2009-06-07 Sabetha, KS / Falls City and Rulo, NE / Forest City, MO Doppler Indicated Tornado

Auburn, Nebraska. Cellphone? Check. Camera? Check. Camcorder? Check. Inverter? Check. Laptop? Uhhh…

Hiawatha, Kansas, met up with a chaser convergence for about an hour until the towers started going up. I was hoping this would pop west of US-75, because closer to the river the roads get worse. It did start well west, but nothing happened until much further east, dang it.

South of Sabetha KS on US-36. I watched this feature for the better part of 90 mins.–from both sides of the storm. Not much rain, most of the time none at all, and certainly no hail until just before the storm crossed into Missouri. So this meant 90 minutes of hail formation until the updraft couldn’t keep it suspended anymore…


5:15 PM CT, looking straight up. Almost wish I was farther away!


5:15 again, notice there’s less rain and more motion at the base.


5:27, now on US-75 on the east side of Sabetha. Again, if I had been farther away this would have been a classic mothership photo. As it is, you can see a momentary tightening of the updraft and a smidgen of rotation. I wasn’t too worried / excited, since the base was pretty high.


Closer detail, same time, the mid-level of the storm.


5:35, updraft base, no rotation.


5:38, blocky as heck, but no rotation.


5:38. Same location but looking a little further to the east.


Good lord, lookit that cauliflower! (The train was Union Pacific, so I didn’t waste my time taking photos…)


5:44, Look at the healthy updraft base directly below that brand-new tower! After this, it was backroads to Falls City, then this storm became TOR warned as it was crossing the Missouri River.


Too busy to take photos, I couldn’t see a coherent wall cloud but apparently I was right underneath it(!) Huge chaser convergence. Vortex 2, their ‘friends’ at The Weather Channel, weekend chasers, all clogging up US-159 for twenty miles at 25 MPH. The sheer volume and the roads made me think I was at the Nurburgring! Everyone was fortunate that a hose didn’t drop here, this was a rolling traffic jam with not much in the way of escape roads. Honestly, this will be a consideration in the future when I decide where to chase when Vortex 2 is out again.

There were probes all over the road here, and I wonder what kind of data they got–not only because of the bluffs, but because of all the cars going past and contaminating the windflow measurements. Even fifteen-second average measurements would have been crap because cars were going by every five seconds!

I missed grapefruit-sized hail in Forest City, MO. I can honestly say that is the luckiest I’ve been chasing, to be five minutes behind that hailstorm. I would rather drive (and I have driven through) a tornado than through gorilla hail. It his was the first time I’ve seen a transformer on fire from being hit by a hailstone! I made it to I-29 to watch rotation on three axes that couldn’t tighten up. Shredded trees along I-29 where the hail core went through.

Video of various scenes today:

8:18, Mound City, MO. Nice anvil, the storm was in between TOR cycles. I gave up or else I would have wound up in Chillicothe at 11PM with a three-hour drive back home. Other people stuck with it and caught the odd tornado into central Missouri.



Author: Damon Hynes

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

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