first tornado begins to drop from the clouds.

The first tornado touches down and grows into a cone.

Cone tornado west of La Crosse, Kansas.

Rope tornado near La Crosse, Kansas.

Rope tornado continues to dissipate.

New cone tornado developing.

Cone tornado transforms into a stovepipe. It would last about 10 minutes.

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Defense and foreign policy researcher at a D.C. think tank. Information lead for the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang.

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