The Story Behind the Photo #17: There's a Tornado In There

On May 2, 2012, I was storm chasing in Nebraska--my second day ever chasing on my own in the plains, after one long day up in Minnesota. I was on a storm near Grand Island Nebraska, and then saw the storm in the picture pop up to the south. It seemed the southerly storm, near Davenport, Nebraska, was getting stronger, so I dropped south to head for it, and then I saw the storm get a tornado warning.  The sun was setting and those clouds represented a wall of hail blocking me from the tornado, so I figured I'd just shoot a couple pictures and then head off northeast--well away from the storm--to my room for the night.  I was driving along thinking "I need something in the foreground" when I came across this pond. As beautiful as the storm looks from this angle, around that time it was actually making an EF-1 tornado that damaged several structures near Davenport.  I shot a couple photos and then figured I'd try to head south and get a little closer. Thinking I couldn't get through the wall of hail in time, I stopped to gas up and grab some quick food.  Seeing reports of other chasers reporting a tornado, and I figured I'd go for it, and drove all the way around the hail east and then south and west, and finally got on the south eastern part of the storm--on the updraft--well after dark. I then stayed there a few minutes too long without looking at the radar.  During that time this supercell morphed into a massive line with massive hail that was lining out right along my route back to Council Bluffs, Iowa (you can see the incredible storm development on the radar loop on the storm link above).  There weren't any northeast roads, so I had to go very, very fast (I'm not writing my speed here for fifth amendment protection against self incrimination) down some dirt roads east and then north and then east and north all the way back to Council Bluffs.  It was pretty hairy, and the storm finally fizzled out as it crossed the river back into Iowa about the same time, after midnight.  It was also eerie listening to the radio reports about the storm, while watching the massive lightning storm in my mirrors.  I could imagine what it must have been like back in the days before radar, and how terrifying this must have been.  So in the end, I missed seeing the tornado but at least I got this shot!  Reed Timmer was on this storm too and so I hope to see his video when it comes out.  More shots and writeup here.

Note: This is the next in a series I'm doing on my photos with a crowdsourced ranking.  You can see all 20 of the photos here.