The catastrophic night in Kentucky


On the night of December 10th, I had just got to a good spot to park for a bit and prepare all of my equipment. I'd jerry rigged a teather for my drone which I didn't end up needing, and got my camera focused before it got dark. The national weather service was calling for a decent potential of strong, nocturnal tornadoes. I had bee chasing all season on my first year to no avail when it came to tornadoes, but this was my chance.

I work nightshift and had just driven all day from Pennsylvania to chase these storms in Western Kentucky, and the moment I laid down in my back seat to nap, the first tornado warning popped off to my East. I made an attempt at it, but the thing was moving so unbelievably fast that I gave up and focused on the cells to my West. A tornado had just dropped down in Jonesboro Arkansas, and judging from the projected path of the storm, I decided I could head south southwest and get right into the storm right around the Paducah/Mayfield area.

As it turns out, I went right through downtown Mayfield heading due West about 30 minutes before it was hit. I don't chicken out easy, but I got a strange feeling - almost like a stomach ache - and veered South on a whim and skirted right past the hook echo signature on the radar - the signature on radar that indicates a tornado. If it hadn't also been that I wanted to avoid rain so I could get some decent images, I would have conintued with my original plan to perform a core punch. I would most likely not be here if I had coninuted. This thing was an absolute monster, and I had actually very likely got a picture of it in the distance and not realized it at the time. I stayed with some people in Mayfield that night that had suffered a tremendous loss, and when the sun came up, I put my drone in the area and captured the shocking destruction.

Noah Stainbrook

Echo Orbiter Storm Chasing and Photography

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