Welcome to my storm chase page
Since I was a child, I have been fascinated by storms and severe weather. After graduation from college in 1974 I attended my first spotter training provided by the National Weather Service and began to call in reports of severe weather in my area. A few years later I became a weather watcher for KSN TV channel 3 in Wichita and attended their spotter training. I began to chase storms in the mid 1980s because I wanted to see tornadoes but no tornadoes were occurring around my fixed spotting site. Up until 2004 I had caught only 3 tornadoes, but caught up with 9 in 2004 and 3 in 2005. In the early “dry” years that I chased I did gain experience and my chasing has evolved to the present time where I am a storm reporter for the KSAL radio group in Salina as well as spotting for KSN in Wichita. When storm season arrives, I will post accounts and pictures from my chases.
© Henry Diehl
Best catch of 2004. Southern Russell County, Kansas. July 7th.
Kansas integrated weather team meeting at Lyons Kansas, January 23.
I was able to meet many forecasters at this event. I really like to converse with Larry Ruthi, head man at the Dodge City forecast office about long term forecasting. Other than general plesenties, he was busy with other forecasters.(I think a lot goes on---shop talk, between these guys and gals in the informal setting. Highlights for me. 1. My conversation with Chris Jakob of the Wichita office on operational tornado warning using the newly deployed weather satellite. 2. My conversation with Eric Metzger from Wichita about longer trend forecasting (using model ensembles) and what the MJO might have in store for our 10-14 day forecast. He looked at me quizzedly saying "you look at the MJO"? Score one for Henry. 3. Talking to amost all the forecasters from Wichita and Dodge City. Oh yeah, we had a good meeting too.
May 1, tornado watches/warnings for central Kansas.
After a cold and dry spring (dew points only in the 30s and 40s)May started out with deep 60s dews and an upper trough to the southwest. Spc had a moderate risk outlook for us this day and I was ready to see at least some lightning. Running the HRRR model in the morning showed scattered thunderstorms/super cells with one super cell with hook moving through Ellsworth county where I live. Mid afternoon SPC issued a tornado watch for all of central Kansas. Storms developed from west of Hays to Dodge City. These storms were further west than I had anticipated but still lined up with what the HRRR model said. I left home and drove up to the Lincoln/Mitchell county line and waited for the northern storms to move through. There were severe warned storms to my west but no tornado warnings. Stronger storms developed east of Dodge city moving to the Larned area. I finally dropped off the Lincoln county storms and drove south into western Ellsworth county to meet a tornado warned storm moving up from the southwest. I set up at Black Wolf just northeast of the tornado warned storm. At times there were wall clouds sighted but no funnels or tornadoes. Kody drove up and we sat for several minutes watching the various lowerings that developed and waned. During this time, I sent info feeds to the NWS Wichita and KSAL. A flat cloud base rotation passed just to our northwest as the storm moved in. We drove to Ellsworth then north to I-70 seeing a funnel maybe brief tornado to our northwest. I drove to I-70, then east, having a strong urge to get ahead of the storms as they moved into Lincoln, Saline and Ottawa counties. I pulled off I-70 at my exit (233) and drove north to east of Westfall to get ahead of the storm. I watched interesting rain curtains pass 1/2 mile to my south, then followed on the dirt road I sat on. Jeremy called me and as we were talking a cone funnel appeared two miles to my east. I broke into KSAL's live coverage with my funnel report then they started to get tornado on the ground reports northwest of Glendale. I could see the south side of the tornado in the rain,(remember, I'm behind the tornado)but not how big it was or what it was doing. I intended to pull up behind the tornado for better visibility so punched it east with other chasers. Cresting a hill I found a bridge out blocking my east ward progress. I turned north onto a backroad to Hell. The rain slick road caused the chaser ahead of me to spend most of his time sideways. Finally he slid off the road and I passed, watched to see if he got out which he did. I drove 2 and a half miles of miserable roads listening to wedge on the ground reports on KSAL. Finally I got to the Tescott blacktop seeing nothing but rain. I drove to highway 18 then east to catch up but bumper to bumper storm chaser traffic held my speed to 45 mph. I then crossed the damage path of the tornado where there was about a half mile of trees and power poles snapped off at the ground. I went back live on KSAL describing the damage path and warning Minneapolis that the damage path pointed towards them. I then saw a smoke column that I thought might be caused by tornado damage. I drove to this area finding a two story house on fire but no evidence of wind damage. I reported this to KSAL then drove east of Minneapolis and set up as other severe/tornado warned storms moved in from the west. I gave more info feeds to KSAL then the near warnings were dropped and live coverage on the radio ended. The Ottawa county tornado was rated e-F3 with a path of 14 miles. Several farmsteads were hit and damaged but there were no injuries. PS. (May 3). 1. I was surprised at the E-F-3 rating after seeing several damaged farmsteads. Talking to the NWS Wichita this morning I learned that as the tornado roped out near Minneapolis, it intensified and hit a house. Nothing was left but some inner kitchen walls. 2. I was somewhat surprised how the tornado formation ramped up as evening approached. Earlier storms had little RFD clearings around wall clouds. The pictures of the Saline/Ottawa county wedge showed RFD almost completely surrounding the tornado/cloud base area. 3. What is going on with Ottawa county with all the recent tornado occurrences (3 wedges since 2013)? No deaths or serious injuries has happened yet. Well, on second thought, Saline county's last close tornado fatality occurred in 2007, the day after the Greensburg tornado AT Bennington state lake Ottawa county. 4. Due to the tornado path being close to our area, we knew many of the families that were hit. It also cut the power grid knocking out our power for hours. 5. After contemplating this event, it is clear to me that people living at the start of a tornado track are more at risk than those in the center/end of the track. After about 10 minutes on the ground, I think everybody knew about the tornado either by media, cell phone, cell phone apps, visual, or weather radio. One neighbor at the beginning of the track, almost got caught outside his house.
