- TORNADO-PALOOZA !!
- South Dakota does it again, for the
second time in a week. I don't know what it is about this state,
but they get some very photogenic tornadoes here.
- Wow, what a day! When we got up this
morning, we were expecting a tough chase day due to fast moving
storms and a poor road network in western South Dakota. The Storm
Prediction Center had already issued a moderate risk for severe
weather, including tornadoes so all the ingredients were present,
but the location was not ideal. The cell phone network there
is also not very good, so we were worried about losing our data
feed during the chase today as well.
- A tornado watch was issued and storms
fired up early in the afternoon so we got into position to try
and find the best storm of the day. The strongest storm was to
our southwest and was tracking just west of due north. We plotted
a course to intercept it and before we knew it, a tornado touched
down. We thought it would only last a few minutes but it just
kept on going. At first it was distant, then it got closer and
closer. It showed no sign of weakening at all as it changed shape
from a cone to a wide wedge to another fat cone. It was on the
ground for over 15 minutes.
- I noticed that it was going to cross
a road nearby so we packed up and went west. As we approached
the spot where it was headed, a smaller satellite tornado formed
and was orbiting around the larger one. We watched it kick up
dirt a couple of hundred feet ahead of us, but the main tornado
was now getting really close too. We stopped in front of a small
church and let the tornado cross the road less than 200 yards
ahead of us, passing just behind the church. It was still a giant
cone and the inflow winds where we were increased to the point
where I needed all my strength to open the van door! It was like
being in a hurricane!!
- Several of our group also noticed another
satellite tornado that passed behind our vehicles. Most of us
were too busy with the main tornado to notice it and I need to
see if any of them have video to confirm it. It wouldn't surprise
me considering how close we were. There was even some concern
about the vans possibly blowing over, but they remained firmly
on the ground.
- If we had an armored car, we could've
easily driven right into the tornado... Certainly not an option
in our vehicles, but one local motorist must've had quite the
scare. As we filmed the tornado approach the road, a car came
at us from the west, it just barely missed getting crunched by
the tornado. I don't know if the driver was oblivious to what
was going on or if he saw the tornado and needed a change of
- Luckily, the house was spared. After
it passed, we back-tracked and followed it north. Over the next
half hour or so, we watched this storm produce tornado after
tornado, most of them were conical in shape, another one looked
like a multi-vortex tornado, and later we saw a distant stovepipe
shaped tornado. Some of these were difficult for me to document
because I was driving the lead vehicle at the time, but others
in our group were able to get video and photographs.
- As quickly as the chaos started, it
all ended when the storm died and others merged together. It
was one of our best tornado experiences to be that close and
feel the incredible winds as it cross right in front of us.
- Even after years of doing this, I still
get a thrill out of it when Mother Nature puts on a really dramatic