Slater, MO Tornado - May 22nd, 2011 Chase Log

Chase day two!

May 22nd, 2011

Chase with Skip Talbot.

The day started in Bethany, MO, in a gas station parking lot.  That's pretty much how most chases begin - gas up, beverage ready and review the data.  :)

This man drove up and asked, "I just want to know what makes you think there's going to be a storm here today."  He then explained to us that storms ALWAYS split when they head their way.  I loved the look on his face when he was telling us how it was.  ;)

And, now there is a huge gap in photos.  You're probably wondering why.  Well, once we decided what cell we wanted to go for (the debate was between storms firing north of us, or firing south of us... we ended up going south / southwest,) - it seemed to take a thousand years.  Or, at least a few hours.  Every time we thought we were pretty close, we still had 20-something miles to go.  I would have almost sworn the storm was backing up to stay away from us.

Finally we got to it, and... it didn't look like anything.  It was a big, rain-wrapped mess of goo.  There was no visible structure, even when we got right up close to it.  We almost dropped to the cell south of it, but Skip decided he wanted to drive up one more mile to see if we could get any kind of a visual on any kind of structure.  Sure enough as we got in there, we started to see a tiny bit of a visual.

We were cutting through the two cells, more or less, and out the left window we noticed a funnel cloud forming.  The motion was very nice, but it lifted very quickly.

We were going to cut through to the south cell from the back side, but the core looked fairly strong so we decided to turn around.

We then got a nice view of the shelf cloud on the storm we were first interested in.  We got out to take a quick photo and it seemed to be disorganizing.  We pulled away and were very close to heading out, but noticed then that it was starting to develop into a wall cloud, and then, it was on.

Looking back at the images now... was that a funnel on the left?  Or, maybe an attempt at one?  ;)

We were cruising along and I kept looking out the left window to watch for any kind of a drop.  It's usually what I do.  I'm NEVER the one to call out "tornado!" first, so I'm always very careful to NOT call something a funnel or a tornado if it's not.  I don't want to sound like an idiot.

So, when I saw what I thought to be a funnel, I started to get kind of antsy.  Skip asked if I saw something and I said, "No.  Well, I don't know.  No..."  I then looked at the base to see if there was any kind of debris cloud from the ground.  And holy crap, there was.  "Tor... TORNADO!  Yes, definitely a tornado!"

It was frickin' sweet.

About this time, we had to get moving because the RFD was coming in and smacking us in the face.  We drove along and lost our sweet view to some rain and eventual crap trees and hills.

Then, suddenly there was a clearing, and the tornado was freaking GORGEOUS.  Skip rolled down his window and I was able to get some shots as he was driving.  

We stopped in a big open area after this and the storm came into view again, but without the tornado.  We were in perfect position to photograph and film it for several minutes if it would touch back down again, but it did not.  Bummer.

The storm stayed tornado warned for several more minutes, but did not produce again.  We had some gorgeous terrain to drive back through, and some very pretty storm features.

At the moment we crested this hill, I wanted nothing more badly than to see a tornado under that base.

After we called the chase, we stopped for dinner.  Here's Skip taking the camera out of the dome.

And, some decent mammatus to cap the evening...

And, a really sweet, orange and yellow sunset.  So soothing.


I need to express my deepest heartbreak for the people of Joplin, MO.  The town was destroyed this same day by an incredibly powerful EF5 tornado, killing 116 people and ripping much of the town to shreds.  It's beyond devastating when we hear this news.  Many thanks to the SPC, TWC and all the volunteers and medical personnel.  If you have a moment, please pop over to Red Cross and make a donation.  They will make sure to allocate funds to the best use.


tornado prints