The Stormy Plains: Awesome supercell structure and a big tornado (PHOTOS)

Multi-image panorama of a supercell over Nebraska on May 26. (Ian Livingston) Multi-image panorama of a supercell over Nebraska on May 26. (Ian Livingston)

Clinton, Okla. — My storm chase vacation (chasecation) continues, now in the second full week. After a slow start to the storm season this year, it’s been pretty much nonstop since my chase team and I have been out – punctuated, of course, by big tornado events near Oklahoma City last week.

Since my last post on the subject, we have run into supercells (rotating thunderstorms) every day but one (when there were no storms at all and we traveled for the next day’s target). On Wednesday, we saw storms but they ended up not producing what we expected. Our first “bust” day.

In recent days, there was amazing structure in South Dakota and Nebraska in particular. We also saw other beastly storms (like the one which produced the large tornado intercepted by Sean Casey’s team).

Two days ago, we came across a large and apparently strong to violent tornado to the north of Salina, Kansas near Bennington (see: Surreal timelapse of tornado nearly stationary for 45 minutes).

At this point, I have so many photos, it might take a few months to get through them! Below is a sample of some of the best stuff we’ve seen since May 25… I’d go further back, but then this post would have too many photos!

May 25 – North of Rapid City, South Dakota

Developing supercell north of Rapid City, South Dakota. (Ian Livingston) Developing supercell north of Rapid City, South Dakota. (Ian Livingston)
Mature supercell over South Dakota. A wall cloud is seen as the storm tried to produce but cycled shortly thereafter. (Ian Livingston) Mature supercell over South Dakota. A wall cloud is seen as the storm tried to produce but cycled shortly thereafter. (Ian Livingston)
The supercell took on a "mothership" appearance later in the evening. This was about hour three of following it. (Ian Livingston) The supercell took on a “mothership” appearance later in the evening. This was about hour three of following it. (Ian Livingston)
Supercell in the dying phase. It's strongly tilted updraft is quite apparent as the lower level clouds wane. (Ian Livingston) Supercell in the dying phase. It’s strongly tilted updraft is quite apparent as the lower level clouds wane. (Ian Livingston)


May 26 – Near Broken Bow, Nebraska

Developing supercell near Broken Bow, Nebraska. (Ian Livingston) Developing supercell near Broken Bow, Nebraska. (Ian Livingston)
Very early in its formation the supercell took on incredible structure. It was a "low precipitation" supercell through most of its life cycle. (Ian Livingston) Very early in its formation the supercell took on incredible structure. It was a “low precipitation” supercell through most of its life cycle. (Ian Livingston)
The mothership rolls across the Nebraska landscape during the evening. (Ian Livingston) The mothership rolls across the Nebraska landscape during the evening. (Ian Livingston)
After dusk, the storm put on an intense lightning show. (Ian Livingston) After dusk, the storm put on an intense lightning show. (Ian Livingston)

Here’s a cool time lapse of the storm from my chase partner Mark Ellinwood…

May 27 – North-Central Kansas

This image, taken from inside a moving vehicle, shows a wall cloud next to the rear flank downdraft. A dust whirl is seen from a brief tornado that did not have a condensation funnel. (Ian Livingston) This image, taken from inside a moving vehicle, shows a wall cloud next to the rear flank downdraft. A dust whirl is seen from a brief tornado that did not have a condensation funnel. (Ian Livingston)
The supercell became a high precipitation type pretty quickly. For chasers without a tank, it made seeing the large tornado within it quite difficult or impossible. (Ian Livingston) The supercell became a high precipitation type pretty quickly. For chasers without a tank, it made seeing the large tornado within it quite difficult or impossible. (Ian Livingston)
Mammatus in sunset light. (Ian Livingston) Mammatus clouds in sunset light. (Ian Livingston)
Another supercell is seen in the distance as the sun fades. (Ian Livingston) Another supercell is seen in the distance as the sun fades. (Ian Livingston)

May 28 – North of Salina, Kansas

A large tornado under a nicely structured supercell to the north of Salina, Kansas. (Ian Livingston) A large tornado under a nicely structured supercell to the north of Salina, Kansas. (Ian Livingston)
The tornado continued to grow in size and it remained nearly stationary. (Ian Livingston) The tornado continued to grow in size and it remained nearly stationary. (Ian Livingston)
A large tornado described as a "wedge" continues to move slowly to the north of Salina, Kansas. A large tornado described as a “wedge” continues to move slowly to the north of Salina, Kansas.
After the tornado became rain wrapped, we dropped back to see the intense structure of the parent storm. (Ian Livingston) After the tornado became rain wrapped, we dropped back to see the intense structure of the parent storm. (Ian Livingston)
Ian Livingston is a forecaster/photographer and information lead for the Capital Weather Gang. By day, Ian is a defense and national security researcher at a D.C. think tank.
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