05.22.2004 Western Iowa Tornadoes

A moderate / high risk day pans out with an outbreak across the area…

Having decided on Red Oak, Iowa as my target the night before, I head out towards my target.

Arriving in the far SW IA town of Red Oak, I top off on fuel, grab some more great convienence store food and find a shady spot to look over data. The SPC has just issued a Mesoscale Discussion for my area, describing the outbreak to come and also stating a watch will be issued in an hour. Things are looking on track! Being in a valley and not having much in the way of view, I head out of town, taking some county roads to Emerson, Iowa. Finding a nice spot to sit, I continue to look things over both online and visually. Towers have started firing to my east and the SPC has now issued a PDS Tornado Watch for my area. I continue to watch the radar and the towers going up E / NE of me. Flipping a coin, I decide to leave my watch area and head back E, following the developing storm. I head north on Hwy 59, then turn east on Hwy 92.

As I head east, I continue to observe the storm in front of me under go explosive developement. As I enter Adair County, my storm gets severe warned. I decide to turn north on Hwy 25 out of Greenfield. Looking to my north, I see an intersting lowering what looks to be a wall cloud forming. Just south of I-80 I turn off on a gravel road and find a good place to stop and look things over visually. Looking to my SE, I notice a much better wall cloud with great rotation. Could I get lucky? I decide to tripod my camcorder and stay here vs trying to get closer and maybe missing the action. Just after I get things set up, a funnel quickly appears! Grabbing my binoculars, I verify debris swirling on the ground. TORNADO! Another spotter has already called and reported into Skywarn and quickly a tornado warning is issued. As I continue to watch, the first tornado dissapates and is replaced by 2 more tornadoes. One with a condensation funnel, the other without. Wanting a better vantage point, I head east on the gravel road. I turn north onto another gravel road and head towards the town of Stuart. Just west of Stuart, I observe another tornado, which is hard to see because of a precipitation curtain. I drive through the town of Stuart, and catch I-80 east. Not having the road structure I want I decide to head to the town of Redfield off I-80 and possibly get in position for another tornado warned cell to my west / northwest. Driving through a partially flooded Redfield, I take a county road northwest out of town. After reaching a good spot, I pull in behind a fire department vehicle and get out to have a look. I again have a good view of the cyclic storm to my SE and watch it spawn another tornado. The fire department crew by this time is needed back in town so they ask me if I can sit and watch things for a bit. No problem! I jump back into my jeep and while looking over radar, notice a wall cloud forming in front of me. The cloud begins rotating and begins sucking scud into it. Also the wind picks up behind me about 20-30 mph. Hmm, this isn’t good! Having an emergency evac route already planned, I decide to sit and watch. The wall cloud dissapates after 2-3 minutes. Looking clear both on radar and visuallly, I decide to head back thru Redfield and back east on I-80. It’s almost dark and I have to work the next day, so I decide to call it a nite.

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