That Time I Missed a Tornado In My Old Town
I've always been a bit of a weather nerd. I loved watching The Weather Channel. I got the National Weather Service app and have the website bookmarked on my phone's home screen. I'm frighteningly close to memorizing the movie Twister. I took meteorology in collage. I enjoy learning about weather, talking about it and tracking a storm. Weather, climate, it's all very fascinating.
I have done a bit of amateur storm chasing in my day. I've been in blizzards, driven county roads in an ice storm, and listened to the clouds above me growl as they churned. But, I have never see a tornado in person. Not up close, not faraway, only on video. So, you can guess how disappointed I was when a storm dropped tornadoes on the town that I use to live in, before I moved to Sioux Falls. And it was just after I moved away from there..
Nobody was hurt when an EF-2 tornado touched down in Kearney, Nebraska on May 29, 2008. There was some damage, including to a drive-in theater, Twister-style. I wanted to be there to see the twister, and experience the storm first-hand. I've been a part of many exciting weather broadcasts, but never a direct hit buy a tornado.
I also was disappointed to miss out because I wanted to be helping with the severe weather coverage at the radio station I use to be on. I don' have may marketable skills, but I know radio stuff; and local radio is lifeblood of a community during a disaster. I'd lived in Kearney for a decade, I had a strong connection to it.
I felt especially powerless in this situation because I was following the action from 300 miles away while friends and family were in it. I needed to be doing what I know how to do; inform, reassure, and help.
But, everything worked out, and thanks to YouTube, the day of the 2008 storm in Kearney is preserved. There were three tornadoes that day, with one going through town. From the National Weather Service:
The third tornado damage path was the most organized, as this tornado was the most persistent. It appeared to remain on the ground for the majority of its 30 mile long path. It began near Harmon Park in the city of Kearney around 5:25 p.m. It moved east through the Buffalo County Fairgrounds, causing the Expo Center to partially collapse. The tornado then continued east to the Kearney Airport where it destroyed a hanger and an aircraft housed inside. The tornado then continued to move east/northeast for nearly 30 miles before lifting about 6 miles north of Wood River in Hall County around 6:25 p.m. This tornado was rated a high end EF-2, or with winds estimated near 135 mph at times...The maximum width of the tornado damage was estimated to be 400 yards. No injuries or deaths were reported with this storm.
Here's a look at the storm from a neighborhood.
Here's a really good view of the storm from on of the main streets. This video from professional storm chasers is amazing. They are traveling north along 2nd Avenue in Kearney. You can see the tornado to the north-west as they go over the railroad viaduct. After a few more blocks, the chasers pull over and experience wind and debris. This is in the heart of town.
In this viideo some locals take a tour of the city to see the aftermath. As a bonus we get to here one of my former colleges on the radio!
And this is some cows.