5-7-2002 - Windthorst Tornados - Chris Gullikson and Don Lloyd

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6.3 Meg Video Clip  3:45 in length - Windows Media Player 

10.8 meg video clip with audio - barrel phase and last rope out

Don Lloyd's Chase Report

By Chris Gullikson

This day began rather strange. I am not a superstitious person at all, but when Don picked up a penny walking back to the Motel from Breakfast in McPherson, I just knew we were going to have a good day. Just to make sure the storm gods would have their way with us, I washed the chase van real well, and even thru a quick coat of wax on it as if to dare them to rain on me.

Our target area was in the Pratt vicinity so it was just a short drive from McPherson to be in position. We went after a CU line to the north but soon realized it was moving to the NE rather quickly and would not have favorable convergence. Our attention turned to the west along the dryline where towering CU's were trying to glaciate just 20 miles to our west. We drove west on 50 observing a line of cells that appeared to split with the southern storm becoming a dominant supercell. Stopping to observe the base of this storm, a constant rumble of thunder was heard. Driving south on 183, just south of Hodges, we saw the first tornado about 5 miles to our west. We drove west into the oil fields on some unnamed road to get a vantage point on a hill where we saw the second tornado that lasted a few minutes before roping out. We decided to continue west into the oil field to get a closer look as the storm appeared to be standing still. We were able to get within about 6 miles ESE of Windthorst before the sand roads go so bad that I couldn't make it up a hill. We ran up to a hillside to observe the 3rd tornado that was barely visible in an enormous, dust enshrouded lowering. There could have been a very large rain and dust wrapped tornado that was invisible to us. The inflow racing to this meso was incredible. We estimated 50-60mph winds, it was difficult to walk against.

We had to bail back to the east and south as the forward flank precip core was advancing on us and the lightning strikes were getting uncomfortably close. Driving back the way we came, we stopped briefly to video a small tornado that lasted about a minute. We continued back to the east then drove a bit south, turning East on Kiowa County Road for a 1/2 mile. We stopped to video the 5th tornado about 3 miles to our south west. A satellite tornado was observed just to the south of the main tornado as it rotated around the main tornado and joined with it. We decided to head west and south to get a closer view of this tornado as it would soon become invisible due to the wet RFD. We drove south on some unnamed dirt road that ran parallel and about 4 miles west of 183. We had a spectacular view of this large barrel tornado that was at least a 1/4 mile wide out in the open oil fields. This tornado lasted about 20 minutes and was obscured in dust for a short time before reemerging as a stove pipe. As we approached to within a 1/4 mile, the tornado went thru some wild oscillations, looking like it was going to rope out, then strengthen with vortexes visible around the main tornado. The tornado hit a farmhouse on the west side of the road then vanished about 30 seconds later. We drove up to the damage path but did not feel safe approaching the farmhouse with the downed powerlines. Don called 911 to report the damaged house.

We headed south on 183 and east on 54 for a ways before dropping to the south and east of Wellsford, Cullison and Pratt to escape the hail. We learned of the large tornado heading towards Pratt and headed back north to observe a large lowering that appeared to be on the ground but could not say it was a tornado since it was dark at this point and a few miles away. We drove back to Wichita for the night and made it to a Restaurant just before the HP beast rolled over Wichita.