Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Weathered 2008

Well it is the end of the year. I don't know about you, but I have gained a lot of weather memories this year, including the "spring forward snow storm" in March, which brought 18 inches of snow, to beautiful storms in the plains to the "summer of rainbows", which brought a lot of high precipitation storms and still plenty of sunshine, and a very snowy autumn. Also including recent events such as more rainfall and major flooding in nearby towns and strong winds across the region. I would have to say that 2008 has been well weathered and is going out with a big chill.

Kitchener-Waterloo has made its third wettest on record since records have been kept in 1915, with 1,160.7 mm recorded at the University of Waterloo weather station. It was just shy of the record set in 1985 of 1,186.4 mm.

You can read Canada's top weather stories for 2008 here
You can also check out the U of W weather station blog here

May you have a very storm filled 2009!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter Morning

To all my readers, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year! The days are getting longer.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Blowing snow

Ok I decided to get brave and run outside tonight. Man it's insane out there! Blowing snow everywhere with almost 0 visibility and not to mention a drift on our lawn that looks to be almost at my waist. I wanted to walk through it but I didn't have my big winter boots on and I did not want snowy pants either.

I grabbed my mother's camera because I still gotta charge the batteries for mine. These pictures are not the greatest, but this is what you get with point and shoot cameras at night. They really don't do justice of what is was really like.

Merry Crispness

No that isn't a spelling error... it really is crisp outside, with a current wind chill reading of -18F (-28C). This weekend, southern Ontario was walloped by two snowstorms. One on Friday which brought about 8 inches of the white stuff, and one last night. I am not sure how much new snow fell last night because there was a lot of blowing and drifting snow. We do have a rather big snow drift on our front lawn. No, lawn is not the word... front arctic view might work better.

I was tempted to charge the camera batteries, but after watching the "snownado" out there, I chickened out and just sat on the couch inside the warm house. I am a big wimp when it comes to cold weather. I don't mind the snow and I must admit it looks rather pretty after a snowfall, but unfortunately the cold comes with it.

Sure, the latest snowbombs do not top the big snow dump we had last March (18 inches), but with these two storms combined, we gained a lot of new fresh snow, and another one coming on Christmas. It will depend on where the rain/snow line falls... Environment Canada is calling for either rain or snow. I hope it doesn't rain because that will make the new snow ugly looking and the rain will just turn into ice anyways.

Well I guess it could be worse... I could be living in the northern plains dealing with the arctic surge of extreme cold air. Yes... I am a big wimp.

In other news, if you're a member of, be sure to keep Sunday, Jan. 4th at 9pm Central open... Scott will be bringing in another big guest! More details coming soon. You can also read the chat transcript with Reed Timmer here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Courtesy while Shopping

I went out shopping with my mother and sister yesterday. As we pulled into the parking lot, it was obviously pretty packed. Lots of busy people are rushing to grab items for Christmas baking or finding that hard to get present for their loved one. Lots of rushing and crowding. Unfortunately what else comes with it is lack of courtesy for other shoppers.

As one person was about to pull out from their parking spot, we signaled our lights to take that spot next because it was in front of the store we wanted to go to. All of a sudden, some lady in her own little world decides to signal for the same spot as well, and pulls right into the spot after the other car leaves. Then what does she do? Gets her kid out and walks, not into the store, but way further down the parking lot to some other store! Not only did she steal our spot but she also had the nerve to go somewhere else. We did manage to get another spot in front of the store, but that is besides the point. Why on earth would you steal someone else's spot and not even go to that store? Why not pick a spot closer to the store you are going to? It would make it more convenient for people who are going to that store, don't you think?

I would never do this to someone else. It just wouldn't feel right. Please for pete's sakes, show some courtesy for other people this Holiday season. You are not the only one in this world. Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Special Guest Chat

Steve Miller OK from announced tonight that on there will be a special guest chat on December 14th at 9 pm Central, featuring Discovery Storm Chasers star and fellow chaser, Reed Timmer. This will be a moderated live question and answer chat about the show or anything else you would like to know. So be sure to book this one in your schedule, it will be a fun evening!

Monday, November 24, 2008

All Things Chaser

Finally, there is a cool place where you can browse dozens of chaser related items, such as DVDs, t-shirts, photos and more all under one roof. Recently opened,, is your one-stop shop for chaser related stuff. Just in time for the Christmas shopping season! If you want to be notified of new releases, you can enter your email (at the bottom of the page). You can help a fellow chaser by posting a review of their video. It is the perfect place to find SDS treatment. I am actually debating on selling photos through Chaser Supply. It's something I've never done before, so we will see I guess.

The person behind this great idea? Scott Bennett. Not long ago, he introduced a new service to the chasing community, called It is basically a chat program exclusively for spotters and chasers. Often, special chats are held. Before potential chase days, forecast discussions are held. It is like reuniting the chaser and spotter community. So far, I have immensely enjoyed it. You must give it a try! Hurry and sign up before SpotterChat becomes "invite only". Tonight, SpotterChat has reached 300 members, and growing!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I just don't get it...

Why is it that some people go on TV and then get their panties up in a bunch when someone writes about them? Isn't it something that they should expect to happen? It was public TV for crying out loud. If you don't want to be criticized then don't go on TV. It's that simple. You're just simply asking for it.... everyone will talk about a certain individual who was on TV. Look at reality shows. Classic example. I attack actions, not people. My newest "friend" obviously did the latter... he failed to answer my questions regarding safety and made immature personal lashes. Sorry if I offended him, but that still doesn't give him a reason to retaliate in such a manner. Instead of stooping to an all-time low, why doesn't he use the blog he just created and talk about why he does what he does and how he is coming along. I have no problem with research. Then maybe, just maybe, people will start to show a little more respect for him.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

7 °F

Friday. It was the day of an uber snowsquall in a small Ontario town, Arkona. 76 cm, or 30 inches, of the white powder fell in a period of 24 hours due to classic lake effect snowsquall bands. My friend George Kourounis went out and managed to get some great photos of it all. I recommend visiting his site.

It was also the night of very cold temperatures across the region. A forecast low of 7 °F was in order and 12 °F for Saturday night. I was out taking my dog for her walk and I couldn't believe how cold it was. It was more like a damp cold, the kind that goes through you no matter how many layers you are wearing.

I thought they were predicting a warmer than normal winter, but so far it is only mid November and it feels more like mid January.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What gives? Framing photos

When you want to print your photos in its proper proportion, you will run into issues. You look in every photo/framing store you can think of and you look up your nose. No where can it be seen... a 8x12 inch photo frame. They sell 8x10 and 11x17 and 8.5x11 but what about 8x12's? What gives?

Needless to say, I had quite the fun time this weekend trying to find something to put my photos in. I had to buy 11x17 frames and leave a black border around the photo. A little bit more costly than I'd like.... maybe it's all part of some marketing scheme. "Buy my 8x10's or pay more for bigger!". You know... since most photographers use cameras that have the 2:3 ratio.

I honestly see no appeal in 8x10's. What do the photo lab people do? They distort the image by squishing it to make it fit, and if you were to do that with a portrait of somebody or an object you recognize, you will notice the distortion.

Guess there is a monopoly to be had even in the photo industry. Shame.

What next? Irresponsible chasing on TV?

First of all, the Storm Chasers show on Discovery is well worth watching. Probably one of the best shows I've seen in recent times that is chasing related.

Next up? Wannabe yahoo chasers on TV. Not something I would like to see. I apparently just came across some info regarding a Wife Swap episode of a storm chasing family and a safety family. That should prove to be interesting! The "storm chaser"? Richard Heene. Ya you heard me, I just called him out. Seriously, this dude apparently loves to make chasing storms priority number one, over school and other important life issues. They have a megaphone to wake up their entire household to go chasing and they sleep with their clothes on. I can understand being really passionate about chasing, but come on? To make the kids skip school so they can chase tornadoes? Sounds like to me they have their priorities mixed up. I came across some videos of the family and they all need a wake up call.

I really have no idea what this guy is trying to accomplish, something about researching magnetic fields around storms (he thinks mesocyclones affect magnetic fields locally). He's been featured on several news segments, which make me think he is just in it so he can be on TV. He has no website that I know of and isn't anywhere to be seen on any of the storm chasing community sites such as Stormtrack. I guess that is a good thing because he would probably get criticized on there like what I am doing now.

