Sunday, May 29, 2005

May 26-28 log

On Thursday, we did not chase- we just hung out in the Albuquerque area, had lunch with chaser Scott Fitzgerald, and hiked in Petroglyph National Monument.

Friday was a very eventful day. We saw that there was a pretty good chance of supercells in the Las Vegas area- so we took off at about noon, After getting onto I 25 near Santa Fe, we could see explosive towers to the east and NE. We stopped near Bernal as a HP supercell was just to the north- with a menacing shelf cloud heading right for us. I then made a fateful decision- why not see what kind of hail was in this storm- given what I knew about the situation that day, I figured that we would see stones up to maybe golf ball size- and if we got a couple of dents, no big deal. However, this turned out to be a fatal error- as I was indeed right about the size of the hailstones- but not the number. We soon were sitting in a barrage of golf ball hail- which lasted a good five minutes. Luckily the window glass survived, but the hood and top have dozens of small to medium dents, and the tail lights have many cracks. Oh well, that's chasing- and I did get easily the best hail video I have personally shot.

We then could not really drop south easily to keep up with this storm, so we decided to go north on the interstate. Just north of Las Vegas, we ran into another hailstorm- this time pea to marble sized- but it covered the interstate enough that many people slid off into the ditch.

Then we just basically headed for Clayton, as there were too many storms firing up to have any good supercells- but we did get a few nice pictures of the storms over the high prairies- and we ran into two more hailstorms.

Saturday we had a decision- go to the chase party, or chase in Colorado. After looking at the data, we decided to chase- and in hindsight maybe it was a bad decision, but what the heck. We went to Lamar, saw towers to the north, and went to near Cheyenne Wells- heard of a tornado warning near Goodland, but decided that was not worth going after. A storm was ongoing to the north- it was not really a supercell- but was pretty with a rain free base. We stopped south of Sharon Springs, for a half hour or so- and watched the storm until it died, then headed back t Guymon. Not a total bust, since I got a few nice photos.

Photos here


Thursday, May 26, 2005

May 25 log

A surprisingly good day in eastern NM.

We began in Lamar- got a late start but made it to Clayton, NM by about 2 PM. Stopped briefly in the library, and all of the data showed that the cold frontal push would probably preclude a chase in TX, with the only shot being well back in the higher terrain in the Springer to Roy to Las Vegas area. We then went south from Clayton, and the radar showed cells to the west near Springer, and Las Vegas. We decided to head west to Mosquero- and when we finally reached that area up in a mesa- we could see visually that the Springer storm was small, and being undercut, but the storm to our SW looked very healthy, with multiple inflow bands and a flat updraft base. We wended our way southwest from there- and when we got closer we could see a small bell shaped updraft to our south. This small supercell shrank quickly, but we could see a hard anvil edge to its southwest- and as we continued to approach it, it became evident that this was a honkin' supercell, with an explosive updraft, circular base and very good overturning convection in the anvil. This was close to Trementina- and as we stopped to photograph, we noticed a very distinct mid level funnel up in the area of the anvil knuckles. Next we dropped south and stopped again, to witness a dump of precip and a small wall cloud form. This wall cloud did exhibit weak to moderate rotation, and at one point a small wisp of condensation came rising up off the ground beneath it- but we saw no concrete evidence that this was a tornado- we were too far away to really tell. The structure was very nice still, but it was becoming increasingly evident that this storm was transitioning from dry classic to HP.
The road network then forced us to go east and lose the storm for a while, but picked it up on the interstate. By this time it was beginning to weaken, probably partly due to a new storm to its immediate SE. We considered trying to chase this cell, but the road options were bad. So at that point we basically ended the chase.
Photos here


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

May 24 log

We had a pretty productive day on Tuesday in eastern Colorado. We started the day in Burlington, and after examining the data, we decided that we should be a bit farther to the north and west for initiation. We went to the public library in Yuma and saw on the radar that some strong cells were developing to the northwest near New Raymer. We headed west towards Akron (bad road construction on the stretch of highway between Yuma and Akron). Upon reaching Akron, were greeted with the sight of a menacing shelf cloud to the north and west. We went a bit south of town, and set up the tripods as the storm approached. It did have a tornado warning on it at this time, but was obviously HP and outflow dominated. Still, as we watched, a kink developed on the gust front, and fairly rapid rotation could be seen at cloud base, and a lot of dust underneath. Tornado? Sustained? who knows- but it was an interesting feature nonetheless.

We then had to retreat south and give up on this storm, but we could see on the radar and visually that a new cell with a rock hard updraft was to our southeast. So we booked in south and then east towards Idalia. As we got underneath the updraft, we could see that it was supercellular- and after getting by with only a few clicks of marble hail , we were treated to a nice structure show- for a brief time there was a high based wall cloud with some rotation, and some dust was visible underneath- weak tornado? Perhaps. We dropped south for some structure shots as the storm began to gust out- then blasted to Burlington. At that point, after looking at radar, we decided to go east to Goodland, then drop south to catch some tail-end charlie action, We did see some nice outflow features while approaching Goodland- and several downbursts and a few gustnadoes.

We dropped south from Goodland- and upon reaching Tribune, decided to head west. When we got to near Towner just across the border, we could see that the storm on the south end of the line was an HP beast from hell. Luckily we had a due south option at this point, and the supercell was moving due south- so we were able to keep out of its path, It was getting dark at this point, but we did get a few pics and video. When we got to Holly, the structure at this point was jaw dropping- a many tiered layer cake, but it was so dark it precluded any photography, but I did get some video.

