April 29, 2022  

A much anticipated chase leading up to the day.  Our chase partner, Brian Stertz was finally given the go-ahead to resume chasing from his medical issues and a storm setup that looked very favorable for tornadic supercells was in the forecast.

As I was driving by the airport from my place to my son Ryan's place for the early morning pick up for the trip departure, I was treated to an unexpected, early morning rainbow. 

Made the pick up of Ryan and got to Brian's place by late morning.  Shortly after that, we were all on the road.  We headed west on I-70 with our target being Salina, Kansas.  As we traveled, Brian monitored the data and we made the decision to drop south down to Emporia, Kansas. We had lunch there and then continued southwestward after lunch to Newton, Kansas. 

We filled the gas tank and watched the clouds bubble and develop.  Eventually, two storms erupted just to our north.  We made the decision to move toward them and then worked our way around them just ahead of their path giving them time to mature as well as staying out of the chaser convergence.

Visibility was good as we traveled along with these two cells as there was little precipitation falling.  At various times, we would see the storms produce some shear funnels.  On one occasion,  we saw the storm produce a land spout as it kicked up debris on the ground.

We continued to move along just to the north of the two storms that were severe warned but the storms did not gain the intensity to become tornadic.  A storm formed to the south of these two storms we were following and this southern storm quickly became tornado warned and produced a   tornado.  Further to our north, another storm went tornado warned and went on to produce a tornado.  We sat in between on the two severe thunderstorm warned cells that failed to produce tornadoes.

As the evening was now nearing nightfall, a successful tornado chase seemed unlikely.  We began looking at the best routes for getting us back toward home.  We also started plotting out potential places for a dinner stop.  So as the storms were beginning to line out, so made the decision to work our way east toward home.

We nearly stopped for dinner as we passed through Manhattan, Kansas, but Ryan insisted we keep moving to make sure no more tornadic storms were to be had.

Turns out, that was the best decision of the day.  As we continued east through Wamego, Kansas,  we were ahead of this line of storms, we pulled the car over east of Wamego to face the line.  What we were about to see would be totally unexpected.  Out of the front windshield, we watch a seemingly flat base go to a lowering with rotation.

As it came closer to us, a Tornado Warning was issued for the storm.  As it came overhead, we got back in the car and headed east to get back in front of it.  It wasn't long before Ryan who was monitoring the storm out of the back window, yells out "IT'S TORNADO-ING!!!  PULL OFF!  PULL OFFFFF!!!!!"

Although we never saw the tornado condense all the way down, Brian's friend Travis in that Wamego Kansas Fire Truck confirmed it was on the ground as it came over our head in our first stop as well as when we stopped again and were viewing it further down the road.  This was also confirmed by the National Weather Service Survey Team.

But there's a tragic side to this.  At the same time as we were recording and watching this tornado with much jubilation, Brian is on the phone.   His "Oh, No" responses were constant.  When I finally asked "What's going on?", he tells us that his apartment building is on fire.  Although we made one more quick stop down the road without photo success, the chase ended abruptly and the focus turned to getting Brian back as soon as we could.  This was the scene back at Brian's place while we were watching the tornado.

Photo Courtesy of the Kansas City Star

It was a very odd situation having the joyful reaction of a successful tornado chase and the most stressful fear you can possibly have realizing your whole life is being changed forever going on in the car at the same time.  This without Ryan and I realizing what Brian was conversing about on the phone until we asked.

Brian was returned home without delay.  Storms rolled through as we arrived complicating the situation even more.  We did everything we could to help Brian and his wife Debbie.  Eventually,  they were checked into a motel for the night.  After a long talk with both of them, it was decided there was nothing more we could do there, so we reluctantly came home during the wee morning hours.

National Weather Service Damage Survey

Our Travel Route

21 Hours  1061 Miles

Click on the link below to see video of some of these storms.