Bam! Looking for an “impactful” life experience? How about parking yourself in a hailstorm with chunks of ice as large as softballs pummeling the ground around you?
I began my chase a week ago targeting Russell, Kan. There, I met up with hordes of other storm chasers. As storms quickly developed and merged into a messy line, most chasers went north. But I drove south into the clear blue skies, confident that Mother Nature was saving her big show for later.
Indeed, my suspicions panned out. I stationed myself in Susank, Kan., as a powerful supercell thunderstorm spun up and moved over me. I entered the region called the “bear’s cage.” This is the part of a supercell just north of the circulation, where enormous hail can fall. Why did I go here? It’s also the region where one would be able to see a tornado if it were to develop. Plus, I just love big hail.
After the hail pelted my truck, which was equipped with material to deflect it (except the back windshield, which was damaged), I collected a few hailstones, then set off to chase farther north and east.
I raced toward Tescott, Kan., where I paralleled a large, violent tornado that passed through the city. I was still on Interstate 70 as the storm blew through near town, en route toward Bennington. The tornado quickly touched down, wedged out, and became rain-wrapped, lasting about 25 minutes (quite a short life span for such a large twister). I caught it from a distance both driving east and then north, and was able to watch it lift. From there, I made my way back to Salina, Kan., where I settled in for the night and began putting together a forecast for the next day.