Woonsocket South Dakota Tornado

of 24 June 2003

Much of the time the Mount Vernon tornado was in progress we were busy with equipment deployment, subsequently we never got a close up view of the tornado. After the first tornado of the day dissipated we sat north of Mitchell waiting for the next shoe to drop, storm warnings were posted all around us, but nothing looked threatening. The clouds overhead had numerous points of rotation and a large complex updraft was moving north about 10 miles east of us (later to produce many tornadoes). An extensive updraft region to our west begin to show promise, but driving that direction could take us out of reach of storms further east. As the western storm got stronger I checked radar and it was already showing signs of a hook echo, we raced to the west toward Woonsocket. As we drove into the lowering sun a funnel shape appeared on the horizon, the second performance of the day was getting ready to start.

All images and text © copyright Gene Moore unless otherwise indicated.

  supercell covers the western horizon

Approaching Woonsocket from just east of town. A scene like this is a storm chasers dream, the updrafts were located well away from the rain and just southeast of the core, unlimited visibility and a nice road was only topped by the spectacular supercell structure.


Woonsocket supercell second supercell develops

A large supercell is shown on the NOAA satellite image, but multiple tops can be seen. During the Woonsocket event the pump was getting primed for more tornados to our east. The developing cells under the anvil were beginning to show as overshooting tops to our east on satellite. Toward Sioux Falls the action has gotten wild over SE South Dakota with many tornado reports. Meanwhile large storms and supercells are firing along the dryline through western Nebraska.


Images courtesy of WeatherTap Inc.

This sequence shows the peak and demise of the Mt. Vernon supercell. Note the small echo to the northwest of the Mount Vernon storm absolutely explodes and develops a hook echo. Also, during this loop tornadic storms are moving through SE South Dakota and far NE Nebraska.

developing tornado west of Woonsocket Woonsocket tornado

The following images are wide shots of the Woonsocket tornado. The well formed funnel was in progress for quite a while, about 5 minutes before the tornado hit the ground. Note the faint but visible rain curtain (radar hook echo) wrapping from the north and around the developing tornado.


The tornado was beginning to scrape the ground just to the west of town during this image. The view through the video camera showed a well defined debris cloud in progress (shown with video captures further down the page).

Woonsocket tornado getting larger mature tornado moving north

This shot depicts the well established RFD that has cut a path beyond (north) of the tornado. Included is a very wide angle shot of the whole storm scene looking to the west.


Woonsocket tornado looms large over the western horizon of the city, must have been a terrifying sight. Fortunately it stayed in rural areas just west of town. Had this large funnel cut a path through the city there would have been a major disaster.

Largest stage of Woonsocket tornado slight narrowing of funnel

This large tornado would later be rated at F-3 and stayed on the ground from 6:16 PM until 6:36 PM.


Soon after this shot the funnel begin to wrap in dust and light rain which obscured the view. At that time we left our vantage point just east of town and proceeded north west of the city.

Woonsocket tornado raising debris tornado at its largest

The video camera sees the tornado in quite a different light compared to the still camera. This is closer to the natural color of the tornado.


The tornado at its largest with the video camera sees the tornado in quite a different light compared to the still camera. This is closer to the natural color of the tornado.

tornado shrouded in dust dissipating tornado

The tornado has moved to a location north of Woonsocket in this image, still shrouded in dirt and beginning to weaken.


The tornado is lifting in this image but the debris cloud still persists on the ground below the funnel. The link on the image shows my last shot of the funnel.

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