April 21, 2005 Chase

This was a day that most chasers scoffed at, for whatever reason. For me personally, it was a no-brainer to head to southeast Kansas, and that's exactly what we did. Chad, Jo, and myself convoyed with JR, and found ourselves south of Chanute as three storms fired near us. The best-looking of the three was due south of us, so we decided to target that one.We moved south on US169 to KS47, then blasted east. As we drove, the storm loomed to our south and was getting more intense. We came to US59, and headed south towards Parsons.

As we drove, the storm kept intensifying. It was now to our southwest, and it was becoming obvious we would need to go west well before Parsons. We found a decent-looking back road and turned west. JR was leading, using his GPS navigation and found a wonderful route. He would radio back to us via short range HHs we had, and ask at each intersection if we wanted to go west or south. We methodically worked our way towards the storm, as we got our first view of the base. We continued south and west to just south of Galesburg, until we were right in front of the storm, watching as a wall cloud began to form and rotate just west of us. Minutes later, a nice inflow tail began to feed into the updraft, as the rotation increased. Eventually a large cone funnel formed and moved almost overhead. We decided to bail out and get out of its way.

We moved south a few hundred yards and turned sideways across the road to face east. Moments later, a tornado developed just north of us, just east of the road. It started to loft debris as it moved to the east and continued to intensify. We turned the car to the north, and as we did, wrap-around precipitation began to hit us. As the tornado continued east, it morphed into a ragged multiple vortex, and started to get buried in the rain. Shortly after this, the RFD buried us in heavy rain and wind, so we turned around and headed south. As good as our road network had been to that point, it was now hurting us against the storm, which was cruising east as-the-crow-flies while we were forced to negotiate a lake. We burned south for two miles until we found our next road option, then headed back east.

After we turned east and drove a few hundred yards, the tornado came into view again as a fully-condensed funnel. Despite the fact we had finally cleared the rain and had a full view of the tornado, trees were now becoming a problem, cutting our view short as they kept the tornado hidden as we continued east. Eventually we came upon a clear spot, and by this time the tornado had grown into a large stovepipe, as it attained its maximum size and intensity. Rain had begun to partially-obscure it once again, and we continued east and north to keep the tornado in sight. We finally got into clear air south of the tornado and had a clear view, as the RFD began to cut in and start the weakening phase of the tornado. Despite this, the tornado kept fighting to stay alive, continuing as an intense cone for a few more minutes. However, the RFD eventually won, and the tornado slowly roped out.

By this time we'd reached US59 again, and were now heading north. As the tornado roped out, I looked east and saw a new lowering, which was getting ready to produce another tornado. After another mile or so, we found a back road heading east and took it. As we drove, the second tornado of the day developed ahead of us and south of the road. We wound our way south and east through trees, catching glimpses of the tornado here and there. We finally found a clearing near the town of South Mound that afforded a great view, and stopped.

The tornado funnel writhed like a white snake, as it displayed extremely violent motion at the ground. We moved across to the other side of the intersection, where I tried to get out and shoot video. Just as I did, large hail started to fall, and not wanting a serious head injury, I jumped back in the car. The tornado had fully-condensed by now, and was absolutely beautiful, a slender white funnel against a dark gray sky. It began to intensify and pick up debris, whirling red dirt into the sky and putting on one of the most brilliant tornadic displays I've ever witnessed. Eventually though, the dirt and debris began to obscure the tornado, so we continued east towards it.

As we drove, rain began affecting us again, as the tornado took on a multiple vortex form, with random vortices appearing just south of the road behind a grove of trees. We cautiously followed, being careful not to get too close. We lost it in the trees as our road dipped down into a valley, but when we came up the other side it reappeared right over the road. We continued the chase but lost the tornado again for good not long afterwards. Eventually we came upon the damage path, where large trees were strewn across the road. I tried to move one myself, but the effort was futile. Chad had run over some debris as we came upon the scene, and now had a flat tire. After giving up on moving the tree, I ran back and did a NASCAR-style tire change, getting it done in under five minutes. Once we negotiated an off-road route around the downed trees, we were back in action.

We made it to Pittsburg, but by now the storm had lost some of its punch. We stayed with it until dusk, where we finally gave up and started looking for a place to get the flat tire fixed. After a celebration dinner at Pizza Hut, and some amazing help from locals, we were able to get the normal-sized flat tire fixed. After that, we headed home.