A severe storm looking west in Lincoln county showing a tail cloud extending to the south. I left this storm to get on more promising storms coming up from the south
Picture taken in Ellsworth county Black Wolf area looking southwest. A nice super cell with an inflow stinger extending out to the south.
Picture taken in the Black Wolf area looking west at scuddy wall cloud feature. This scuddy scene was repeated on almost all the early storms I encountered. It wasn't until evening, that conditions improved and the tornado reports started to come in.
Picture taken north of Ellsworth while I was northbound on highway 14. By the time I got the camera out and snapped a moving pic. the funnel/ reported tornado had lost it's identity.
I've repositioned to east of Westfall, Lincoln county. A funnel with attendant rain curtains passed just to my south 1/2 mile. This funnel went on east and produced the Saline/Ottawa county e-F-3 wedge.
Trying to catch up with the Saline county tornado east bound. The pic. shows rain masking the tornado. The tornado was approximately in the left center of the picture.
This was what the funnel looked like when I broke into KSAL storm coverage to report. I was left of the funnel around 2 miles away. The funnel was 7 miles northeast of my home. getting too close to home. Picture taken by Kody Tremblay as he closed from the southeast.
As the tornado moved into Ottawa county from Saline county, this picture by Kody may show a cyclic handoff from one tornado to the next.
Wedge tornado that formed after the picture above. Note the bright RFD clearing around the tornado at the cloud base in this picture and the picture above. I talked with several people who was east of the tornado reported massive inflow into the tornado/meso. Kody's picture.
May 2, severe warnings in central Kansas during a tornado watch.
Lane J. chased with me today. SPC had another moderate risk outlook for central Kansas today. Tornado watch issued after 2 pm. for all of central Kansas. What was different today was unidirectional shear starting with southwest surface winds. Not so much tornado. We got on severe warned storms in the Claflin area and parralled them clear to northern Dickinson county. It was the same everywhere---blinding rain and 45mph winds. I made several info feeds to the NWS and KSAL and that was all.
May 3, dinged by hail.
Its late and I need some sleep. I'll do this account tomorrow. SPC had a marginal risk outlook for the eastern part of central Kansas. The dryline of the past few days finally moved through during the afternoon. Storms formed a county east of Salina and moved away. They were not severe. I went to Salina in the afternoon to get some farm business done. As I was driving home, KSAL interrupted programing with a severe warning for Russell and western Lincoln county. I had my laptop with me but it was off since the dryline was way east and things looked stable. I turned the laptop radar on and saw a hail core just east of Russell. On further examination, I saw the storm was co-located with the trailing upper low pressure system. I dropped some perishables off at my house then drove west on I-70 to close with the storm. The hail core faded and the warning was dropped. I retreated back east on '70 due to the storm moving east fast. It still had some cool structure. I got off at my exit and drove north to get in front of the storm which had another hail core form on the radar update. My plan was to scrape the south side of the core to check hail size if any then drive north after core passage to check hail, hail size on the road. I backed into a field entrance and let the shelf cloud pass over. Immediately, quarter sized hail began to hit and I thought "OH SHOOT" as I slapped the truck in drive and floored it south to get out of the core. Hail from dime to half dollar size slammed me with 40 mile an hour west winds. During all this I sped dialed Wichita NWS and gave the hail report. They immediately issued a severe warning for northern Saline/southern Ottawa counties. After a minute, I drove out of the hail, reached I-70 and drove eastbound. I joined KSAL live coverage talking about my hail encounter, then warned Glendale and areas north of Glendale to expect large hail. I drove to Glendale just as the storm rolled over producing pea to dime sized hail. I reported this live but saw the hail core had repositioned on the north part of the storm, north of Glendale. I drove farther north of Glendale searching for hail in the ditch warning the town of Culver that they might see large hail. The core diminished around the Culver area but then blossomed up again in northeast Saline county. The warning was extended into Dickenson county and when the warning expired for Saline county KSAL dropped live coverage and I went home. I think the storm was severe warned clear to Topeka with out a break. Back at the beginning, where I first encountered the large hail, for about 30 seconds or so I thought I'd crack or loose my side windows on my pickup. I just got this truck in December (2016 model)and didn't want to ding it too soon but it has dents now after only the third chase. That's storm chasing I guess.
My picture looking west at the approaching storm just before getting hit by quarter/half dollar sized hail.
Jeremy's drone picture of the storm from his house. Taken about the same time as the picture above that I took.