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5/12/04 Harper County, Kansas
Loaded Gun Chasing
website of storm chaser Mikey Gribble
5/12/04
Harper County, Kansas
Tornadic Supercell

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for storm reports and more information from this day
worked out for me. 2004 was my break out year. I got my first tornado near Woodward, Oklahoma
worked out for me. 2004 was my break out year. I got my first tornado near Woodward, Oklahoma
earlier in the season, but this was my first really big day ever for tornadoes (where I got multiple
tornadoes). This was also my first time to go on air with KWCH (channel 12) out of Wichita. I had
already signed up with KWCH and called in reports, but I hadn't done any call-ins on air before. I
ended up doing like fifteen of them on this night though because they didn't have anybody else on the
storm and it put down 11 tornadoes. It was an action packed night and an awesome chase day.
storm and it put down 11 tornadoes. It was an action packed night and an awesome chase day.


I don't remember a whole lot about the setup from this day. There was a dryline warm front
intersection out by Medicine Lodge and that was my target for the day. The cap was a bit of an issue
and although conditions were decent for tornadoes, it didn't appear to be an extremely favorable
setup for tornadoes. I think SPC went 5% on the tornado probability that day. Anyways, I targeted
just east of Medicine Lodge and waited for storms to fire. After an hour or so a tower exploded out of
nothing directly west of me. It had the classic mushroom cloud appearance to it. I sat tight though to
see what would happen and how storms would move off the dryline. It's important not to get suckered
in to the first storm that fires when chasing. Be patient and stay ahead of the boundary until you see
how storms will evolve off the boundary. A lot of people got suckered in to chasing this storm and a
couple other ones North of it on this day and they missed the prolific tornadic supercell that was the
tail-end storm that day. Below are a couple pictures of the tower that went up to my west.
I stayed put and watched this tower for about twenty minutes. I didn't appear to be improving much
during that period of time. At this same time a storm went up just to my south and quickly developed
a rain core. It was obviously a much healthier storm and there is a rule of thumb among chasers that
you always get on the tail-end storm (southern most storm, there are exceptions to this rule of
course). The reason for this is that the southern most storm will have unimpeded inflow, which
basically means it doesn't have to compete for energy with the other storms around it. Below are a
couple pictures (looking South) of the back side of the updraft base of the new storm. This is the
storm that I decided to chase. The storm was already looking quite healthy.
After I got to the updraft base of the storm it didn't look terribly impressive, but a small lowering
started to form. There was a little bit of vertical motion and subtle rotation, but I really didn't think it
was going to produce a tornado. Below are a few pictures of the lowering. This was just SW of
Shanon, Kansas.
The lowering slowly developed a little appendage that almost looked like a funnel. Condensation kept
forming below this appendage and getting sucked into it. Pretty soon it became apparent that this was
a funnel. There really wasn't any broad scale rotation, so it seemed a bit out of place. Below is a series
of pictures that show the funnel turning into a tornado.  
I had called in to report the funnel to KWCH, but before I got through it had become a tornado. I was
so pumped about finally getting a tornado (even though it wasn't my first time) that I couldn't even
figure out where I was at. It's still embarrassing to watch the video. After fumbling through the map
for thirty seconds I pulled myself together just in time to go on air. It was pretty cool to get on TV for
the first time. After all my hard work and two years of getting skunked, everything was coming
together perfectly for me and it was an incredible feeling.
Another really cool thing happened right after I got off the phone with KWCH. I had obviously called in
the tornado and KWCH passes that along to the National Weather Service (who issues warnings). At
this time there still wasn't a tornado warning out for the storm. I was sitting just south of Sharon and
had reported the tornado as being southwest of town a couple miles. Anyways, about thirty seconds
after I got off the phone the weather radio in my car sounded the alarm and went off for a tornado
warning. It said at whatever time "storm chasers reported a tornado southwest of Sharon" and then
the typical speech about taking shelter. Right after the weather radio message finished the tornado
sirens started going off in Sharon, which was about a half mile away. It was really cool to witness that
whole sequence of events knowing that I had helped get the warning out. It sounds cheesy, but you
have to remember that I had never called in a warning before. This was pretty much my first time really
getting up close to tornadoes and experiencing everything that makes storm chasing great to me.
Anyways, the tornado wasn't real strong, but it transitioned to a really pretty curved rope tornado
with a transparent tube of condensation below the thick condensation funnel. It was a beautiful
tornado. Below are several video grabs from the tornado.