June 7 2012 Wheatland Area Tornado Review

Wheatland, WY Area Tornado of June 7, 2012


A large tornado developed 7 miles west of Wheatland during the mid-afternoon hours on June 7, 2012.  This tornado moved to the southeast across a large part of western Platte County, before finally dissipating 6 miles northeast of Chugwater approximately one and a half hours after its formation.  A storm survey team from the National Weather Service office in Cheyenne conducted a damage assessment on Friday afternoon, and determined that the tornado was an EF2 with maximum winds of 130 to 135 MPH.  A non-continuous damage path of 19.6 miles with a maximum width of approximately 200 yards was confirmed.  The tornado apparently skipped and shifted directions on several occasions, and was not on the ground for the entire time.  Unfortunately, a considerable amount of damage and one minor injury was reported along the path of the tornado.
The tornado was first reported at 3:07 PM, which was 13 minutes after significant rotation prompted National Weather Service meteorologists to issue a Tornado Warning at 2:54 PM.  This lead time allowed Platte County dispatchers to perform a Code Red or Reverse 911 for affected residents to alert them of the tornado.  The tornado moved to the southeast with radar continuing to indicate a tight low level circulation associated with the storm.
The damage assessment revealed the most significant damage to be along Olson Road, about 6 miles southwest of Wheatland.  An unoccupied mobile home was completely destroyed; with unrecognizable debris spread about 50 yards from the foundation.  A poorly constructed modular home with a crawl space was completely swept from its foundation, with parts of the metal frame found one quarter of a mile away. Many outbuildings on various properties were severely damaged or completely destroyed. A well-constructed 1 to 2 family residence lost a large portion of the roof, but most of the walls remained intact with the exception of the garage. The most significant damage; however, was found near the intersection of Grange and Olson Roads. A very well constructed and recently completed barn was demolished, with debris found more than two miles away. In addition to the building damage, numerous large cottonwood trees were either snapped or uprooted, but were not debarked.  The tornado also derailed 6 empty rail cars about 6 miles south of Slater, shortly before dissipating.
The tornado crossed Interstate 25 just south of the Bordeaux exit at about 3:38 PM. The wind sensor at the highway observation site at that location peaked at 75 MPH between 3:38 and 3:45 PM. No vehicles were affected by the tornado as it crossed the Interstate. The parent funnel of the tornado is believed to have persisted for quite some time, before finally dissipating around 4:30 PM about 6 miles northeast of Chugwater.  A series of small and brief tornadoes also occurred later that afternoon over north central Laramie County.  No damage was associated with those touchdowns.
The storm producing the tornado was a large supercell and turned to the right of the mean wind flow for that hour. Moisture, instability and shear were favorable to produce the long duration tornado. The thunderstorm began near Laramie Peak and near where the large Cow Camp fire was located.   The Laramie Peak area is a known hot spot for storm initiation. Interestingly, the National Weather Service radar in Cheyenne indicated the storm may have formed more over the fire and weak rotation was noted near the fire site. Some personnel at the fire stated that they could even see the tornado at the fire.







 Reflectivity loop from 256 PM to 323 PM as the supercell thunderstorm and associated tornado moved to the southeast. The red line is Interstate-25 with the city of Wheatland just to the east of the storm.



Storm relative velocity loop from 256 PM to 323 PM. The green-red couplet shows the strong rotation of the supercell thunderstorm and tornado.



Estimated damage path of the Platte County tornado. The tornado deviated motion and skipped several times, and was not on the ground the entire time.




Tornado approximately 7 miles west of Wheatland. Courtesy of Becca Mazur.





Large cone tornado approximately 6 miles southwest of Wheatland. Courtesy of Becca Mazur.





Roof damage.



An unoccupied mobile home was completely destroyed.




 Debris from the mobile home in the previous image.





Windows shattered with minor roof damage.


A well-constructed 1-2 family residence suffered extensive roof damage with some collapsed walls.





A well-constructed 1-2 family residence suffered extensive roof damage with some collapsed walls.


A poorly constructed modular home was completely removed from its foundation.


Large cottonwoods were uprooted.


A very well constructed and newly built barn was completely destroyed. Debris was found at least two miles away.  Smoke plume from the Cow Camp wildfire is visible in the background.


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