May 22, 2004 Wilber, Nebraska Tornado

Wilber/Hallam Nebraska tornado- largest tornado ever recorded, 2.5 miles Wide!

We (Jim, Simon and Mark) started the day in York, Nebraska at the local library, looking at data. The conditions looked incredible for a large tornado outbreak. The first cells in the area fired to our north, so we took off after them. The storm had great structure and great mid-level rotation, but it just wasn't rotating much in the low levels. Our nowcaster told us of a newly developed cell near Hebron, Nebraska. We decided to head south towards it.

We approached the cell from the north just east of Wilber, Nebraska. About 1.5 miles to our south emerged a large stovepipe tornado out of the rain. It was moving northeast at a decent speed and rapidly expanding in size. Within one minute the tornado was a large, black, mile wide wedge. Satellite tornadoes periodically touched down on the edge of the wall cloud circulation. From our location, the wind was intensifying from the north. The tornado was roaring. This was absolutely amazing.

Given the tornado's ground speed and rapidly increasing size, we played it safe and drove west back into Wilber. Strong inflow winds slammed the car. At this point we believe the tornado was larger than one mile wide. We took cover inside a building which was being renovated. We couldn't find any other place to seek refuge. As luck would have it, a satellite tornado ended up hitting this building while we were inside it! Lucky for us, only the front of our building collapsed, while the building next door sustained much worse damage.

According to the NWS damage survey, this tornado was on the ground for 62 miles, and at it's widest point was an unprecedented 2.5 miles wide! I've spoken to several meteorologists, including Brian E. Smith, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Omaha, Nebraska. It is official, this tornado is the largest tornado ever recorded, 2.5 miles wide!!!

Sample Video Clip 1 (2.28 mb, 84 seconds)

Watch this video clip of the widest tornado ever recorded. At the end of this clip the video is pointed south at the tornado, and you can make out the eastern and western edge of it. We were less than 1/2 mile east of Wilber, Nebrska looking south. At that point the tornado is 2.5 miles wide!!

NWS Damage Survey-Wilber/Hallam Tornado
Radar images, damage photos
Tornado path map

Sample Clip 2

This video clip shows the building we are inside collapse as a satellite tornado (fromt the same wall cloud as the Wilber tornado while it was ongoing) hits it. We were in the building for protection from straight line winds and debris. It was merely bad luck that a satellite tornado happened to strike that particular building!
The video captures below are much darker than the actual video is. Although, it was quite dark in all actuality. We will try to get brighter captures online soon, as the tornado can be seen better in the actual video.




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All storm chasing (tornado, supercell, lightning, hail, sunset, ect.) photos and videos are copyright property of Jim Bishop and Simon Brewer (Stormgasm), unless otherwise specified. Any unauthorized reproductions are strictly prohibited by law.
Copyright 2004 All rights reserved.