5/22/04 Hallam, Nebraska
Loaded Gun Storm Chasing
website of storm chaser Mikey Gribble
for storm reports and more information from this day
*Biggest Tornado Ever Recorded*
On May 22, 2004 a 2.5 mile wide F4 tornado hit the town of Hallam, Nebraska killing one person and
injuring many more. This was the largest tornado ever recorded.
I watched the 00Z model runs come out the night before this chase and was very excited because it
was apparent that the environment over southern Nebraska was going to be extremely favorable for
tornadoes the following day. I left plenty early the next morning for my target of Beatrice, Nebraska.
I waited most of the day at the library in Beatrice on the internet checking data. Storms first went up
in western Nebraska, several of which were tornadic. It took a lot of restraint to sit tight while tornadic
storms approached from the West, but I knew that if a storm did manage to fire ahead of the
approaching line, then conditions would be very favorable for strong tornadoes. It was a huge gamble
and it paid off. A storm fired directly West of me by Hebron, Nebraska. I was only about twenty miles
East of it at the time so it didn't take me long to get on it.
By the time I got to the updraft base of the storm there was already a well developed lowering. This
storm was by far the fastest I have ever seen a storm mature and go tornadic. As far as being awed
by a storm, this one is right up there at the top of my list. It's not like I got exceptional video or the
tornadoes were really photogenic, this chase was special because of how amazingly powerful this storm
was. Below are a couple video grabs of the updraft base right after I got on the storm.
The updraft base was already showing rapid vertical motion and rotation at this point. I knew it was
ony a matter of time before it dropped a tornado. As the storm moved northeast it developed one of
the nastiest looking updraft bases and wall clouds I've ever seen. A cone funnel soon developed in the
middle of the lowering and dust started to get picked up at the ground. There was also a rear flank
downdraft kicking up dust at the time, but it all kind of blended into one big dust plume. Here are a
couple pictures of the wall cloud and funnel from this time. The first picture on the left (below) is the
wall cloud right before the funnel, the second picture is after the funnel formed, and the third picture is
of the big dust plume from the RFD and the tornado.
This quickly turned into a quarter to half mile wide wedge tornado. It was very difficult to see at the time
because there was a ton of dust getting picked up around it, obscuring the view. Here are a few pictures
of the wedge as it approached the road ahead of me. The left side of the tornado is visible, the right side
is harder to see, but if you look close you can see that the right side of the tornado is just left of the
Although this was my third year storm chasing, this was the first year I had gotten on tornadoes. I
was pretty hesitant about getting really close because I didn't really have any experience. I was even
more nervous on this day because the tornadoes were huge. Anyways, these cars in front of me in the
pictures above drove right up to the wedge as it crossed the road. It was a pretty ballsy move IMO.
Below is a video grab of the tornado crossing the road right in front of them. If you look closely you
can see the right side of the tornado just left of the road as it approached. The lead cars were literally
in the outside of the tornado's circulation.
Now if I remember correctly, the survey from this day stated that this storm produced one
long-track tornado that went something like 58 miles. That is wrong IMO. This tornado above died
out and a new tornado touched down. I have video of the new tornado touching down too. Below is
a video grab of the next tornado as it touches down. The furthest right picture shows all the dust
the tornado was picking up. It quickly became wrapped in dust and turned into a wedge tornado with
that white looking skirt of cloud rotating around it. It was a pretty cool tornado and these crappy
video grabs don't do it credit.
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