Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Back at home

I drove home over two days Monday and Tuesday- I did briefly go up into southern OK on Monday afternoon to view a junky looking severe squall line, but it did not even present any good photographic opportunities.

It was a great season overall, the only really disappointing day was June 9, since we missed the multiple tornadic event near Hill City, but we did see one tube that day anyhow. I got a ton of great photos, some pretty good video, and met a lot of chase friends along the way. Looking forward to hurricane season, and next Plains chase season. Next it's off to Chicago and Wisconsin Dells for the ACE Coaster Convention- I was going to watch to see if there would be any chase opportunities this coming week as well, but the models are showing a "death ridge" which should confine chasing to the far northern and NW Plains, so this is likely it for me for supercell chasing this year.

For pics of June 10 and 11 in the Texas panhandle, go here

Mike Umscheid wrote good summaries of those two days, along with June 12- just visit his blog link at the right side of this page.


Monday, June 13, 2005

June 11-12

Not a real log- will do that later. Short version, we missed the weak tornadoes near Wayside, TX on the 11th, we were on the tornado warned storm near Amarillo.

The next day we saw 8 tornadoes SE of Lubbock, TX near Claremont and Jayton.

Photos here


Saturday, June 11, 2005

June 9 log

We started the day in North Platte, NE. We decided that the best storms would be to the south in far SW Nebraska or NW Kansas. So we went to McCook, NE and looked at data while having lunch. Then we saw that storms were developing very near us and also in KS. Then we made the decision to see what the storms near us were doing- we went east and saw a supercell to the west near Indianola, but it did not look all that great, despite having a tornado warning. So we dropped south to near Norton, KS, and saw a flat base to the west, which was also tornado warned, and supposedly had a tornado sighted. So we went west to view it, but again were not overly impressed. By now we were hearing the reports of the tornadoes with the storm to the south, so we bagged the Norton storm and blasted south to HLC- but by now we were missing the REALLY big shoe to our east, so we made the decision to not try and get around the beast, and drop south to a newly tornado warned storm in Trego county. When we got to the Interstate, we immediately viewed great structure just to the west, with one rotating wall cloud a couple of miles due west. We stopped (but Jim L kept going- I would have also if we had not been on the interstate, I was afraid of getting trapped and nor being able to turn around). Right after we halted, a small nub funnel developed to the left of the wall cloud and soon after an elephant trunk tornado formed. The contrast was only fair, but I did get tripoded video of its entire life cycle- and we did see a debris cloud. After about 9 minutes the tornado wrapped in rain and weakened, but it did cross the interstate, knocking semis off the road- OF Jim Leonard actually drove right through the F0 vortex getting great video. In hindsight I wish I had gotten up the road a piece, the contrast was much better a mile or two down the road, and there was no hail as I had feared.

Next we played hopscotch with the rotating wall cloud to the NE of the old meso, but it never produced anything more that a few dusty weak spin ups, and we blew it off after about another half an hour, We then headed south towards DDC, stopping to get a few nice sunset/mammatus pics.

I am disappointed we missed probably the show of the year, but at least we were not completely skunked, and this is now officially the only time I have seen good tornadoes three out of four days.

Photos here


Friday, June 10, 2005

June 3-8 log

After dropping Betsy off at the airport, I decided to go to LIC and see if some storms would fire again in eastern CO- but after sitting in the library for a few hours, it became evident that any convection would not be supercellular, due to the lack of moisture. So I made the decision to blast east to stay with Ken Dewey at his house in Lincoln, since the next day looked to be good in that general vicinity. As it turned out, I should have paid more attention to the situation close to the vort max and surface low in the area from the northern TX Panhandle to SW Kansas, as there were several mini-supercells that produced tornadoes near Ness City, KS and Perryton, TX.

The next day, it became fairly obvious that Kansas was going to ground zero for any tornadic action- and SPC came out with a high risk over a large area. Ken took his equipment and piled into my CRV. and we headed SW. Upon getting into the Junction City, KS area on the interstate, we ran into a horde of chasers, including the Minnesota Twister Sisters, with National Geographic film crews in tow. We looked at data for an hour or so- storms began to fire along an old outflow boundary from NE to SW. We made (as it turned out) the fateful decision to not go after the first echoes to our immediate NE, and head south to the area NE of Wichita. After sitting east of McPherson for a spell, we could see on Ken's ThreatNet that there was explosive development about 30 miles due west of us, so we blasted in that direction. When we approached the storm we could see that it had a flat flared base, it had that "tornado look" to it, but it was at that point that the day started in a downward spiral. A small storm immediately to the east was evidently interfering with our cell, so despite a few wall clouds and attempts at tornadogenesis, the whole thing congealed into a messy blob, so we than decided to blow off this area and try and intercept new storms east and NE of Wichita. We drove to Emporia. where we could see on the radar a broken line of many small supercells off to the SW, but visually none of them looked that impressive as we headed south ahead of the line. At a point about 30-40 miles south of Emporia, we decided to stop and look at a cell with a decent base off to the west. When I got to a place where I could view through the trees, I immediately saw a distant long elephant trunk funnel. pointed sideways then halfway to the ground, The contrast was horrendous, and the storm was at least 20 miles away, so i got basically no video and I could not confirm if this was actually a tornado. It vanished from view after another few seconds.

