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Tornado Chase 2004

This page will be updated regularly throughout May while I'm on the chase. This Year I will be driving one of the tour vans for Cloud 9 Tours. Charles Edwards runs one of the oldest and most reputable storm chase tour companies around. We will be taking people out to see some of the most spectacular shows that nature has to offer.

 

June 01 - Toronto, Ontario
Kansas Tornado Outbreak Photos - Here are some video captures of the incredible tornado outbreak on May 29th. The pictures are in chronological order and show the wide variety of tornadoes that we saw that day. I have now returned to Toronto after a hellish marathon drive through torrential rain, lightning and I even had a possible tornado cross the highway less than a mile in front of me. I was in Illinois when I saw huge blue power flashes from an exploding transformer or damaged power lines. As I got closer, I saw tree debris in the road. The whole area was under a PDS Tornado watch at the time (Particularly Dangerous Situation). Many thanks go out to Charles Edwards and John Guyton for letting me help out with the tours this year and thanks also to all the guests who came from every corner of the Earth to come see Mother Nature's raw power. It was great fun meeting you all. I had a great time.


May 29 - South Central Kansas
MEGA TORNADO OUTBREAK !!!! - Today we witnessed 9 or 10 tornadoes (we lost count) all from one incredible supercell. Every shape and size tornado imaginable - Wedges, elephant trunk, stovepipe, rope....On 3 different occasions, we had 2 tornadoes on the ground AT THE SAME TIME!! Unbelievable. It's 3:00 A.M. now and I need to get a couple of hour's sleep before my marathon drive back to Toronto. I will post pictures soon when I get the chance. Today was a once in a lifetime chase. There were tornadoes everywhere. I still don't know the full extent of the outbreak. This was my last chase day in Tornado Alley and it was INCREDIBLE. Many more details to follow........

May 28 - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
With no storm potential today, we decided to take in a matinee of the movie "The Day After Tomorrow". After that we headed over to the Oklahoma City memorial which was the site of the 1995 bombing of the federal building there. My trip is almost over and it looks like tomorrow will be my last chase. After that, I start my journey back to Toronto. Right now it looks like we'll be heading into Kansas in the morning. Stay tuned.

Memorial

Memorial

May 26 - Norman, Oklahoma
Tornado Warning!! - Today we weren't expecting too much in the way of storms so we decided to head from Tulsa to Norman. We made a quick stop at the Storm Prediction Center and then we all split up for the afternoon. It was quite a surprise to find out that a tornado watch box was issued for our area. We scrambled to get everyone back together and head out to intercept a tornado warned storm that had formed near Clinton. We managed to negotiate the rush hour traffic in Oklahoma City and get into position near the suburb of Mustang. The storm never did produce a tornado but it had very strong rotation for a while. It was a great surprise treat.

May 26

May 25 - Tulsa, Oklahoma
No storms to chase today but I will be seen on "Tornado Chasers", an upcoming episode of "Disaster Detectives" on Discovery Channel Canada. Here's the schedule:
Wed, May 26, 2004 at 10:00 PM (ET)
Thu, May 27, 2004 at 1:00 AM (ET)
Thu, May 27, 2004 at 11:00 AM (ET)
Thu, May 27, 2004 at 5:00 PM (ET)

Discovery Channel Canada

May 24 - Belleville, Kansas
TORNADO !!! - Today was a tough day. we had a hard time getting into position to see the storms as they fired up but we did manage to intercept a tornado near the town of Belleville, Kansas. At one point, we had to cut across a very bad mud road and we were in jeopardy of getting stuck out in the middle of nowhere but we managed to finally make it back onto paved roads just a few minutes before we saw the tornado touch down. Later, in the small town of Washington, we stopped to get gas and much to our surprise, the tornado sirens started blaring. I couldn't see the thunderstorm base due to all the trees in the way and I didn't know if there was a tornado bearing down on the town. The attendant at the station was pretty scared and her procedure was to shut off the pumps if the sirens went off. Luckily, we had just finished topping up. We gathered everyone up and got out of town where visibility was better and the rotation on this storm was spectacular. It had a "Mothership" appearance to it and I was able to shoot a fair amount of time-lapse video of the storm spinning away. The storm then rapidly died out but to our south there was another pair of storms that had explosive development. They looked like atomic bombs going off. We raced towards them (along with every other chaser out there) and finally caught up with the closest one near the town of Osage City. It had a tornado warning on it but it was getting dark and the hail was getting too big for us to continue. All in all a very tiring, and satisfying day.

Tornado 1

Tornado 2

Tornado 3

Meso

Bomb

May 23 - Hallam, Nebraska
Yesterday a large tornado made a direct hit on the small Nebraska town of Hallam (population 276). The storm damaged about 80% of the buildings in town. The area is currently under a state of emergency and national guard troops were on site. The town was leveled but luckily there was only one fatality reported, it could have been a lot worse given the extent of the damage.

