October 3, 2013


Initial Target
Storm Intercepts
York, NE
Springfield, IL 2:07 PM 10/2/2013
4 miles SSE of Percival, IA 12:07 AM 10/4/2013
Palmyra, NE
0 mph
Tornado, Wall Cloud


Day before the day fall warm sector setup in southeast Nebraska. Targeted York, NE for evening initiation of supercells along warm front, but cap held until after dark. Had dinner near Omaha, but left abruptly to intercept tornado warned supercell southeast of Lincoln. Noted powerflashes, point funnel aloft, and roar of nocturnal tornado northeast of Palmyra. Photographed lightning east of Palmyra before stopping for the night near Nebraska City.

Crew and Equipment

Solo chase. Equipment: Canon 60D, Canon t2i, Canon EFS 10-22, Canon EF 50mm, Sony HDR-xr500v..




October 4 was looking like a big chase day in Nebraska and Iowa, advertised on the forecast models well in advance. The day before looked pretty marginal across Nebraska, but could feature some supercells, so I thought why not head out a day early and get two chases out of this run. Brindley couldn’t join me on this chase, so I made plans to leave the night before for a solo run out to Nebraska. I left Springfield and camped in the van north of St. Joseph, MO. I was up early and rolling north into Iowa, stopping outside of Omaha to get breakfast and data. I met up with Jon Williamson and Alec Scholten while attempting to get some navigation software for my new Dell Inspiron. We decided to caravan for the rest of the day, and headed west down 80 toward our preliminary target of York, NE. We met up with Brad Goddard, stopped at the Subway and then spent most of the day awaiting storm initiation. By early evening, however, it became apparent we weren’t going to catch anything while there was light in the sky. We decided to start heading east toward the next day’s target, grab dinner, and blow off the night show. Along the way we watched storms fire to our south, but let them go as they looked pretty mediocre. Midway through dinner at a trendy joint in Omaha, however, one of the storms became dominant and went tornado warned with a nice hook echo. We figured we’d miss the show if we chased it, but it could still be worth a shot at capturing some lightning or maybe even a sprite if we setup for a long distance shot south of Omaha. We hurried up and paid and headed south toward the storms. Low level clouds blocked our view of the lightning activity so we decided to move in for a closer view.

First Powerflash and Wall Cloud
2 miles NE of Palmyra, NE
10:42 PM
Approaching the base southeast of Lincoln near the town of Palmyra, we still had a great looking supercell with tornado warning in progress. We stopped a few miles shy of the base and strained to see what was happening underneath, but backlighting lightning flashes were sparse and the storm still rather distant. We moved a couple miles closer to Palmyra and got right within the path of the storm. A big base with wall cloud started to come into view, illuminated by lightning and then we spotted a bright flash at ground level.

Brilliant Powerflash
2 miles NE of Palmyra, NE
10:42 PM
A few moments later there was another flash. Powerflashes. There were strong winds taking the power lines down, likely from a tornado given their position underneath the wall cloud. I shot long exposures with my camera on a tripod, capturing each flash as the storm approached our position.

Faint Powerflash and Storm base
2 miles NE of Palmyra, NE
10:42 PM
Another flash, this one was fainter, but they were each in a line tracking northeast. At this point we were fairly confident we were tracking a tornadic circulation. Spotter Network tornado reports were coming in from other chasers as well.

2 miles ENE of Palmyra, NE
10:46 PM
We held our ground as the rear flanking gust front of the supercell approached our position. The region producing the tornado looked like it was going to pass safely to our north, but it would be fairly close and we were definitely going to get slammed by the rear flanking downdraft if we didn’t move. I wanted a few more shots though and was still hoping to capture a condensation funnel.

Then we heard it. A roaring noise. It could have been just the straight line winds within the rear flanking downdraft, or it could have been the tornadic circulation we were tracking. It was alarmingly close, however, so we decided to pull the trigger on our escape route and head south to the highway and then east away from the northeast tracking storm. Jon, Alec, and Brad scrambled to their cars and I joined them after snagging a couple more stills. The last shot I got showed a shaggy point at the bottom of a lowering in the storm’s base: the funnel of our weak tornado.

2 miles ENE of Syracuse, NE
11:13 PM
We headed east a few miles until we had good terrain to work with and a road with a decent view of the storm, which was now off to our north. It looked like the storm had peaked so we stayed south of it, shooting lightning for a while before the updraft finally fizzled. We decided to call it a chase. Brad and I split a room at the Super 8 just east of Nebraska City, located at a favorite chaser pit stop that would put us in a prime spot for getting to the next day’s target.


This tornado certainly wasn’t the most photogenic that I’ve seen since it occurred after dark without much of a condensation funnel. It is technically my first October tornado, however. Some other chasers got better shots of the funnel, but seeing that we got on the storm almost too late having called the chase too early and stopping for dinner, we did pretty well. It was a great “day before the day” chase and a precursor to the significant event that would occur the next day.

Lessons Learned

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