Heene states that the risks is all in the name of research. You can tell that is a load of BS right there. He rides a motorbike into the storm. Here's a news segment. My point? People like him on TV make us devoted, safe real storm chasers look like idiots in the general publics' eyes and we need to end this nonsense.

A while ago, many of us received an email from Heene. A Stormtrack thread erupted in its wake.

We should take his so called magnetic field and repel him off the plains. Sorry Heene, this post had to be made.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Storm Chaser Gear for Dummies

You know you're bored when you start creating lists like these.

Storm Chaser Gear for Dummies

Camera - To take pictures of the blue skies while the chaser over in the next state has the tornadoes.

Video camera - To gather proof of chaser hordes wherever the DOW and TIV are. Also used as a way of having proof you really were inside that tornado.

GPS - To plan escape routes to get away from the DOW and TIV hordes. Also used to find where the nearest Dairy Queen or Sonic is.

Tripod - Used as a road block.

Ham radio - Used to report BSC (big scary clouds) while spotting.

Cell phone - To call mom when you are peeing your pants from freight.

Sunglasses - To make those big scary clouds seem darker than they really are.

Laptop - After consuming plenty of junk food on the road, the chaser develops a laptop.

Nose plugs - A must have if your chase partner eats an Allsups.

Spotter Network - A software tool to see where the chase crowds are headed.

Baron Mobile Threat Net - A software tool to find out where the heck your supercell is since it is no where to be seen.

Cooler - A hail storage container.

Light bar - Used to stir controversy among the chaser community. Sorry Stormtrack, but I just had to throw that one in there :-)

Disclaimer: These lists are intended for humor purposes only. They do not have any relation to the various for Dummies books.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Weather Instruments for Dummies

On a November evening, I sit and ponder what to do during the winter season. This is a start. Oh dear, it's going to be a long winter....

Weather Instruments for Dummies

Anemometer - If it's missing, it's very windy out.

Visibility Sensor - If you can't find it, it's very foggy out.

Precipitation gauge - If it's flooded under, it's very wet out.

Thermometer - If you're sweating, it's too damn hot; if you're shivering, it's too damn cold.

Barometer - If you have high pressure, go see your doctor.

Hygrometer - If you think you're melting like the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz, it's too humid out.

Ceilometer - If you get sunburned, there's obviously no clouds.

Doppler - Purple means the sky is falling. If it's rotating, bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.

Eyes - Used to detect real time weather conditions used by those who can't afford to purchase fancy weather gadgets.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

August 18 backyard storm chase

Finally got a quickie backyard chase in. Backyard meaning as not in the alley.

I was watching the squall line take form on radar as it was heading in a SE direction towards Listowel. I gave Uncle Dave a call after Dave Patrick sent a message that there was a nice shelf cloud with it (thanks Dave!), so we both agreed to give it a try for a photo opportunity. As I was waiting for him, I saw some nice mammatus above my house as the anvil's leading edge came overhead.

We left at 7:30 and planned to set up just outside of Elmira on hwy 85. A photogenic shelf cloud came into view already, although not as contrasty as some of them have been, but still quite nice. Then again, there was only about an hour or less of daylight left. We pulled off the road near a barn and took some nice photos. It was starting to come right overhead by now. There was not a lot of wind with it, which was a bit surprising. Maybe it is because I have the Kestrel and it is wind shy? In behind, there looked to be a fairly decent core. There were some white bands which indicated a hail and rain downpour. I then saw a weird looking small roundish looking cloud, almost resembling a meso, but it was too small and didn't last longer than a couple minutes.

After the shelf cloud went overhead, I saw what looked like a low contrast funnel cloud in behind. I watched it closely for a few seconds but it disinigrated. Just a scud bomb. We felt the rain drops starting to fall and the outflow was starting to blow so we decided to bail the storm. On the way back into Waterloo, the shelf cloud was losing its well defined edge and seemed to be weakening, but the mammatus was still there. I guess we got this storm just in time! Got home close to 8:30 and not even 20 km driven! Gotta love those backyard chases sometimes... just a very simple chase with nice photos to boot.

Got home in time for the downpour of rain and intense lightning.

The High Risk

DAY 12 JUNE 5, 2008

All right, time for the big day! Well at least that is what we had hoped for. It was going to be our last chance to catch anything before heading back home. If things went well, we would be following this system on the way home. I woke up around 9 am, and headed into the lobby to check out what was going to unfold today. Ohhhhhh crraaaaaap. No no no! Not a high risk! Damn damn damn! I hate high risks, they usually mean that these storms will be traveling at faster speeds and be mostly high wind events instead. There were two PDS tornado watch boxes out for Nebraska into Kansas and Oklahoma, but after seeing that high risk, I didn't have much hope anymore. Last year during our last chase day, we tried to catch up to a high risk setup over in Wisconsin but that was very hard to do given the motion speed. Ron never really had much luck with such setups. He prefers the moderate or even low risk setups for tornado days. I would tend to agree. But we were going to try. The low level jet was increasing. Central Nebraska it was.

We stopped in Kearney for another oil change and went to Best Buy since Ron needed a new power supply for his laptop. His laptop wasn't charging and was being drained of energy. It was pretty critical that he get it fixed. We waited in the parking for what seemed like an hour or so. The sky was getting filled with towering cumulus and turning grey. Finally, we were off. A storm was positioned to the west. Outside of town, we stopped on the shoulder to watch a wall cloud trying to get its act together. It looked like it was trying to produce a funnel cloud. Then a tornado warning was issued. Oh yippee! Let this be number one for the day please! Or not. The wall cloud began to fall apart. As we were watching the storm, a couple of women in a car driving by stopped on the road to ask us why we were taking pics. The storm lady! Look behind you! It sounded like they didn't like us standing there on the SHOULDER off the road. It wasn't even an interstate. Well excuse me miss, but we were not blocking traffic at all, it was completely safe where we were. There were NO signs saying no parking here. She could pass on by just fine. Plus we were not the ones who stopped in the middle of the road blocking other traffic to ask someone why they were taking photos! She seemed pretty oblivious to the potential developing tornado. Auuuggghhh. We just basically ignored them. No sense in arguing with people. We continued on after realizing there was not going to be more of a show.

We headed east toward some small town and pulled into a restaurant parking lot. Ron was still having some troubles with his laptop, so Jack decided to install the Baron on his instead. Oh what fun on a high risk day! I wanted to grab an ice cream cone but it was just a sit in restaurant instead. After fussing over laptops, Ron and Jack somewhat resolved the laptop issues for now, and we headed northeast. Ben saw what he thought was possibly a wall cloud, so we turned around to take a look. It was just a lowering over a hill, and the storm appeared to be going linear. I guess that ends this pursuit. At least we got away with seeing a wall cloud in this high risk setup, so I guess it was not a complete bust... just a big dissapoint for lack of a better tornado setup if you will.

It was time to start heading east and begin our journey home. In Stromsburg (I am so tempted to call it Stormsburg), we noted quite a bit of local flooding near the river from the numerous storm systems recently. The Kearney area sure has been hit hard. Unfortunately somebody's house was going to have some water damage. The entire foundation was under. There was also a park with the river running through it. This park was like a big pool of brown water. It looks like this flood was receding a little bit - the pathways we were walking on appeared to be under water at one point. What a mess! And then there was a wide puddle on one single side road. Hmmm. Ron told me he was going to get Jack to splash through that with the van. LOL. High risk setups = boredom stupid fun things. So? Ron and Jack get in the van, with Jack at the wheel. They headed towards the puddle. Splaaaassshhh! Water went up high on the sides. It made for some interesting photos. Let's do it again! Splaaassshh! And again! Ok maybe that was enough... we needed the van to get us home. It has been hit by a tornado, dented with 3 inch hail, coated with mud, soaked with big puddles and getting a bird stuck in the front grill. This van will have quite the story to tell once Jack returns it in Buffalo! Hah!

Our storm system was linear and beginning to bow out in eastern Nebraska already. It was traveling at 60 to 70 mph. Yeeesh! Forget that! After 10:30 central, we began our way east towards Iowa, we watched a bit of lightning. We went to spend the night at a Motel 6 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Tomorrow was going to be quite the drive back home. Good bye tornado alley! See you next year!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Nebraska Supercells

DAY 11 JUNE 4, 2008

In the morning, we hung around at the motel in Oakley, KS. I noticed contrails in the sky, a good sign that it was cold enough up there. We ate lunch at a truck stop nearby, then headed northeastward to get in position for the storms. We wanted to be north of the warm front. A dryline bulge was also setting up near the triple point low and the trough was expected to move in from the west and should be in the plains tomorrow. Tornado watches had been issued for central Nebraska.

