Large Tornado- Alda/Aurora, NE June 17th, 2009





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Published on Nov 3, 2009

This day literally came at the end of our trip to Tornado Alley. And what a way to end it! Dave Lewison, Mark Robinson and I were chasing near Beatrice, NE earlier this day, and we were on an amazing supercell thunderstorm that did in fact produce a tornado. We briefly witnessed this tornado but as the storm began to weaken, our attention soon turned to the storms that were firing west of us...I mean WAY west of us near Grand Island. A decision had to be made, do we pursue the storms in our area, in the hopes that another one would take shape, or perhaps the storm that we were on would re-intensify and possibly produce a tornado again....or do we haul it to the Grand Island storm. Thankfully we made the decision to head to Grand Island!

We skirted the Kansas/Nebraska state line until we hit our north road option which would take us right to I-80 in the town of York, NE. We arrived in York around 6 or 630pm if memory serves me right and immediately got on the 80 heading west towards Grand Island. The storm was right in front of us and it looked amazing! The anvil was spreading out right on top of us, and the updraft base was visible in the distance. At this point we were still a good 50 miles from the storm, and reports began to come in that it had already produced a tornado. We were just hoping that it would still have some left for us by the time we got there. Thankfully the speed limit on I-80 was 75mph, we made good time and arrived near the town of Alda, NE right as the storm was really getting it's act together! A few tornadoes had already been sighted by other chasers before we had arrived, but from the looks of it, our storm was not done quite yet.

We set up our cameras and shot video as a wall cloud took shape literally right on top of us! The clouds were spinning like a top and at this point we felt that we had to readjust our position a litter further east down Route 34. At one point we could see that a funnel was beginning to take shape right on the southern suburbs of Grand Island and we were hoping that it would wait just a little longer before planting itself, as there were many homes and businesses that would have been right in it's path! I believe at this location there was a brief touchdown, but thankfully it lifted and caused only minor damage to some trees.

We drove a little further down Route 34 and then finally it planted itself right behind us! It started as some debris getting kicked up on the ground, and it kept dancing back and fourth across the road as it was strengthening. But it wasn't long before this tornado grew in size and now it was a large, dark, ominous dust bowl heading right in our direction. We felt confident that we could keep ahead of it, and I have to say, with all the chasers that were on the road that day, everyone played nice and at least from my perspective, there were no accidents. The next 15 minutes or so were spent filming, and relocating further down the road as the tornado would get close. We finished off the day back in York, NE where we got ourselves rooms, and had a well deserved steak dinner and a rum and coke (or two) at a local Applebee's. One of my top 10 chase days for sure.


©Scott McPartland


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