That basically ended our chase- and then we heard about the large tornado some folks caught with that initial cell we blew off in NE Kansas- oh well. Then began the long trek back to Lincoln, got in about 1 AM.

This day began with one of my famous brain farts. I had been in contact with my partners for the rest of the season, Jay Antle and Mike Umscheid. We saw that York was a good place to rendezvous, as this was going to be a set-up day for the Monday target of SE Montana. However, when I pulled into the truck stop in York, I made the nasty discovery that I had left my laptop in Lincoln...doh! I called Ken, and sure enough, my computer bag was in his hallway. I decided it was too difficult to go back too pick it up, I would rely on using Mike's computer for a few days, and I could go back to Lincoln later and pick it up, or meet Ken on the road and get it. So we started the long journey to our hotel north of Rapid City.

The next morning it still looked like SE Montana was the play, Mike picked out the small town of Ekalaka as the target. We went NW and stopped in Alzada, MT for a while, then decided to go north towards Ekalaka on a gravel but fairly decent road. After about 50 miles, we began to see two storms off to the west and north, the southern cell began to look interesting. and after following it for a few more miles, we saw that it had become a raging beast of a storm with awesome tiered structure and a menacing wall cloud. We were just south of Ekalaka at that juncture, and set up the tripods to record this monster. Then we decided to head north into the town, and of course the minute we started out, a small elephant trunk tornado formed off to the west. I frantically tried to stop and get a view, and did video the ending stages of this approx 1 minute duration tube. After it dissippated, we noticed a high spot near some propane tanks, and noticed a car of chasers there already- it turned out to be the Verkaiks from Canada. After setting up the cameras, the old occluded meso back to the west and northwest produced two more tornadoes- another elephant trunk and a longer lived truncated cone with condensation halfway to the ground, but there was no doubt that there was circulation to the ground. We then decided to leave, as the tornado appeared to be dissipating, and rain was obscuring it besides. This may have been a error, as later I saw a rope out funnel back to the SW in the rain.

The next few hours was spent staying out in front of a picturesque shelf cloud and raging squall line as we went north to Baker, MT (where we saw Roger Hill, who else), then east to SW North Dakota, then back south to the same hotel in Spearfish . A very good day, the first Montana tornado for all of us.

Tuesday dawned with hope for another great day, and as it turned out it was. The data showed a strong signal for supercells in the SW part of South Dakota, so off we headed to the area SE and E of Rapid City. A on the road glance at the satellite and surface showed a convergent area near Pine Ridge, so we planned out a route to that area, and as we pulled into Cactus Flat, we ran into a huge mass of chasers we knew, including Bobby Prentice and gang, Charles Edwards and Alnado. The consensus was to head south into Badlands National Park, to intercept two cells now showing up on radar to the SW. A lot of chasers had to pay the $10 entrance fee (a tornado watching charge?), but I used my handy-dandy NP parks pass.

We (along with Jim L and Bobby P) came upon a great high spot overlooking the fantastic scenery of the Badlands, and spent the next hour there with jaws dropping and cameras rolling as two supercells slowly developed off to the SW and west. the southern cell was from the start the meatiest, and gradually took on more and more of an awesome appearance. We made the decision to get closer to the storm, and drove to the town of Interior and dropped south to get ahead of it. As we got closer, it became quickly evident that this was no ordinary supercell, the huge barrel ahead of was was a truly awe-inspiring sight, easily in my top five structure-wise. It was a cross between the 2000 Brady, NE storm and the photos I have seen of the Spearman, TX storm in 1990.

The problem now was that we had left our Badlands spot about 5 minutes too late, because we had to keep driving south to stay ahead of the storm, as we (rightly) though this beast would be producing gorilla hail. After a few miles, we saw a slender funnel and tornado develop, but since we were driving my video is shaky and I got no stills of the tornado. After hitting the east road, we stopped briefly to video the slender serpentine tornado west of us, then got to a point out of the rain and hail to take a few more pics as the tornado roped out. Then we followed the storm for the next few hours up to the interstate, it had great structure all the way, went through many occlusions, but produced no more tornadoes. We barely got ahead of the cell on I-90, just before the derecho from hell blasted east.

