2008-05-23 Dighton, Ness City, Ransom, etc. Kansas Tornado

Second verse, same as the first…

Ma Nature woke me up 5-ish, the discrete supercells had coalesced, as they usually do, into a squall line that made it as far east as Russell. Waited for the 1300Z SWODY1, which told me to stay put 🙂

Looked at the buffet, found it wanting. (I miss my Fairfield!) Crossed the road to check out the Oil Patch Museum, disappointment there, too (open four hours each day during June-August.) Apparently it was self-guided, or it was once I got done with it! Sixty-five degrees and a brisk east wind, I forgot to pack jeans! Mickey D’s for Cinnamon Melt, OJ and 1% chocolate milk, breakfast of champions. (Blood sugar at 115, thankyewverymuch.)

Checkout at eleven, twenty miles to Hays. Mercado del Walton for more mini-DV tapes. Lunch at Arby’s, firing up the laptop to steal their internet, and finding that there were ten networks in the area with chasing-related names within pinging distance! Stood in line with countless other chasers, mentioning what I’d seen the night before (every county out here names their county seat (county) Center or (county) City, and I gave directions by mentioning “One of them Citys”!) Literally every other car at lunch was from somewhere other than Kansas, and I’d see most of them at least once that afternoon.

It was a great day already, had my mojo working, I was going to bag today, just knew it. US-183 south to Rush Center, KS-96 west through Ness City (see, am I wrong?) to Dighton, in Lane County. Wonder why they didn’t call it Lane Center? Beautiful drive, and the few cars out were mostly chasers. It was just after two by now, initiation was expected around three from Scott City to Liberal, in other words, about twenty miles west of me. Mike Gribble holds to the belief that you stay a little downstream of the dryline, and head to the storms as they fire. Made sense to me, unfortunately the storm motion for today was still dead north at 45+ MPH, just like yesterday.

The Kwik Shop in Dighton wasn’t set up for a score of chasers descending on the gas pumps to top up. Ran into Shane Adams there, so I knew I was doing something right 🙂 Good people. There were cars from California, New Jersey, Shane’s Oklahoma Taurus and too many Texans and Coloradoans to count. Shane told me that he was heading toward the west side of town, since I didn’t want to be a fanboi I headed east. By the time I parked a mile east of Dighton on KS-96, the Red Box was up, and two storms were popping just to my southwest. Still a little early, I thought, so of course one went SVR and the other went TOR within ten minutes!


I decided to halfway-commit to chasing one of these, but the better conditions were still southwest and I didn’t want to get too far out of position. Gravel again, but I’ll say this for the roads, they drain well, so I had no issues today. Made it to Utica on KS-4, same road I was on yesterday, first two storms long gone. Bounced around, ran into some other chasers who said stuff was building southwest, as promised, near Garden City and heading this way.

But there was still stuff in between us and Garden City, half of the other guys were wanting to stay until the Garden City storms came northeast right to us, some others wanted to head to just north of Dighton to catch the closer storms, then beat it back to Utica. Those guys took off, I decided to follow at a non-leech distance.


I began to see some structure on the south storm everyone was mentioning…




When I was five miles north of Dighton, Lane County went TOR for a spotter-indicated tornado just to the west of Dighton. Hot diggity! Sixty-five to the city limits, (Shane still parked on the west side of KS-23, just like he predicted), whoa’d down to twenty-five in town, hard right on KS-96 and one mile west of town:


Actually two wall clouds southwest of town, had to make sure I didn’t fixate. Total of eighteen minutes to go over the road, sure didn’t act like it was moving at 45 like the radio said. South of the road, fingers came down, went back up, multiple-vortex structure. Just about as it went over the road, the RFD kicked in and on the video you can hear me saying “Here we go again!” I could hear the tornado roaring as it passed just west. North of the road, there was more rain between me and the tornado, but it still was producing, just can’t see it as well or as constant.


Three videos:

This wall cloud looked a little more glaciated that it was south of the road, so like an idiot I took this moment to pack up and start heading north. Within seconds–that is, with buildings in the way–this wall cloud spit out another tornado, that a ton of other people taped!

