A very strange course of events today… the initial plan: head for the 2% tornado risk in Oklahoma, do laundry there and see what happens. At the very least that would put us in a great position for Thursday. Yet after breakfast an additional slight risk was issued for the area that we were in at the time (Hutchinson, Kansas).
So instead… we stopped for laundry in Hutchinson. There we evaluated the situation for tomorrow, which now seemed to be very good in northern Kansas. The rooms booked in Woodward Oklahoma were cancelled and new ones were booked in Hays Kansas.
With nothing spectacular on the horizon we started heading for Hays with a plan to visit the Garden of Eden along the way. During the drive SPC issued a mesoscale discussion and they mentioned a possible tornado or two. The new Day 1 outlook even added a 10% risk and not much later a Tornado Watch was issued.
It took a long time for storms to form and actually the one we picked died pretty quick. We headed to a next one that also seemed to dissolve but gained strength after a while. It turned out this would be the only storm in the area, that got unlimited access to massive amounts of instability… the storm exploded and briefly formed a small tornado.
While on radar the storm looked really good, in the sky it seemed it had lost all organization. We drove through what remained of the hook and encountered rather large hail. All along we kept our eyes on an ever increasing couplet of red and green colors in our radar programs… after clearing the hail and rain in the hook we could see a new wallcloud from which not long after a second tornado dropped.
We watched in awe as the tornado grew to a really strong one in no time and started tracking it. For a brief period it seemed to end but then turned into a big monster again. We tracked it almost 90 minutes from Bennington to Chapman. The tornado did quite some damage, but Chapman was saved from a direct hit. The roar produced by the tornado when it was near that town was frightening.
Near Chapman we waited for news and to see if we could help out in the town. When we heard the damage wasn’t too bad we stopped our chase, darkness was setting in. The supercell continued however, dropping several more strong tornadoes.
For us a long ride to Hays followed, it’s well past 1.30 am now. Hopefully the news tomorrow isn’t too bad. While watching these tornadoes is a thrill, it is also humbling. And while the tornadoes will be there whether we are watching or not, it is horrible to see them destroying lives of people.