An eye on the sky

When the tornado sirens went off in town yesterday, there was blue sky overhead.

Bryan was out picking up pizza for the girls and the sitter that was about to arrive, and I was upstairs getting ready. I herded the girls into the basement and turned on the TV. In addition to a perfect hook echo at the bottom corner of the storm over Topeka, there was radar-indicated rotation, which is enough to trigger a tornado warning.

The storm was directly to our west by about 20 miles, and it was moving northeast. We weren’t in the path, but judging by the radar images and the news reports, we thought we’d have a good chance of seeing the storm at a safe distance.

After the girls were settled in with the sitter, Bryan and I headed out to the northwest corner of town. There were approximately 40 cars parked on the Highway 10 overpass, and we stopped there to watch. I’d say we were at least 10 miles from the wall cloud, and again, we were not in any danger at all given the distance and the path of the storm.

This is among the first photos I took, and in it, you can see the funnel cloud directly below the wall cloud. Given our distance, it’s a bit difficult to spot, but it’s roughly two-thirds of the way between the third and fourth power poles as you look from the left.

As I mentioned, we were in good company. We even ran into a cameraman I work with quite a bit; he was filming for our local TV station. Looking north in this photo—the storm is to our left in the photo, out of frame.

And to the southwest:

The view to the east was also impressive. The first time I saw cloud formations like this, I was with Grandpa Dankleff, who said they indicated instability in the atmosphere.

The funnel didn’t last long, but the wall cloud remained intact. We moved about two miles north on Highway 10, which is where we shot these photos.

As we watched, we were listening to the local radio station. People were calling in to report two funnel clouds, but I’m inclined to think these were just low-hanging scud clouds.

We moved a bit to the north and a couple miles to the east, stopping a a high point above a gorgeous field. Looking north:

Looking west. Again, we had quite a bit of company.

We had a perfect view of the spectacular wall cloud, with scud clouds underneath.

We watched until the wall cloud began to collapse.

This was my tenth tornado/funnel cloud sighting, and my very first one in Kansas. Having Bryan with me was probably a good thing; he ensured we stayed at a safe distance, which I’m hoping will appease the moms.

All in all, a gorgeous storm, and thankfully, one that was not as destructive as it could have been.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Nicky on May 23, 2011 at 5:59 am

    Sunday night a tornado went through La Crosse when I was visiting my brother there. We were in town, so we didn’t see a funnel cloud or anything. It was just a bad storm at first and then we heard loud winds and my ears popped. Needless to say, we sprinted for the basement and waited 10 minutes until the storm calmed a little. My brother’s street had mainly tree damage, with lots of branches down, one tree split in half, and another uprooted. Two blocks away a few houses were demolished and the K-Mart’s roof collapsed. It was interesting but I’m glad we were in the basement 🙂

  2. These photos are very impressive. Some I don’t see anything in and reminds me of the episode of friends where Rachel can’t see her baby in the sonagram picture.

    Glad you stayed safe. We had enormous hail stones at my house on Saturday which I plan to post on tonight.

  3. Posted by Laura on May 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    One wonders if you called for a baby-sitter _because_ of the oncoming storm.

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