May 26, 2016   

The day was once again looking to be another potential big day out in the plains, so we made the arrangements to head out for another chase.  We knew we were good for one day of chasing, but also had the wild card days following if things worked out.

My son Ryan and I headed out about 5:00am heading for Kansas City to pick up our friend Brian Stertz.  He was scheduled to work a 1/2 day at his new job that he had just started and could not maneuver any more time off.  On the way out, Ryan and I had a little extra time before Brian's work day ended, so we made a snake hunting stop and got a few snakes.

After 30 minutes or so, we continued on as a quick storm approached. We were treated with a little bit of pea size hail in a blinding rain (so no pictures).  We stopped for a quick lunch before picking up Brian.  With a target of Salina, Kansas, this put us a bit behind as storms were scheduled to pop earlier than when we could get to them.  We had a quick turn around time as Brian got off of work and headed out Interstate 70 toward the target.  As we got to Topeka, Kansas, a new, growing cell caught our attention right in front of us.  It began showing strong rotation, so we made a last second decision to exit at the Valencia Road exit on the northeast side of Topeka and scooted north.  This road would dead end in the Kansas River valley, but as we got to the dead end in a large valley, the storm was coming right up to it.  We got some wild rotation and thought for sure it would drop a big tornado.  Although it did not drop a big tornado, it did manage a small tube and another rather unorganized funnel.  We got a picture of the tornado just before the rain came in and hid everything in the downpour.  The storm carried on northeast on the other side of the river and we had no way to follow it.

We back-tracked to Interstate 70 and continued west with more anticipation.  Another cell was showing great promise a few more miles up the road.  As we got to Highway 99, the road north to Wamego, Kansas, the decision was made to go north and intercept this storm as well.  We hustled our way up to the storm that was just about ready to head into Wamego.  We caught the wall cloud just southwest of town.  As we pulled up, it was obvious the circulation was going to produce a tornado.  Within seconds after pulling over to the side of the road, fingers started to appear out of the wall cloud and dirt was starting to be thrown around in the field.  This continued through the field as the fingers became more and more visible and then a cone began to develop.

As the tornado moved right toward the town, we got back in the car and followed it into town.  As we crossed the Kansas River, we could clearly see where the tornado crossed the river as the trees were snapped in half and a house had its roof and some walls removed.  We followed the circulation through town.  Luckily for the town of Wamego, the tornado was not firmly on the ground the entire time.  Many tree limbs, snapped trees, and even a trampoline littered the side of the road as we drove through town.  The true damage path was a few blocks west of Highway 99 as we went through town. 

As we got to the north side of town, we turned east onto Highway 24.  As we went a bit east, the tornado began to cone out completely.  We pulled over and watched as the tornado grow larger and larger. 

Eventually, a second wall cloud appeared and put down another funnel cloud that briefly touched the ground. 

Meanwhile, back in the haze, the original tornado continued in the rope out stage with a very white appearance for a long time.

As the storm pulled away and became hidden in the haze, we were able to look back and see another cone tornado back in the haze.

After the storm seem to run out of instability to the north, we worked our way back through Wamego.  We took a short detour to make sure one of Brian's friends who lives in that town was OK and then back to Interstate 70.  At that point, there was some indecision as there were pros and cons for going east as well as pros and cons for the original targets out to the west and southwest.  Nothing seemed to be taking off, so we ended up in Emporia, Kansas for dinner as there was nothing that was looking promising anywhere.  On the way out of dinner, we were treated to a nice shelf cloud following us back.

Was interesting that we were back to Brian's place by 10:00 with tornadoes in the early afternoon.


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