Rare Full Moon on the Summer Solstice

The summer solstice starts this afternoon at 5:34pm CDT, June 20th. A full moon will also occur during solstice tonight. The astronomical timing is such that this is actually rare occurrence. The next full moon that will occur on a summer solstice will be on June 21st, 2062. The last time a full moon occurred during a summer solstice was the summer of 1967, shortly after midnight. Prior, it also occurred during the summer solstice of 1948.

Full moon solstice

 

The Storm Report Rewind for June 2

In 1917 – The temperature at Tribune, Kansas, dipped to 30 degrees to establish a state record for the month of June.

In 1949 – A tornado northeast of Alfalfa, Oklahoma, circled an area one mile in radius.

In 1985 – Lightning struck a house, broke a bedroom window, and missed striking a metal frame bed.  A man was killed but his wife was unharmed by the lightning.

The May 24th, Dodge City, Kansas, Tornado Outbreak

On Tuesday, May 24th, 2016, a small outbreak of tornadoes occurred in southwestern Kansas within the vicinity of Dodge City. There were 14 observed tornadoes, including four sets of twin tornadoes, a set of triplets, and a large multi-vortex tornado and wedge tornado. So far, the National Weather Service in Dodge City, Kansas, surveyed 9 tornadoes thus far. Fortunately, the majority of these tornadoes remained over open fields. There were five EF-3, two EF-2, and two EF-1 tornadoes that occurred within the Dodge City area (the EF-Scale is a damage indicator scale, and tornadoes are solely rated based off of the damage they cause).

Dodge City multi-vortex

Image of the large multi-vortex tornado as it neared the southwest fringes of Dodge City, Kansas. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

 

Tuesday was shaping up to be a potentially volatile day across southwestern Kansas. The 1900z / 2:00pm CDT observed sounding on Tuesday launched from the National Weather Service in Dodge City, Kansas, sampled an extremely unstable environment with CAPE (instability) in excess of 4,000j/kg. Extreme instability, coupled with sufficient low-level wind shear profiles and dew points that were nearing 70°F, the environment was becoming highly favorable for supercells.

Dodge City sounding

1900z / 2:00pm CDT observed sounding from Dodge City, Kansas, on 5/24/2016. Note the extreme instability and low-level wind shear. Image credit: Storm Prediction Center

 

We initially traveled down to Buffalo, Oklahoma, just to the north of Woodward where a dryline bulge was present. Dryline bulges are caused when winds within the troposphere (part of the atmosphere where weather occurs) are stronger in one particular region than the other due to strong low-level convergence and wind shear. This, in turn, causes parts of the dryline to mix forward, or bulge (Note: A dryline is not a front nor does it function like one). This exponentially increases the potential for severe thunderstorms, and an upper tier tornado watch was issued by the Storm Prediction Center for southwestern Kansas and western Oklahoma, with high probabilities of strong tornadoes and extremely large hail.

Dodge City Tornado Watch

Tornado Watch #204 issued for western Kansas, western Oklahoma, and the eastern Texas Panhandle on Tuesday, May 24th, 2016. Image credit: Storm Prediction Center

 

Cumulus towers began to form within the vicinity of the Buffalo—Woodward—Dodge City area. Continuing to watch the visible satellite and cumulus fields deepen, we watched an anvil develop to our north. Leaving Buffalo, Oklahoma, we headed north into southwestern Kansas. The storm developed rapidly with a well defined base. As we approached the vicinity of the storm, we documented the first wall cloud of the day (video can be found via here). Strong, warm, and moist inflow was occurring at the time as scud was rising rapidly into the rotating wall cloud.

Dodge City wall cloud

Rapidly rotating wall cloud with scud rising into the base of the storm. This was observed southwest of Dodge City, Kansas, Tuesday afternoon. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

 

We decided to continue to head north on Highway 283 towards Minneola and Dodge City. Shortly thereafter, the first tornado of the day formed south of Minneola and Dodge City. Turning west off of Highway 283 onto a dirt road, we traveled westward for about a mile or two to document the tornado (video can be found at the bottom of the page). At first, the condensation funnel was not fully condensed due to somewhat of a lacking of moisture from the downdraft. Over a short period of time; however, the funnel was able to condense all the way to the ground, leaving a spectacular view as we were positioned about 4 to 5 miles to its south-southeast. The tornado then began to stretch out due to a process called dynamic piping, where stretched air flowing at the surface into the tornado contracts. A corollary to this is the vortex of water that forms while draining a bathtub.

Dodge City tornado 1

Stovepipe tornado south of Dodge City on Tuesday afternoon. The condensation funnel began to condense all the way to the ground. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

 

Dodge City tornado 1

Vortex stretching from dynamic piping as air began to contract around the tornado. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

Dodge City vortex breakdown

Image of the vortex breakdown that occurred and helical vortices that were generated by the tornado as a result of the stretching and contracting of air. Violent and erratic motion occurred at the surface. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the helical vortices occurred, the tornado dissipated rather quickly. Within a period of about 10-15 seconds, a second tornado formed. And, in a very short amount of time, the second tornado began to grow in size rapidly. It moved off to the north-northeast at about 20-30MPH, faster than the first tornado that formed. We headed back east towards Highway 283 and continued northward towards Dodge City.

