Saturday, July 03, 2010

Leedey tornado pic

May 19th Leedey, OK tornado

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

TX panhandle tornadofest!

May 18, 2010

Chased a spectacular tornadic cyclic supercell near Dumas, TX this afternoon! Great day, no idea how many tornadoes we saw, at least 5... some I did not get to photograph and some are in question due to being rainwrapped, but overall... great day!!! Excellent wall cloud structures as well! Too tired to write up a full log, so here are some stills to tide you over for now.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


May 13, 2010

Today was a down day, so it was time to do some needed laundry. Sandra and I went shopping for the afternoon.

We visited Greensburg once more and had a look at the Big Well memorial for the tornado. We then headed southwest to Guymon, OK where we stayed the night.

Kansas Chase

May 12, 2010

Today we were going to target south central Kansas, where the SPC issued a 10% tornado risk for the Pratt area. We made a quick stop in Greensburg. Wow has the town really come along since the last time we went through in 2008! The new hospital was very beautiful, lots of new homes, businesses and gas stations were now built. We stopped at the Dillons for a bathroom break and a snack. An older gentleman started talking to us about Greensburg. The people here are just amazing.

It was still very cool here and overcast, and the clouds were surface based. It was quite a contrast compared to the motel we stayed at in Woodward. Perhaps this temperature gradient would have a hand in the setup for later. We then headed to Pratt to hang around there for a bit. We were waiting for the warm front bulge to move up into the area. At least the overcast dull cloud was starting to break up and it was getting warmer out. There was also a boundary that was starting to bubble up. We parked at the Walmart to look at the models, then finally around 10 to 2 we decided to head towards the Hutchinson-Wichita area. On our way there, we saw a horseshoe vortex, which is a sign of wind shear. The CAPE was 4000 with a lifted index of -10. When we got to Wichita, we stayed to the west side of town, which would allow us to intercept the storms easier. There was convection already happening early in the day, and Ron was hoping for the outflow boundaries from those storms to interact with the main storms for later.

At 2:20, the SPC issued a mesoscale discussion for the Lawton-Wichita-Kansas City area. The cap was expected to break in 1-2 hours from now. A few mintues later, the first tower that we were watching was now starting to anvil out. 10 minutes later, the first tornado watch was issued from Childress through to Nebraska. Yikes what a big area! We passed the TIV 2 filling up in a gas station. Around 2:50, a severe thunderstorm warning was now issued for the storm. We turned around in Wichita to head back towards the west. At 3:20, a tonado warning was issued northwest of Wichita. The storm was along the trough, and was moving only at 20 mph.

At 3:48, while on hwy 17, we could see the shelf cloud ahead of us. It was dark underneath! When we got under the storm, we encountered some hail. We then headed north to a main highway. Unfortunately we had to cut through a dense rain core. The storm appeared to be HP (crap). It was hard to see anything! Ron said over the radio that there was going to be a good base to our north closer to Hutchinson. At 3:60, we stopped in Pretty Prairie for a brief stop, then continued north towards Hutchinson. A few minutes after 4, we were now just south of Hutchinson and the rotation was to our east. We finally started to get into some clearing! We headed east on Arlington Road. A hook echo started to form on the Baron. Things were getting exciting! Then when we finally got out of the rain, something caught our eye - a really nice funnel extending almost halfway to the ground, and rotating!!! YES! I snapped a few pictures before it roped out. I couldn't see if there was any debris under it due to some trees. Go figure, even in the plains, there is always something in the way!

We slowly continued down the road, now. The tornadic rotation was just up ahead of us, crossing the road. Oh man now my adrenaline was going! We pulled off to the side and got out quickly. HOLY CRAP! I looked straight ahead, almost above us... the clouds were spinning in a cinnamon bun swirl, AND THE NEARBY TOWN'S SIRENS WERE GOING OFF!!! We were right behind the rotation now, which was perfect! Now if only it would drop another tornado!!! I looked behind me. Crap. The precipation core was catching up to us. "Get in now!!" I yelled. Wow that was a rush. Unfortunately the core choked off the inflow to the rotation. We managed to get out of the core and I saw a couple of other chasers parked off the road watching the storm. Unfortunately, Ben seemed to have lost his wide angel lens for his HD camcorder in the midst of the rush.

We headed northeast and encountered some hail, then stopped in Halstead for a quick bite at the Subway. We were going to leave our first storm and target the one to the south now, since it was now rotating. The storm we were on was starting to become more outflow dominant. We saw some roll clouds.

At 5:30 the gang made a stop. There was not too much going on with the storm... a bunch of scud bombs, roll clouds... mainly outflow dominant stuff. A guy that was driving by had pulled over and showed us a picture of the funnel we saw. After that, we headed east and north on 135. Off to our east, a small meso was trying to form beside a hailshaft, which made for some interesting pictures. Well, since there was not much else going on in the way of tornadoes, we decided to play in the hail, but the storm seemed to be gaining speed and we couldn't catch up to it. We gave up and turned around to work our way back to Wichita.

