Saturday, June 1, 2013

Comments About Friday's Storms II

In addition to the radar diagram in Part I below, I thought it might be helpful to see what the features of a strong mesocyclone and tornado look like to the naked eye. This was a photo I took of the second in the series of tornadoes southwest of Wichita May 19. This tornado was EF-2 intensity. The storm strengthened and, minutes later, caused another tornado of EF-3 intensity, the same as yesterday's in Oklahoma.
Click to enlarge; Copyright 2013, Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC
There were two circulations in this mesocyclone and the tornado was not where the radar indicated it to be. Because the earth curves out from under the relatively straight radar beam, the location of the tornado as sensed by radar may be different than where it is in contact with the ground.

Now, consider: As the mesocyclone moved northeast, the secondary funnel was rotating around the mesocyclone while, in this case, the tornado was staying more or less in the center. Even though this was a simpler case than yesterday's, it is a lot to think about while you are taking photos or narrating a live report. Plus, it may not occur to you the tornado is not in the same place as the radar indicates.

Tornado chasing is a complex, learned skill that can be very dangerous as yesterday's events indicate.

I never chase alone and my goal these days is to do it with at least three persons: Driver, meteorologist and navigator. From a second, safer, location, I took this photo of the EF-3 tornado about to touch down:
This photo was with a wide angle lens. We could see the secondary funnel rotating around the perimeter of the mesocyclone and what was obviously a developing, likely strong, tornado in the background. Could we have gotten spectacular video and a series of photos had we stayed? Yes. Nevertheless, experienced chaser Cat Taylor and I both said, "It's time to bail!" And, we did. We missed the big show but we have not had one moment's regret. We were safe. Other than a couple of very small stones, the car was hardly hailed upon.

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