After such a shitty week of driving all over the place, we decided to catch up on some sleep and get a late start back to Norman to drop Keith off and pick Emily up. There was a Day 2 general thunder risk so we figured that if we saw something along the way, we would chase it, but we were not hopeful.
We were in two rooms that night so the next morning Keith calls Dave around 9:30 to say that we needed to leave ASAP because the setup for southwestern Kansas looked promising. I don't think we've ever gotten up and out so quickly.
I am sure glad that we did.
I was driving and I hauled ass from Des Moines to Russell, KS. As we were heading west into Russell on I-70, we could see the sharp edges of the anvil
for storms that were already in progress. Almost immediately after pulling off of I-70 we saw a small tornadic circulation/gustnado
We blasted back west on I-70 a few exits and saw a bit more low level rotation. The storm was pretty high based and we weren't hopeful that it would produce. We waited on it a bit, but then decided to target the southern storm in the line of 3 isolated supercells that was down near La Crosse, KS because there was already a confirmed tornado in progress. I drove south, and as we were driving, we noticed that the middle storm looked interesting, so we pulled off onto a dirt road to take a closer look.
And there it was. Our first tornado of the trip! YAY!!!!
We decided to continue south toward our target and watched the tornado rope out behind us.
Almost as soon as we stopped just outside of Lacrosse, we spotted a funnel. That funnel quickly became a cone tornado as it became truly dark. I was shooting at anything from 12,000 to 25,000 ISO and using lightning as a flash in order to get any images at all.
Just before we left the storm, it fattened up into a big, fat, cone.
At that point, hail started falling out of the anvil so we decided to head east out of La Crosse. The lightning was pretty intense and all of a sudden, in the distance, we were able to see the tornado still in progress! So we stopped again and got out of the car to take pictures and video of the tornado roping out.
We were then lucky enough to see two tornadoes in progress at the same time; the original La Crosse tornado and then a small, skinny ropy thing from the new meso area.
All in all, we saw six tornadoes. The main La Crosse Tornado lasted 54 minutes long. We were with it almost its entire lifespan. It was incredible and exhilirating. I wish the tornadoes had occured even 40 minutes earlier. I'm not proud of the photos that I took, though I'm happy to have anything at all.
It was an incredible end to a difficult week 1 of chasing. We traveled a lot of miles for very little reward.
View Storm Chasing 2012 Week 1 in a larger map
This made it all worthwhile.