Hallam_01

Hallam_02

Hallam_03

Hallam_04

Hallam_05

A full grain silo knocked over

A house completely removed from its foundation

Damaged house on the edge of town

The tornado even derailed a train

Lots of damage to power lines.

May 22 - Fremont, Nebraska
Tornado Warning!! - We waited at a truck stop in York for a good portion of the day. We knew that supercell thunderstorms were going to fire up in the vicinity later in the afternoon. Once we saw the first towering cumulus go up just north of town, we hit the road and watched the storm come together. The storm quickly became tornado warned and we got into position to view the large rotating wall cloud that formed. We continued east with the storm as it continued to spin along the North Platte river. This storm was a monster. It had radar indicated hail of up to 4 inches and it had at least 3 tornado warnings issued for it. As we pulled into the town of Fremont, the tornado sirens were blaring. A new tornado warning had been issued for the town. We came across a small area of debris and light damage that could've been caused by a tornado but if it had, it would've been tough to see in the rain.

May 22 2004

May 22 2004

May 21 - Norfolk, Nebraska
AMAZING NEBRASKA TORNADO!!! - Our target today was along the warm front near the Nebraska/South Dakota border. We watched a weak storm go up near Neligh and brushed it off when we heard reports of another storm off to our northeast that had a severe thunderstorm warning on it. We could see the base of the new storm from a distance and it had a suspicious lowering that we wanted to get a better look at. Soon the storm became tornado warned and we saw what might have been a funnel cloud or tornado but we were too far away to tell for sure. As we turned North in Norfolk, we started to notice that our first storm had started to get its act together. It had much better shape and soon it also received a tornado warning. For a while, we were able to observe 2 different wall clouds on 2 different storms, both with tornado warnings at the same time. Just north of Norfolk, we pulled over and started paying more attention to our initial storm. It was really getting organized. A small funnel formed and I watched the ground underneath it for any signs of debris that would signal a tornado touchdown...Bingo! A debris cloud formed and the funnel snaked its way down towards the ground. The tornado was quite photogenic and gave us a great show for several minutes before the rain and hail forced us to retreat. We celebrated with an awesome steak dinner in Norfolk. We ended up pushing south after dinner and stayed in York for the night. What a great day!

Norrfolk Tornado
A video clip of the tornado can be seen by clicking HERE

May 20 - Des Moines, Iowa
Tornado Watch - Today's chase started off in Des Moines. We had some time to kill this morning and some of the guests wanted to see the "Bridges of Madison County". We found the historic bridges near the town of Winterset, which happens to be the birthplace of John Wayne. Once we actually started chasing, we ended up in Ottumwa, Iowa when a tornado watch was issued for southern Iowa. We intercepted several storms, including one that had a severe thunderstorm warning issued for it but the atmosphere couldn't get its act together today. There was plenty of instability but the updrafts were weak and the storms never really got organized. Tonight we're back in Des Moines.

Charles Edwards

Madison County Bridge

George K

Disorganized Storm

May 18 - Grand Island, Nebraska
There was a slight risk of severe weather today but we decided to brush it off in order to travel farther east and get into better position for tomorrow's threat. Along the way, we stopped in at a few of the more "interesting" sights to see in Kansas:
The "Garden Of Eden" - Lucas, Kansas. The house and concrete garden sculptures were built by hand by artist S.P. Dinsmoor. His body is kept in a glass topped coffin in the garden's crypt. This place has to be seen to be believed!

Garden Of Eden 1

Garden Of Eden 2

Garden Of Eden 3

Garden Of Eden 4
The World's Largest Ball of Twine - Cawker, Kansas. Yep, it's really that big.

Ball Of Twine 1

Ball Of Twine 2
   
The Geographical Center of the Continental USA - Lebanon, Kansas. Hey it had to be somewhere.

Center of USA
     

May 17 - Russell, Kansas
Tornado Warning!! - The day started off in Grand Island, Nebraska. We headed south into Kansas and waited in Hays before the storms fired up. The best storm formed east of Hays and travelled eastward. A tornado warning was soon issued for the storm as it approached Russell. Storm spotters reported a rotating wall cloud and funnel with the storm at this time. We were able to see the funnel cloud from a distance but it never made it all the way to the ground. We got out in front of it and watched the rotation before the storm finally died out just before sunset.

