May 11th 2014 Clay Center, Nebraska Tornadoes

I had a busy weekend with several appointments that seemed to magically get rescheduled, leaving me to make the decision to (unfortunately) bail out on Mother's Day dinner with my husband's family.  The setup looked like it could be too promising to ignore with the possibility to chase.  So glad I chose to chase. Though it was really challenging, we did a great job for what we had to work with.

The setup was a 10% hatched tornado risk that was later upgraded to 15% hatched.  

Chased with: Skip Talbot and Victor Gensini

There was one main supercell that was the big show, and it was a giant beast of a morphing, blobular, high precipitation supercell.  When it got going at first the reflectivity was gorgeous - a lovely flying V shape, a classic, clean hook.  But as it moved northeastward, it was surging and cycling trying to latch on to the boundary to its south.  (Which we want it to do, so it can take a hard right and produce tornadoes.)

The fact that we saw multiple vortices on this tornado at the beginning of its life (when it was not tornado warned yet!) was scary.  That can typically be the signature start of large destructive wedge tornadoes.  It just goes to show that even "severe warned" storms can produce tornadoes.  This is not the first time I've seen that happen.

It was amazing to experience the start of this storm as it cycled.  I can only verbalize it as the storm being a very heavy breather.  Feeling and seeing the change in winds as the storm was sucking in massive amounts of warm moist air and low condensation, only to suddenly feel the stop motion switch with a calm warm moment immediately followed by an intense surging push of forward motion.  RFD cruising forward so fast and cluttering what minuscule amounts of backlit contrast we had.  And repeat.  These two radar grabs sort of show what it looked like on reflectivity.

So interesting to be there as it was shedding hooks, trying to latch onto the boundary.  This paired with its intense forward motion and speed made it particularly dangerous, and is why it's not surprising it was producing tornadoes in multiple spots, some that folks might not necessarily expect.  (scroll below.)

Some chasers did report a wedge tornado on this storm.  We had to keep our distance to stay safe, and I don't regret it.  And did I mention, holy shit, there were a lot of chasers out?  (shot below was a screen grab of spotter network spotter locations overlayed onto the Radarscope App on my phone.

At one of our re-positioning stops (which at first came hard and fast because the storm was surging forward so quickly and morphing so rapidly,) Victor noticed a spinup in the field to our west.  We stopped to try to determine if it was tornadic or if it was a gustnado.  The dust underneath was definitely rapidly swirling and being stretched up.  The guys determined it was probably a gustnado (it was brief, hence the only shittastic photo I have is the one through the glass here with the radar screen reflection.)  -- After we turned around and continued back east to put more distance on the storm, we noticed that another chaser had reported a rope tornado there.  It's possible we didn't see the rope.  After looking at the photo, there's a clear funnel there.  I am curious to look more into the radar at the time if possible, but for now Skip is thinking it's more of a hybrid: gustnado/tornado.

On our next stop we were certain there was a huge tornado wrapped and hidden in the rain, and later we would find that chasers were reporting a large wedge in the rain.  There was a cone tornado that formed on the back end of the horseshoe base that turned out to actually be a big satellite tornado, and we could see it for a minute or two from our location.  It quickly became engulfed in the rain curtains.

After the storm slowed to a more manageable 30-ish miles per hour, it was easier to stand in front and watch and feel it changing.  Solid inflow.  Cooler outflow.  Back to inflow.  Then calm and feeling the temperature significantly higher and the humidity bump.  It was like the storm had the boundary in its clutches like a rope, and it was desperately pulling it in and letting it slack.

Right about this time we were edging closer to the Omaha metro area and decided to call the chase. The storm mode had changed, but it was still cycling between cleaner higher contrast views and being a muddled HP mess.  We scooted across the street to a perch we noticed in between some residential houses.  A great view and end to our chase.