A tornado in Leslie, Ga., stirs up dirt from a nearby road as it tracked across the region on Wednesday. Image by SevereStudios/Vince Waelti/Accuweather
April 8 -- The southern United States has been bombarded with round after round of severe thunderstorms since mid-March, and one particular tornado spun up this week that was so photogenic that even veteran storm chasers were in awe.
Storm Chaser Vince Waelti positioned himself in the perfect spot on Wednesday to watch one twister race across an open field in Leslie, Ga., a small rural town in the southern part of the state about three hours from Atlanta. Just as he rolled up to the field, the twister came into view.
As the tightly-packed tornado tracked across a dirt road, it appeared to change color as it sucked up dirt and flung it high into the sky.
The storm chasers are heard in a video of the twister marveling at the spectacle and road signs could be seen shaking as the winds intensified.
Then, the tornado continued to race across a field in close proximity to Waelti and a few other chasers in the area of Sumter County.
At one point, other funnels appeared to be spinning in the sky around the primary tornado, but they did not reach the ground.
Although the chasers were extremely close to the tornado, they kept their safety in mind while filming the mesmerizing phenomenon.
"It's going to come back at us," one of the storm chasers yelled. "We got our escape route down here."
Waelti then backed up to get some distance and reposition himself for more views of the tornado as it moved away.
Within about 60 seconds, the whole episode was over and the tornado seemed to vanish into thin air -- a moment of extreme weather that was as ephemeral as it was thrilling.
Another storm chaser captured video of the tornado appearing to dissipate then suddenly reforming. A subsequent video posted online by Waelti shows a tornado -- perhaps the one seen in the previous video reformed -- spinning in the same general area, lofting debris into the air moments later.
"Tornadoes are hard to see in the South, due to frequently being rain-wrapped and with tall trees narrowing the field of view," said AccuWeather Senior Weather Editor Jesse Ferrell, who noted that the video was particularly special.
"To be chasing a storm and suddenly see a tornado in an open field was an extremely lucky break for these chasers."
The National Weather Service has not yet classified the tornado with a rating.
Other tornadoes and severe thunderstorms across the Southeast on Wednesday caused property damage, injuries and at least one death.
Forecasters say that much of the region will get a much-needed break through at least the start of next week, giving residents and businesses time to clean up after the destructive storms of late March and early April.
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