Supercell thunderstorms develop over Kansas, while a specific storm near Rozel, Kansas produced 3 tornadoes which included an EF4 east of the city.
Rozel Tornado Fest!
The day started out warm and humid when we awoke in Norman, Oklahoma. The tornado threat today was conditional, but some negative factors were in place. Rozel, Kansas would be the place today, but would we have enough time to figure that out? We headed out around 9:00 am and targeted southwest Kansas. The Storm Prediction Center had outlined a moderate risk of severe weather with an enhanced tornado threat across this area.
A dry-line would position itself across western portions of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. It appeared the best chance of storms would be ahead of a shortwave trough lifting northeast from New Mexico. 0-6km bulk shear values were on the lower end of the scale, but just enough to promote supercell structures. On our way to our target area, we drove up throughout Woodward, Oklahoma where high temperatures had soared over 100 degrees. This was concerning since the tornado potential would be lower with such high cloud bases. The dry-line during the early to mid-afternoon was still west of our position and would need time to travel into the better moisture return from the south.
We continued north across southern Kansas and decided to station in Greensburg, Kansas. The storms got closer, but were high based and looked very unhealthy at the onset. At this point we were 50 miles south of Rozel.
There was a particular storm near I-70 west of Hays, Kansas well to our north about 90 miles away. We made the decision to travel towards this storm, while monitor the ragged storm to our southwest. Thirty minutes had passed and the storm behind us appeared to organize further. I had a gut feeling over time, this storm had potential as it moved east into better moisture. The storm took it's time though and finally prompted a severe thunderstorm warning to be issued. We reached highway 183/156 east of Rozel, Kansas and had to make decision. Go north and go after the well-defined supercell storm east of Hays, or stay here and place our bets on the storm to our southwest near Rozel.
We went south on Highway 183 for a few miles and then took a dirt road west to get in position. The storm had become healthy with a decent base with some striations, but rotation look very weak during the onset and no wall cloud was present. Around 7:00 pm, scud started to rise into the base of the storm. This was the first indicator something might get going, but we honestly thought any chance of a tornado was low.
Scud continued to pick up and a small lowering had developed to our west. The storm itself was still somewhat high-based, but the radar had shown well defined hook echo was forming with increasing gate to gate shear. We concentrated on the lowering, which began to rotate and realized this thing had a chance to produce. A minute or so later the rotation increased dramatically, and the NWS Dodge City had issued a tornado warning placing Rozel in the path. Soon, a funnel began to form and took about 5-10 minutes to finally produce a large cone tornado that barley moved across an open field. It lasted for about 30 minutes and was later classified as an EF4 tornado by NWS Dodge City Kansas.
A second tornado had developed to the northeast and took on the same characteristics as the first one. However, it only lasted for about 10 minutes before roping out and spared Rozel. The third tornado developed well to our east on an open field and traveled from southeast to northwest. It eventually crossed highway 183 in front of us. This tornado lasted for about 20 minutes and ending up roping our to our northwest. It was a chase day to remember; no injuries, no deaths, limited damage and Rozel was spared.
A big thanks to the coolest meteorologists you'll ever get to meet and chase with, especially on this day; Bill Borghoff, Chris Spannagle and Nick Schwartz.
Make sure to browse the chase logs section for additional Storm Chasing Fever Chasing Adventures.