Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 Tornado Outbreak/Chase Summary

(All pictures taken by SWAT’s Brad Maushart & honorary SWAT member Chris Bergin)

The Storm Prediction Center had placed much of Central and Southern Indiana under a rare “high risk” for severe weather. As SWAT had been forecasting for days, a major tornado & severe weather outbreak was about to occur across Indiana.

SWAT began the day by heading Northwest towards Kokomo where a line of severe thunderstorms had developed. We moved North on US31 towards the Howard/Miami County line. We saw some beautiful cloud structures/shelf clouds as the storm moved over our area.

After intercepting the storm in Howard County, SWAT headed South on US31 to Indianapolis. We made a quick stop at Fox 59 to get the game plan for the day in order. After stopping at Fox 59, we decided to grab a quick bite to eat in Indianapolis. Unexpectedly while eating, the tornado sirens began to sound in Marion County/Indianapolis. Lunch was cut short and the chase was on. We first headed South towards Southern Marion County where we tried to intercept the developing storm, however due to a poor road network, we were unable to stay up with the storm.

Following the failed intercept of the first storm of the afternoon outbreak, we went South on I-65 towards Columbus. A storm had become tornado warned and was headed straight towards us in Columbus. We positioned South of Columbus and waited. As the storm grew and moved towards us, it began rotating and eventually was violently rotating and close to producing a tornado.

As the storm began to rotate more violently just to our West, while doing a live update with Fox 59, we decided we needed to move Northeast. As we tried to reposition the rotation continued to tighten above us. As the core and rotation over took us (directly over us) we were trapped as debris and downed trees had blocked our escape route. Nervously we waited the storm out (praying the hail and winds didn’t shatter the windows). Luckily the storm passed to our East without any major consequences for us, however the area was not so lucky. Trees were down South of Columbus with some structural damage.

As we tried to navigate through the debris, we finally got on an East/West road and headed back towards the tornadic storm which was approaching Greensburg, Indiana.

We never quite caught the storm but we did see the damage path it left behind. While coming into Greensburg we passed numerous semis blown over, significant tree damage, poles down on vehicles, factories and businesses with windows blown out and even structural damage. We also found the ground still covered in hail. The National Weather Service confirmed 2 tornadoes touched down in Greensburg, both being high end EF1 tornadoes.

After surveying the damage in Greensburg we had to hit the road back West again as additional tornadic storms were developing. We chased another tornadic supercell in Johnson County just South of Franklin. While we saw several rotating wall clouds, this storm never quite produced a tornado. It did have a very impressive radar signature though.

After being on the road all day and with the storms forming into a squall line, we ultimately decided to head back towards Muncie where we would wait for the squall line to arrive. Once stationary on the South side of Muncie, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning. While we never spotted any rotation, we did measure a 44 mph wind gust and capture a nice picture of the leading shelf cloud.

 

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