The South Central Kansas Tornadoes
of 16 May, 1991

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

developing funnel   tornado gaining strength

This chase day began with a storm in Harper Co., Kansas that produced a funnel shaped tornado that extends about three-fourths of the way to the ground and had suction spots (small vortices) rotating around the base. It was in progress as I was driving toward the storm and watched it for about 4-5 minutes. Upon getting within 2 miles of the tornado it weakened and quickly dissipated. It had been hanging out of a flank of cumulus towers intersecting the storm from the west. After the tornado dissipated, the west flank completely died. I followed the cell northeast through Conway Springs and Viola where I turned east. The first image in this set began with a shot of the new flanking line that formed on the south side of the storm and a small funnel in progress over the road. This funnel dissipated and later reformed into the tornado in the second image. The tornado started west of the field road but did not develop good photography contrast until it moved to the northeast.

wide angle of tornado and storm   funnel obscured in dust

Initially a large number of storm chasers were there; but, as the tornado moved east they began to scatter. The tornadoes slowed their formation and took off to the east at a faster rate. Maybe they just seemed faster because I was trying to keep up with them on the dirt roads. I proceeded up the road in the picture. (Back roads can be great when they are available -- no traffic problems. Back roads can also be very scary when they are muddy and have grass growing in them! -- especially when you are trying to get out of the way of a storm or catch up with one!) Fortunately, I was able to find better roads further north and east. The tornado was headed for the rain which obscured the visibility. This was not all bad as the rain knocked down the dust that had been surrounding the funnel.

tornado obscured in rain   tornado out of rain

The tornado plunged into the back of the core and the chase became more challenging at this time. I caught up to the funnel and then lost it again in the rain. When the tornado made an appearance from the rain as seen in the second image, the visibility was great. The second shot shown here is one of my favorites of the season. The funnel reappeared out of the rain curtain with the sun shining on the field to the east.

stadium tornado shot   tornado bending

Well, here is my shot of the stadium tornado that everyone else has. I think most shots of this were from the east and south so maybe mine is a little different from the west. The rain is totally out of the picture at this time. The rear flank downdraft was really doing its job. The tornado began to bend and contort and demonstrated a great rope-out performance for all to see. It also found its way back into the dust. For those wanting to see a wide angle from the west I took one with my 17mm lens that covers much of the storm.

funnel begins to rope out   dirt snake

What a snake it turned into at this time! Really fun to watch. During the final minutes of the rope tornado a thin horizontal strand may be seen with a large dust cloud under it. In the dust cloud a center of circulation is still visible as a darker vortex of dirt.

A big distraction was going on during the demise of the Clearwater tornado. The Haysville tornado had been in progress and at times looked like it was getting buried in more dirt than this one. The funnel looked large, but now all I could see was the very top of it. The rest of the vortex was buried in dust and dirt. As soon as this one ended, I rat raced down some more dirt roads to get a better vantage point.