When we reached Florence at 6:40, we pulled into a gas station parking lot. I saw some accumulated hail in spots beside puddles of rain, so I picked up some. It was a mix of pea and quarter sized hail and showed everyone. Cold, cold, cold!

At 6:55 we saw a nice big roll cloud ahead of us, but that was pretty much the last interesting feature of the day. When we got into Wichita at 7:25, we encountered another hailcore that was estimated to be about 2 inches. Baron picked up rotation, but it didn't amount to much.

We stayed at the Econo Lodge in Wichita for the night. All in all, it was an okay day, with the best part being the funnel and rotation we saw. Apparently the funnel we saw was reported as a tornado by an emergency manager, a few miles south of Haven, which seemed to match the area we were in. Ron said he talked to a sheriff who saw the tornado. All right! That makes at least one for us!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Structure Freak

May 11, 2010

I was quite disappointed with yesterday's chase, but realized that high risks were usually impossible to chase. Today was another day... another chance. The gang left Blackwell, OK at around 10 and headed southwest. Our target today was going to be around Lawton to Altus. SPC issued a slight risk with a 5% tornado risk for the OK/TX state line, the lifted index was -12 with 7000 CAPE, and there was a triple point ow in SW Oklahoma. There was also a bulge on the warm front. There were some good signs this morning... transverse rolls were in the sky early in the day, pointing the way to the target.

A couple hours later, we decided to make a pit stop at the Cherokee Trading Post to have a look around. We then pulled up into a gas station and saw some of the VORTEX 2 vehicles there. It was getting warmer out and the clouds were breaking up... a very good sign indeed. When we reached Clinton, we decided to pull into Braum's for a quick lunch and ice cream. We saw more VORTEX 2 members there and had a quick chat with them. After that, we decided to go to the K-Mart parking lot and play the waiting game and hang out at K-Mart. A bunch of the VORTEX 2 mobile mesonets were also pulling in, including a couple radar trucks and the MSNBC crew. Then I saw a familiar vehicle... from Environment Canada. I instantly knew who that was - an old chase friend, Dave Sills! I was quite happy to see him since I haven't seen him in quite a while. We chased together once in 2000 after a nasty HP supercell. We chatted for a while.

Holy cow was it hot!!! Sweat was pouring off me like I was a melting popsicle. I decided to measure the temps with my Kestrel... it was about 84 over 68, which was pretty humid. I drank two bottles of water while watching the TCU field build. Dave mentioned to me that a tornado watch was just issued. Perfect! Now all we had to do was just wait for the cap to break. By now, the parking lot was full of chasers and scientists... eagerly waiting for Mother Nature to give us something to play with.

The first storm went up. At 5:05, the VORTEX vehicles took off after it. A few minutes later, we decided to leave as well, heading towards the northwest. Then the storm died a sudden death, so we pulled into a gas station parking lot to wait some more. At 10 after 6 we decided to take off again, since another storm was going up. At 6:30 we took hwy 33 and pulled over to watch the storm build. You could literally stand there and watch as the tower pushed upward, the updrafts were something! I guess with so much instability, it wasn't surprising.

About 10 minutes later, we took off after the new storm. I noticed some transverse rolls feeding into the towers, which would be the inflow feeder bands. We went on a dirt road then took hwy 47. At about 7:08, we noticed a bunch of chasers coming the other way... "hmm what was up?", I wondered. It turned out there was no road that crossed the river. Dang it! So we turned around as well. While we were on US 183, we saw the new TIV 2 and more chasers. While we were taking E0760 Road, our tower was falling apart again. Arrrgg, nothing was punching through that cap! At least there were two more cells behind it, with one of them being about 20 miles away and the other 40 miles away, and approaching 50,000 feet. With a lot of instability, these were going to be tall storms.

We decided to head back on hwy 183. We saw one of the VORTEX 2 radar trucks scanning the skies. We headed west on hwy 665 and at 7:45, we reached the town of Taloga. I noticed more inflow bands being drawn into the new storm. According to the Baron, the storm was now starting to rotate and was holding at 60,000 feet. I looked at the storm and noticed the updraft was a bit different than most storms I have witnessed in the past... it was titled, narrow and appeared to begin to corkscrew. I had a feeling this storm was going to put on a structure show. we took US 60 to head west to the new supercell, then headed north. A tornado warning was now issued. Yippee let the fun begin!

