Fire “smokenadoes” and the open views of Kansas

We’re in Great Bend, Kansas this morning, still waiting out the break in action. More on that later…

Kansas tornado?

We managed to fill our afternoon/early evening yesterday by finding a large brush fire near Ellinwood (named after one of my chase partner’s family), Kansas. The plume showed up on radar, and we used it as an opportunity to track something down on a dirt road in the open spaces of the state.

The spot we ended up at to watch the fire move was a great one for imagery, with a setting sun behind the column creating interesting lighting — I picked up several dozen “useable” photos and some video. We were close, but with the wind pattern we were in no real danger and we were stacked up next to a bunch of firetrucks that would hopefully alert us if wrong.

We saw a unique phenomenon of “smokenadoes,” which are basically fire whirls with no fire (though some of them progressed slightly from the main fire area). These dust-devil looking entities are caused by updrafts from the heat and convergence around the fire. Winds were generally dying off as we got there heading into evening (fire appeared contained when we were leaving).

Rather than spend time editing video now, see below from Mark Ellinwood (and see his quick recap).

While we’re still looking for the apparently elusive peak of the season thunderstorm in the Plains area, I have been enjoying the wide open views of Kansas (my first visit here). Below are two panoramas — one from the fire, and another from the evening prior of a few showers around Wichita.

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