Flint Hills Tornado north of Neal, Kansas
May 30, 1982

The large super cell that developed the Tonovay tornado continued to strengthen and move deeper into a desolate section of the Flint Hills. This area is beautiful to chase through, but a nightmare for roads. After turning, switching and guessing roads we got one that worked and rode steep roller-coaster hills to the north. This choice lead us right in front of the next developing tornado. We had a front seat with no power poles or any of the common obstructions associated with most chases. Other chase crews had left from the University of Oklahoma and the Wichita area, but we saw no one. It was just us and the cows... perfect.

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

Large funnel developing west   Condensation funnel nearing ground

A large funnel formed to our west from a lowered cloud base in the flanking line. The parent thunderstorm remained well north of our position. Additional severe thunderstorms were forming to our west and other chasers intercepted these cells. They would not become tornadic.

   

The funnel took on a classic tornadic shape as it neared the ground. No debris was see as the ground was covered with thick grass that was wet from earlier thunderstorm rains.

Light debris circulation begins   Tornado west - moving NNE

The image depicts the tornado on the ground with a faint circulation of debris. At this time the scene was quiet with only distant rumbles of thunder coming form the main storm to the north.

   

The tornado became less tilted. The debris cloud presented a strong ground circulation observed from our position. The tornado offered no threat as it moved slowly to the north-northeast. We remained dry and clear of the storm at our location.


Dry air begins to wrap around funnel   Condensation reaches ground

The circulation persisted, but the base of the funnel began to narrow. A thin transparent funnel extended into the debris circulation. Wet ground usually generates a white spray vortex near the ground that hides the darker condensation funnel.

   

The whole funnel had become narrower, but it's now shown solidly planted on the ground. Light rain was observed around the tornado and extending north in a thin veil.


Narrow tube forms at base   Contorted funnel narrows

The funnel became contorted and whipped wildly as the bottom forms into a laminar tube. To our north a massive wall cloud was rotating violently. It was about 2 miles wide and drew our attention from the spectacular sight to our west.

   

The tornado slowly roped out, but remained on the ground. We paced the funnel to the north as its motion paralleled our road.


Now in the rope stage the funnel became oddly thicker and intermittently hit the ground. Light northerly winds stretched the funnel further to the south as the storm continued north. This portion of the storm was becoming weaker as the huge mesocyclone neared the ground to our northeast. Finally we broke from this tornado and proceed north, but hit numerous dead ends. A huge tornado was forming and we decide on Virgil as our next target, but favorable roads continue to elude us. As we crested the hills we saw a massive wedge tornado hit the ground. It filled the right side of the windshield and was still about 6 miles away. Bouncing in the back seat from the rough road, I could not get a shot off. The contrast became poor as the huge tornado blended with the black rain core of the storm. By chance we came upon a Kansas Highway Patrol officer photographing the tornado and asked directions to a road north, he laughs and said "no chance." All we can do is hope to catch the tornado as it narrows. Finally, we got in position southeast of the vortex and watched it move rapidly to the northeast. My partners argue to continue the pursuit, but that strategy has led nowhere. We agree to get what we can from the current location. That tornado occurred near Virgil. Those images will be scanned in the future.

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