Category Archives: 2003

South Dakota Tornadoes – June 24, 2003









One crazy day.  Before it was over, 15 tornadoes were observed.  All shapes, sizes, intensities.  Two tornadoes during the 5 o’clock hour, three tornadoes during the 6 o’clock hour, four tornadoes during the 7 o’clock hour, six tornadoes during the 8 o’clock hour.

I woke up in O’Neill, Nebraska, stepped out of the motel room and it just felt like a tornado day.  Dewpoints in the 70′s had returned to Northeast Nebraska and were being ushered up into Southeast South Dakota on stiff southeast winds.  A well timed short wave trough would move across the area later in the afternoon with 50 knots of wind at 500mb.  I figured one would really have to screw up to not see something, but screwing up wasn’t in the cards.

I left O’Neill and took my time driving, crossing into South Dakota at Springfield.  I made it to Parkston when a storm started developing to my northwest.  The hard part was over.  Two photogenic tornadoes were observed with this storm near Mount Vernon between 5:12 and 5:35 pm.  The storm held together, but was ragged as it continued to move northeast.  Around 6 pm, the storm was still struggling but a new storm was developing to the west northwest.  Soon after I started toward that storm, a large tornado formed and moved by Woonsocket, SD.

There were a couple of weak tornadoes produced just north of Artesian just before 7 pm, and another at 7:16 pm near Cavour.

All of this was just build up to the main event.  At 7:27 pm, a tornado developed southwest of the tiny town of Manchester, SD.  This tornado became very large – 1200 yards wide – as it clipped the edge of the town and moved north for several miles.  It was easily the most impressive tornado of the day.

Despite the storm shrinking in size and not really looking all that great on radar, it continued to produce several other tornadoes – some quite photogenic – as it tracked near Desmet and Erwin.  The show kicked off at 5:12 pm and the last tornado weakened at 8:35 pm.

I’m sure other tornadoes occurred in the area, but by this time the entire area was being blown up with widespread storms – embedded supercells – wind damage producing line segments – and it was getting dark.  It was time to flee the area and it took some good nowcasting by Doug Speheger to navigate me through a mine field of bad storms.

When I finally found a safe hotel, the only room they had left was a suite.  I figured if there was ever any day that deserved it…

Third Birthday Tornado – Harrison, Nebraska – May 31, 2003

Lorraine Evans and I sat in Southeast Wyoming most of the afternoon watching numerous areas of building cumulus.  Most of the attempts looked rather pathetic, with a few getting to the point of producing precipitation before weakening.  Shortly after 8 pm, one storm did take hold over the far northwest corner of Nebraska.  We approaching the storm from Wyoming on Highway 20 as it steadily looked better and better.

We made it to the south side of the southward moving storm a few miles south of Harrison, Nebraska and realized that the storm was really starting to take shape.  The lowered updraft region was broad and had good inflow.  A wall cloud/tail cloud had developed and we were observing strong cloud base motion.

Before the storm produced a tornado, we had to flee from large hail which started falling.  I thought this would be an easy process since we were on a north/south highway, but soon realized that the road made a jog and required us to go 3 miles east before going back south again.  Along that stretch, we encountered baseball size hail which broke the windshield.

After getting south of the storm once again, Lorraine looked back to see that a tornado was developing.  The tornado lasted about 9 minutes, stuck out of the south side of the updraft on the southwest side of the storm.


Western Missouri Tornadoes – May 4, 2003


A significant outbreak of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes was expected on this day and I drove up to Topeka the night before.  I was in pretty good position to start the day, but initial development was cluttered with many storms and rapid storm evolution.  I got myself stuck around Saint Joseph while a tornado producing supercell organized and moved across the northern part of the Kansas City metro area.  I fell in just behind this storm and came across large hail and tornado damage, but bad roads and quick storm motions kept me from staying with that storm.

There was a brief time that I thought I may have missed my chance on the day, but other storms were forming south and southwest of Kansas City that would be in play.  I worked my way southeast of Kansas City and saw a couple of tornadoes with a storm near Chilhowee, Missouri.  The storm was a small one and very well isolated.  I was finally able to get into a good viewing position to the southwest of Knob Noster for the most significant tornado with the storm.  This F2 tornado was on the ground for 5 miles/7 minutes.

One more brief tornado was observed near Sedalia before the storm started weakening.

Kiowa County Tornadoes – March 17, 2003


A lot of storms were scattered around Southwest Oklahoma, and we managed to land on one of the better ones.  We spent a bit of time hanging around the airport at Hobart as a supercell organized just to our west.  This storm began to produce a tornado to the east of Hobart just before 3 pm.  We were initially hampered by a dirt road while getting blasted with strong RFD wind and golfball size hail.  Things smoothed out for us after we reached an east/west paved road east of Hobart.  This made viewing the second tornado nicer.

The second tornado formed about midway between Hobart and Gotebo, and it was on the ground for 12 minutes.  While it curved away from us during the late stages of its life, we had a nice vantage point and decent contrast for video of this very dynamic tornado.