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Breathtaking “suction vortices” dance inside South Dakota tornado in rare video

(TVN Weather via YouTube)

This week in the High Plains, tornadoes have come as twins, cork screws, ropes, and massive wedges. In South Dakota Wednesday, one of the chase teams at captured yet another dramatic tornadic phenomenon: suction vortices.

Suction vortices are smaller whirlwinds embedded within a tornado’s circulation. “[They] can add over 100 mph to the ground-relative wind in a tornado circulation,” notes the National Weather Service.

They’re present in many tornadoes, but often not visible. But near Woonsocket, South Dakota Wednesday, they were as clear as day and put on a quite a show. At times, up to four or five of these vortices can be seen swirling around each other in the video below. The best action starts about one minute and 25 seconds in.

I’ve never seen these vortices appear so prominently and it’s fascinating to watch them run circles around each other. Towards the end of the video, they consolidate into (or become subsumed by) their parent cone tornado.

Multiple tornadoes touched down in South Dakota Wednesday, including a destructive twister that left 10 homes uninhabitable in the small town of Wessington Springs about 125 miles northwest of Sioux Falls.

Here’s a video overview from the Associated Press:

The above video references a dramatic “rope” tornado witnessed near Alpena, South Dakota.

So to recap, here’s a snapshot of some of the different tornado types seen this week in the Plains:

Suction vortices, June 18 (Woonsocket, South Dakota)

(TVN Weather via YouTube)

Rope tornado, June 18 (Alpena, South Dakota):

Large wedge tornado, June 17 (Colerdige, Nebraska):

Large wedge tornado near Coleridge, Nebraska, June 17 ( via YouTube)

Cork screw tornado, June 17 (Merriman, Nebraska):

Twin tornadoes, June 16 (Pilger, Nebraska):

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.
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Jason Samenow · June 19, 2014

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