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!