At 8:20, Ron told us the storm was moving only at 24 mph. Perfect! No more Nascar storms! And we were on time! A few minutes later, we reached the town of Vici and headed towards Woodward. The Baron picked up another rotation marker and the supercell was slowing down to 22 mph. The updraft was gorgeous! It was hard to take my eyes off such a structure. Shortly after 8:35, we saw a brief wall cloud, then a few minutes later Ron and I saw a brief, fairly good sized cone funnel extending halfway to the ground in the distance!!! I tried to get a picture of it but by the time I was able to, it was gone. CRAP! That was certainly a surprise, given the supercell was LP. It was very hard to tell if it was on the ground.

We had to turn around again... the road options were not particularly the best in this area of Oklahoma. By now the LP supercell's updraft was jaw dropping beautiful. At 10 to 9, lightning started to light up near the top of the barber pole updraft. The anvil was still punching hard at the edges. Awesome!!! We headed on hwy 34 and saw chaser convergence. Everyone was out on this storm! It was way too gorgeous, to not chase it, afterall. We decided to pull over for some pictures for several minutes. It was incredible to witness such beauty... the twilight colors, with lightning sparking near the top of the storm, some inflow bands on the east side of the updraft, and knuckles under the anvil.

We decided to head a bit closer to the storm, but now it was starting to get dark out and the supercell was now showing signs of weakening. It was off to Woodward for the night as with a bunch of other chasers. We had a quick bite to eat at Sonic and headed to the motel. We saw the Tradd Tours vans and Warren Faidley at the same Days Inn motel. It was a very good day!!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

High Risk Nascar!

May 10, 2010

Today was looking like a busy day. A high risk was issued from south central Kansas to central Oklahoma, and towards the east. The setup was shaping up for strong tornadoes! One downside to this setup? Speedy storms! I never did like high risks because of how fast the storm motion is. They can be very difficult to chase after, especially if you are not ahead of it. The target? Wakita to Enid, OK for 7:00 pm. The Weather Channel had Greg Forbes on the night before, mentioning there was a risk of EF3 to EF5 strength tornadoes. What is this? Twister? We left Childress, TX in the late morning and headed northeast.

By 1:00 pm, a boundary started to build to our west and the first tornado watch went up for western Kansas. We were going to be aiming for the dryline bulge along the warm front. By now, we were about 80 miles ahead of the warm front and the triple point low was situated near the OK/TX state line. We headed north on I83.

At 1:40 pm, we stopped in Taloga for a quick pit stop. A new tornado watch went up for this area. The boundary that I was watching go up was building rather rapidly. Oh man, things are going to get insane quickly! The cap was already eroding. The boundary now developed into new storm, anviling out at the top. It was quite warm outside, 91F according to Scott's thermometer. We turned onto hwy 281 northeast as I kept watching the new storm develop. New inflow bands were starting to feed into the storm and a precip core started to form. A tornado warning was issued but the storm appeared to be elevated. It will have to move further east to become more surface based. Also there was weak mid level rotation. Storms were also going up in Kansas, which should hopefully produce outflow boundaries that move south into Oklahoma.

There was not a lot of lightning with this new storm, but at 2:30 I saw a CG strike in the distance. The anvil was also backshearing a bit, which was a good sign. We turned on hwy 412 and turned on the AM radio to listen for lightning in the static but there was none.

Figuring we had some time yet and that our storm was not doing too much, we pulled into IHOP in Enid for our only big meal of the day. Well, we ordered our food and waited while Ron checked the models. And waited. Oh sure, we just had to pick a very slow IHOP! We finally got our food and had to inhale it literally because it was now time to leave for the chase. "Eat now, talk later!" Ron mentions. We paid our tickets and took off after the storm which was now gaining strength. By now there was a hook echo near Wakita (dang it!) and a tornado was confirmed (dang it some more!).

At 4 pm, the supercell now had striations in the meso as we were trying to catch up to the storm. Geez I hate high risks! These storms were hauling east fast! About15 minutes later, We saw a back road and decided to take it. Big mistake. It was red clay... with a wet surface. Not good. We watched in horror as Ron's car slid sideways. Then Scott's van started sliding. Crap crap crap! Scott tried to steer the van but it was useless. This was worse than ice! The rear end of the van almost made it into the ditch. The rest of us unloaded the van, figuring that more weight would make things worse. We went behind the van and pushed it. Scott was now free, but it was still very slippery. My shoes were now caked with wet clay and I must have been two inches taller with all the crap under my shoes. Ssshhhlllooop! Ssqqquuuiisssh! I tried walking back up to the main road. I looked up at the supercell, with its beautiful meso striations and I cussed and cussed. I thought I would never make it! Scott finally got the van up to the main road. Then I finally made it. Wheeeeeewww!!!! I can't believe we almost got stuck! One lesson learned... never ever take the red clay roads even if they appear dry.

Now our supercell was getting away. We had to cut through town to try to catch up to it. We noticed there was golfball sized hail in the grass on the sides of the highway. And that was already melted, with temps about 90F and the storm already out of the area, so that meant the hail would have been much bigger. I am glad we avoided the hail anyways, because a cracked windshield meant it was the end of the chase.

