June 15, 1992 - Northern Kansas Chase with Lightning Photographed near Delphos, Kansas


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The June 15, 1992 Kansas severe weather outbreak is an event which I will never forget. A HUGE-supercell complex formed over north central Kansas during mid-afternoon and continued to rake Kansas through most of the night. It produced an enormous amount of severe weather, including huge hail, high straight-line winds, deadly lightning and numerous tornadoes, the largest of which was almost 1/2 mile wide southwest of Concordia, northwest of Delphos. The complex consisted of multiple supercells existing simultaneously in a connected multi-flank supercell complex. Supercell (rotating) updrafts were located on the east, south and southwest flanks of this complex.

Al Moller, Carson Eads and I stopped at the Dodge City, Kansas National Weather Service Office early in the morning to formulate our chase forecast. Strong south winds flowed from the Gulf of Mexico across Texas and Oklahoma carrying warm moist tropical air northward into Kansas. The juicy air coupled with clear skies and the hot June Sun concentrated explosive potential energy along a quasi-stationary frontal boundary running NW/SE through north central Kansas. We felt that a strong capping inversion would inhibit convection farther south, concentrating the severe weather potential in Kansas.

A strong upper level system that was approaching from the west was expected to enhance the atmospheric instability and when combined with the warm moist surface conditions, the stage was set for severe weather. A dry line was developing in western Kansas, running generally north and south, anchored by a low pressure center near Goodland, Kansas. A quasi-stationary warm front ran east-southeastward to north central Kansas, north of the interstate, where it curved southeast toward Wichita, Kansas. By late morning, there were two moisture convergence maxima, one along the dry line to our west-northwest and one south and southwest of the stationary front, to our northeast. Not sure whether to chase the dry line or the warm front, we waited until satellite imagery showed a concentration of rapidly developing towering cumulus south of the warm front, 100 or so miles almost due north of Dodge City. The chase was on.

The ensuing chase was exciting, but extremely frustrating. Tactical errors occurred while we were navigating around the storms that took us away from the tornadoes, but we were rewarded for our persistence by an unbelievable lightning display after dark.

After dark, the storm's extreme electrification became even more evident. Lightning was continuous under and within the anvil. The storms produced large, powerful superbolts, like those in the following images, at the approximate rate of one every 5 to 10 seconds. This display of raw natural energy lasted several hours.

Note: The first three images have been updated and were rescanned using a Nikon LS-20 slide scanner. The other images were digitized as noted at the end of this sequence. More later.

Two sides of the same storm. It was well after sunset when these images were shot. Lightning provided the only illumination. The huge barrel shaped supercell updraft was rapidly rotating. A one-half mile wide tornado was on the ground underneath this beast when these images were being shot. The left image was made looking almost due west, while the image on the right was shot looking NNW.

Copyright 1992 - Samuel D. Barricklow - All rights reserved.

My lightning, tornado and storm video is available through Storm Stock

These images were made using a Pentax ME Super using a 28mm lens and Kodachrome ASA64 slide film.

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Last Revised: November 30, 2008