Sharon Kansas and the beginning of an outbreak
12 May 2004


Days of bad winds aloft all through the month of April was beginning to take a toll on chasers. Was this going to be another 1988, a really lousy year. On this day the pattern looked almost too good to be true, trying not to get excited we drove north to the target area along Kansas highway 160. A surface low was developing to our west and a hot dry push was approaching from the Texas Panhandle. Storms fired first to our north along an old outflow boundary and also to the west. The real show would come as the dryline lit off to our southwest.


All images and text © copyright Gene Moore
unless otherwise indicated


A high rest stop along the highway near Medicine Lodge Kansas provided unlimited visibility for developing supercells. Chasers gathered in this spot to wait for the big blowup, which happened in all directions from southwest, through west and north. I like days like this, all these storms scatter out the chasers, but most quickly converged near Sharon Kansas and points east for a tornado extravaganza.

   chasers attention is drawn to the south   boiling towers and continuous thunder

Waiting and watching from a nice roadside parking area gave us time to record some timelapse photography. We were wishing for a few trees though, but the nice anvil provided shade while enhancing the view. We were excited about the developing supercell to the west then things got much more interesting to the south.


Things began to happen fast after the explosive blow up to our south-southwest. While the western supercell looked great the towers on the south activity was boiling and turning under as it reached the anvil level. It was obvious this south storm was going to be a monster.


Doppler radar from Enid (VNX) showing reflectivity at tht time these images were taken. Here is one more radar shot about 5 minutes later just before the hook approaches highway 160.


Doppler radar from Enid (VNX) showing area of rotation about 7-8 miles southwest of Sharon, Kansas.

  jetting along   clear notch and developing tornado

A jet slices between the two expanding anvils. The one from the west storm is on the right and the rock hard one from the south storm on the left.


While we were pacing the dark base to the south it wasn't very long before we noticed the RFD notch. This storm skipped the wall cloud stage and went directly to tornado. Quickly a rotating dust cloud developed in the field to our south.

  a hollow tube of dust develops  

A transparent dust tube reaches from the base of the funnel to ground. The developing tornado showed little or no movement north at this time.


A longer funnel reaches toward the ground as the dust column darkens a bit. The debris cloud seemed to be moving a bit west instead of east; which had been the previous storm movement.

    funnel tilts back to the south

This would be the last clear shot before the rain started giving us trouble. A bothersome light rain was beginning to fall, just enough to get the cameras wet.


The debris cloud appears quite heavy at this time, but it's an illusion as the funnel is tilted far back to the south and away from us.


A panorama of the small supercell to our south, tornado and weak precipitation core to our west. During the tornado the rain increased at our position until it got heavy. Finally one inch hailstones begin to fall lit from the west by the low sun angle. It was pretty much impossible to shoot video outside as the northeast winds became stronger, I had to hold the camera out the window braced against the door, then trade off with the still camera. The passenger side of the car, and me were getting soaked.


While we were shooting this tornado we kept watching the next cell off to the east. The base was getting lower and darker. Also the hail at our location was getting much larger. Rain was beginning to kill the contrast on our little tornado. Not long after this scene it begin to rope out and we took off to the east for the development of a spectacular rotating supercell and tornado.


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