May 22, 2008 Chase

Bridget had made her first trip to Norman in late March, hoping to chase for the first time. However, the week she visited was void of severe weather, tucked in between our March 17 and March 30 chases. So when she returned a second time on May 15, she was more than ready to get her chasing career started. Little did either of us know, she would have, arguably, the most successful start to a chase career of all-time.

Chad, Mickey, Bridget, and myself targeted southwest Kansas. We ended up near Dighton as a storm developed west of us. We tracked it north along KS23, watching repeated attempts at tornadogenesis, although none of these were successful. We took back roads off of the highway south of Shields, and worked our way east and north up towards KS4, coming out between Pen Dennis and Utica. We went east on the highway a short distance, then turned north onto another back road west of Utica. By this time it was obvious the storm was HP in nature, and we'd need to get close to be able to see through the haze.

We worked our way west on some horrible roads, and finally got a view of the storm's base. We turned north, and within a few minutes, the first tornado of the day formed just head of us, right of the road. The others saw a white funnel associated with this tornado that I, for whatever reason, did not. Regardless, this tornado only lasted a minute or so. We continued on afterwards, and within another minute our second tornado of the day developed, a few miles to our west. We stopped and shot video, but this tornado decided it wanted to bail, and dissipated quickly.

We continued north again after this tornado ended, then, as we rounded a corner to face west, a third tornado appeared, just a few miles to our northwest. We watched as it moved behind a farmstead, at one point being backlit slightly by lightning. Once this tornado ended, we made our way north to I-70. We crossed over the interstate, negotiating an insane chaser convergence, and made our way a mile or so north, then turned east. By now the storm was getting away and becoming very wrapped, so we went back to the interstate, and headed to WaKeeney.

We sat on the south side of town, just south of I-70, watching a storm evolve. We had a blind view to the tornadoes it produced, because of precip, but still managed to almost be in one of them. As we sat there watching an obvious wrapping mesocyclone within rain, I kept telling the guys we needed to move east because the new cycle was developing to our southeast, but we just sat there. Finally, once the wrapping rain completely obscured the lowering they were drooling over south of us, they took my advice. However it was almost too late, as we tore out of town on I-70 doing 70mph, fighting equally-fast southeast winds, wrapping into the tornado that was moving into the south part of town. It took about a mile, but we finally broke free of the rain. Once we did, I looked back west and saw a large circular bowl of precip, hiding the tornado that was affecting parts of WaKeeney.

After that, we'd had enough excitement for one day, and headed east to Hays. We found a room there, grabbed some beer, and celebrated our catch. But today was just the beginning.