Belleville, Kansas - May 24, 2004

Belleville Tornado 01

Belleville Tornado 02



Today started off as a very frustrating day. The Storm Prediction Center had issued a High Risk for tornadic activity today but all the storms that we kept chasing were weak and disorganized. To make matters worse, we got a phone call from another chaser telling us that he was currently watching a large tornado on the ground on a storm to our west. We started heading towards it but we were quite far away and I was worried that by the time we got there, the storm might be done. About 20 minutes later we got another call from the same chaser telling us that he was STILL watching the same tornado!! Our velocity increased dramatically. Tornado reports kept coming in...

The best intercept route to get to the rotating portion of the storm took us along an awful dirt road. the rain core had just passed over the road, turning it into a mass of dark, slippery mud. The van I was driving had a hard time with it and I had visions of being stuck in the mud, out in the middle of nowhere for hours before anyone could possibly come to help us. Luckily the road finally became paved and we continued on. The storm still had quite a bit of life still in it but I was angry because I knew that we had missed out on seeing several tornadoes so I started shaking my fist at the storm. That seemed to have an effect because less than 5 minutes later, we had a tornado on the ground near the town of Belleville, Kansas.

After the tornado lifted, we continued on and tried to get gas at a small town but this would prove to be a difficult task. As we were filling up, the tornado sirens started blaring. There were numerous trees blocking my view of the base of the thunderstorm so I couldn't tell if there was actually a tornado headed towards us or not. I scrambled to get everyone together and finish topping up the tank. It's a good thing I hurried because the clerk at the station had instructions to immediately shut the pumps down if the sirens started to sound. We managed to fuel up just in the nick of time.

There was no new tornado but the storm showed incredible signs of rotation. The base was rounded with striations along the updraft. It was an incredible sight to behold. It did produce a few funnels but none of them made it all the way to the ground. As this storm eventually died off, there was more explosive convection going on to our south. The way this storm was firing up, it looked like an atomic bomb going off. We raced south in an effort to get to this beast while there was still some daylight left but despite our efforts, it was already dark when we got underneath the new updraft.