May 4, 2007

Holy crap it’s been forever since I posted in this. Guess I’ve been pretty busy and out & about this semester.

Enter Shane Adam’s chase account of 5/4/07. It’s amazing. He was among the last people to see two things: 1) Greensburg as it was before the giant tornado, and 2) Officer Tim Buckman, who was killed by another tornado spawned by the same storm.

There are several things I remember from the night of 5/4/07. The setup… the beautiful 5/3/99-esque trough… the questions about the cap and yet the insistence of the NAM computer model on convection in western OK. And then, oh boy, did the Internet had problems on this night, but thankfully, I was able to to track the cell from ~30 min after initiation (about when it started to go Bonkers), to when it was still producing wedge tornadoes west of St. John. These were an incredible few hours. It was to be the most amazing couplet I had ever seen, and would see until 5/23/08. The storm featured tornadoes the size of Hallam, the significance of Udall, the debris signature of Moore, the hook from Hell, and the fertility of such storms as 5/29/04 and 5/12/04 (S. KS), 6/15/92 (N. KS), 6/3/80 (Night of the Twisters/Grand Island)… among others. Truly, this went above and beyond. In an environment of 4000 J/kg CAPE and 200-300 m2/s2 of SRH, this beast would spawn three giant, >1 mile wide tornadoes, all arguably of violent intensity, before it finally weakened below severe limits in the wee hours of the morning.

There is, however, one terrible mistake that I remember vividly. The storm, already possessing a monstrous 220 kt couplet, had passed over US 183, the road that leads to Greensburg from the south. I had posted that the storm looked like “it would miss Greensburg to the east”. And then, as if the storm had heard my call, the mesocyclone began a cycling phase that doomed the sleepy KS town. It swung left, violently left. Tense moments followed, as the following scans showed a debris ball, and then afterwards, a gigantic, monstrous hook associated with a new tornado that would later grow to over 2 miles wide. What terrible, terrible moments they were. What… breathtaking moments they were, to see such a once-in-a-decade storm to triumph over the cap, and exploit the explosive tornadic environment over southwest KS. What sad moments they were, to hear the news stories trickle in, initially somewhat optimistic, but knowing that later, the full extent of the devastation would be seen.

I’m a bit severe weather deprived, so I guess I’m just reminiscing. And possibly showcasing Shane Adams’ (somewhat funny and) somewhat chilling account of  5/4/07.

[Note: Readers probably don’t know what I’m talking about here. An EF5 tornado, the strongest on the scale, struck Greensburg, KS after dark on May 4, 2007, killing 10 people and wiping out the entire town. The supercell spawned ~10 tornadoes, 3 of which were over 1 mile in width (on average a tornado is <100 yards wide).  For more questions, comment lol]

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