Elk Creek, NE Tornado 8/8
A long, three day weekend with a severe threat across the mid-Missouri Valley gave me the opportunity to get back on the road to chase. I left Atlanta around 4 a.m. that day and arrived into the threat zone by mid-afternoon. The data leading up to the event was very impressive, but it was known from the start that any substantial tornado threat would be highly conditional. The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) mentioned a possible 10% hatched (significant) tornado risk, but held off instead, maintaining a 5% shading for the region around the Nebraska/Iowa/Missouri border.
With relatively weak forcing and near-neutral height tendencies, convection struggled to organize through late afternoon. Some chasers had called off the day, but given the long drive and increasing kinematic support into the evening, I stayed in southeastern Nebraska. By early evening, a few towers started going up to my east and a short time later, a few weak echoes were showing up on radar. This was my shot and there was no reason not to make the short “jog” over to watch this convection develop.
I had a visual on an expansive, low-hanging wall cloud by 8:37 p.m. just to the north of Elk Creek. As I dropped down to the storm from the northwest, visibility began to decrease and the sun had now set. To have any legitimate shot at seeing something conclusive, I would need to get underneath the organizing supercell. I had a visual on a brief funnel cloud at one point and it was right at 9:00 p.m. that I could see a funnel was touching down and a tornado was in progress.
The chasing aspect was quite difficult, as I found myself in darkness and a forested area near the Missouri River. It took a while before I managed to get onto a dirt road with a visual on the tornado. It was a relatively small tornado, cone-shaped at first, but then it began to twist and turn, finally roping out at 9:11 p.m. My photo and video equipment was struggling to get a snapshot of the tornado, but I was able to get a low resolution view of the tornado with the Snapchat app, of all things. The app can be switched into night mode and it actually increases the clarity of images and videos in low light. The below video is low resolution, but shows the tornado just moments before it roped out and lifted:
For a long drive and a highly conditional threat, this chase was well worth the drive. I also knew that the following day would hold at least a marginal severe threat in the same general area, so that made this chase trip even more appealing. I try to avoid long drives for single day events, unless they are looking like a significant outbreak. Stay tuned for a post on the August 9th chase day, which I should have up within the next day or so.
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