Pam took the wheel and we went on the dirt roads in Kansas. Ahead of us was a big muddy mess. Hmmmm. A rental van that had been hit by a tornado and dented with hail. A muddy wet road. Hmmmm. Pam was too tempted to drive through it. SPLASH! Well, we made it without getting stuck, but the van sure got filthy! Mud splattered all over the windows. Hey I thought we rented a blue van and not a brown one! We continued north of hwy 283 and stopped in Prairie Dog State Park for a little bit to stretch our legs and move around a bit. One look at the van made me laugh out loud. It was just covered in mud! I guess now we can blend in with the local traffic.

A thick cumulus field was setting up nicely. Jack and I downloaded some models. CAPE was approximately 5000-6000, dewpoints were 16 behind the dryline, while they were in the 60s ahead of it. Now that was quite the dryline! The centre of the low was forecast to be in northwest Kansas by the evening.. Ron noted a line of storms starting to go up in northeast Nebraska, so things were starting to pop.

At 3:45 CDT, we crossed the Nebraska state line. By now, the cumulus field was growing, forming turkey towers. Some of the towers were showing signs of wind shear as well. All good signs. Unfortunately we hit road work and had to wait about 10 minutes for the lead car to let us go through. I hate it when we get stuck in these things.

Finally, we headed north on hwy 183. Ahead of us was one of the first storms of the day to go tornado warned. It was one county away, so we figured we should try to intercept it. Not too long after, another storm goes up further north of the other storm. By now, they both had hooks. We wouldn't be able to get to the second storm, so our only shot for now was the one west of the Kearney area.

We took some back dirt roads. As we neared the storm, structure was starting to show, so we pulled off the road and walked up on a hill (when you need flat land, you don't have it, and when you don't need it, you have it). The storm was starting to look great now. We stood in the strong inflow watching a wall cloud and then a funnel cloud try to form. A thin long beaver formed pointing towards the precipitation. I heard a familiar sound I have not heard since 2006... the constant low thundering sound of the hail shaft. A heavy rain and hail core could be seen in behind the structure. A few CGs struck. Ron said the supercell was 65,000 feet tall according to the Baron. Wow! Talk about updrafts! He also said that there was approximately 3 inch hail in the core. By now, several supercells were training one after the other, so this storm was just our first picking of the day.

As the core neared us, we decided to take off and head west to the next storm. Unfortunately for us, there was no low level jet for the storms to play with. Where is that trough when you need it? As we skirted the core, we saw a small fire caused by some gas lines. Luckily, a sheriff was further down the road so Ron told him about it. The sheriff was glad we brought that information to him, so he told us that our first storm had a funnel cloud reported. Jack turned the van around and we headed back east.

Unfortunately with this many storms around, it is hard to decide on which storms to go after. Ron kept checking on the Baron but there was not much else happening, so we decided to continue west again. Oh wait a minute. Now our first storm has an inbound and outbound couplet on the Baron, with 120 mph shear! We pulled into some small town to fill up on gas then went back east to our initial supercell. One lesson learned here is to never leave your initial storm.

All of a sudden the storm started to turn right and move east towards Kearney. Just what they need, another storm to clean up after, I thought. As we went through the Kearney area, the storm had evolved into a shelf cloud. We turned onto another road and pulled onto the shoulder to watch it move in. A couple of other chasers were nearby as well. Great, the storm was becoming outflow dominant. We took off eastward again on I80 and saw the shelf cloud morph into a classic roll cloud. We made the decision to give up on this storm and head back west to the other storms coming up this way. Ben thought he saw some rotation nearby so we pulled onto the shoulder. Unfortunately a sheriff pulled up in behind and said over his speaker "Driver you must move your vehicle, you cannot park here." Jack took off, which was the best thing to do. Why risk getting thrown in jail over something as small as that and not get any storms period? Sure we felt we were perfectly fine where we were, but we wanted to obey the law to avoid any complications.

Further down the interstate, we saw the tops of our initial storm get lit by the setting sun. Off to our west was another storm and from a distance, I could tell it had some structure to it. As we neared it my jaw dropped. It was a georgous barell shaped rotating mass of cloud. I tried to grab stills but since we were driving, they came out blurry. Plus it was getting dark out. Ron wanted to position us under the storm. As we went under it, we could see the entire base was rain free! WOW! It was just unbelievable that this big thing was not dropping any rain at all. We kept our eyes peeled for any sudden changes such as funnels and downbursts. We pulled onto a dirt road to take some pictures. It was just eerie and awesome at the same time. The winds were on the cool side but light. Almost like the calm before something big happens. We hung around for a little bit more, then Ron said we should go further west because a much bigger storm was coming up this way. This LP supercell was just not going to produce, but it sure as heck was eye candy!

Our next storm intercept was going to be the one that came up from the Denver area. Ron said this storm had been going on for hours. We saw lighting in the distance but the light show grew more intense as we neared the storm. We decided to park off on the side of a small road to try our hand at lightning shots. Great bolts were striking everywhere and everytime lightning flashed, I could see that some neat structure was hidden in the dark. I managed to grab some great lightning shots, which turned out to be the best ones I have ever taken. In some photos, it appeared that the storm had a stack of plates, three dramatic teirs formed. Some chasers or storm spotters pulled in behind and we had a small chat. They informed us that a tornado was going to be near Farnam, about two miles away. We decided to intercept it but changed our minds since Ron was worried about getting stuck in a muddy road at night with a tornado threat.

We continued back east and saw some CGs strike just off in the distance. We basically followed this storm all the way back to Lexington, where we planned to stay the night at a Super 8. In the parking lot, there was a large rain puddle that we went through. The water went up onto the hood with a big splash. Weeee that was fun! Let's do it again! The rest of us unloaded the van, and Jack went around to drive through it again, with Ben filming it this time. SPLASH! Now that is one way to clean a dirty van!

Today was a great day despite not seeing any tornadoes. If the low level jet had moved in, these beautiful storms would have been truly amazing. I was still happy with the shots I got though. Hopefully tomorrow would prove to be our big tornado day.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Cap is breaking

DAY 10 JUNE 3, 2008

Today, Ron was sure we would be in for some rotating storms to our south. He had narrowed one area down (there were five potential areas for today). One of them was down in Missouri but that was too far of a drive, so the next reasonable option was to stick around eastern CO and western KS.

We got to sleep in today (Ron especially was pretty tired), so we left the motel at 11am MDT and headed into Burlington, CO to get some lunch at a Burger King. The cumulus field today was definitely better than the previous day, which had a 5C inversion. A trough was going to be moving in from the west, so we were expecting some pre frontal storms today, hopefully ones that would rotate.

After lunch, Felix wanted to film us along a dirt road outside of town by a field. That took about an hour, and we managed to get a nice tan. I continued to watch the cumulus field develop and some towers were going up to our west. We sat around for a bit more while Ron downloaded some models. The mobile internet connection on his laptop was giving him frustrations earlier. It always works when you don't need it, and it never works when you need it the most. Due to the time it took for Felix to film us, it set us back in time for catching up to any of the storms to our south.

We drove southward anyway and decided we go for ice cream in Lamar. Ron decided to go for a nap in Felix's car. A little bit later, Jack mentioned a tornado warning went up for the storm to our south, so he told Ron over the walky talkie. Ron came back to the van and we went after the storms to our south. We would skip Lamar and go slightly east into Kansas and head south. Storms were also going up just southeast of us, but appeared elevated. Hail shafts could be seen and a small hailbow formed off to the east. Ron looked to the west and said, "There!". A small wall cloud with a funnel cloud be seen off in the distance, but the funnel cloud eventually disapeared. The wall cloud was also losing its shape as we neared it, but Felix was getting excited nonetheless.

We crossed into Colorado. The storm still seemed to be high based and it was starting to weaken. Dang it, not again! We gave up on that storm and headed back east into Kansas. Back and forth, back and forth. Getting dizzy yet?

