Recent Storm Chases
Recent blog posts
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- For Sale: Storm Snob DVD
- World Traveler
- Ode to 2012
- Latest installment of the Bag of Crap from Woot
- Incredible end to April!
- Weekend Success: 9 tornadoes between April 13 and 14!
- Tornado Outbreak Likely Friday and Saturday!
- Incredible November Tornado Outbreak
- Chase Forecast November 7, 2011
Started this day by leaving work around 1:30ish and meeting up with Cory Watkins around 2 at my apartment. Turns out we should have just sat there for 2 hours and we would have witnessed a large tornado going through Norman.
We headed west on State Highway 9 and intercepted the storm originally near Amber. It looked mostly outflow dominant when we got on it, and didn't have its act together at all. The hail was intimidating, so we stayed our distance back.
We followed it east as it seemingly turned right and started showing a decent hook echo on radar. Visually, the storm never looked super great, even from the Riverwind Casino parking lot about 10 minutes prior to producing a tornado a mile north.
The GFS had been showing a potential outbreak for the Thursday-Sunday time frame for almost 10 days, and had really started showing Saturday the 14th as a big day almost 5 days out. The SPC maxed out the probabilities, going with a Day 3 MDT risk and a Day 2 HIGH risk.
Naturally, a well advertised setup in the middle of tornado alley in April on a Saturday seemed like every chaser in the world would be out - and it was no different for this chaser.
We headed out, leaving Norman around 10 am and heading northbound on I-35. The original target was near Salina, but Adam Lucio and I decided to head west on US400 out of Wichita towards the Pratt area.
I left work at 11:15 and headed to my apartment to pick up Adam Lucio and Jon Williamson. We were quickly on the road and heading I-44 towards Lawton and then on US-62 west. Cory Watkins followed us as we made the trek west towards Altus. Storms had begun to fire and were starting to mature. We had one cell near Childress, TX and another passing Quanah, TX. The decision was made to go after the Quanah cell, which had a better looking base from where we were located.
A needle in a haystack day is all I can call this day. I had originally thought about a 15% or so of chasing the night before, and woke up with 0 intention on chasing, but I gave the RUC a look in the morning anyway. I rolled out of bed sometime around 10 or 10:30.
The RUC (and the HRRR) were painting a very different picture than the NAM and GFS had been painting all along. Surface observations were also showing quite high dewpoints (mid 60s) along with a northward surging warm front. I like warm fronts, and decided that I'd probably meander up north to see what I could run into but that it would probably be a waste of gas.
I cleaned up my apartment, and loaded up my equipment and hit the road around 1:30pm. A stop off for gas and Mcdonalds had me on I-35 northbound around 1:45 pm. I headed up to US-412 then west through Enid. Storms were starting to fire as I was east of Enid and really started getting going as I passed through Enid. The storms were near Woodward, and in not a very favorable environment, but were going to go into a more favorable one to the east.
As I continued west on US-412 I decided to head up towards Alva, my original target as I wanted to stay east of the Cimmaron river and wanted to be on anything that may fire in the area of favorable environment from alva to burlington back to the southwest towards Enid and Blackwell.
As it turns out, a storm did fire just northwest of the radar site near Burlington, OK. I decided to go after that as it seemed like the best bet. This turned out to be the storm of the day.
It looked good at first, with a decent wall cloud as I went through Cherokee, then it seemingly fell apart for awhile before finally organizing southwest of Manchester. A decent wall cloud dropped with decent rotation, so I continued following east. The storm took a hard right turn, almost moving SE, so I had to keep dropping south and east to keep up.
I had the day off as I was getting ready to pack for Indonesia, but the severe threat to areas of Oklahoma City and to the northwest into Kansas were quite good, and definitely worth a drive to possibly southern Kansas.
I finally finished packing and getting ready for my trip around 3 pm and loaded up the truck and headed north. Storms were already starting to fire soon after I left the OKC area and headed up I-35. Brandon Sullivan was on the storms as they went up near Dodge City, and most definitely experienced some of the worst of the damage as 80 mph winds blew apart structures and brought tree limbs down.
