Storm over the Rental Car

Uploaded 4 Jun 2010 — 27 favorites
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© Matt Granz
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More of Matt Granz’s Photos

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Photo license: © All rights reserved

This shot was taken directly after finding myself inside a tornado, and then escaping it by driving down an old country loose dirt road at 85 mph.

I should have known better… but I saw a wall cloud and thought it would be great to get a little closer. There were tornado tour vans heading towards the more violent looking parts of the storm, so I figured it would be safe to follow them.

The thing is, they stopped a bit further away than I wanted. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to get just a tad closer. That was my mistake.

The sky turned almost black, and so I stopped the car and got out. The effect was immediate. It felt like I stepped into a thick hot sauna turned up to a maximum setting, with large industrial fans going full blast. My glasses fogged up, and so I quickly used my shirt to clear them. After putting them back on I was greeted with a sight I’ll never forget. Just above me I saw a swirling circular mass of black clouds. There was a transparent section that was emanating from it, that looked like a swirling hose made out of loose dark cloudy matter. I decided to get back into my car at that same moment.

I started to head south east… south because these storms traditionally move north. I chose the eastern direction to avoid the hail core that was producing large 1-1/2” sized hail in mass quantities.

The thing is, this storm was moving in the same direction… so as I started to head down the road, things started to get more and more violent around me. The winds were to the point of snapping branches off the nearby trees and everything that was getting lifted into the air was spinning in circular patterns. Two car sized gustnados formed in front of me, around three car lengths ahead, picking up the red dirt and then fading away and coming back.

That’s when I decided to make my 85mph escape. While traveling at high speed, I saw other chasers scrambling for safety. At one point I got back onto a main highway and saw someone decide to try to stop on the shoulder of the road, and they completely lost control. I decided then, that I was safer to just deal with the tornado and it’s storm than the other crazy drivers.

Every now and then I’d get ahead of the storm. When I did, I would jump out of the car, and snap a few pictures. That’s how this shot came to be.

What you see here is probably the very last shot I took while escaping the storm. The shelf cloud pictured here was actually only traveling somewhere near 35 mph. I took many shots of it and a few turned out.

After escaping the storm, I found myself in two more, as I went south. The thing about these storms is that many times they are multiple storms feeding off each other, drawing energy from the storm north of it. So, I had a busy couple of hours in tight situations this particular day.

I had a great time, and wouldn’t trade this experience for almost anything.

Camera: Nikon D90
Lense: Tokina 12-24mm

ISO: 200
Shutter: 1/80
Aperture: f/6.3
Focal Length: 12mm

In the Diary of a Novice Storm Chaser photo essay.

17 responses

  • Chris Whitney

    Chris Whitney said (4 Jun 2010):

    Great story Matt!

  • dp *

    dp * gave props (4 Jun 2010):

    Super experience and wonderful photo. Very cool.

  • Jens Kornacker

    Jens Kornacker gave props (4 Jun 2010):

    what a fantastic shot!

  • Joshua Clew

    Joshua Clew said (4 Jun 2010):

    Amazing shot and great story.

  • Liliana Silva

    Liliana Silva gave props (4 Jun 2010):

    I've been waiting to see some of these pictures !! and it was worth waiting!! fantastic! MORE!

  • Beth Wode

    Beth Wode (Deleted) gave props (4 Jun 2010):

    Awesome pic and story. We had one here in Australia just the other day... a large water spout driven by winds came in off the ocean. They don't normally come onto land.12 homes destroyed and 30 severely damaged. Thank goodness no one was seriously injured.

  • Richard Koenig

    Richard Koenig said (4 Jun 2010):

    Great job on staying alive. The picture is worth a thousand words... Needles to say great capture!! The story had me on the edge of my chair. Love the depth of field, the angle and the temperature of the colors. Thanks so much for sharing. Keep up the good work and stay safe... Love it.

  • stuart s

    stuart s   gave props (5 Jun 2010):

    Unbelievable story and shot.

  • Cindy Coubrough

    Cindy Coubrough said (5 Jun 2010):

    Amazing photograph, very scary story. :-O

  • Elyseo

    Elyseo gave props (5 Jun 2010):


  • mark yugawa

    mark yugawa   gave props (5 Jun 2010):

    jeez, what a crazy story. the shot is awesome too.

  • Michael Ball

    Michael Ball gave props (7 Jun 2010):

    WOW!!! Outstanding shot and story!!

  • Leah Garton

    Leah Garton gave props (8 Jun 2010):

    How exciting! Love the images from your adventure. I'd love to do something like that someday!

  • Winky Vivas

    Winky Vivas (Deleted) said (8 Jun 2010):

    WOW! An incredible story and photo! Very well done, indeed...

  • Jory Vander Galien

    Jory Vander Galien (Deleted) gave props (23 Jun 2011):

    Great story and picture!!!

  • Saroj Swain

    Saroj Swain gave props (1 Nov 2012):


  • cornel gin

    cornel gin said (24 Feb 2016):

    nice capture

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