Manchester South Dakota Tornado
24 June 2003

As the tornado west of Esmond dissipated the wall cloud went through a dramatic transition in a few short minutes. This system changed from a small scale circulation to a very large and violent rotating mass. At first it appeared as if the whole wall cloud would come to ground forming a mile wide tornado, but after numerous touch downs the east side of the circulation took over forming a half mile wide vortex. I had very good position on the formation and early stages of the tornado, but waited too long before heading north and missed it hitting the small town of Manchester. Since chasers success is now measured by how close one gets these images may be disappointing to some viewers. In retrospect I'm not upset about not being 20 feet away from an F-4, I still got some nice shots of the whole tornado, as opposed to just the debris cloud. Besides, I've been close before and have pictures to prove it, but not this time.

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

  early Manchester tornado

The forming stage of the Manchester tornado. The area of violent rotation extended from the lowering in the center of the shot to the far left edge of the image.


By the time this satellite photograph had been taken much of Nebraska, the Dakota's and Minnesota had erupted with severe storms. Huge anvil canopies covered much of the northern plains and more smaller storms were firing behind the cold front. This was the beginning of the end for the powerful supercells in South Dakota and Nebraska. Within the next hour the cold front would overrun and kill storms in Nebraska and the outflow boundary from SE South Dakota would race north injuring the Manchester supercell.


Images courtesy of WeatherTap Inc.

This sequence when looped provides a beautiful shot of the outflow boundary surging toward the Manchester storm complex. It will take another hour to arrive, in the mean time more tornadoes would scour the land.

Wall cloud lowers to ground condensation lifting off ground

The developing stage of the Manchester tornado. Violent rotation swirled as condensation form on the ground and joined the chaotic motion aloft.


The area of condensation widens but the rotation remains in multiple centers. My times for the Manchester tornado were from 7:29 PM to 7:54 PM.

wide complex spins violently two large vortices rotate around each other

Condensation lifted and spun like black angle hair, you had to see this to believe it, very dramatic.


For a while we had two separate tornadoes rotating around each other. Each one of these funnels was as large as a typical big tornado. The following images represent various changes in the size and shape of the tornado.

two vortices tornado beginning to consolidate
two tornadoes still visible tornado tightens up into one vortex

At this time the tornado was beginning to consolidate into one large circulation. Two distinct funnels remain in the image, the right one much larger but they are merging.


Finally after a wild performance the tornado tightens up into one large wedge. More shots of this shape of the tornado are posted below.

moving toward Manchester

sunlit RFD

I made a mistake by staying too long in one position and the tornado was getting away from us. I didn't realize the road north to Manchester was just a couple miles east.

After turning north for another view of the tornado we could see it was beginning to narrow and the cloud base was being eroded by dry air. For a while sunlight was filtering into the back of the funnel from the RFD (rear flank downdraft) slot.

elephant trunk with debris funnel beginning to tilt

After a few minutes, seemed like an hour, we caught up to the tornado when it was just south of the town. Most chasers that had passed me while I was video taping were getting debris cloud shots; so I decided to hold in this position for some wide angle and full length funnel shots. The tornado begin to rope out (get narrower) then it expanded again keeping this large elephant trunk shape for quite a while.


debris cloud tilted tornado

narrowing funnel rope - dissipating stage

Pardon the color differences but I'm mixing video captures and 35 mm film. It's darn near impossible to make both look the same.

The above left shot is a close up of the dramatic debris cloud, although far from the tight shots others got on this day. In today's chasing getting close is everything, but I still enjoy watching the whole storm.


The bottom two shots are the final stages of the tube stage leading into the rope out and dissipation of the tornado.

On to Highway 14