On the storm to our east, it looked like a wall cloud formed beside the precip core on the south side. And it was also weakening. Go figure. We filled up with gas in a small town back in Kansas and Felix and our group parted our ways. We saw a bit of mammatus from the storm off to the east. Well now it was time to travel back north again. Yeah I know, we just came from there. A developing bow echo was still going strong with a couple of rotation couplets that the Baron had picked up. We noted a bit of structure and banding on the storm once we neared it. It was all clear sky in behind, so when the sun set, the fields became really constrasted against the dark sky. It was a beautiful prairie scene! A partial rainbow formed to our right. We saw some scud rising and a wall cloud was trying to form. There were a few TVS markers on the storm and Ron mentioned that there were inbound and outbound winds. If it was going to produce a tornado, it would have made for a beautiful Kansas scene. Unfortunately the storm didn't really do much more and we called off the chase. As we were getting closer to the core, I attempted to get a long exposure of it with some lightning. It got very windy and tried to knock over my tripod. By the time I set up, it started to rain, so my attempt failed. We booked rooms in Oakely for the night.

All in all, it was nice to see something in the sky again. Today was going to be a good sign of things to come. Instability was in the air and today's convection helped break the cap a bit. Tomorrow and the next day looks to be much more interesting as the trough sets in from the west. Stay tuned.

Cap: Boom or Bust

DAY 9 JUNE 2, 2008

There were two areas of interest today, one to the north and one to the south. Dynamics favored rotating storms for the south but the cap was stronger, while the cap was weaker but less chance of rotating storms to the north.

We departed from Ogallala, NE at 11am MDT. It was a bit of a bumpy ride, it seemed the balance was off on the tires. In Sidney, we grabbed a Pizza Hut buffet lunch and went to go for an oil change and have the tires looked at but we couldn't find a place that would do it quick enough. We continued south and stopped at a Super 8 so Ron could get some wifi to check the models. He was still a bit uncertain of which target to pick today. While he was doing that, I was doing some sky reading. It seemed that things would definitely rotate today... we noted a small cumulus actually rotating in the shear environment. The sky was pretty clear still, a telling sign that the cap was in place and would be stubborn to pop. But if it went, things would get real interesting.

Ron finally decided that we head south and east, hoping that the strong cap would budge and give us good storms later in the day. On hwy 36, we saw some really old cars stuck in along the banks of a dried up river, probably to help prevent erosion. The people out here sure have interesting ways to use their resources, that is for sure. We continued east into Kansas and stopped in Colby to have something to chew on at, yep, a Sonic at around 8:30 CDT. We watched the sky and Ron continued to update himself on models, satellite and radar feeds.

We saw some development to our west back in Colorado, just east of Denver (go figure!), so we decided to try our hand on catching up to it. So we head back on I70 west. As we were nearing the supercell, it started to look very promising. Ron was hoping to get us into position to see a nighttime tornado. We were about a half hour away from the supercell when it started to turn right and hook. Dang it! Why can't these things just wait till we get there?! Well, it looked like a very healthy supercell so our hopes on catching something interesting remained high. At one point it had a v-notch and it was 60,000 ft tall. Beautiful! Unfortunately it appeared some small towns where in the path of this tornado warned storm.

Then something unexpected happened. A microburst occurred just northeast of the supercell and it started to collapse. Noooooooooo! Not only did we miss any potential tornado, but we missed the storm when it was at its best thanks to the microburst. The cold air have pushed everything away that the supercell needed to survive on, such as inflow. We took some back roads and saw a little bit of lightning and pulled over to observe and photograph lightning but that didn't even go as well as I had hoped because the storm was dying. Unfortunately by now, it lacked structure and good bolts. Boooo, Hissss, Roar! We gave up on our frustrating day and spent the night in Limon, CO at an Econo Lodge.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The storm that almost did it

DAY 8, JUNE 1, 2008

Today, we met Felix from France. He was going to follow us on our chases for the next couple of days.

We left Liberal, KS to heard north on hwy 83 and stopped in Garden City for a data stop. Since we pulled in late, Ron didn't get a chance to check on the models. The poor man needed some sleep! He is one dedicated individual, but if he wanted to sleep, he must have been very tired. We did one more stop in Oakley so Ron could get more updated models and analyze them, while Felix filmed him. A cirrus cloud deck with a nice cumulus field was setting in, and a solar halo formed.

We headed west on I70. Pam mentioned she had to go to the bathroom, so we tried to look for one opened in a small town called Kanorado. This placed looked a little poor and to our surprise we coudln't find any decent bathrooms, so we continued to Burlington, CO to eat lunch at, you guessed it... Sonic! That place is great when you need a hot meal right away at a good price.

Ron decided to drive with Felix, while I helped Jack navigate us north to Julesburg on hwy 385. I was constantly checking satellite and surface winds. Things were coming together nicely, with southeast surface backing winds. SPC issued a tornado watch for west of where we wanted to go. Storms were firing up in northcentral Nebraska in Cherry county and creating an outflow boundary, while another storm was developing near Scottsbluff, NE from upslope flow. I figured the outflow boundary would track west as the Scottsbluff storm tracked eastward. It was only moving ENE at 29 mph according to the Baron. I watched the storm on radar as it continued to organize better and turn supercellular. It eventually looked like it was going to split and become a right mover.

When we got to Julesburg, we continued north towards the storm. The storm looked like it was back building and the anvil just kept pushing out rock hard. We took some dirt back roads and saw some beautiful structure, including two wall low bulky wall clouds. We turned left on another back road to try to get closer to the wall cloud. I happened to look up above us and see a pointy funnel cloud almost right above us. I told Jack to stop now. We watched the funnel cloud but it dissipated, so we continued on. It seemed to remind me of what happened in Pratt, KS on Monday. Off in the distance, we saw a downburst form. We had to cut through part of the rain and hail core. I really wanted to get us to the other side of the core, but the road options were a little less to be desired in this area. I saw a road that went south on Streets and Trips, but it was just a cattle road. Great. Jack said we were getting too far from where we wanted to be, so we pulled over. Ron came back to ride with us and try to find a way to get on the other side of the core. We turned around to get back on an actual highway.

We cut through the hail core once more on I80 and pulled off on the shoulder under an overpass to wait out the hail. It was starting to accumulate. Once it let up a bit, we headed back west and south to get a better view of the wall cloud. By now the Baron was showing a hook forming and a tornado warning was issued. The supercell was turning right, as I had thought it would do. The RFD opened up and kicked up a whole bunch of dust in the fields so high it went up into the wall cloud. Ron got us in position where the inbound and outbound winds were meeting. If it was going to produce a tornado, it was going to do it nearby, so we had to keep our eyes peeled. There was a lot of inflow and outflow kicking up dust and a few times it almost looked like something was going to develop. We continued north. No tornadic vortex signatures were indicated but some shear couplets were picked up, although nothing too dangerous. We re-entered the hail core one last time. It was amazing that our windshield held up. We figured it would have a few weak spots because of the chips in it. Once we got out of the hail core again, we saw a nice bell shaped storm to our south with lightning flashing in it. Beautiful! I wanted to get a shot so Ron pulled over for me. I had to stand under the back hatch, but I was still getting a bit wet. I managed to get a couple of good stills with the bell shaped storm and cloud to cloud lightning.

We stayed in Ogallala, NE tonight at a Super 8 and plan to head due east tomorrow's moderate risk. Oh yeah, did I mentioned I typed this at 2 am? I don't need no stinkin' sleep!

Binger, OK Supercell

DAY 7 MAY 31, 2008

We left Lamar, MO and headed west to Oklahoma on hwy 166. We decided to go wait for a little bit in Wakita, OK at the Twister Museum while Ron checked the models. The sky looked capped today but indices and dynamics for a tornadic supercell were there. A boundary was off to the southeast. Ron expected the action to occur in southcentral Kansas and northcentral Oklahoma. We decided to head a bit more west to get closer to the dryline bulge. We pulled in to Alva, OK for a mid afternoon lunch at Sonic and hung around there for a bit. I took wind, temperature and humidity readings. The winds were coming from the east northeast and it seemed a bit dry, but some towers were starting to build along the boundary.

We pulled into a McDonalds after to get wifi so Ron could get an update on the models. I noticed something building off in the distance along the boundary. Some of the TCU was starting to explode and anvil out! I called everyone over to have a peak. It was such a great thing to see, given it was getting later in the day and we were about to give up. We continued to watch as it grew more. This storm went up in less than a half hour, which indicated that the updrafts were quite strong. Jack brought up the Baron to see what it was doing on radar. It was southeast of our initial target, but it was only about 60 miles away and probably the only storm of the day. Ron's words? "Ok let's go."

