On a fall day in October, an Enhanced risk of severe weather was in effect for SW Iowa, SE Nebraska, NW Missouri, and much of Central and Eastern Kansas. By mid-afternoon, a 10% hatched area for tornadoes stretched across East-Central Kansas. There were 16 reports of tornadoes this day, but as I worked until 4:30, I saw none of them. Instead, the storms lined out by the time I reached them. I did get some good pictures of linear and possible HP Supercell structure near Alma, Kansas.
On the morning of the 6th, a complex of elevated thunderstorms affected much of Southeast Kansas. This mammatus was a nice sight to start the day. Through the morning and afternoon, I monitored conditions carefully, as I had set my sights on this day for a while. I had class until 12:15 pm and work until 4:30 pm. by 12 pm, there was already a brief tornado reported in far SE Kansas, and by 3 pm, the tornado reports were rolling in across Kansas. A few weak tornadoes touched down in Cowley County, doing some minor damage to trees and an outbuilding. However, around 4:15, an EF2 briefly touched down east of Salina, Kansas, destroying a barn. Soon after that tornado dissipated, an even stronger tornado touched down in eastern Saline County. This EF3 tornado, the strongest of the day, tracked 6 miles through Saline County and completely destroyed a mobile home. Two other notable tornadoes tracked further north, one through northern Clay and southern Washington Counties, and a strong tornado tracked south of Clay Center, Kansas. Of course, I missed all of these. I left work soon after 4:30 drove west on I-70 from Lawrence.
In Topeka, the anvil from storms to the south was visible above me, while the anvils from storms near Manhattan could be seen off to the west. This didn’t look like a good sign to me, but I hoped for the best. By around 5:30, I made it to Alma, Kansas where the storms were approaching from the west. At this point, they had consolidated into a line of storms, and the tornado threat was pretty low. The line was moving eastward at about 40 mph, so I figured I would find somewhere to get good photos and wait out the storm. I drove south of Alma on K-99, hoping to see some good structure. I drove west on a dirt road over a hill, and gradually the leading edge of the outflow approached. I turned around and headed back north towards Alma, as some rotation on radar showed up north of there.
6:03 pm: About three miles south of Alma, looking northwest. The linear nature of the thunderstorms produced this shelf cloud. There was some rotation to the north of my location, so it’s possible this is some sort of supercell structure, but from my vantage point, it looked like just a shelf cloud. The beautiful landscape of the Flint Hills really helped the scenery.
6:06 pm: One mile south of Alma, looking due north. I’m pretty proud of this picture, if I do say so myself. There was some construction on K-99 here, and I was at first angry that I had to stop here. However, as the storm approached, this breathtaking view appeared in front of me. The precipitation core of the storm is quite obvious, even without any filters used on my phone. I’d say this is my best picture so far. After the light turned green, I made it under a gas station canopy before the storm hit. There was some pretty good lightning, heavy rain, ~40 mph winds, and some small hail, but nothing too serious. I drove home after that, while the storms quickly weakened as they moved eastward into Topeka. I was pretty unhappy that I missed the main show. Even for May, it would have been a good day, but for October, you can’t get much better than multiple strong tornadoes in north-central Kansas. In hindsight, I should have asked off work. Such is life for a student.