Dodge City tornado 2

Second tornado as it formed south of Dodge City. The condensation funnel was not fully condensed at this point in time. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

Dodge City tornado 2

Second tornado as it started move north and grow larger into a stovepipe tornado south of Dodge City. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pulling over safely off of Highway 283 south of Dodge City, we moved off near a field and began to document the tornado as it traversed across the landscape. A few miles away from the tornado, we observed rapid horizontal motion as dirt was sucked around the tornado. Given the low amount of debris and saturated ground, the tornado did not pick up an abundance of dirt from the fields. As a result, the fully condensed funnel took on an incredible grey color as it moved through the open fields.

Dodge City tornado 2

Stovepipe tornado as it traversed through open fields roughly 6 miles south of Dodge City, Kansas. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

 

However, the tornado kept maintaining its speed and increased its movement to near 20MPH as it headed northward towards Dodge City. We quickly got back in our truck and headed north on Highway 283. The tornado continued to grow, and the right edge of the tornado began to bow out as we documented numerous horizontal vortices. At this point, the tornado was becoming violent. Horizontal vortices are an indicator of rapid vertical winds near and within the tornado.

Dodge City horizontal vortices

Large, violent, and extremely dangerous tornado that was nearing Dodge City, Kansas, on Tuesday, May 24th. Horizontal vortices can be seen on the top right next to the tornado. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

 

Due the significance of this tornado as it continued to move towards the near vicinity Dodge City, a population of about 30,000, the National Weather Service office upgraded the Tornado Warning that was in effect for Dodge City to a Tornado Emergency. These are only issued as a last resort by the National Weather Service as the tornado poses an imminent danger to human life and property, with the potential to produce catastrophic damage.

Dodge City Tornado Emergency

The Tornado Emergency that was issued for Dodge City, Kansas, on Tuesday, May 24th. Image credit: National Weather Service Dodge City

 

We came to the junction of Highway 283 and Highway 400 northbound, and decided head northward on Highway 400. Twin tornadoes formed again as the stovepipe tornado moved off to the north and northwest as a large multi-vortex tornado began to form from a wall cloud that was nearly touching the ground. The stovepipe tornado began to rope out as the multi-vortex tornado intensified. A new tornado formed to the left of the multi-vortex as it headed north to the southern areas of Dodge City. The supercell began to occlude, and the twin tornadoes began to turn left, sideswiping downtown Dodge City.

Mobile Doppler radars from the University of Oklahoma (OU RaXPol) and from the Center for Severe Weather Research observed six vortices within the multi-vortex tornado that revolved in a Fujiwhara motion before forming into the wedge tornado, according to one of the field scientists. Here is a brief four second time lapse of the multi-vortex tornado as it headed into southwest Dodge City. The sub-vortices within the time lapse can be clearly seen “dancing” around the surface in an erratic and violent motion.

Traveling north on Highway 400 towards the southwest part of town, we started to observe damage with downed trees, and sheet metal roofs ripped off of farm buildings. This was one of the latest images I took of the multi-vortex tornado before it turned into a wedge, and before we encountered more damage.

Dodge City Multi-Vortex tornado

One of the last images of the multi-vortex tornado before it formed into a wedge in southwest Dodge City. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

 

Nearing the junction of Highway 400 and Highway 50 in the southwest part of town, we came up on a tractor trailer that was tossed by the tornado. The truck driver was okay, and police had just arrived on scene. In turn, we continued to travel north towards Highway 50.

Dodge City tractor trailer

Image of the rolled tractor trailer on Highway 400 northbound south of Dodge City on Tuesday, May 24th. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

 

Turning east onto Highway 50, we came across a row of downed power lines and observed more sheet metal roofs torn off buildings, and debris scattered about the fields. Eventually, we crossed a row of trees and saw a house that suffered major damage. Immediately, we pulled over and found a clearing to crawl underneath the power lines that were about six feet above the ground. We gave immediate aid to the people affected by the tornado. It took roughly an hour for paramedics to get their vehicles up to the house due to the downed power lines. We stayed within them through and when the paramedics arrived. But, they were eventually taken to the hospital to be treated and were miraculously released the next day in fair condition.

These are a few of the photos I took of the damage after the people affected by the tornado were taken to the hospital. The damage photos were sent the next day to the National Weather Service in Dodge City to be used for their damage surveys as they provided documentation of the damage immediately after the tornado impacted the area.

Dodge City damage

Image of the damaged house we encountered in southwest Dodge City. The victims were released from the hospital the next day in fair condition. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

 

Dodge City trailer damage

Image of a trailer that was completely destroyed. No one was in the trailer. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

 

Dodge City combine damage

Front end of a multi-thousand pound combine tossed by the tornado. It is unknown where it came from. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

 

After surveying damage at the house and within the general vicinity, we came across baseball to softball size hailstones that were still on the ground more than an hour after they fell. The main hail core impacted that area before we came up on it.

Dodge City hail

Baseball size hailstone found more than an hour after they fell along Highway 50. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

Dodge City hail

3.5″ diameter hailstone found more than an hour after it fell along Highway 50. Image credit: Harrison Sincavage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The chances of seeing the magnitude and multitude of tornadoes in a relatively small area from one storm is extremely rare. The outbreak of tornadoes that occurred in the Dodge City, Kansas, region, on Tuesday, May 24th, was likely one of the most documented storm’s in history as there were mobile Doppler radars, hundreds of storm spotters and storm chasers filming the storm’s evolution, as well as data from the scientific instruments placed in front of the tornadoes. The forecast lead time ahead of the event, and ground truth information provided to the National Weather Service was a key factor in getting word out of the oncoming danger. Only two people were injured during the entire event, and no one lost their lives.