On our way south on hwy 81 through Enid, the sun began to set, creating a beautiful sunset with the supercell. The storm was 60,000 feet tall already! The sun set but we did not give up on the chase. At first lightning couldn't be seen, but as we got closer, lightning illuminated the supercell's features... it seemed to have a classic barberpole effect and beautiful updrafts! Oh I was it were daytime! We pulled west at Minco on hwy 152 to get to the south side of the storm. A low big bulky wall cloud could be seen near Binger. We pulled onto a dirt road to watch the wall cloud and grab lightning shots. Later we decided to continue west to get closer to the rotation. We pulled over and got out of the car. The first thing I noticed was a tornadic roaring sound... the winds in the vault region of the supercell were cranking! A large rotating wall cloud hung low to the ground. I did another attempt to get lightning shots with the wall cloud, but after I took the first picture, my camera decided to not cooperate. I wanted to keep the shutter open on bulb but it shut closed on me without letting go of the shutter cable release. I couldn't figure out why and I was getting worried that my camera was screwing up, so I tried putting in a new memory card. It still did the same thing, so I threw in a new battery, but it still did the same thing! "Gosh darn it why of all times must it do this?!", I thought.

After taking a better look, I realized that I must have accidently switched camera shooting modes and my settings changed on me. Doh! I set it back to manual and continued to get another atempt, but the rain started to come down. I played back my pictures and realized that I actually did manage to get one picture of a CG right beside the bowel shaped wall cloud. Awesome!

It was close to midnight now, and we still had to get back to Liberal, KS because Ron booked rooms there. We were supposed to neet Felix from France, who is doing a severe weather documentary. We had a 4 hour drive to do, and it looked like we would be pulling into the motel at 4 am. Oh dear!

We called the chase off and stayed at a Super 8 in Liberal, KS. We were getting very giddy from such a long drive and pulling in very late. It looked like a nice place to stay but too bad we would only get about 4 hours worth of sleep!

Ron was planning to target northeast Colorado and western Nebraska tomorrow.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Missouri Lightning

DAY 6 MAY 30, 2008

I had SUCH a rough time waking up this morning. I guess that is what I get for staying up late and going to bed at 5 in the morning, heh. Last night Ben, Jack, Ron and I were reviewing the tornado video that Ben had took. It shows up quite nicely. Apparently the dark feature we saw under the wall cloud to the right may have been the Kearney tornado because the tornado was reported to be around that area in that time frame. When I first saw it, it did have a smooth tornado-like edge, but got obscured by the wrapping core. Never did see the power flahses though. The small tornado on the left was very likely a satellite tornado. We picked up a copy of the Omaha World-Herald newspaper because it had an article on the Kearney tornadoes. Yeah, it sounds like there were a few.

We met Cheryl Chang from Florida and had a chat about the storm on Thursday and then departed from Kearney, NE and decided to head towards western Missouri and eastern Kansas for later today. Just east of Kearney, we saw moderate tornado damage, with some buildings blown apart and irrigation systems tipped right over. That tornado definitely seemed to have lasted a while, and judging from the damage path, it was decently wide. We are glad that no one was injured or killed!

We stopped in Lincoln, NE to grab some snacks. The roads in that town were so messed up, we kept running into dead ends. And then we found a store to grab some snacks. Ron wanted to pick up some rice crispy squares but the clerk had obviously no clue what they were. "I think I've seen those before...." Ummm okay, never mind! Ron said the food cans had dust on them. Talk about rat infested or what. We then took a break at Wilderness Park to stretch our legs. We were planning on staying for a couple hours, so Pam decided to go for a long walk. The rest of us basically stayed at the van. Jack and Ben were trying to upload video to WKBW Channel 7 Buffalo of the tornadoes we saw yesterday.

A tornado watch had gone up for the risk area and SPC was extending the moderate risk further southwest. Perfect! Ok Pam time to leave! Where the heck is she? Crap. We had to find her in that thick forest. The trails were muddy and one trail had big branches going across it. The other trail had poison ivy. Oh wonderful, I thought. It took a while to get Pam (Ben and Jack had the idea to call her Blackberry because she did take it with her). Pam finally came out of the woods. I took a leak behind a big gravel pile. Talk about one giant litterbox!

We had to travel to Missouri because the setup was looking better throughout the day. It was going to be a late evening and night chase this time. Ron expected the storms to fire right along the slow moving cold front, with the storms starting off in the northeast and then firing along down the line into southeast Kansas. We were going to aim in between the slight and moderate risk areas.

At 6:02 CDT, we entered Kansas City, MO. A few TCU were starting to form. Tornado watch boxes were going up from Illinois and extending soutwestward towards our target. It was going to get interesting. A convergence area of TCU was developing along the boundary just south of Kansas City. We planned to get into the area and just wait for things to explode.

We headed south on I71. The TCU was going up very nice along the boundary, forming turkey towers. The winds were blowing from the south and temps were in the 90s. Very good so far. Ron loaded a surface winds map on Baron... they were looking very promising. We stopped in Harrisonville for a quick bite to eat at 6:50. As we were eating, we watched the towers along the boundary fire up... what great updraft motion! As we stopped for gas, we watched as the updrafts were beginning to corkscrew... what a great sign!

Time for intercept... at 7:50 we continued south on I71. We could see the boundary just explode all the way along. Ron got an updated map and noticed a dryline bulge in southeastern Kansas. We were eventually going to work our way down there.

As we neared the boundary and developing storms, I noticed the bases were elevated... not a good sign for tornadic activity. High bases have a hard time producing. Nonetheless, the towers were just amazing to see. They were rock hard, there were mammatus under the anvils and some of the updrafts were corkscrewing a bit. Plus, the sun was setting which casted beautiful orangey pink hues on the towers. According to Ron, the storm we were going to intercept was 55,000 feet tall. Man I wish they were not elevated because they had so much potential!

We continued straight south towards one of the storms that went up ahead. Heavy rain soon engulfed us and we continued south to get ahead of the storm. When it finally cleared, we turned west and then went on some back dirt roads. We saw some chasers taking shots of the storm, so we continued to go down further away from them as to not interfere with what they were doing. We wanted to get lightning and we didn't want other vehicles around us. When we got out to set up, lightning bugs (how appropriate!) were flying in the fields. It was pretty neat. Most of the lightning was in-cloud with a few nice CGs. I snapped a few images and only one of them came out good. A bit of a wall cloud was forming and a long inflow tail formed, with strikes coming out the bottom of it. The other chasers eventually came up to us and said hi, but I was too busy shooting lightning shots to chat with them (no idea who they are). They left, and we hung around for a little big longer. It started to rain so we decided to play another area of the storms to get another lightning spot. We pulled onto a back road just on the outskirts of Lamar, MO to take more lightning shots. This time I managed to grab a few nice ones with a water tower in the foreground. The storms were weakening and getting further away, so we decided to stay in Lamar for the night at a Super 8.

Tomorrow we will be heading to Oklahoma.

Kearney, NE tornadoes

DAY 5 MAY 29, 2008

We left Delhart, Texas in the morning and headed north towards south central Nebraska to chase the moderate risk area. Indices were quite high and seemed favorable for tornadic supercells. At least that is what we were hoping for. It was going to be a typical get up and go haul. The warm sector was heating up nicely, with southeast backing winds increasing in speed throughout the day. We had to be on I80 by around the dinner hour near Kearney, NE.

On our way up, we passed through Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was hit by the first EF 5 tornado last May. It was quite eerie since there were still a lot of scars leftover. However, they were making good progress of rebuilding their town despite what had happened. That town just amazes me because of their sense of community pulling together after a disaster. The people there seem to have so much hope for a brighter, greener future.

A nice cumulus field was setting up in western Nebraska, with towers starting to build up along boundaries that were taking place. So far things looked really good. By mid afternoon, a supercell was starting to develop and track eastward. That was going to be the first major storm of the day. Ron mentioned that SPC had put out a high risk. Oh boy here we go... I can see it now, a bowing segment with clocking forward motion speeds. High risk days seem to do that to us. We were still hoping that the developing supercell over western NE would stay isolated.

As we kept tracking north, the supercell had formed a hook. I was able to get mobile internet working on my laptop, and came across a picture of a nice wall cloud that a chaser took 20 minutes ago. We were going to be in for something good today! We could already see another storm just to our west starting to go up, with mammatus under the anvil.

