June 24th, 2003 South Dakota Tornadofest
Some days you never forget. This day was to be one of those days. I spent the night in O’Neill with my tour and my fiance who had yet to see a tornado. This was to quickly change. Morning analysis showed a well defined boundary along the NE/SD border extending east/west. This boundary slowly drifted northward into South Dakota by early afternoon, as did we. Cells started developing west of me in the hot air, but we waited patiently near Pickstown, SD. By 3 PM, it was evident we needed to go north to near I-90 and the Mitchell area. As we drove north, a supercell rapidly developed just west of Mitchell. By the time we could get the base into view, a huge block wall cloud was visible. Soon, a large cone tornado formed west of Mitchell, south of I-90. We approached the tornado to our north, but were a good 10 miles from it as it roped out, while another weaker tornado formed after the occlusion to the east. By the time we reached updraft base, the show was over. But we did manage to catch a couple decent views of both tornadoes.
Next, I noticed an explosive updraft northwest of town. We raced northwest towards the town of Woonsocket and as we approached a truncated cone tornado formed. This tornado morphed into a large stovepipe, then elephant trunk, then stovepipe again as we watched from 1.5 miles east of it. A GORGEOUS tornado to say the least. After 12 minutes, it dissipated. The occluded updraft died, as a new meso formed to our northeast. However, now the road options were pathetic with only dirt and gravel roads to use to keep up with the storm. As we zigzagged across the countryside northeast of Woonsocket, another supercell was developing farther to our east. It quickly dropped twin tornadoes about 8 miles east of us. We decided to abandon our efforts on our shriveling storm and go after this intensifying tornadic supercell south of Iroquois, SD. As we maneuvered muddy dirt roads, another tornado formed under the new storm. This nice rope tornado was about 5 miles to our east. As we got closer, now about 6 miles south of Iroquois, a multivortex tornado formed along with a small satellite tornado. What a sight!!!!!!!
I decided to get the tour closer, so we raced up to Iroquois, then east of highway 12 toward Manchester and DeSmet. I knew we would have to punch the hook of the storm and warned everyone what we could find as we punched it. Sure enough, just west of Manchester a VERY LARGE tornado had just crossed the road about 300 yards in front of us. This tornado was very violent. As it ripped the town of Manchester apart, we sat in awe as the tornado dropped tons of debris all over the countryside. It moved north of Manchester and continued to be a violent tornado (rated F4) as it went through a long rope stage. Finally it roped out as we decided to head towards DeSmet. Another multivortex tornado quickly formed after yet another occlusion and stayed on the ground for 4 minutes. Finally, northwest of DeSmet the last and very photogenic tornado occurred and last nearly 15 minutes!!! What a day!!!!!
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