I headed towards Enid then northwest to Cherokee and the Kansas border. I ended up setting up right on the Oklahoma/Kansas border north of Amorita, OK and shot video & pictures of the shelf cloud coming at me. Because we've been so dry, it brought with it quite a lot of dust.
I stayed ahead of the storms and shot quite a few shelf cloud pictures, and some lightning pictures once it started getting dark. They can be found by clicking the photo gallery link above.
I returned to Norman as the storms were rolling in, and set up on the west side and shot a few more lightning pictures before calling it a night as I had a lot of traveling to do the next day.
JR Hehnly and I woke up dead center in the target area in York, NE on Monday morning. We slept in as we knew it'd be a long drive home after the chase Monday evening.
After looking over models in the morning and getting breakfast at the Hampton Inn, we decided we liked where we were and didn't want to move very far from York. Eric Treece showed up, and hung out with us in the hotel lobby. We eventually got into the car and gassed up and went and hid on the west side of York on a deserted road and waited.
We waited all afternoon, resisting the urge to chase after the bait which was producing multiple tornadoes from I-70 in Kansas northward to Kearney. As the tornado icons kept popping up, the thought we had made the wrong decision kept coming to the top of our minds. Our reasoning was pretty sound - Stay in York, and anything that fires that far east should move north or even northeastward and tap into the low 70 dewpoint air with east winds at the surface.
More storms had fired down near Salina, so it seemed inevitable that storms would fire and fill in and move off the boundary visible on Hastings, NE radar. Eventually we decided to move a little west on I-80 as more storms were going up near Grand Island. We didn't go too far, just getting a little past Aurora before getting off the Interstate and heading south a couple of miles to watch the storms fire to our south.
The one going up near Clay Center was looking the best on radar, so we headed back east to be in position to intercept. We sat and watched the wall cloud mature, and then a funnel form. That dissipated and the storm cycled. In that time frame we headed back north towards I-80 and had to wait for the one lane bridge over the highway. Once we got through that, we went up to US34 before heading east a short distance. A long needle rope funnel was coming out of the side of the wall cloud, and we stopped and snapped a few pictures before it dissipated.
Much as the previous chase on June 11, J.R. and I decided at about 1 pm on a Saturday to chase the following day in Colorado. I had approval to take a half day on Monday morning, and so did J.R. and Colorado was again looking like the hot spot.
An hour or two later we were on the road to Colby, KS where we had made hotel reservations again at the Hampton Inn(Very nice Hampton, BTW!).
As we drove up I-35, we drove past towering cumulus which blew up further into thunderstorms south of Wichita as we got into Wichita. We kept looking in our rear view mirrors asking ourselves why we were continuing to drive north instead of turning around and chasing.
We kept going north, but that storm did go on to produce a nice funnel and possibly a brief tornado northwest of Tulsa.
We continued north to I-70 then west, running into storms and a nice shelf cloud as we got to Wakeeney, KS. The backside produced some amazing rainbows, and we stopped a few times to try and capture that.
Eventually we got into Colby, and we first went in search of food. We first went to Montana Mikes which closed at 10. It was 9:45 so we decided to not walk in last minute. We drove around to survey the town, then decided on the Mexican restaurant in the Comfort Inn. We figured they'd be open later, being in a hotel at all. Nope. Their closing time was 10 as well, but at 9:55 they gladly welcomed us in with open arms and made us a very good meal. We tipped well, and I would highly suggest anyone reading make a visit to that restaurant in Colby.
We ran into Reed and the Discovery crew on our way to the hotel, and stopped by for a few minutes to chat, then headed to our hotel. Again, what a nice Hampton Inn. Highly recommended.
I started off this day with high hopes of leaving work early, but as the morning and early afternoon progressed, I was starting to hope for being able to leave on time or leave at all to chase. Needless to say, it was very frustrating to watch a wedge tornado happening 20 miles from your location and being unable to chase it.
Around 4:30 my boss gave me the green light to hit the road, so I raced down to Chickasha by SH-9 to I-44, arriving with about 5 minutes to spare before the Chickasha tornado touched down. I missed the initial touchdown as it was obscured by a hill, but I was able to quickly get into position, get a camera tripodded and start shooting stills.
