Friday, June 01, 2007

Day 6 May 31, 2007

In the morning, Ron, Sandra and I went to do some laundry and ate a decent breakfast in Amarillo. Sandra and I decided to go to Wall Mart so I could get a good pair of polarizing sunglasses. We didn't leave Amarillo until closer to noon. Today, our target was going to be near southwest Kansas. A dryline bulge was setting up in that area and the SPC issued a moderate risk.

When the first storm went up, the first tornado watch was issued. We saw nice TCU building up in the west, each one in a different stage. And further north of these cells, a larger "nuke" could be seen off in the distance. All of these growing storms were bubbling. It was pretty clear we had good lift today. A second tornado watch was issued for the Oklahoma panhandle for the upcoming storms. "Be afraid, be very afraid."

Going through Oklahoma, we went by a town called Cactus. It was obvious this small town got hit by a tornado a while back this season. We decided to take a drive in just down the road a little bit to see what all got damaged. Houses suffered structural damage, and had X marks spray painted on the front doors to indicate that the house was searched for people. A metal fence in front of one house was even bent. Trees were twisted, car windows were busted out, and a children's dome jungle gym was practically squashed. It's one of those sights that make you realize the true power of tornadoes, even if they are small.

We then went through the town of Hooker. This place had a "nice" welcome sign... "Home of the Horny Toads".

When we arrived closer to the storms which was over far eastern Colorado near Burton, it didn't look like much at first, but we could tell something was up... the anvil's edges were getting crisper looking and I saw signs of inflow. The road we took to getting near the storm was an interesting one... there were tons of pheasants everywhere. One almost hit the van's windshield. It looked like it was only a foot away, but it zig zagged itself out of the way. "HOLY COW DID YOU SEE THAT?!". Scott seemed to be pretty excited about that encounter. A little while later down the road, there was a small bird on the road and we were coming for it. It flew up in time, but the bird happened to fly in the wrong direction... in the windshield. SMACK! Thank goodness it didn't get wound up in the antennas and that no bird brains covered the windshield. Apparently there were even rabbits. Man this place was a zoo.

As we neared the storms, it was clear this thing was trying to organize itself. A lowering what looked like a developing wall cloud could be seen. We decided to intercept this storm that was located south of Stanton, Oklahoma. We saw the DOW truck and some mobile mesonet vehicles parked near a bend in the road (I think this was Project ROTATE). As we went down a dirt road (only do this when it's dry!) to get closer to the action, we saw nice low hanging mammatus clouds. All of a sudden, Ron then points out a possible landspout descending from the base. The Baron was now picking up rotation couplets on this storm. Several minutes later, the wall cloud started to get more organized. Then we saw it... a fairly decent sized funnel cloud! I grabbed the video camera and started taking video of it. We managed to pull off to the side of the road and get some images. Talk about some nice swirling action going on underneath the wall cloud! Unfortunately it was raining, and we couldn't stay too long so we had to head further south. It looked like this storm was taking breathers a few times... the wall cloud would really get together but then loosen up slightly. We managed to stop again for photo ops but had to get in the vehicles once more. We were playing tag with this storm, and didn't want to end up in the rain where we couldn't see this possible tornadogenesis. Several nice positive lightning strikes added to the scene. There was also chaser convergence. I couldn't believe the amount of chasers on one single road, although apparently there have been way worse cases other times. Lots of chasers were interested in this cyclic supercell, but everyone did really well traffic-wise.

Unfortunately we had to cut through the core of the storm to get south of it... that was the only road option we had. It got really hairy in there... there was plenty of nickel sized hail making loud banging noises on the van and lots of rain. We couldn't see around us at all! We finally managed to pull ourselves out of this mess. By now, a new wall cloud had formed near some really tiny town. We pulled off the road to take some images, and we could hear tornado sirens blaring loudly in the background. This wall cloud was REALLY spinning but it didn't drop a tornado! The motion alone was incredible. We were glad we got on this road in time because apparently some cops had closed access to the road we were on. We then saw another wall cloud forming to our north. We decided to head east at 7:20 pm. We cut through the core once again and were getting 1.5 inch hail. The wall cloud to our north was starting to fall apart, and there was a new one developing straight ahead of us. We stopped for a bit to get more pictures.

We got a road to take us south to get to the backside of this storm. We had to cut through the hail/rain core once more. We pulled to the side of the road to wait out the core and buffering winds for a bit. We were getting half inch hail. Scott went on the radio and said to Ron "Laura just volunteered to get a hail sample". Ok so Scott likes to volunteer me... I thought, I had half inch hail at home a few times so this would be no problem. So what did I do? I opened the door, stepped outside, got parts of my back pinged with one inch hail, grabbed two stones and went back inside the van. I showed them to Pam and Lee and they were amazed. The biggest stones were about one inch big.

We finally got out of the precip core. We saw another developing wall cloud with the rear flank starting to open itself up again. There was a brief funnel cloud at 7:42 pm, and a beaver tail was feeding into the wall cloud. The wall cloud was also sucking up moisture into it from the field at a good speed, but it started to break apart once more. There was also a nice glowing green precip core. It looked like at this stage of the game that there was a lack of inflow and backing southeast winds.

Continuing eastward, there was another smaller wall cloud that formed (surprise, surprise), although the rear flank was still trying to open itself up. Another brief funnel cloud protruded from the base slightly. Scott then noticed a column of brown colour underneath. A partial rainbow appeared. After all of these brief stops, a pile of dirt was building up inside my shoes and I had to go to the bathroom. We encountered the precip core again and finally got a road that headed south.

We encountered yet another developing wall cloud at 8:30. This storm was really trying hard to put something down! Ron noted that it was now trying to form a hook echo. A funnel cloud was trying to form, but just couldn't get its act together. We were now northwest of Guymon. We headed eastward once again. The storm was going through cyclic phases. Sometimes the rotation would look good and other times it appeared as if it was taking a breather.

The sun was setting now, and that meant it was going to get dark soon and storm would start to lose it's energy. Ron decided to call off the chase for the night and look for hotel rooms in Guymon. Unfortunately with the threat of tornadoes, a lot of people who were traveling in the area wanted to get bunkered down at the hotels. We couldn't find a room, so we managed to book something over in Liberal, Kansas. On our way to Liberal, we were treated to a great lightning display. We grabbed something quick to eat at McDonald's and are staying at a Super 8. Tomorrow it looks like we are headed to New Mexico.


  1. You mean you actually ate at McDonald's?!? LOL

    Sounds like you guys had a good day! :)

  2. Hey! This is Tara (Scott & Lee's daughter). I just thought I would Google some of your names and found your site. It's interesting to read some of the things that you posted about your trip. Makes me feel like I'm there with you guys. :) The thing about the Scotch mints and the Pee-or-ia made me laugh...typical Dad! Hope you guys enjoy the rest of your trip! If I get a chance I'll check back here for updates. P.S. - Dad wants you to eat the 72oz. steak so that he can brag that someone he knew did it. He just doesn't want to do it himself because he knows we would kill him if he did it.

  3. LOL, yes when you pull in late from a chase into a small town, you gotta take anything you can get... I had a salad and stayed away from the fries and burgers.