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2004 Great Plains Storm Observing Trips

By DAN ROBINSON
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The 2004 storm season in the Great Plains (A.K.A. Tornado Alley) will go down in storm observing history as one of the best ever, in terms of the quality, accessability, and sheer number of photogenic storms and tornadoes. I was blessed to have a part in this phenomenal season, covering 12,400 miles in fourteen states over a four-week period from May 10 to June 15. In the course of fifteen expeditions in May and June, I was priveleged to witness and film twelve tornadoes, incredible storm structure, spectacular lightning and countless other atmospheric phenomena across Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri and Iowa. 2004 will be a year to remember!

The following links contain a full illustrated logbook documenting all of the weather expeditions during the 2004 season. Digital photos, 35mm slides, video captures as well as a few video clips are included in each log.

Event 1: May 11, Central South Dakota
The first of three weather expeditions during the 2004 season begins with a long drive to the Northern Plains for a classic triple point low setup. Highlights: 40-45 MPH sustained southerly winds, and sharp frontal boundary distinct enough to feel within a distance of 100 feet.
Event 2: May 12, Southern Kansas
From South Dakota, it's another long drive to southern Kansas for an incredible tornado-producing supercell. Highlights: Three photogenic tornadoes, large hail, fantastic storm structure and frequent lightning.
Event 3 & 4: May 18 & 19, Kansas & Iowa
Two bust days start out the second trip to the Plains, first in Kansas on the 18th and again in Iowa on the 19th. Highlights: Scenic drives, observer convergence.
Event 5: May 20, Eastern Colorado & Western Kansas
A string of severe weather days begins with an expedition to Colorado. Highlight: Sunset lightning show.
Event 6: May 21, Northeastern Nebraska
An expedition to northeastern Nebraska yields a catch of a supercell and tornado. Highlight: One tornado, great storm structure and an incredible lightning show.
Event 7: May 22, Southern Nebraska
A drive to southern Nebraska on a high tornado risk day comes with missed opportunities. Highlights: Mammatus, funnels, storm structure.
Event 8: May 23, Northeastern Oklahoma
An unexpected chase on what started out as a 'down day' in Tulsa. Highlights: Spectacular supercell structure, wall cloud, frequent lightning and a possible tornado.
Event 9: May 24, Eastern Kansas
A trip to northwestern Missouri and southern Nebraska ends up in northern Kansas with missed tornado opportunities. Highlights: Supercell structure and frequent lightning.
Event 10: May 26, Northeastern Oklahoma
Another unexpected expedition in northeastern Oklahoma yields another success. Highlights: Two tornadoes and supercell structure.
Event 11: May 29, Western Oklahoma
A big outbreak day turns out successful with tornadoes west of Oklahoma City. Highlights: Anticyclonic tornado, airborne trees, vortex sound, large hail and extreme winds.
Event 12: May 30, Central Missouri & Illinois
The last storm observation day of Plains trip #2 takes place on a High Risk day in difficult chase terrain. Highlight: Supercell structure, anvil crawler lightning show
Event 13: June 10, Southern Nebraska
An storm observation day in Nebraska falls short of tornadoes. Highlights: Supercell structure, rainbows and a nice lightning show.
Event 14: June 11, Northwestern Iowa
A long drive to Iowa results in a successful storm observation day. Highlights: One tornado, storm structure and a great lightning show.
Event 15: June 12, Southern Kansas
The grand finale chase of the 2004 season! An incredible day in Kansas wraps up the third and final trip to the Great Plains. Highlights: Three photogenic tornadoes, great supercell structure, and a nice lightning display.

Special thanks to: Dave Crowley & Justin Teague for excellent forecasting; Dave Crowley for the guest room and steak cookout in Tulsa, Pete McConnell, Damon Shaw & Fabian Guerra for an enjoyable week-long expedition team-up; Bill Coyle, Dave Crowley and Tim Vasquez for nowcasting, and most of all thanks to the Lord for blessings of a great season, new friends, safety on the roads, and keeping the truck running for every one of those 12,400 miles.

Links to more reports and photos:
Most of the storm observers I traveled with this year also have reports from our trips posted on their sites:

Dave Crowley Oklahoma
Al Williams United Kingdom
Pete McConnell Missouri
J. R. Hehnly Oklahoma
Dr. Ken Dewey Nebraska
Justin Turcotte Nebraska

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