The Day That Re-Ignited My Passion: April 26, 2024 Nebraska/Iowa Tornado Festival

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Over the past few years, chasing high quality tornado events has been a bit more difficult for me; between increasing work responsibilities and an overall dearth of substantial, photogenic tornado events it has felt recently like my passion for chasing tornadoes has wained some compared to my earlier years. I needed something big to come along and re-ignite that passion — and April 26th in eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa would do just that.

The morning of April 26th I found myself in Kansas City — a spot I’ve used as a home base for chasing with my partners Adam and Kevin for over a decade now. On this day however, I’d be chasing with my good friend John Homenuk, a friend whom I’ve come to respect as one of the best forecasters in the business. On my way to meet up with John I had a moment of weird revelation; this was my 19th year of storm chasing. 19 years! It feels like just yesterday I started. Little did I know this would become the single greatest chase day of my life. One I’d simply never, ever forget.

It became clear early on this day would be special, with significant tornadoes occurring before Noon near the surface low in central Nebraska near Elba. Sitting in southeastern Nebraska, we watched that storm impatiently hoping for our own chance. We would soon get it near Dwight, Nebraska, as our first tornado of the day touched down just before 3pm.

The tornado touches down near Dwight, NE
The tornado continues near Dwight

The tornado, while relatively weak, was a beautiful slow moving multi-vortex with a loud waterfall “roar” that allowed us to get right up next to it. We would watch the tornado for nearly 20 minutes as the RFD gradually cut away at the updraft, ultimately allowing us a gorgeous view of a fully occluded white cone turned elephant trunk.

The now fully occluded cone tornado near David City, NE.
The tornado ropes out, leaving just the tornado cyclone above.

After the tornado roped out, we continued eastward and managed to get onto another tornado producing storm near McClelland, IA. Unfortunately I was unable to get pictures of the tornado(es) near McClelland as we were furiously driving to remain in position. This is especially unfortunate considering the storm went through at least two periods of producing twin tornadoes that were easily visible, albeit with low contrast from our position. After getting into a good position near Minden, IA, we were treated to the beginning of the greatest single tornado I’ve ever seen: what would become the very violent Minden/Harlan EF3. As we came around a corner, we were able to snag a view of the beautiful silver/white tornado in its infancy:

The Minden tornado shortly after initial touchdown.

We followed this tornado for nearly an hour, during which it became an astonishingly violent wedge/multi-vortex tornado. While “only” rated a 160mph EF3, DOW was able to record much higher (instantaneous) wind:

The wedge near Minden/Harlan, IA
The ferocity of this tornado is hard to put into words. The roar was quite audible.
John got some great video

As the tornado was moving quite quickly at this point and gaining a stationary vantage point was impossible, I was only able to grab one last shot from the car while moving. I initially disliked the blur of the ground in this image, but have grown to love the perspective that it offers. It’s also a fun lesson in parallax distortion.

My dream shot.

Ultimately we were left with little choice but to let the storm go. As it moved off in the distance, the wedge would lift momentarily, before a new wedge planted near Shelby, IA. I managed one quick shot of this, but unfortunately the contrast was quite poor.

Distant wedge near Shelby, IA

All in all, not much else to say about this day other than that it re-ignited a slightly extinguished flame. I am so grateful for that.

Community Comments

April 26th and 27th were big days for tornadoes and severe weather!

1m Reply

Are those VIMEO videos from your GoPro?

1m Reply

You made it to the featured post on the app! ❤️

1m Reply

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