We crossed the NE state border and headed slightly north. The supercell that we were targeting was finally coming into view. Wow what a nice stack of plates developing! We saw a small funnel cloud. We cut eastward to get ahead of the storm and managed to find some back roads to get into position with a good road network. We saw a few chasers on the road but it was not very crowded, which was nice. Strong inflow started to kick up dust into the storm. Wow! By now, the stack of plates was starting to look really dramatic. The Baron was picking up several rotation couplets on the storm, and we could see a wall cloud and a couple other areas of rotation. When we were south of Kearney between I80 and hwy 34 on 690 Q Road approx. 3 miles northwest of Minden, NE, we saw a dark solid looking feature underneath the wall cloud. According to the Baron, this storm was cranking. What the heck is that? Tornado? It took on kind of a wedge-like appearance. Ben and Pam then pointed out a definite tornado just to the left of this interesting feature. I looked to my left and saw a light tan colored condensed funnel halfway to the ground with a debris swirl underneath it. That at least makes 3 for us this week so far! Woo hoo! I grabbed one photo of it while Ben rolled video before it quickly dissipated. By now we lost sight of the dark unknown feature because it became rain-wrapped. We were facing north towards Kearney and it all happened around 5:32 CDT.

After that excitement, we turned left on another back road to watch an area of rotation. It was pretty neat watching it spin and a clear slot was overhead. We watched this for a little bit before continuing back north to I80. By now the storm was crapping out and picking up forward motion speed. A typical high risk setup. We headed east to try to catch up again but gave up and turned around and headed into Kearney to fill up with gas. We had trouble finding a gas station that had power. Driving through town, we saw large trees uprooted and slight structural damage. Some windows were blown right out and shingles peeled off roofs. We finally found a gas station that was opened and filled up. We then decided to take a look around at some of the damage. Some of the tree damage was just incredible. One particular tree that was beside a sidewalk got uprooted and lifted up a few of the sidewalk blocks with it. Some other trees fell right beside homes just barely missing it. Roof shingles were blown off with some parts of roofs totally stripped of shingles. Some metal posts were bent, signs damaged. The people in town were walking around and seemed to be ok. We didn't find anyone that needed emergency help which was a good thing. Some of the damage was facing in one direction while the rest of it was facing another direction, which suggested possible tornadic activity.

Later on, we heard that some people, including chasers saw power flashes while the storm was happening and it was confirmed that a tornado was definitely in town. We think that the dark feature we saw under the wall cloud could have been the tornado. We decided to grab a bite to eat at USA Steak Buffet. During dinner, I happened to look out the window and see beautiful sunset lit mammatus. I went outside to grab some photos. After dinner, we sat in the parking lot during twilight to look at the mammatus as it got dark. Definitely the best mammatus I have ever seen. My photos came out quite nice, with lots of color and dramatic appearance.

Tomorrow we plan to make our way towards Oklahoma if no storms are expected. A great day, despite missing the Kansas tornado fest.

Hailer in New Mexico

DAY 4 MAY 28, 2008

Well, I kinda regret not getting to bed earlier. I had a lot of blogging to do to get caught up, so I didn't get to bed till around 5 am. Thank goodness we got to sleep in today! Hell, I don't need no stinkin' sleep anyway.

Anyway, managed to finally wake up and went online to check models for Friday's forecast. So far it looks very interesting in Nebraska. Models were hinting at an isolated tornadic supercell. But that's tomorrow... today we need to worry about the 5% tornado risk for eastern New Mexico. Prior to leaving the motel, Geoff, Drew, my sister and I were playing a game of bouncy ball catch in the parking. It would bounce off their vehicle. I wonder if Spotter Network would take a report of bouncy ball hail?

We left around lunch time, and headed west on hwy 287. Shortly after 12:30, the overcast sky finally started to break up into a nice cumulus field to our north. We stopped in Amarillo for lunch at the Big Texan and visted the Cadillac Ranch. We then continued west towards New Mexico. On the way we saw nice big transverse rolls.

Boundaries were setting up New Mexico. At 4:29 MDT we saw a developing supercell west of San Miguet, so we decided to target west northwest of Santa Rosa, or southeast of Santa Fe. The Baron was already picking up rotation couplets and a boundary heading westward was expected to intersect the storm. As we were heading west on I40, two supercells were now developed, one to the north of the highway and the other to the south. We planned to take hwy 84 because it was the best road option to go north. There aren't many road options in New Mexico, so this was going to be tricky to intercept. A tornado warning was issued for the first storm, which was moving northeast at 39 mph.

At 5:13, the north storm went east of hwy 84, so we had to turn around and go find a road further east. By now the southern storm was weakening while the northern storm was still cranking. The couplets were getting stronger as the storm was tracking east and it slightly slowed down a bit to 30 mph.

We finally found a road option to go north on hwy 129. At 5:46, a new tornado warning went up. It was difficult to really see the storm from a distance because of the hills and mesas. We encountered heavy rain and saw a small beaver tail ahead. We then turned left on some back road and pulled over to watch the storm. A brief wall cloud formed but fell apart. We had to turn south once again to get out of the approaching rain and hail core, but it almost caught up to us. A few powerful CGs struck some of the hills. We had some small pea sized hail but then heard two loud thuds on top of the van. That was the sound of golfball sized hail. That's okay, it's not like we actually own the vehicle anyway! Just hope they don't question Jack when he returns the van back to Buffalo, with the sandblasted windshield and headlights and two new hail dents on the roof.

We finally got ahead of the core and had enough time to watch an area of rotating scud, but we had to get ahead of it again since the core was catching up. We stopped briefly to take pictures of the heavy core, but then the core finally overtook us. The core was wrapping around with the storm's rotation. At 6:49, we turned around once again to check out the storm behind our current storm. We didn't see much else, other than another developing wall cloud and some outflow features. A couple of chasers passed us quickly... no idea who they are, but the white van was tailgating the other guy ahead of him. Crazy, but whatever floats their boat I guess. The storm was no longer doing much else, and we said goodbye to Geoff and Drew. Glad to have made a couple of new friends on the trip as they are cool guys.

We decided to start working our way east back up to the Oklahoma panhandle. We went to a small convenience store to take a bathroom break. We got back on the interstate and saw a small compact wall cloud directly ahead of us. Ron wanted to get a shot of it but a light post was in the way. By the time the viewing cleared, the wall cloud had fallen apart. On our way, we were keeping up with the storm. We found a gas station and filled up with gas. Lots of lightning and heavy rain. We did get some pea sized hail mixed in there as well. The storm was starting to bow out. We stayed the night in Delhart, TX at the Comfort Inn. Tomorrow we were to get up early and haul north in time for a potential tornado fest in Nebraska and Kansas.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Structure and Mammatus

DAY 3 MAY 27, 2008

Ron asked me the other day, "What is luck?". I didn't have an answer. He said, "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." I would have to agree with him on that one. It really does apply to chasing, and yesterday proved it.

Our second night was a much better sleep... when we stayed in St. Louis the first night, we had constant loud thunderstorms go through the area in the early morning hours. It kept waking me up. It was great to hear thunder but when you are running on a 4 hour sleep, you want to get as much sleep as you can in order to function for a chase day. Of course it is pretty ironic coming from me, as I am typing this log at 3 am Wednesday morning. Sleep? I don't need no stinkin' sleep.

Anyway, today was looking like another risk of storms, although not as big as yesterday's event. At around 10 am, we all gathered. We saw the Cloud 9 Tours group and George Kourounis came by to say hi. I also got to meet Charles Edwards for the first time. After chatting for a bit, we decided to take off and pick up Pam and Ben at the Dennys restaurant where we were supposed to meet up at. We let them finish up. We figured the rest of us would get something to eat in Oklahoma City. Ron wanted to get further southwest than originally planned. In the meantime, we had apples and bars to tie us over until then. Ron was having some issues with the mobile internet so Jack sat in the back to work on his laptop to get it to run faster, while I helped Ron with navigating.

Today we were looking at a cold front set up, with a large outflow boundary from the previous storm activity in Kansas and Missouri. SPC highlighted southwestern Oklahoma and the eastern Texas panhandle area for a 5% chance of tornadoes with a slight risk of severe storms. We ate a quick lunch at a Sonic just outside of Oklahoma City and met up with Jeff and Drew in Lawton. It was a bit hard to find them at first because we really didn't know where they were in related to the highway. We met up with them in a Ramada Inn parking lot near the highway. We watched a bunch of prairie dogs run about in a grassy area beside the inn and had a quick restroom break. I loaded a satellite loop and saw numerous boundaries setting up and colliding in our target area already. I had a feeling we were going to be running a bit behind. The SPC issued a mesoscale discussion for Childress, Texas, Jackson and Harmon counties in Oklahoma. By mid afternoon, storms were already firing up along the outflow boundary near the area and we had to get over there quickly.