With an eye toward Utica, like those other guys had said, I headed back north on KS-23. Where 23 splits with 4, the guys I had come to Dighton with were looking off the the northwest, and here was this–same mesocyclone, waaay off in the distance, no-roads-ville:


Video, unedited and lousy contrast:

After this, I decided to change locale, I hadn’t been to Garden City and there was still more storms along 23. In retrospect I wished I’d done something else, since the storms passed me going north as I was going south. I wasn’t about to go on gravel in all that rain. While they were TOR-warned, I never came close to seeing anything except hellacious amounts of rain, and by the time I got to KS-156 and headed east they were long gone, or so I thought. My daughter at home texts me at this time asking where I am, I thought a second and replied that…I was about 60 mi. from Colorado and 60 mi. from Oklahoma. Oh, my…

Turned north on US-283 at Jetmore, 99% resigned to go-home mode. I had seen two hoses, after all! But the storms which were now north of me went spotter-confirmed TOR, which caused me to grit my teeth a little. (But not too much, there were even more storms to my south, both nearby and all the way to the Texas panhandle. Wind was still southeast, the Red Box was extended until 4AM! Incredibly, I was making ground on the storms to my north! Got to Ness City (second time that day) while they were still TOR warned, and made it to Ransom ten minutes after they were hit by the first of two tornadoes within twenty minutes. You do the math, while you do that, here’s number two cranking up:


Sorta boxed in by now, but my judgment was clouded somewhat by wanting to go home. Should have bailed south, because this one was west, both east and and west of my location had damage from the first and the that one was heading north! So, south in hindsight would have gotten me in the clear the quickest, but that seemed counterintuitive since it was about to produce…and get rain-wrapped!

..And soon overran me. Thirty miles in torrential rain, baseball hail, spotter-confirmed–at least the road wasn’t gravel. Car never hydroplaned once. However, I did notice one or two unsettling wind-shifts that meant only one thing. I’d wager that the storm on my tail passed me at some near distance off to my east. One day, go home mode will kill me. More of the same along I-70 east once I got to WaKeeney. Radio had mentioned a truck overturned on I-70–which I saw, but two miles later I saw two others which weren’t mentioned, both tornadoes crossed the interstate and I must have been minutes behind the second one. This time, when the wind shifted I pulled over, like that was going to help. (One of my rules is that I don’t chase at night, and technically I was quitting the area. That’ll look good on my headstone, I reckon.)

Diesel fuel all over the side of my car, from the trucks. These tornadoes, out of all the storms the past two days, had managed to stay together north of I-70 and I could see the back end of the storm as I headed east. Made Hays, got a room (Fairfield still sold out) just in time for the obligatory squall line and the Ten-O’Clock news.

Saturday morning, Wifey had called to wake me up, mentioning that it was our wedding anniversary and all and would I like to come home, hint hint? So, back to Omaha. Neal Peart had mentioned one of his favorite artists is Jeff Buckley, and I managed to find a copy of Grace at the Hays Walmart the day before. Now, with the atmosphere catching its breath, I had time to listen as I drive I-70 east. What a revelation…

Saturday’s SWODY1 had mentioned two areas to pay attention to on the 24th: NC-C Oklahoma…and E Nebraska. The Stormtrack.org playas were split, and since one target was closer, LOL…in retrospect, I should have taken a hard right on I-135 at Salina!

Steak ‘n Shake in Topeka, then arrived home to find the house empty…happy anniversary, my azz. Okay, if that’s the way you want to play…so I headed out to Wahoo. Red Box west of Omaha never fired. I was pist by all the ‘naders in Oklahoma Saturday, that was such an easy drive from KS and I still had three days of vacation. But catching Oklahoma on the 24th would have meant missing Parkersburg, IA on the 25th–not like I chased on the 25th–but you can’t catch everything! Parkersburg was a hard tornado to chase, anyhow.


Author: Damon Hynes

Used to chase tornadoes, until Ma Nature ran out of them...

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