Meso

May 16 - Amelia, Nebraska
LARGE TORNADO NEAR AMELIA, NEBRASKA!! - Yesterday was the day that the participants of the second tour flew into Oklahoma City. The day was spent picking people up at the airport and doing a brief orientation with them. We knew that we'd have a long way to go on Sunday so we all met up the following morning at 7:30 A.M. in Norman, Oklahoma for their first day of chasing. During the long drive north, it became apparent that today's chase was going to be a tough one. The visibility was terrible with lots of low clouds obscuring our view. What made matters even worse was a series of technical problems. One laptop died completely and our XM radio weather data system was down. We were flying blind but were able to get enough information to decide on a target area. At 6:00, we approached a tornado warned storm about 3 miles southwest of the town of Amelia. Through all the low clouds we saw a dramatic updraft base with a huge wall cloud that was rapidly rotating. Inside the rain curtains was a very suspicious dark area. This was actually a large cone shaped tornado. It moved out of the rain and tracked northeast. The tornado's shape kept morphing from a cone to an elephant trunk to a large bowl. The rotation of this thunderstorm was probably the most violent that I have ever witnessed. At one point, we had to turn around to get out of the way of the circulation that crossed the road less than a half mile to our west. It was a truly amazing sight. The tour guests sure were pleased with their very first chase day! Today we drove over 730 miles and we were on the road for more hours than I can calculate right now but it was all worth it.

Amelia Tornado

Amelia Tornado

May 14 - Norman, Oklahoma
I've added some video of the dramatic tornadoes and giant hail from Attica. View the video clip HERE Attica Video

May 12 - Attica, Kansas
INCREDIBLE TORNADO OUTBREAK !!! - What a day. 4 tornadoes, incredible lightning and softball sized hailstones. there were 2 splitting supercells that formed in Kansas today and the structure of these storms was amazing. We intercepted the first tornado of the day near Medicine Lodge. It had a slender rope appearance to it. A second tornado then formed just east of town. It only had a very small funnel with a small debris cloud underneath. We pushed east into the town of Attica where the tornado sirens were blaring. The hail that started to fall grew from penny sized to golf balls, then to baseballs and softballs. We needed to take cover fast. I turned onto a residential street and sought refuge under a carport in someone's driveway. If we hadn't, we would have surely lost most of the glass in the vehicle. As we were photographing the hail, tornado #3 formed on the eastern edge of town. It should've been moving away from us but it started to swing around and was now heading towards us. We pulled out of the carport (Destroying one of my antennas in the process) and blasted further west. Once in the clear we got a good look at this beast. It was ghostly white and had kicked up a huge amount of red dirt. Once it dissipated, we continued east and saw that the tornado had ripped the roof off a house. (We later heard that no one was home at the time). The police had the area blocked off so we found a route around and continued to chase. The rain and hail was quickly wrapping around the backside of the storm and it was now getting dark. It was clear that another tornado was likely hidden in the rain directly ahead of us. It was too dangerous to proceed so we headed south and started taking pictures of the incredible lightning display. It was breathtaking. While shooting the lightning, tornado #4 was sighted to the north, near the town of Anthony. It was only visible in the lightning flashes but it was on the ground for 15-20 minutes. Right now it's 3:00 A.M. and I'm in Enid Oklahoma. Exhausted, exhilarated and amazed by the best show on Earth.

Updraft

Tornado #1

Tornado #2

Giant Hailstone

Supercell with rainbow

Tornado # 1 near Medicine Lodge

Tornado #2

Gigantic Hailstone

Tornado #3

Tornado #3

Tornado #3

Tornado #4

Tornado #3 appears and moves towards us (F2)

It destroys a house and kicks up red dirt

Tornado #3 roping out and weakening

Tornado #4 - At night (F4)

May 11 - North Platte, Nebraska
The moderate risk today didn't pan out the way it was forecast to. We did manage to intercept a severe storm near Cherry County, Nebraska. This storm had hail to the size of quarters in it. we spent the night in Colby, Kansas in preparation for more chasing on Wednesday.

May 09 - Minneapolis, Minnesota
Tornado Warning!! - The day started off in Des Moines, Iowa. We headed north into Minnesota and spotted a huge supercell that we thought was too far away to catch. We continued on, waiting for more storms to fire up but we ended up making the dash for the monstrous storm to the north. A tornado warning and tornado watch was then issued. We intercepted the storm from the south side and found ourselves in an incredible inflow notch. The storm was sucking in dirt from the surrounding fields and pulling it up into the updraft. We tried to stay ahead of the storm but we kept getting caught by the rain and hail. Eventually we called off the chase because the storm was starting to move into the Minneapolis metro area and we still had to drive all the way into Nebraska to meet up with the rest of the tour group. We eventually pulled into the motel in Norfolk at almost 3:00 A.M. after driving through torrential rain and continuous strobing lightning...

01

02

May 08 - Des Moines, Iowa
Tornado Warning!! - We chased the "Tail End Charlie" supercell that formed in west central Iowa. A tornado warning was issued for Guthrie County and there were a few reports of tornadoes spotted. We encountered lots of small hail, incredible lightning and flash flooding. We stopped for dinner in Winterset and waited for the storm to overtake the town. We later found out that the main road north was closed due to the river overflowing its banks. Our caravan was reduced today because Charles had to travel back to Oklahoma City to pick up and drop off some of the guests for this week. It's about time we got some decent storms.

