July 23 Chase by Bary Nusz

July 23 was not a typical summer afternoon. Chuck Robertson and family had spent the weekend here and had left by noon. Blue skies prevailed all day until late afternoon. An area of convergence had developed just NW of AMA. It developed slowly into a typical summertime high and wide base thundershower right on top of my house (NW AMA). As the thundershower moved off towards the middle of AMA it must have moved into a more favorable area. I began to notice extreme (spring like) updrafts. It looked like it was going to be a large hail event. Aimee reminded me that spring was over and that she needed my help at the house. This did not bother me because it was late July, and everyone knows all the tornadoes are in the Dakotas this time of the year. While eating dinner I checked the storm every 5-10 minutes. Its updrafts remained very strong for over an hour and the storm was still on the east side of town. Baseball size hail was reported by the WX radio on the NE side of town. I took another look at the storm and realized that the base was tighting up. After another 5 minutes it appear to be a meso and I informed Aimee that that the WX-office was about to issue a T warning. By this time it was about 15 miles E of town (about 25-30 from my house) and the sun was setting in about an hour. Because of the limited sunlight and the fact that I still had a clear view, I decided that I would stay put and view it with my wife. After about 15 minutes, a Tornado was spotted and a T warning went out. I got up on the roof of my house to get the best view that I could. After about 5 minutes I saw a detached condensation funnel that went from mid way between the cloud base to the ground. This event lasted for less than a minute but it was surprisingly very visible from 30 miles away. During that minute I was stomping my feet to get Aimee to come out so that she could bring my camera. After Aimee got my still camera I pulled her up onto the roof in the hopes that she could see her first tornado. By this time the first tornado appeared to dissipate and a second one was forming. The second tornado was more classic with a cone descending slowly to the ground. After about 5 minutes it began to widen slightly at the base and slim up slightly at the top - giving it what I called a elephants trunk appearance. At this time the sun began to light the tornado up as bright as the updrafts. It was truly a beautiful sight - the downtown AMA skyline and a bright tornado. After another 10 minutes it widened ever further at the base and a brown debris cloud was being pulled up about 10% of the way. At this time I ran out of film and made a mad dash off the roof to find my video camera. Upon my return to the roof, the tornado was roping out, and had also returned to the shadows. After another couple of minutes it was gone and the sun was setting.

I got my slides back Tue and they turned out great. The wide angle shots show the storm from anvil to tornado in a brilliant white. The telephoto shots showed the tornado appearing to loom over the downtown AMA buildings. I'm currently trying to get the best slides converted to high quality bitmaps so that I can get them on the web.

P.S. Chuck was not very happy about missing the tornado.

/*** Bary Nusz ***/