Tornadoes Break Out All Over Wyoming Friday, Stormchasers Form Tailgate Parties To Watch Twisters

Off of some roads in eastern Wyoming on Friday, tailgate parties broke out to watch tornadoes dip out of sky. Dozens of tornadoes were spotted across the state with most activity in eastern Wyoming.

John Thompson & Jimmy Orr

June 26, 20235 min read

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It was a banner afternoon for storm chasers in Wyoming on Friday as tornadoes and funnel clouds dropped all across the state.

You know it’s a good day for viewing when professional storm chaser Reed Timmer is in the area, and he camped out in eastern Wyoming where a number of twisters were spotted.

He seemed most impressed with a tornado that appeared near Chugwater. 

“Big time tornado, folks!” Timmer yelled as he drove straight into the twister. “Wow, look at that!”

View post on Twitter

He wasn’t alone. Dozens of people lined up on Interstate 25 and side roads to watch the tornado in action.

Cheyenne’s Matt Ley was one of the watchers. Not only was he impressed with Mother Nature but the number of skywatchers that came out to see the show.

“Fun video from the Chugwater tornado yesterday,” he tweeted. “How many chasers can we spot? Congrats to all on a stellar day!”

As Ley followed one tornado, he captured footage of what looked like tailgating parties out in the lush green fields of northern Laramie County.

People had lawn chairs, others were standing on the roofs of their vehicles. In one shot, it looked like someone brought out a barbecue grill.

“Woo-hoo!” onlookers yelled as Ley drove by, all framed by dark clouds and a giant white twister in the background.

View post on Twitter

Family Photos

Meteorologist Michael Charnick took it a step further when brought his parents to the severe weather to take a family photo -- with tornado in the background.

"I have seen a lot of tornados over the years. This is the most meaningful," Charnick tweeted.

"Absolutely a dream moment getting my parents their first #tornado (and 3 more) outside of Chugwater, Wyoming today! For these two who supported my passion since I was a kid, this means the world!" he said.

Charnik is the Science and Operations Officer at the National Weather Service in Cheyenne.

Photo of meteorologist Michael Charnik and family, via Twitter
Photo of meteorologist Michael Charnik and family, via Twitter (Michael Charnik via Twitter)


Of course, tornadoes can be deadly.  

The EF2 twister that hit the Northern Antelope Rochelle Mine in Campbell County on Friday evening sent eight people to the hospital. Thankfully there were no fatalities in that storm and everyone has since made it back home.

But the force of the tornado was significant, derailing trains and tossing vehicles like toys.

Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day said it was an "absolute miracle" that no one was killed.

"I was speaking to a firefighter from Douglas who was one of the first responders to the mine and he said it looked like Armageddon," Day said. "Equipment and vehicles were tossed around like crazy."

They Can Happen Anywhere

Day said tornadoes can touch down anywhere in Wyoming, but the stronger ones tend to be on the eastern plains. June through August is when they're most likely to develop.

"When the wind patterns are less interrupted by terrain you tend to get bigger tornadoes that stay on the ground longer," Day said. "The biggest tornadoes in Wyoming history have been out on the eastern plains east of I-25 and along Interstate 90.”

But that doesn’t mean that can’t happen elsewhere in the state. Instagram user Danny Patterson captured video of a twister on the ground near Little America, Wyoming, about 40 miles west of Rock Springs.

View post on Twitter

Other tornadoes were spotted near Casper, Midwest and Buffalo, but most of Friday’s action was in eastern Wyoming.

That's where Nebraska storm chaser Dan Fitts captured footage of nine separate tornadoes Friday.

While filming a "supercell" near Hawk Springs, he said he was concerned he was getting too close to the tornado.

"The tornado is still on the ground," Fitts yelled over the noise of hail pelting his truck. "We are going to have to move here shortly. It's getting real close.”

View post on Twitter

Saved Lives

Day said Fitts may have saved some lives because he provided visual confirmation to the National Weather Service of where the storms were and what they were producing.

"These storm chasers, the professional ones, provide a critical role into keeping people safe," Day said.

For the not-so-professional ones?

"They could get killed," Day cautioned.

It wasn't just tornadoes that Fitts provided confirmation of. Hail too. Big hail.

Fitts said the largest hailstone he was able to measure was more than 3 1/2 inches long.

3 1/2 inch hailstone from Friday night's storm in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska.
3 1/2 inch hailstone from Friday night's storm in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska. (Courtesy Dan Fitts via Don Day)

Not Abnormal

Even though the storms were prolific on Friday, it’s not abnormal.

"Weather patterns aren't linear," Day said. "We will see periods of active weather followed by patterns of quieter weather. It fluctuates. The last three springs and summers we haven't had a lot of tornado activity like we've seen in the last two weeks."

Cheyenne weather enthusiast Landon Brown loves all of it.

“It’s great to see nature and its absolute power,” Brown said. 

Brown, a three-term legislator representing Cheyenne, said he wasn’t concerned with the number of storm chasers out looking at the tornadoes because Wyoming normally doesn’t get the super tornadoes that hit other states.

“The tornadoes in Oklahoma, Texas and other states are so dangerous because they’re so powerful,” Brown said. “Not to say we can’t get those, because we can. But they aren’t nearly as prevalent.”

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John Thompson

Features Reporter


Jimmy Orr

Executive Editor

A third-generation Wyomingite, Jimmy Orr is the executive editor and co-founder of Cowboy State Daily.