We headed to billings on hwy 15 north and cut east to Ponca City. We reached the town of Billings at 4:51. Our supercell was the strongest storm in the alley at the time and we were finally catching up to it. The base of the storm didn't look like much, but we saw a wall cloud on our left which did not amount to much. More large hail could be seen on the sides of the highway in the grass. By 5:20 we reached the town of Osage and our storm was now about 50,000 feet tall with stage 4 windshear according to the Baron. A tornado warning was now issued for the Oklahoma City area.

When we were on US 60, the rear flank was starting to open much at about 5:30. There were a lot of chasers on this storm, on the sides of the highway, behind us and ahead of us. Another wall cloud formed and a brief funnel cloud appeared. A few minutes later, Ron pointed out a possible tornado. It was very hard to tell due to the rolling hills. I zoomed in with my camera and at a quick glance it looked like a multi vortex, but I could not see any rotation with it at all. It fell apart and nothing more came of it. We pulled into a gas station for a quick bathroom break. Unfortunately there was a lineup and only one bathroom. I started coughing really bad due to my cold. Great! I coughed and gagged. I had some crap in my chest that I needed to get rid of. I went to the bathroom quick and went back out to the parking lot. Other storm chasers pulled into the gas station. I was now hacking up a lung! I thought I was gonna get sick. Other chasers and spotters watched me. Gosh how embarrassing! I tried to hide behind Scott's van and hack some more. This was not fun!!! After everyone was done, we left again.

There was another storm to the south of this one now. Our first storm was not doing anything anymore by this point and slowly dying. The storm motions were just way to fast! We took a gravel road south and encountered a shelf cloud produced by the second supercell. A rear flank was opening up and the storm was starting to take a hook echo shape. The meso was not fully organized yet, so we stopped on the side of the road to watch it and take pictures. The low level winds were screaming into the meso which had slight rotation and I could hear the rear flank winds howling above. Then all of a sudden, a white funnel cloud formed. "Yes yes! Drop! Come on you can do it" I exclaimed at the storm. Yep I am weird, I tell storms what to do! LOL! I was getting excited, since this reminded me a bit of the tornadic supercell I saw in 2006, with a nice green lush field before it. The funnel cloud was beautiful actually, changing shape and twisting about. Then it fizzled. Noooooo! The surface winds tore it apart!!! Talk about luck or what, sheesh!

A police deputy for the Osage Indian Reserve drove up and asked if everything was okay. I reported the funnel cloud to him and he said the storm had dropped a couple tornadoes before and was keeping an eye on things. We chatted for a bit. He was a very cool guy! He had his dog in the back and she poked her head out and sniffed my hand. One of the reasons why I love the alley... the people are very kind! Then he was off on his way again. The supercell was not doing much anymore at this point, so it was time to call off the chase. It was kind of disappointing today because if these supercells had been moving much slower and storm motions not so insanely fast, there would have been much better photogenic storms and tornadoes. Also the fact that our series of unfortunate events did not help us and the storms fired much earlier than expected. At least we managed to get something out of it.

We headed north to Blackwell, OK at a Super 8 for the night. It was a very crazy day.

Travel Day

May 9, 2010

Today was another travel day. We worked our way northeast to get in position for Monday's setup.

On our way we had crossed into the moisture return flow... dense fog was everywhere! I could see nothing but fields, disapearing into the distance. The bases of wind turbines could only be seen, with the tops fading into a blanket of white. Moisture!!!

We stayed in Childress, TX for the night. Hopefully the stratus cloud deck burns away in the morning tomorrow! I checked the models once again. This setup was looking epic! Unfortunately it appeared it was going to be fast moving. SPC issued a high risk.

Alien Sightings!

May 8, 2010

Today we were going to try to make a trip to the UFO crash site near Roswell and visit downtown Roswell. We went down a dirt road, and parts of it were covered in white gypsum rock, the stuff that drywall is made out of. Unfortunately the road we took eventually became a dead end. The UFO crash site was now private property and closed to the public. So we went off to Roswell and looked around the shops. I bought a little green alien dude for the front of Scott's van. Perhaps we finally would be seeing storms soon now that we have a mascot!

We then decided to take a trip down to Carlsbad Caverns. The mountains and hills were very beautiful in this area! Unfortunately the Caverns had just closed. Do'h! So much for that. We decided to take one of the short hiking trails while we were here to make some use of our time. It was very scenic here!

On our way to Hobbs, NM for the night, we saw gravity wave clouds which were kind of neat. Later that night, I checked out the models once again and the SPC issued a moderate risk for day 2. Tomorrow we were going to be working our way northeast again. Unfortunately I was coming down with a cold, I had a sore throat and runny nose. Oh how wonderful!