We pulled into an Allsups in Frederick, Oklahoma to fill up on gas (and for myself, an Allsups Beef and Bean burrito) at 4:30. As we continued westward, the storm came into view. It almost had a bell appearance to it and I could see a bit of beaver tail pointing into the core. I could tell that this storm would possibly put on a structure show. We then took hwy 5 to get closer to the storm. We saw a chase tour group and some other chasers, but not near as many as yesterday. As we neared it, Ron pointed out a small funnel cloud, which I didn't see at first. It never amounted to anything.

The structure started to take on a nice smooth rounded appearance, so we pulled off the hwy to grab some shots. It looked like the RFD was coming in, but I didn't like the winds blowing away from the storm... a bad sign that this storm would become outflow dominant. The RFD did kick up some dust in a field. We continued toward it for a bit, got into some rain, then we turned around to get ahead of the storm. As we were doing so, dust started to get picked up in the fields and a gustnado formed to our right. It was beginning to remind me of the haboob that Scott, Ron and I were on back in 2006 in Colorado/Kansas.

As we got ahead of it, we found another spot to pull over to get some more photos. We watched an area of rising scud, which I thought was going to be our wall cloud, but alas it broke apart. There was just not enough inflow happening here. I saw no feeder bands and we realized this storm was not going to do much else but rain itself out.

Ron decided that we abandon this storm and try a newer storm located just northwest of Vernon, Texas. We took hwy 91 and followed it towards a small town called Chillicothe.

We didn't see any structure to this storm... it was basically "crapvection" rainstorms. I am sure the plains would love to see more rain... some areas have been flooded and are still very saturated from the previous storm systems. There has been a lot of activity within a week and yesterday created a lot of rain which triggered flash flood warnings in parts of Kansas.

We decided to give up. We found a spot near the railroad crossing in Chillicothe to wait for Jeff and Drew to catch up to us, then we booked rooms at a Quality Inn in Childress. As we were unloading the van, mammatus was overhead and the sun was just getting ready to set. We put our stuff in our rooms, got out our cameras and tripods and headed just on the outskirts of town to photograph nice sunset lit mammatus. Nothing like a peaceful way to end the day. We then went for dinner at Pizza Hut.

Tomorrow, Ron is looking at eastern New Mexico. So far the SPC day 1 outlook has a slight risk.

An Ozsome Experience in Kansas

DAY 2 MAY 26, 2008

Today we were going to play the triple point and dryline bulge in central Kansas south of I70 and west of I35. Ron favored this area due to convergence and an outflow boundary tracking southwest from the night's storms in Missouri, with good low level shear, instibility and moisture.

We left St. Louis in the morning and headed west on I70 towards the Salina-Wichita, Kansas area. The SPC had issued a moderate risk with a 10% chance of tornadoes. On our way west, we saw signs of horizontal vorticity - transverse rolls. Accas could also be seen in some spots, noting signs of instability. Finally at around 2:03 pm CDT, a tornado watch had gone up for south central Kansas into the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.

We pulled into a service station somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Kansas and met up with a film crew, Jeff and Drew, doing a documentary on lightning. Ron knew the guys from previous filming in the past, and we were going to help them get into position for a good filming shoot. It was still overcast in this area due to the storms in Missouri and the winds were a bit on the cool side as well, with wind gusts clocking at about 15 knots. Temperate and dewpoint were about mid 70s over mid 60s so that wasn't too bad of a sign.

We all continued west on I70. Fellow chaser Fred Plowman waved at us as he passed by. A storm began to develop south of Wichita, but we decided to not play it because it was still a bit early and east for the real action. We were hoping that the storm would create an outflow boundary/feeder band for the storm we would plan to intercept later on. We stopped at a Subway in Wichita and watched the storm to our south. It did exactly what we thought it would do, create an outflow boundary and feeder band for our storm later on. It was all pointing in a good direction, so we had our sign of good inflow.

At around 4 pm, Ron wanted to head slightly west of Wichita towards the Pratt/Greensburg area. Ron went on mobile internet to get a satellite feed. It showed two boundaries going to collide into each other in our target area. A storm was also going up to our southwest, and around 5:15, a tornado warning was issued. As was got closer to this new storm, the one south of Wichita was finally dying and the flanking line on our supercell was getting bigger... the outflow from the Wichita storm was feeding into this new supercell. We filled up with gas and went on our way. The film crew wanted to get a shot of the beginning of the storm through a line of trees, so we eventually found a spot on a dirt off the interstate. Jeff and Drew got their video, so we continued on our way towards the storm.

As we neared the storm, we got into a rain and hail mix around 6:09. The hail was about 1 to 1.5 inches in size. It looked like our storm was going to become of the high precipation type. On our way west on hwy 54/400 we saw a long armada of the DOW truck, mobile mesonet vehicles, chasers and possibly local folk driving away from the storm. We were wondering why, but that didn't stop us from going inside. If we wanted tornadoes, we had to get closer than that to see them in this HP mess. A bit dangerous? Yeah, but with all the rain, any tornadoes that would form would likely be weak and brief. Ron knew what he was doing.

We pulled off the hwy onto a dirt road. Jack seemed to have a little bit of trouble handling the wheels at first due to the slipperyness of the "road" but soon managed to gain better control. It was a rental van afterall, so he was still learning the ropes. Hmmm, a rental van you say? I wonder how much we can get away with before the insurance nails us? Off to our right, I saw a large hail/rain core in the distance with a slight greenish tinge. Realizing we were not seeing much in this area, we went north again back to hwy 54. By now we were just southwest of Pratt. Ron decided to stop on another dirt road to get some photo opportunities of the giant core. What strong inflow this thing was sucking in! We watched it for a bit before I yelled for everyone to get into the van - I could literally watch as the core rapidly approached us down the road! Pam sure has interesting ways to get inside a vehicle quickly, practically falling backwards into her seat in the back of the van, while dragging her feet across one of the middle seats. Well, whatever works I guess, LOL.

Jack drove onto hwy 281, where we quickly got into very torrential rain and hail, with almost zero visibility. For a few seconds I thought to myself that a tornado would be on the other side of the precip, and then the precip actually did clear. Then what happens? Well, a small tornado touched down in a field to our left, crossed the road in front of us and went into the grassy field on our right all in a matter of several seconds. It was approximately 50 to 100 feet away! I saw it spin in the grass field, so I quickly rolled down the window to get a better view since it wasn't raining anymore. A howling/hissing noise could be heard! I was actually hearing my first tornado! I managed to grab one good shot of it. The tornado was semi transparent but it was very evident tornadic circulation was there as we could see it partially. Everything was moving so fast. Normally, we don't recommend to intercept tornadoes this way most of the time because you really don't know how big it could get.

After that exciting but brief encounter, Ron logged the tornado into Spotter Network. We went on another dirt road to get off the interstate to watch another area of the storm. About 10 mintes later, I saw a lowering just to our north that looked like it was trying to form a wall cloud and rotate. A piece of scud curled like a wave quickly. I watched the area for several minutes before deciding that it didn't seem to be doing much. We continued up the road, and pulled over again. At around 7:18, Jack noted a funnel cloud right above us, but I couldn't see it from my vantage point. Basically right after that, a circulation of dirt and tumbleeds among other things came wooshing at us - and quickly! Winds went in one direction before suddenly changing directions! Then it stopped. At first I thought we were getting hit with RFD but RFD winds do not behave like that. Ron has always told me on our chases to keep an eye on any sudden change in wind direction... well this was definitely one of those times! Pam and Rita saw this circulation continue briefly behind us into a field before dissipating. Ummm, did a tornado just form on top of us? It sure looked like that given how the debris looked when we were in it and Jack's funnel cloud proved it afterall. After gaining my senses back, I realized it was indeed a tornado. Well. That was the first time I've ever been directly hit by a tornado! I've heard of other chaser stories of similar encounters in the past... again not something you really want to mess with. It was sure a big surprise for us, and it just goes to show you anything can happen on chases. The tornado actually did sandblast the windshield and headlights. It also left small chips and a small crack in the windshield from the debris. Ron estimated it had winds close to a F1 rating. He also reported this tornado into Spotter Network.

