Tornado Warnings

A favorite author and artist of Melanie was to give a talk at 7 pm at the local bookstore Prairie Lights. Austin Kleon was to talk about his latest book Keep Going. We started driving and tornado sirens started blaring as soon as we got rolling. I stopped to check radar and notices on my phone from the weather service. As a trained spotter, I needed to be aware of the storm conditions. We continued into town pausing at a high spot in the road to assess the sky. Radar showed a very small storm that didn’t seem bad from our vantage-point. But, that can be very misleading. You need to pay attention to them.

NOAA NWS | 6:40 pm

We got to the bookstore and sat down. The sirens started up again. My phone and those around me went crazy. The NWS alerts were more ominous this time. Our friend, also a spotter, lives 10 miles southwest of town under the red blob of the radar image. Storms track from that direction. He had reported to the NWS a rotating wall cloud from this little storm only a mile south of him. His picture was a classic of a severe storm that could produce a tornado. It briefly dropped a funnel that broke up.

©J. Wielert

He continued to watch and got a second picture a minute or two later and about 2 miles farther east. This time a narrow tornado was on the ground heading for our town. Rain made it hard for him to see.

©J. Wielert

I spoke to the organizer of the bookstore event and showed him the weather alerts. He reluctantly agreed to delay the program for 10 minutes and told people they could go to the lower level for safety. Melanie and I went down. I stepped outside to do my spotter thing and looked south. There was the funnel a mile or two away breaking up as it disappeared. I called the NWS and reported what I saw. We were safe now that the storm had passed.

Several people captured video of the approaching tornado before it broke up.

The speaker started his program a few minutes late. We all enjoyed it very much. It was an exciting end to an interesting day. Later reports showed some minor damages in the area. Here is the link to the NWS investigation of the event. Look for #3 in the list.


17 thoughts on “Tornado Warnings

  1. Steve Gingold

    You folks in Mid-America have been having rough time of it this year. We are fortunate that most storms break up or reduce their strength by the time they get to us and many stay to our south. I hope there are no more close calls for you and Melanie…and all your neighbors.
    It may not have proved a danger to your event but I hope everyone appreciated your sense of caution.

    1. Jim R Post author

      Yes, too much rain and now storms. Most of the attendees were familiar with this kind of weather and were patient. A similar storm tore thru the center of town several years ago. It left some vivid memories.

  2. shoreacres

    I was checking RadarScope last night to see if that mess around Kansas City was going to miss my aunt. I noticed Iowa City and Coralville in the list of warnings, so I kept an eye on your storms, too. I didn’t see any reports of serious damage, and I’m glad your evening turned out all right. A friend in Lubbock got caught in their flash flooding, but she was smart enough to wait it out, unlike a few drivers who didn’t know (until yesterday) that driving a sedan through even a foot of water isn’t the best idea in the world.

  3. Jan

    Thanks for including my pics. That’s the second classic wall cloud we have seen from our deck in 3 years. A number of folks reported hearing the sounds associated with the stronger tornado. It was past us by that point.

  4. Mrs. P

    Great pictures and report! My sister lives in northwest Arkansas so I’ve been watching the weather a lot these days. Curious, how does one become a designated spotter?

    1. Jim R Post author

      You can easily become a trained spotter. Go online to your weather service office. In the spring here in the Midwest, our offices offer 2 hour classes at many different sites around their area of watch. Show up to the class, pay attention, and bingo you are a trained spotter. Go back every few years for refreshers. There are police, civil defense, emergency services, ham radio, and regular citizens in attendance. They want more eyes available. Radar can’t see what is happening on the ground.

      You might find them listed as Skywarn training. For example, I looked at Jacksonville, FL. Most classes are finished by now. But this was listed.
      I don’t know your local weather office.

  5. Anne Brannigan

    Great photos. It’s hard to appreciate from here what it’s like to live in such an area. We have lots of rain and, at times, very destructive floods. Thankfully nothing on this scale though. Glad you are safe and had a good evening.

    1. Jim R Post author

      Our friend who took the photos was very excited about them. It was his 2nd time seeing such storm conditions. They live out in the country and bear the brunt of several different kinds of weather. They are planning to move back to town in a year for an easier life.


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