May 6, 2015 Lincoln Center Kansas Close Tornado

I almost sat out this day.  When crashing the night before I thought, I wake up when I wake up and I chase if I chase.  Usually I have a good idea on yes or no and at the very least I plan to get up and see.  Not this one.  I was indifferent as a whole.  I'm never that way.

Woke up at 9 and was in no hurry to figure it out.  I eventually think, you can't skip out on the 850/500 cross over.  Cloud concerns and whatnot had to be thrown aside.  If you have a 50 knot southerly low level jet and southwest mid-levels at any decent clip(above 25 knots for me) it's best to keep those days honest and skip others instead.  And like many days, this one goes to show that having rather weak 30 knot upper-level winds is far from a deal breaker.  I barely worry about those anymore.   

So rather suddenly I just decide, chase it.  And hurry hurry.  I've never hurried departure more once I thought this.  Was running around doing multiple things at once to get out of here and on the road.  I've had a lot of chases and this was the most go go, so that says something.  The thing is, this turns out quite important.  Any later and the day is entirely different.  I was hurrying as I wanted to be southwest of Salina early afternoon.  It's 4 hours and I was leaving at 10. 

I only ever stop long enough to put gas in the car once and go again.  I didn't drive that fast or anything this day.  I just wanted to get on the road and on the way. 

As I am between Concordia and Salina some blips show up on radar southwest of Salina.  This before 2.  But I was in junk stratus clouds this whole time.  These blips would be on the west edge of this cloud deck that had been lifting northeast.  I was not targeting this idea at all.  I wanted to get southwest to the dryline and have that added room of heated air for storms. 

I figured these things on the edge of this cloud deck would just suck.  So much so I almost skipped even going to look at them.  Even after noting how juicy the 850mb air at least was here.  I expected if I went to look at them, all I'd see is a rain shower in stratus and likely not even see a base.  They were small and I couldn't see anything but stratus from Salina. 

The thing is, along this cloud deck and east the winds were backed slightly to the southeast.  This was the key this day.  Made all the difference in the world, as the later dryline storms would suck without that. 

Less than a mile from the I70 option at Salina and I still do not know if I'm yanking the wheel right to go check these on the way or instead opting to continue south and go southwest in a bit.  I made this decision last second to just go look at them then dive south at Ellsworth after seeing/not seeing that they sucked. 

Above is the view west probably half way there.  I was shocked.  I was like, oh my god this thing is going to tornado, if it wasn't already. 

It's clearly trying to drop a tornado as I get closer to the exit to head north to Lincoln Center.  Not long after doing so she's down.  This video grab is from around 1:50.  This was the quickest surprise storm and hello tornado intercept ever.  It's seriously leave home, stop to get gas once, continue driving right to this point.  Like 4 hours.  The storm fired really like 30 minutes before and was super small on radar, even while tornadoing.  Just this one and right there and in a spot I had no intention of targeting. 

My last remotely enjoyable tornado was April 12, 2014, pretty much the first tornado of that day too.  I then proceeded to mess the rest of the day up, like I would this one.  But other than that was a cool but distant one October 4, 2013.  And only cool briefly out there.  It then became a rain-wrapped mess that I stuck in close to as it occluded...causing me to miss one of the most amazing tornadoes of the year, which started literally 1 mile east of my location....hidden as I was nudged up against the hills there.  Don't even want to talk about 2014.  So anyway, have just about forgotten what it is like to watch a tornado.  And also I've gathered some motivation to make it count given the op again.  And well I was instantly super motivated on this one, because it was going to go up a highway apparently and it was early and where just about no chasers were yet, so no super crowd concerns, which has a way of causing some pause. 

So I have two suction cup window mounts tossed in my car right now, for this very case.  The case that never presents itself.  The close tornado op.  The one I need as a video mount so I can also shoot stills.  Well they weren't on the windshield yet and I'm not sure I was even thinking about them then.  It all just went down instantly and while always enroute.  This would be the only real annoying thing on this one, as I wasn't able to get nearly any stills.  And the video, while far from a total loss, is more shaky than I'd have liked.

I managed just one stop to try and use the window *clamp* mount I always use to hold video while I shoot stills.  Somehow my camera was not changing my 50mm lens aperture.  I know I was changing it in camera, I clearly remember stopping down.  More than once.  Yet they all are magically F1.4.  It must not have been spun all the way on and talking with the body.  I doubt it was perfectly focused either, as I hurried that via live view 10x and it wasn't happening.  So anyway, mostly a video take away. 

I make the mistake of hesitating on pulling back out before these cars....

It quickly got at least a little more rambunctious.

You could tell the stronger winds suddenly found some trees.  Shredding them big time.

Roof of a shed goes flying.  Apparently a decent sized outbuilding.  I didn't overly notice it at the time as I was driving, just holding my camera against the door frame to stay pointed in generally the right direction, while I watched the road. 

Gif of this part.  That thing went fast and far.  Held in tact rather well. 

Then this amazingly fast vortex rips across the field and through that Church.  Seemed to help take the one tree down there right after it gets by.

Starting to get a little close to it now.  Because really "it" is a big bowl aloft.  I just didn't feel threatened for whatever reason.  And I was motivated. 

Just a crazy scene.  I wish I had also mounted my gopro camera for this.  I killed my chopper's gimbal mount, so I'm not even taking it with anymore.  So I have the gopro in the camera bag instead of being on the chopper.  It would have been the perfect time to have it running. 

 

 

Scene just a little crazy right now.  A frequent question when someone does interview questions for some article is "how close have you been to a tornado."  It's fairly annoying.  But now I have a good answer.  I can throw a rock that far...or some tornado probe if they wish....beer bottle maybe.

It's sort of amazing to me now how the few times I can get close to a tornado, it's a rather weak one or at least half fallen apart version compared to prior or latter versions, like Bradshaw NE 2011.  It was breezy though.  And I'm pretty sure something went across my hatchback lid as it has scratches. 

I quickly pull over there to try and get some stills of this and mount the video, but nope she's done doing that for the most part.  Thankfully so as she is about to go directly over Lincoln Center KS.   I think she just knocked some polls over on the east side of town. It was really roaring right here audibly though.  Just the wind in the thicker area of trees doing that.

I messed up the rest of the day by leaving that subtle boundary with the southeast winds.  The dryline storms sucked.  Acting more like left splits with the base on the north side of the precip.  Hard to get those to fix themselves.  But this one storm near the Nebraska border tried to produce at sunset.  I let it pass then punched through the line at Hebron.  The line that dumped 11 inches of rain and made for some massive flooding in southeast Nebraska. 

Youtube of this.