Lowering

Mesocyclone

Hail

May 07 - Omaha, Nebraska
Another day, Another state. Omaha was the destination today. We ended up spending 6 hours at a truck stop near Interstate 80 waiting for the capping inversion to break. Like yesterday, the cap held and no storms developed. We did get to hook up with several other chaser-friends while we waited. It was a frustrating experience but that's the way it is. Storm chasing is rarely like it's portrayed in the movies.

Goofing Off

Scott McPartland

Bob & Steve

Circumzenithal Arc
Myself and Charles Edwards spot the only tornado in the area. Scott McPartland tries a high energy beverage while waiting for the storms to fire up. Bob Berry and Steven Mayne are fellow chasers from Canada. We did get to see a rare circumzenithal arc in the cirrus clouds above the water tower.

May 06 - Des Moines, Iowa
Today there was a marginal chance for severe thunderstorms in Iowa but a capping inversion kept any storms from firing up in our target area. Of course it never fails...A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for parts of Southern Ontario today, not far from my home in Toronto.

May 05 - Salina, Kansas
We travelled from Amarillo, Texas through Oklahoma and into Salina, Kansas. Today was a travel day, getting us into better position for storms later in the week. We were treated to a spectacular sunset.

Kansas Sunset

May 04 - Palo Duro Canyon, Texas
With little in the way of weather to chase, we took in some of the sights in the Texas Panhandle. Today we visited Palo Duro Canyon and had dinner at the Big Texan Steak House. On Tuesday nights they feature local singers & dancers as part of their "Opry Night".

Palo Duro

George

Hike To Cave

Cave

Big Texan

Big Texan

May 03 - Amarillo, Texas
Over the past few days we picked up our first group of guests at the airport and got them ready to chase. Today we visited the National Severe Storms Laboratory and the Storm Prediction Center in Norman Oklahoma. It's the 5 year anniversary of the F5 tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma. This tornado had the highest wind speeds ever recorded on earth - 318 Mph. Right now the weather pattern for the next few days is not very encouraging, but that's the life of a storm chaser. We're at the whim of the wind.

NSSL

Doppler Radar

April 30 - Shawnee, Oklahoma
Today was spent getting prepared for the arrival of the tour guests. They fly into Oklahoma City tomorrow. We picked up the van and started installing all of the equipment that we will require for chasing. One of the latest innovations is the Baron XM Radio Mobile Threat Net system. It uses satellites to send weather data to a receiver that's hooked into a computer in the van. It's brand new and we plan on putting it through its paces. We will also be running A.P.R.S. which will allow anyone to track our position online HERE. The system may not be able to properly transmit our location if we end up somewhere very remote but the overall coverage is excellent.

Van

Baron

April 29 - Norman, Oklahoma
Along my journey from St. Louis to Oklahoma, I made a stop in Pierce City Missouri. On May 4th, 2003 the small town was hammered by an F3 tornado. Most of the town's main street was destroyed and now a year later, it's still obvious what happened here. There are numerous plots of land where the remains of some of the ruined buildings have been bulldozed. Some damaged structures remain even today.

Pierce City 1

Pierce City 2

Pierce City 3

Pierce City 4

Pierce City 5

April 28 - Collinsville, Illinois, Near St. Louis
I departed Toronto at dawn and began my 2 day journey to get to "Tornado Alley". After a brief visit to Canada Customs to register my equipment, I was on my way across the border into the U.S at Detroit, Michigan. I made a stop in Luna Pier, Michigan which is one of the most western points on Lake Erie. There was a high wind advisory for much of the Midwest and the winds whipped the lake waters up and over the edge of the breakwater. In Indianapolis, I ran into some tree branches that appeared to have fallen off of a truck. They were lying right in the middle of the Interstate. About 30 minutes later, I noticed a strange scraping sound coming from underneath the truck. I pulled off into a truck stop and found a 5 foot long tree branch sticking out of the side of my vehicle. It had become lodged in the undercarriage. No damage was found. Total distance today - 1300Km.

Toronto at first light

The Ambassador Bridge - Detroit/Windsor

Luna Pier Michigan

Crashing waves at Luna Pier

Unwanted guest

Lodged right in there
Toronto at first light The Ambassador Bridge - Detroit/Windsor Luna Pier Michigan Crashing waves at Luna Pier Unwanted guest Lodged right in there

April 26 - Toronto Final preparations are being made and my equipment is being packed up. I depart on the morning of the 28th. There has been a lot of tornadic activity in the U.S. over the past week and we're now in a quieter time between active weather periods.

 


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Send E-Mail To George Kourounis

george@stormchaser.ca


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