TWISTEX Field Operations for June 24, 2011: Project End

June 24, 2011 – 8:56 am

Currently in Denver, CO

TWISTEX project has been fairly quiet the past couple of weeks due to a summertime pattern across the Midwest.  It seems like the incredible tornado season of April and May ground to a halt when the calendar flipped to June.

Past couple of days:

We did manage to have two final days of chasing last Sunday (June 19) and Monday (June 20).

June 19:

Target for this day was in northeast Colorado.  We initially targeted Joes, Colorado when a storm initiated in the Pawnee National Grasslands south of Kimball, NE.  Storm was tornado warned much of its life, but failed to produce a tornado.  We finally gave up on the storm early evening when three storms initiated in southwest Nebraska near a Benkelman-Trenton line.   We decided to target the center storm as it seem to have the best rotation based on RADAR.  Upon our arrival the storm began to weaken.  Right at dusk, the storm strengthened once again and became tornado warned.  Followed an area of strong rotation until it got too dark, thus terminated the mission for the evening.  There were reports of power lines down and numerous power outages, and even some reports of tornadoes after dark, but we were not able to confirm this.

We stayed in Grand Island, NE for the evening.

June 20:

This was a big day for tornado production!  A tight surface low centered in northcentral Kansas moved slowly to the Nebraska border.  Very powerful upper level winds and low level turning provided a good atmosphere for tornadic supercells.  The surface low actually wrapped the warm unstable airmass over the top of the low, and even to the northwest where a tornado producing thunderstorm initiated near Quinter, Kansas.  There is some debate if this storm actually started as a ‘cold core low’ or not.  We eventually targeted these storms crossing into Nebraska heading for Elm Creek, Nebraska.

As it seems to be a continuing theme, TWISTEX caused the first storm to dissipate upon our arrival.  Fortunately, a second storm to the north initiated, and produced several tornadoes that TWISTEX observed. Perhaps the strongest tornado of the day was an EF3 tornado that was reported to be 1/4 mile wide was sampled at very close range southwest of Amherst.  This was a rain-wrapped tornado that was impossible to deploy on, however we managed to collect some MM data fairly close to the tornado.

Other storms initiated south of York, NE where several tornadoes were reported.  We tried to intercept the final storm of the season, but it was moving too fast, and tornado production dropped off significantly upon our arrival.  Mission was terminated by late evening, and stayed in Columbus, NE for the evening.


Based on model forecast guidance and remaining budget, it was decided to terminate TWISTEX missions for the year.  Overall, we intercepted over 35 tornadoes including several violent tornadoes during the super outbreak in Alabama on April 27.  We managed to capture the entire life cycle of the Canton tornado on May 24th with RADAR, along with mobile mesonet readings from all team members.

We wish to thank the following for their support for our TWISTEX mission this year(no particular order):

Discovery Channel/Original Media        (
EWR Radar                               (
LINE-X                                  (
Hyperion Technology Group               (
National Instruments                    (
Mastercraft                             (
Classic Soft Trim, Inc.                 (
Tommy Gate                              (
ATS Diesel                              (
PCB Piezotronics, Inc.                  (
Rigid Industries                        (
FLIR Systems                            (
GoPro                                   (
Iowa State University                   (

Without all of your support, TWISTEX would not have been possible.  I’ve tried my best to include all of the supporters–if I forgot somebody–please let me know, and I’ll resend with corrections!

Thanks to Dr. Howie Bluestein for keeping me on his discussion list–wished we would have crossed paths this year!

I personally wish to thank all of our TWISTEX team members for their dedication, hard work, and persistence as we moved through this very challenging year.  Although this was a record year for tornadoes, most of these days were very challenging to conduct good science missions due to fast moving tornadoes and poor road networks.  We also had our share of vehicle issues (had to get towed once during a chase!).

For me, I move on to my next field program to study lightning.  This is in conjunction with a DARPA funded program called PhOCAL (Physical Origins of Coupling to the Upper Atmosphere from Lightning) working with Dr. Walt Lyons with FMA Research.  I’m also working with National Geographic Magazine to capture a naturally produced lightning strike with our ultra high-speed camera capable of 1 Million frames per second.  We’ll get it done this year!

These multiple programs will start after a week (or so) of rest from being on the road for 2.5 months.  These programs will run intermittently from middle of July through the middle of September.

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