May 22, 2016   

With a stormy week planned ahead, Brian Stertz, my son Ryan Thies, our long time friend Tom Zeitinger, and I decided to head out to the plains for a one, maybe a two day storm chase.  Unfortunately, the prohibiting factor for this chase was Brian needing to be at work for his first day of a new job on Monday morning.  That left the chase zone to be within the amount of time to drive back to Kansas City during the night after the chase for Brian to be on time.

To our benefit, the day's best target appeared to be in western Kansas, well within range of a reasonable drive back.  Tom, Ryan, and I left St. Louis for Brian's place in Kansas City on Saturday Night.  After a good night's sleep, we got off to an early start as we headed for the initial target of Oakley, Kansas.  Had relaxing lunch at the Oakley Pizza Hut.  Continuing to look at the weather data, we made the move to edge a bit further west to the Colby, Kansas area closer to the dryline.  As we got to late afternoon, it continued to be a waiting game as nothing really got going.  We noticed that many of the chasers that were in our area were now moving north into southwest Nebraska while others were down in the Texas panhandle area.  Our area became pretty void of chaser activity, but still there were several positives that still pointed to our area as prime for tornadoes.  We watched the dry line to our west for several hours as the storms would attempt going up, but then vaporize.  Then a line of convergence was to our east that showed the same thing, up, then down.  We moved back to Oakley to play closer to this line after a bit of time. 

Eventually, a storm cell appeared to get rooted and began growing consistently to our south near Scott City, Kansas, about an hour from our location.  After confirming that the storm would sustain, we finally made the decision to aim for that storm as our target.  As we made our way to that storm, several other storms became rooted as well, especially one to the south of the Scott City storm.   As we neared the Scott City storm, a small low precipitation cell formed to the north of that cell.  It caught our attention as it had a good look to it and had some minor rotation.  We stopped for a few minutes to watch the development.

Eventually, we bailed from that storm as it appeared to lose the look of a storm that would produce anything more and headed for the storms to the south.  As we approached the storm, it was involving a plan on how to avoid the hail core which now had large hail.  We made the decision to pass the first Scott City storm and grab onto the storm to the south of Scott City, Kansas which was now looking much more impressive.  We continued to make our way south until we got to the road west that led to Friend, Kansas.  We got to a point where the paved road ended and continued on as a gravel/mud road.  We stopped at this point as we were also right on the very edge of the area of hail and a few golf ball size hail stones were bouncing around or landing in the puddles with a big splash.  Notice the biggest white spot just right of center in the picture.  That golf ball size hail stone bounced all the way up past where the white car is located.  Other white spots are also hail laying in the road.

Less than a minute later, things began to look very interesting in the storm structure.  The storm was showing several areas of rotation and had multiple areas of interest.  There was a large wall cloud circulating right in front of us, but the first call of a tornado on the ground came from Ryan looking back in the area back in the base of the storm.  In that area, some small funnels were seen multiple times dropping down and hitting the ground.  Unfortunately for us, the camcorders did not pick up on the tornadoes well through the light rain, hail, and low contrast.

A minute or two later, our attention turned back to the area right in front of us.  It was noted that Brian stated outloud "It has that tornado black appearance".  Wasn't long until Brian calls out tornado right over the road in front of us.  Couple of needles converged as it went through a tube stage, then multi-vortex wedge, then into a wedge stage.   The tornado was getting wrapped up into rain as the storm continued to grow and became totally hidden after only a few minutes.

The tornado remained rain wrapped from this point on and we eventually made the decision to begin the long ride home.   Looking at the location and the potential for the storms on the following day (Monday), we decided that chasing was not a viable option and Tom, Ryan, and I all headed back to St. Louis.

Total Miles:  1458

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

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