Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Wyoming Tornado at Keyhole State Park

One of the shows that I like to watch is called Storm Chasers. Its about meteorologists chasing tornado's and collecting scientific data. Its attracted so many followers that you can take your vacation and go storm chasing, for big bucks of course, in the hopes if seeing a tornado. A cheaper option is just to live or visit Wyoming as I have seen nine tornado's, the latest one yesterday afternoon!
Now its not that Wyoming has so many more tornado's, its just that we don't have a lot of trees and so its not uncommon to be able to see for miles, and that's why we saw the tornado yesterday.
A big cumulonimbus formed and I decided to walk the dog before it started to get nasty. As we walked I noticed our neighbors coming in with their pontoon boat and I also noticed another boat of people going out,(obviously clueless). The neighbors walked past their camper and continued up the hill, where they looked at the sky, and sure enough a funnel cloud was hanging down,(the wall cloud was really pretty small)!
Renita and I walked up to the ridge near our fifth wheel and joined them where we could see that the funnel cloud was actually a tornado. Now the difference between the two is that a tornado actually touches down and a funnel cloud stays in the air. If you look close you can see that the tornado is picking up surface dust that clearly outlines the funnel.
The tornado's in Wyoming are usually rated small ones, f1 and sometimes f2, so we watched for a while as it lingered before finally pulling back up and disappearing into the clouds. Going back inside I turned on the computer and got on the Internet to find that the weather service hadn't yet issued a severe storm warning. In typical weather service fashion they were a bit late, (They often issue them to late in Wyoming as there aren't a lot of people here so the Doppler radar coverage is sparse and blocked by the mountains).
Regardless, we continued to watch the sky as the storm moved over our camper. Shelter was nearby as the small cement restroom beckoned, but there were so many people in the campground and such a small restroom that we didn't rush and play the game, "How many people can stuff into a cement outhouse"!
The storm was actually pretty benign as it passed. Renita spotted cumulus mammaltus clouds,(named because they look like breasts hanging down), but I didn't take a picture as it was raining pretty hard. The lightening wasn't near us and we didn't get any hail, which is our biggest worry as big hail here is frequent and costly,(Two different storms took out our roof on our old stick and brick house, and caused extensive damage to our cars and camper).
I had an idea and as we waited out the storm I e-mailed the pictures to the KOTA tv station in Rapid City as the weatherman there is actually one of the best I have seen. Mike Modrick used our image of the tornado on the ten o'clock news as he explained the difference between a funnel and a tornado! Of course we couldn't see it as it was after ten pm and no generators are allowed in the campground,( and I haven't yet set up a tv like Joe and Marcia of Chasing the Seventies fame showed us), but Renita got to see it as she was at a local restaurant visiting her dance group.
Anyway its a new day and the weather service is predicting more thunderstorms. Hopefully they will hold off a bit until my round of golf is over and we are planning a fish cookout with company from Gillette. Better make sure the camera is nearby with newy charged batteries! I really do wish you all and us, "Clear Skies"!

ps no damage was ever reported a smuch of Wyoming has so much open range.


Jim & Nanc said...

Great Pics!! Are you sure no antelopes were killed?

Safe Travels

MarkandRenita said...

Not sure, but I was waiting to see if it would be raining antelopes, or at least prairie dogs!