Then we decided to head for Lamar for the night. However, there was a severe squall in the way- but we decided to punch the core, as the hail was only supposed to be about 1 inch. near Grenada we pulled off to the side as the hail and 70 mph winds hit- the hail was intense, but not bigger that marble size. After it passed, we headed to Lamar for dinner, where we met Dave Gold and crew in the restaurant.

I will post a link to pictures later.

Looks like a cold front will shut down chasing for a while- so it is off to my uncle's house in Albuquerque for a few days to wait for the pattern to change.
Photos here


Monday, May 23, 2005

May 23 log

Today we started out in Columbia, MO- we knew we had to get all the way into eastern CO-so we got up at 8 AM and blasted west on I-70. On the way we got some data, and the general target did not really change much, so we continued westbound until we got to Oakley, KS. At that point we had a choice- according to out intrepid nowcaster Mike Umscheid, there were storms firing on the Palmer Divide, but after some consultation we decided to target new storms/towers that were a lot closer to us, west and north of Burlington, CO, Upon arriving in Burlington, we observed a supercell wannabe to our NW- it was pretty much rain filled, but has a little bit of structure. At he same time a hard updraft could be seen due north of us on a storm near Wray, CO- and we decided to target that cell. As we moved north, we could begin to see that this was an HP supercell- and at that time a tornado warning was issued. However, we never saw anything that looked to be tornadic- I did get a few decent photos of the structure, such as it was. We followed the storm east towards St Francis, KS, but heard of a new tornado warning back to the west- so we went back towards Idalia, CO. At that time is when we saw a pretty decent wall cloud, that took on a bowl shaped appearance for a brief time. But soon after that the storm died, and after meeting up with Jim Leonard and John Monteverdi we blew off the chase and headed for Burlington for dinner and a motel room. At a steakhouse in Burlington we met up with Cloud 9 tours as well. We are staying at the Chaparral Motor Inn in Burlington- a very nice AAA rated establishment, with pretty cheap rooms that have W-Fi internet access.

I will post pics at a later date- nothing was all that great anyway (although we were treated to a nice continuous lightning show after dinner off to the south).


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Interstate blogging

As one of my previous entries stated- technology can be a blessing as well as a curse- right now as I type this we are hurtling down the interstate at 70 mph (I 24 near Paducah to be exact), thanks to my Cingular GSM data connection (wireless with Bluetooth). This is the first of what should be daily entries during my chase vacation.
Tomorrow looks like the destination is still Colorado, but looking at the latest models, Nebraska needs to be watched as a target also. We are planning to drive as far as possible tonight- to maybe near Kansas City, reevaluate the situation there, and leave tomorrow morning westbound.


Friday, May 20, 2005

Almost time to go out!

Well, this coming Sunday is when our official chase vacation begins- and despite what looked like a rotten pattern earlier in the week, the upcoming situation now appears to be at least somewhat favorable for supercells in the upslope areas of the High Plains, most likely beginning on Tuesday, and lasting for several days. Luckily it now looks like the "death ridge" in the West will flatten enough to allow westerly flow in the mid and upper levels- and if this is co-located with moist upslope surface flow- then we could see a few productive days.
I did go out chasing this past week- saw the nice supercell in Grand Island on Tuesday, but busted on Wednesday. Still, it was a nice opportunity to test out some new equipment and my new chase vehicle (a 2005 Honda CRV).


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

How close is too close?

In case you did not hear, this last Wednesday in the Texas panhandle near South Plains, a fairly large number of chasers had their vehicles battered and in many cases totaled by baseball and larger hail. This type of incident has been increasing over the past several years, where more and more chasers have been finding themselves in pretty hairy situations. This is a result of having that desire to "get up close and personal" in order get that ultimate video of houses blowing apart, or debris swirling around in very close proximity...this hobby has really become a lot more of a pure thrill seeking endeavor than it used to be. The reasons for this are multi-faceted- but I think the main one is just plain old envy. We are all human, and envy is a very natural emotion. So as we all continue see a constant barrage of very spectacular video of up close tornadoes, or baseballs shredding buildings and trees, the natural tendency is for us to want to take whatever risk is necessary to not be left out- somehow I think that our sense of worth as chasers is now tied into how far we can push the envelope, instead of just chasing in order to simply enjoy the beauty and majesty of the overall chase experience.

I am not saying that I am personally not guilty of some of the above tendencies- last May 29 we were on the incredible supercell near Concordia, KS- and saw unbelievable structure and at least 5 tornadoes. However, down to the south at the same time, chasers were getting even more spectacular footage of multiple highly visible tornadoes- and when I found out about this I became angry, despite just having one of my best chase days in my career.
All in all, however, I have always been one of the more cautious chasers out there- since 1990 we have only lost one windshield or window to large hail- and that was in 1991, Contrast this to some who regularly have two or three replaced every season. Also, I have increasingly become more and more interested in the photographic aspect of chasing, as opposed to simply shooting video. To me, capturing a spectacular "mother ship" storm in the setting sun is every bit as exciting as catching just about any tornado. When we failed to get east in time to see the spectacular sunset view of the Grand Island supercell a week ago, to me it was almost as bad as missing a wedge.

So where are all these trends (including the ones discussed in my last post) leading chasing? I am getting more and more afraid that the first non-driving chase fatality is not too far around the corner, as the increasing hordes continue to try and one-up each other.

Does this mean I am telling other chasers what to do? No, it is a free country and everyone has their own goals and ambitions. As long as you are not endangering others through reckless behavior, then go for it, but be aware of the dangers involved. But from a personal standpoint I will continue to be cautious in my approach to chasing- and I will always try and keep perspective and enjoy getting a Plains sunset photo with mammatus and a windmill as much as catching the "big one".