Kansas men return found rocket lost in tornado to Colorado storm chaser

Posted at 8:27 AM, Jun 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-05 11:30:14-04

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (WDAF) -- Two local men have reunited a famous storm chaser with his rocket that he launched into May 28's tornado.

Reed Timmer, of Colorado, and his storm chasing team sent the rocket into the EF-4 tornado just south of Lawrence, Kansas. After about eight or nine minutes of flight inside the twister their live stream from the sensor to the ground lost signal about 34,000 feet in the air. They thought the rocket, nicknamed Dorothy, would never find her way home.

"I thought it was gone forever," Timmer said.

It fell into the hands of Matthew DuBois and friend Jerry Berk. DuBois spotted it on his ride into work.

"I called [Jerry] I said hey bud, that's Reed's rocket they sent in the tornado," DuBois said.

Timmer's facebook post, desperately searching for his probe, helped DuBois put the puzzle together.

"I was shaking and very excited to actually send this message to Reed."

Thirty minutes later they were on the phone planning the hand off of record breaking data.

"It looks like the damaging part of that tornado lifted just to the west of Bonner Springs," Timmer said. "But the circulation did a left hand turn and it appears that's what transported the sensor up into Leavenworth County.

Timmer said this is the first time ever a sensor has recorded data at a rate of 10 observations per second (10 hertz) inside a tornado and they recovered it. The sensor provides a 3D X-ray of its journey inside the twister. Offering information like wind speeds, temperature and relative humidity. A game changer for the weather community.

"When we better understand the complex dynamics inside a tornado," Timmer explained. "It can better predict their path, increase warning lead time and ultimately save lives."

Timmer said he will start compiling the data when he gets back home to Colorado. He and his engineer hope to release their findings as soon as Monday.

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