19 May 2012
Rago, KS Tornadoes

Photos 2012 Scott F. Blair

On 19 May 2012, I had an unexpected surprise during multi-hour HailSTONE operations when several updrafts began producing tornadoes during the early evening hours. We observed two tornadoes within two miles of each other during their dissipation stage. When we came into view of the tornadoes, each vortex only lasted approximately four minutes before dissipating, but put on a spectacular show.

We had heard radio traffic from our group of several brief tornadoes leading up to us actually observing one. We made a transect through the precipitation core and noticed surface winds gradually increasing from the east. My passenger, Jenni Laflin, first spotted a weak vortex in the rain approximately 1 mile northwest of Rago, KS. We were located on the outskirts of a heavy precipitation core which made taking photographs a daunting challenge. The long vortex fully condensed towards the ground with a needle tip, and gradually stretched outside the outskirts of the precipitation core. A beautiful rope out concluded this sight as the bottom of the tornado skirted just west of Highway 14 (click images to enlarge).

Following the rope out, we turned south on Highway 14 to enter a new hail core when this tornado came into view just one mile south of our previous location (click image to enlarge).

We stopped roughly one-quarter mile north of the tornado, about eight miles northwest of Harper, KS, to watch it cross Highway 14. Very heavy rain and occasional hail made for some challenging photography as I was constantly wiping my camera off. Still, I was able to capture an impressive sequence of photos of the tornado crossing the road. The tornado was very photogenic, with a subtle illumination of white color. The vortex eventually moved across a plowed field and lofted a tremendous amount of dirt around the circulation. The near-ground cyclonic motion was very impressive, and the audible roar was quite loud. As the tornado dissipated, it bent back northward towards our location, as we quickly shifted out of its potential path (click images to enlarge).

Upon the tornado's dissipation, we continued HailSTONE operations and did not observe the tornado near Harper. We ended the day near Anthony, KS after an excellent day of field work (thanks to Mike Mezeul II for the group photo in Anthony, KS).

All photographs and images on this and associated pages are Copyrighted by Scott F. Blair. Any reproduction either electronic or otherwise without written permission and consent from Scott F. Blair is strictly prohibited by Federal Law. Please direct all inquiries or comments to: Scott F. Blair

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