May 01, 2018  

Our anticipation was growing as we watched the model treads that were showing two solid days of chasing.  My son Ryan, our friend Tyler Schlitt, and I left to pick up our friend Brian Stertz in Overland Park, Kansas on Monday Evening.  After a night's sleep, we left for our target in Central Kansas.  Had lunch at the Pizza Hut in Russell, Kansas where we joined many of our good chaser friends, Jeff & Kathryn Piotrowski, Terry Shenk, Dustin Wilcox, Jeremy Holmes, and David Hoadley.  After a "load" of food and plenty of discussion, we decided on a target near Hoisington, Kansas.

We moved to our target as we watched a growing supercell near Rush Center, Kansas.  As it grew, we would watch, then move to stay well ahead of the cell. 

As we worked our way northeast with the storm, at one point we followed the hail core as it went through Otis, Kansas.  This town was hit extremely hard by massive amounts of golfball sized hail with some as large as tennis ball sized hail.  The golfball hail covered the ground in town. 

We continued to follow the storm and eventually got to Interstate 70 and Highway 14, just north of Ellsworth, Kansas.  From here, we started to see changes to the storm.  It began circulating hard and had a very visible funnel.  Although it was reported that the circulation was on the ground, we had a good view of the funnel and never saw any ground contact.  UPDATE:  The Topeka Weather Service confirmed this as a tornado - EF0

As the storm continued, the circulation gusted out, so we again moved down I-70, then north again on Highway 14.  We moved north and east, then looked for a high spot to have a good view of the business end of the storm coming at us.  We found a spot on a dirt road a few hundred feet off of the main road, stopped, and watched.  This is where the storm really began wrapping up.  The rain curtains kept get faster and faster as made its approach over several of the farm fields.  There were many times were vortices would be seen dancing in the rain curtains.

Finally it was time to make our escape as the storm got closer, well, too close.  We needed a fast escape now.  Unfortunately for us, there was no room to turn the car around and there were several cars that had stopped at the bottom of the road and one car that had passed us looking to make an escape at the same time.  A bit of a jam as we all tried to manuever our way out at the same time.  I quickly backed down the road and had to wait until all of the cars around me got out of the way to flip the car around.  We had to make a split second decision about either flipping the car to go north or go south on the main road and we chose the south option.  In the meantime, the storm had caught up to us and the southern edge of the circulation was now blasting us with 100+mph wind as we made our move south.  We were feeling the car lifting, watching trees being lifted, broken, and tossed, and watched the winds dismantle a roof of a barn right off to our side as we tried to work our way out of dangerous winds.

We finally were able to drive free of the circulation and luckily with all four wheels on the ground and all car windows unbroken.  The ordeal left us a bit frazzled, but we got our bearings again and turned the car around to continue following the storm.  We were able to get a few more views of the tornado as we zig-zagged through various roads.

As we continued our trek, we also came across several damage paths as we continued our way back toward the storm.

We ended our chase near Minneapolis, Kansas as daylight turned to dark and headed for Salina, Kansas for the night's sleep before the next day's target.

Here are the damage assessment maps for both the Tornadoes seen today.

EF0 - Ellsworth Co.
Highway 14 at Interstate 70

***  Some of the pictures in the story contributed by Chase Partners - Brian Stertz, Tyler Schlitt, Ryan Thies ***

Click on the link below to see video of some of these storms.

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