Tornado near Geuda Springs, Kansas by Aaron Sperschneider

It is difficult to find the right words for what we were allowed to experience that day in Kansas. In the end it was “just” a tornado, a maximum of pure vertical vorticity materialized in a condensed cloud funnel. For us it was much more – it was Mother Nature in her perfect form, an exclusive moment, pure fascination and the highlight of our tour so far.

The tornado was preceded by textbook mesocyclogenesis near Geuda Springs, which we were able to marvel at together with a research team from the University of Oklahoma. The team, led by meteorologist Howard Bluestein, used a mobile radar system to analyze reflectivities and rotation within the storm cloud.

At the latest when the so-called rear-flank downdraft (RFD, supercell rear downdraft) began to push forward into the front area of ​​the cell and angled around the updraft, it became clear that this was something special. 

When a tornado warning was issued immediately afterwards, the growing nervousness of all those involved was noticeable. Together with several other chasers who had positioned themselves along the road, we shifted a bit to the east. Arriving there, we were offered a view of the descending funnel, which at least briefly had confirmed ground contact.

What followed in the next three hours was a thunderstorm chase that we had never experienced before. The supercell, which was initially slowly moving southeast, suddenly stopped and formed a massive mothership, which we were able to photograph on a hill southeast of Arkansas City, Kansas. Beneath its massive ice screen, the cell fired positive CG flashes in sync with its updraft pulses, which combined with the soft light of the setting sun made for a photographically stunning scenery.

Even after sunset, the supercell lived on and even went through an intensification again. The low-hanging wall cloud was repeatedly illuminated by lightning. Suddenly it was clear again: “Tornado on the ground!” Despite  the cloud funnel being much further away this time than the first, it was still an unforgettable moment, especially when shortly afterwards another funnel screwed down and reached the ground. 

Three tornadoes in one day – we couldn’t believe it. That’s why we’re here! That drives us!

Taken on May 14 2018.

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