May 4th Southwest Kansas Storm Chase - The Greensburg Tornado

05-04-07 CHASE LOG: KS

  First off, my thoughts and prayers will always be with the people of Greensburg on this horrific day of unspeakable destruction.  This storm chase involved our filming of the "Twister Sisters" reality show with Peggy Willenberg, Melanie Metz, Beau Gjerdingen, Eric Whitehill, MaryLynn Voth and the entire crew from Original Productions.  We started the day in Hays, KS right on the northern edge of a moderate risk day.  There was uncertainty into if the cap could be broken further south so we  hung around Hays till late afternoon and then meandered towards Great Bend, KS.  Intense supercells formed along the OK/TX border by late afternoon and we questioned going after these storms due to their distance and with more supercells firing on the triple point in southwestern NE, our secondary target.  We ended up moving south on Highway 281 towards Medicine Lodge, KS and then west on Highway 160 to Protection, KS just after the storm had split and we were on the right mover.  As we drove about 2 miles west of Protection, KS the inflow to the storm was absolutely amazing, gusting to near 40-50 mph INTO the storm.  It was the strongest inflow winds I have ever felt into a storm and for good reason.  I had pulled the camera's out of the back of the vehicle, only to realize that they had condensated over due to the dewpoints being in the lower 70's.  Therefore, I only was able to get limited pictures of the wall cloud and none of the tornado that began to form when we were on a dirt road just to the north of Protection, KS.  MaryLynn and I had become split of the group at this point and had were watching a tornado form several miles to our northwest while the eventual Greensburg Tornado started to touch down in a field 1/4 mile to our east around 9pm.  As we followed behind the tornado that was rapidly increasing in size, it was starting to become more difficult to see as nightfall was soon approaching.  The soon-to-be wedge tornado was only illuminated between the power flashes and the lightning and is an image that has been in my thoughts and nightmares since this night.  One of the more scary things was the weather radio saying over and over "A Tornado Emergency has been issued for Greensburg, KS.  A tornado is imminent and all residents must seek shelter."  MaryLynn, our camerman and I ended up in the town of Mullinville, KS looking at a traffic jam in the middle of a KS night on Highway 54 as the road had been shut down as a result of the first EF-5 tornado in history, sadly destroying the town of Greensburg, KS.  Below are some of the pictures from this day and some of the aftermath:

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The beautiful shelf cloud out ahead of the left split of the Greensburg Supercell from our vantage point near Deerhead, KS.

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The actual splitting of the Greensburg Supercell (on left) and the left splitting storm (on right) near Coldwater, KS.

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Bad photo (I know) of the very tight and rapidly rotating wall cloud at the start of the Greensburg Tornado near Protection, KS.

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All of the news outlets in Greensburg only 3 days after the tragedy.

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A van that was thrown several times.

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picture3

 A very large grain truck that was flipped.

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 There was extensive tree damage throughout the town.

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The U.S. flag being flown proudly after the town had been dessimated.

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picture6

A pickup truck flipped from the winds of the tornado.

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Another amazing picture of the destruction from this powerful tornado.

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picture81

 A random piano thrown into the middle of a parking lot.

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 A grain bin wrapped around a tree like tinfoil.

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A slab of concrete completely ripped out of the ground.

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picture12

Boards thrown as projectiles.

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picture13

A graphical image of the destruction in Greensburg, KS.

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picture14

One month after the tornado went through Greensburg, KS as the rubble has been cleared.

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Another image of the entire town after having been cleared of the rubble one month later.

More photos from this day can be found here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/39991047@N02/sets/72157621652591365/

And here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/39991047@N02/sets/72157621654273947/

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