June 12, 2004 South Central Kansas Tornadoes

June 12th, 2004

Jim and I (Simon) were very poor at this point in the spring. High gas prices and long, frequent trips to Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota gobbled our chase money. By June 12th we were forced to eat bagels and resort to cannibalism to live, so that we could scrounge a few more gas dollars for one more chase. We were glad to find out our efforts paid off, because on this day we witnessed 3 tornadoes and a gorgeous supercell.

We (Jim, Simon, Mark, and our good friend Kyle Mozley) left Kansas City, MO heading for Salina, KS. The setup was near perfect, great shear for slow-moving supercells, very high CAPE, and a good dryline to fire convection. We thought Salina or just west of Salina looked a little better than anywhere, because that area was on the north side of a bulge in the dryline, so we had much better convergence in our area along the dryline. We thought things were going well when storms began to explode just west of I-35 along the dryline in the late afternoon, but the CAP was still strong and the updrafts could not sustain themselves.

By early evening we were becoming very frustrated, because the CAP was still keeping storms from firing in Kansas, but then we received a call from Tom, he was back in Norman; he said convection in SE Kansas generated an outflow boundary that moved west and fired strong convection near Wichita. We decided to stay put until the convection near Wichita showed signs of sustaining itself, which did eventually occur, so we took off south on I-35 to Wichita.

As we approached Wichita the FFD of the storm was over the city and the updraft was continuously back building. The hail shaft was sitting over I-35 on the south side of Wichita, so we cut around the FFD and intercepted the updraft from the east, which was unfortunate for us, because we missed the Mulvane tornado. We got in great position, but only after the Mulvane tornado had lifted, but that was okay, because we had a great spot to view the "Rock" tornado. An awesome site greeted us as we approached our eventual viewing location for the "Rock" tornado; there were 3 mesocyclones lined up from east to west. The first meso was completely cut off from inflow and was furthest west, which I suppose was the same meso that had created the Mulvane tornado, the middle meso had just been occluded and was about to produce the Rock tornado, and the third (furthest east) meso was just tightening up and eventually produced 2 tornadoes.

We found a spot west of Rock and watched that tornado form and dissipate, which was awesome, because there was a windmill in the foreground and the sun was set behind the tornado. Then we watched a brief tornado develop under the youngest of the 3 mesocyclones; this tornado was very brief with no condensation funnel connecting the cloud base to the ground, but it was definitely a tornado and not a gustnado. This updraft didn't occlude as quickly as its predecessors, but instead another tornadic circulation developed, which touched down periodically. The cloud to ground lightning was insane with this particular updraft. The last tornado was very interesting, because it had a continuous condensation funnel, which only once or twice completely connected from cloud base to ground, and the tornadic circulation had a very long duration while only periodically touching down. After complete darkness overtook us we called it a night and headed back to Kansas City. This was a great chase, because the supercell was absolutely gorgeous and very easy to chase.



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