Day 7: Possible tornado after dark

Once again we woke up to a 5% tornado risk, and in one of my favorite regions in Tornado Alley, northwest Kansas/east Colorado. I have been quite lucky in that general area before and it offers amazing visibility. The road network could sometimes be a hassle but considering how flat the landscape is, I once got a perfect shot of a tornado from over a mile away with my telescope lens.

The day was by many considered the “day before the big day (in Iowa)” and a lot of discussion on Twitter was regarding when to be where. The initation and peak activity in Colorado was expected to be late, and Iowa was the target for tomorrow – which is quite a drive away!

We were perfectly positioned for initation late in the afternoon and could choose a perfect position to watch the first storm come at us, with perfect visibility.

As the daylight was diminishing the storms did seem to mature further, but not as well as expected. We chased along a rectangle to get in position for the storms. Although the landscape is flat, at dusk and in the night it still offers a challenge if you cannot get close due to the road network.

Our route
A ground-scraping wall cloud just before dark

The storms were rotating strongly after dark and we had to rely on lightning to distinguish any rotation underneath the base in the end. At one point we got a strong influx of inflow winds towards a storm at a distance with a very suspicious stove-pipe looking feature. At this point I switched from my DSLR camera to my iPhone 14 to film it. Just before I had been trying to photograph it but I was unlucky that a truck came driving towards me with full headlights on, ruining any chance of getting any footage.

Illuminated occasionally by lightning I could retrieve these screen grabs. Posting it on Twitter, people would argue that it was a hail shaft (not likely), a gustnado (possibly) but others have also seen a tornado at that time. Most had left the storm at this time (possibly to get a head start towards Iowa) and no official tornado was reported to SPC. Looking at my photos, the roation couplet it had at the time, and the strong inflow winds that came just at this time I am quite certain it was in fact a tornado.

However, I am not chasing tornadoes to mark checkboxes at add to tornado counts from what I can extract from video grabs, enhanced contrast photos etc. I want to see tornadoes for the impressive feeling I get from watching one, as it occurs. And to be honest, when I was filming it I was paying closer attention to the left part of the possible tornado, as it looked more of a funnel at the time!

Above is the full video. As you can see, it was very difficult to see while it happened whether a tornado was on the ground or not.

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