Well, we just got down to the alley and already have two tornadoes to account for. We decided to call it a day and book rooms at a Motel 6 in Wichita for the night. We ate dinner at an Ihop but the service was very slow. Rita, Pam and I were getting giddy. I rolled a drinking straw wrapper up into a tiny ball and flung it with my fingers. It hit a waiter as he walked by and we bursted out laughing. I was laughing so hard that apparently I didn't notice that I somehow managed to get my drinking straw from my drink stuck in my hair dripping chocolate milk on my shoulder! When I saw it at first I wondered what the heck was this? And soon we bursted out laughing again. Why do these things happen to me? Sigh. All in all, a great day. Tomorrow we are headed south.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Quick update for May 26

Just a brief update on our chase on May 26th - I will complete a full log on Tuesday because I am tired and it is getting late.

Couple of close calls in Kansas today. Ron, Jack, company and I observed two brief weak tornadoes on Monday around the dinner hour near Pratt, KS. We were driving in a very heavy rain/hail mix - vis was almost 0 at this point. Things cleared and a brief semi-transparent tornado formed approx 50 to 100 ft away from us and crossed the road in front us and went into a grass field on our right. I rolled down the window to grab this shot quickly... we could hear a classic howling/hissing noise from it!

About 10 to 15 minutes later, we were on a dirt road and Jack pointed up and said there was a funnel right above us. Then I saw a circulation of dirt and tumbleweeds come right at us... it passed directly over us! Winds shifted directions very quickly which suggested that the funnel Jack saw was indeed a weak tornado. It continued for a few seconds later behind us. No one is hurt and it was a weak tornado, with winds of F0 to F1.

Gang is staying in Wichita KS tonight and maybe heading to OK tomorrow. Cloud 9 Tours is at our motel, so maybe we will get to see George Kourounis.

Monday, May 26, 2008

May 25 2008

DAY 1 MAY 25, 2008

Well, today was going to be another day we would depart for tornado alley. This year, it was Ron Gravelle, Jack Kertzie, Ben Fuller, Pam Gregory, my sister Rita and I. It was going to be Rita's first tornado alley chase trip.

We left Ron's shortly after 8 am and were on our way south through Detroit, towards St. Louis, Missouri where we would spend our first night.

We, of course, had to have our omens on the way down, a yearly tradition. This time, I spotted 3 dust devils in a field on our right. Near Indianapolis, we stopped for a Chinese buffet dinner, "Chow-chow" as Ron calls it. Rita had the best fortune cookie fortune, which unfortunately I forget what it said at the moment, but it was another one of those omens. On our way west through Illinois, tornadic storms were firing up in Iowa, and another storm to our southwest. The anvil blow off on that storm was quite long, approximately 100 miles away. I noted a small patch of mammatus.

We couldn't intercept those today if we were going to want to get into position in central Kansas tomorrow. SPC has a moderate risk highlighted for central Kansas, with a 45% hatched area. Supercells along an MCS were expected to form, along with the possibility of strong tornadoes. We are hoping that the dryline will bulge out and interact with the outflow boundaries from tonight's system, near the triple point tomorrow. Low level shear would be present in the warm moist airmass.

As we approached St. Louis, storms were firing up to our north, south and west. Rita wanted to get a picture of the St. Louis arc, so Ron pulled over off the interstate to stop for pictures. Rita did manage to get her first lightning shots, hand held mind you, but nonetheless it was a lightning shot. We continued on to our hotel as the squall line neared us. Soon enough the rain came down really heavy. We had a few close CG strikes.

Trying to navigate in a big city is quite hard to do with all the highways and offramps... plus they don't warn you ahead of time which exit we needed to take to get to another interstate. It just gets confusing sometimes, and we would end up going on the interstate the other way, so I had to keep changing the route plan. We finally pulled in at the Quality Inn close to 11 pm CDT. Tomorrow we are headed towards Salina, Kansas.

Sorry that the APRS has stopped working since leaving Detroit... I don't know what happened but I will let Ron and Jack know tomorrow morning.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chasecation '08

Looks like we may be in for some storms during the first few days of our trip. So far so good. We will depart this Sunday morning. You can track us here.

I will try to update this blog at the end of each day.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spring Forward Snowstorm

Ok so it's March. That mean's storm chase season is almost here. We had a day or so of mild weather with 10C temps. Talk about a tease. It melted some of our snow, then we got it back with, you guessed it, another winterstorm on March 5th. We got 20cm of, dare I say it? White crap. Sorry snow freaks, but winter is cold, icy and tornadoless. That just doesn't appeal to me. Pretty ironic coming from a Canadian born winter baby.

Then after that, I heard talk of a blizzard that was in order in the next couple of days. Oh good gawd. You mean winter is NOT over yet?! Then I heard talk of it possibly being a dud and that we would only get about 20-30cm. Ok, so that was the minimum forecast amount? It would depend where the line that divides 20-30cm and 40-50cm would end up, which was supposed to be east of Waterloo. Ok, I can deal with that, I think... better than 40-50cm!

So March 8th comes around and it is snowing like nobody's business. This doesn't look good, I thought. At 1:50pm I decided to take my first measurement. 7 inches already?! But the storm just started! How is that possible? Well............

At 4:50, I measured 8 inches. Ummm why is it still accumulating? Please stop....
Time for dig out number 1! The snow was at the rear bumper of the van.

And it still snowed and snowed. Then at 7:55pm, 15 inches had fallen. Oh please stop, I'm begging you!!! The storm didn't end until about an hour or so later, with a whopping 16 inches... or 40cm. And if you include the lake effect snow band that came from the southwest later that night, that would put the amount of new snow to about 42cm. Say, that's nothing... Ottawa got 52cm. Poor folks... maybe that's why all the storm chasers live south. Hahahaha!

My father and I dug out for the second time. Our snow banks are just a little over 5ft tall and the depth of snow on our front lawn looks to be at my waist. It is level with the bottom of our bay window. The snow in the backyard is at my thighs. Our backyard fence is more than half buried. Unbelievable but any snow loving kid would be in heaven. I am not a kid and I am not snow loving, so therefore I am not in heaven, but rather in hell that froze over.

If it were not for the melts we had, we would have snow hiding close to half of our house it seems.

We got so much snow that the Newfoundland Club in Cambridge had its roof collapse. No body was killed, but injuries ranged from a bruised lung to fractured vertebrae to frostbitten fingers.

THIS IS THE MOST SNOW I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY FRICKIN LIFE! Apparently the article in the paper today said that we broke our winter of 1923-24 record (245.3cm) for snowfall amounts this winter. Good grief. Where is spring when you need it?

Global warming my ass. Here is a pic of the aftermath the following day. At least with "spring forward", it is one hour less of winter!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mid-February Fun

Ok so it's the middle of February. This has to be the worst time SDS (supercell deprivation syndrome) for storm chasers. Spring is so close, yet to so far away. It has been quite chilly the last few days and we still have 4 foot snow banks, with about 1-2 feet of snow left on the ground.

Last night I froze my butt off watching the lunar eclipse. I went out 4 times, in 10 minute intervals because it was so cold that one could get frostbite. It was almost -20C! Ice crystals in the air formed light pillars from various light sources. I decided to try my hand at moon/eclipse photography. Needless to say, I did run into issues such as blur (long exposures don't help because the moon moves across the sky quickly) and sometimes the moon would come out looking like a white glowing orb with ghosting/flare. I must have taken about 60 photos last night, but I finally managed to get one of Saturn and the eclipse that I thought was somewhat decent.
I used 400 ISO, 8 second exposure, with F stop 14, on my 18-200 Tamron
lens (focal length is 200 in this pic).

Monday, February 18, 2008

More chase plans

So I haven't posted much since my last tornado alley chase trip... for the first time since 1998, I haven't chased locally here in Ontario in 2007. July 8th was very frustrating for me because I had no means of transportation to go chase after a classic cyclic tornadic supercell, which I must say is a very hard find here. Congrats to those who ventured out that day! My friend Ron Gravelle caught some awesome photos of a white cone tornado - it looked like Kansas! I think that day was the only real storm action that season. Just thank goodness for my tornado alley trips otherwise my SDS would make me go ballistic.

And speaking of tornado alley trips, Ron and I are once again planning another trip for last week of May and first week of June. This time my sister will be coming along with us! This kinda thing can be very addicting.