Video from the Chickasha, OK Tornado
I followed the Chickasha tornado which morphed from a cats tail tornado to a stovepipe to a wedge all the way up 277/SH9 through Blanchard where it became obscured by rain. I finally bailed at the turnpike spur, and headed east to try and intercept the other cell going through Goldsby.
I encountered torrential rains and fast outflow winds which blew my car from the right lane almost into the left ditch on SH-9 as I neared Riverwind Casino/I-35.
I raced north on I-35 then east on SH-9 again to see if I could see anything on the southeast side of Norman. I observed a wall cloud but nothing more, and raced up 48th SE to Franklin, then over to 120th up to I-40. I jumped on I-40 eastbound and observed the most beautiful elephant trunk crossing I-40 near McLoud Rd in Shawnee.
The tornado hit a semi trailer and spewed debris into the air, some of which was falling on my truck as I was pushing east on I-40.
I didn't especially expect to chase on this day. It was a lazy day most of the day, and I slept most of the afternoon, waking up finally around 4:30 or 5pm and getting up. I noticed a storm was going south near Ardmore, and decided to grab a quick shower and jump into the truck.
By the time I got outside, storms had started going up over Norman and just slightly south. I had hardly any gas left in my tank, as I had just gotten my truck back from the body shop the previous afternoon. After fumbling with a bit of my equipment I was on the road and south on I-35 towards Purcell.
I got off at Purcell and stopped at the gas station to fill up and Rain-X my brand new windshield. The southern storm at this point became Tornado warned, and reports started popping up from tornadoes down south, and the storms to my east were looking very good and starting to show echos on radar.
I took SH-39 east towards Asher. Just before getting to Asher I got under the base of the storms I had been watching firing up, but they really didn't look all that impressive. The storm to its south near Stratford was showing better VIL on radar, so I decided to drop south to that storm.
Just as I positioned north of Stratford, the storm became tornado warned. Within a few minutes, it started developing a wall cloud to my southwest, directly west of Stratford with a nice inflow band into it.
Eventually I positioned just east of Stratford, and south of Highway 19 and watched the storm wrap up pretty well. Inflow into the storm was becoming a lot more rapid, and the low level mesocyclone had developed a pretty intense rotation. I dropped south to E154 Rd which paralleled SH-19 1 mile south. RFD had begun wrapping around the storm, and I shot east to see a funnel coming down to my due west. A few seconds later a brief multivortex spin up happened just northwest of me in the field. Two vorticies danced with each other in the field for a brief (less than 15 seconds) moment.
I started off from Norman around noon. We were getting some much needed rain, and had to load the car in a downpour. My original target was Jacksboro, TX but I amended it to around Graham, TX once hitting the road.
I got on the road around noon, which was about the time I wanted to depart. I shot down I-44 to Wichita Falls and then down US281. I made it to Graham, where I topped my tanks off and applied some Rain-X.
The first storms of the day had already fired, and I knew I needed to get down as they were riding right along the Dryline/Warm Front boundary intersection.
I raced south on 183 to some back roads towards Moran. FM 576 was closed, so I had to take some dirt road detours.
I eventually caught up with the storm near Moran. It had a nice organized wall cloud and even started rotating pretty significantly, however, the wall cloud was obviously not going to organize.
I decided to bail southwest towards the next cell which was coming out of Abilene. I took some back roads down to I-20 and as soon as I got on I-20 just about 4 miles east of the storm over Baird, I saw a tornado report come into my WDT e-mail box from Connor with a picture of a nice rope tornado. At first I thought they were still on the cell I had just bailed on, but then realized they were on the storm I was heading towards.
Once I got to US283 in Baird, I exited and shot north past all of the chasers. The wall cloud was due north of me, and moving to the east. I slowed down and let it pass, then continued north. My original plan was to get north a couple more miles and catch the east road option which was risky, but seemed doable. Somewhere, short of the east road option, debris started raining down on me in the form of tree branches and leaves.