At that point I broke off from the rest of the group, as I was attempting to meet up with Ken, to get my laptop which he had brought along while he chased. However, a comedy of errors involving bad cell phone coverage prevented this from happening until 1 AM in ONeill, NE. Ken Then proceeded to hit a deer as he was driving home- my forgetfulness sure caused a lot of hassle.
June 6 Photos here
June 7 Photos here


Sunday, June 05, 2005

June 1-2 log

On Wednesday, we knew the day was going to be down, so we took our time traveling to the north from our motel in Plainview. We were originally targeting NE Colorado, but we wanted to stay a bit farther south in case the SW Kansas area went up. So we got an early motel room in Garden City, did laundry, and relaxed.

The next day was very confusing. SPC put out a large 15% tornado risk for the entire western KS and eastern CO- but I could see from the data that there was a stout cap forecast in KS, and an 18Z sounding in DDC confirmed it. So we started out towards the west, with the intention of chasing somewhere west of Burlington. However, just in case the cap in the area we were leaving broke, we took a stop for data in Syracuse, in the far western portion of KS. It was at that point that we saw strong cumulus towers about 50 miles to the SE. We waffled a bit, and then made the call to go back SE. A short time later, as we approached Hugoton, KS, we heard a severe thunderstorm warning for a cell just off to the south, then a tornado warning was issued. Great! We thought, in this very unstable environment, if a storm is able to break the cap, then tornadoes are a good possibility. We approached the town, and could see a nice updraft and base. We drove through some 1" hail, and decided we had time for a gas stop. Then we went out of town on an east road to watch the storm. But a nasty surprise awaited us as the storm came into view to the north- the cell had a very small high base, and was shrinking rapidly. I got off a couple of photos, and called DDC NWS to let them know the storm was dying a rapid death. However, they continued the tornado warning for 20 more minutes, I guess they did not believe me. Anyway, in about 15 minutes, the storm was completely gone. And we could see that the cap was really taking hold, possibly because the cirrus from an approaching southern stream disturbance was suppressing the heating.

So we then decided to make a mad dash for Colorado, but knew that sunset was approaching fast. We heard about tornadoes already occurring along the interstate, and we thought we might be able to just catch a cell at dark near Burlington. These hopes were soon dashed, though, as we were stopped for speeding in Kit Carson county, (78 in a 65 zone), but the sheriff was very nice and we got off with a warning. As it turned out the supercells had been undercut with outflow already, and the tornadic show was over, and besides it was getting quite dark. As we stopped to shoot lightning, we ran into Dave Gold and company, and found out that the tornadoes we missed were brief and/or rain wrapped, but there was some awesome HP structure, which would have been nice to witness.

It was then time to get Betsy back to Denver for her flight back to Atlanta the next morning. On the way, though, we were treated to a view of a small nicely sculpted bell shaped supercell, illuminated by frequent lightning. Tried to get photos, but the strong northerly wind prevented setting up the tripod without the camera shaking. I did get a bit of decent video.

Then it was off to the motel near the DEN airport.

Matt (photos later)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

May 31 log

We began the day in Dalhart, and decided the best place to be was somewhere west of Lubbock along an old outflow boundary. When we got to Littlefield, we went into the library, and looked at more data. We still thought we were in a good spot, but did see some storms firing near Amarillo, but since the best mid and upper level winds were more down towards our area, so we hung around the Littlefield area for a while longer. Later, further information showed that the target to the north and northwest looked better, so we blasted north. Upon approaching Hereford, a tornado warning was issued, and we could see a pretty good wall cloud to the north, but it quickly became undercut by cold outflow, and since the road network at that time was not conducive for easily following this storm, we decided to target a new cell near Clovis. When we got to a position east of Muleshoe we could see that the cell was a small but nice classic supercell. We hung out for a while and watched it grow into a pretty respectable storm. We dropped south to keep ahead of the cell, and north of Sudan it began to develop a pretty nice wall cloud, but it had a lot strange motion it, never really good rotation. This portion of the storm began to die as outflow was undercutting it from the north, but we could see a possible new meso off to the east, so we drove down to highway 87. Sure enough a new area of interest was off to the north, but it had that undercut/HP look to it. We then began a long game of tag with the storm, blasting SE down 87, stopping every couple of miles to get out and photograph. Near Amherst, we stopped to look to the north where there was a wall cloud with a very nice tail cloud streaming in from the forward flank. Soon a bowl shaped lowering could be seen about 3 miles or so to the north, with a possible brief white cone back in the notch, and we could see some sort of dust underneath, but it was hard to tell what was really going on back in there. Then cold RFD/outflow hit us, and I commented that if any sort of spin up was occurring, it would not be able to sustain itself. Sure enough, I later heard from Jim Leonard, who was right up in the notch, that he saw a brief weak multi-vortex spin up, but because of the undercutting cold air, it had no real chance of it lasting very long.
We continued our trek southeast ahead of the storm, occasionally stopping for some very nice photos of the HP structure. The chaser caravan along highway 87 was pretty amazing, we saw literally hundreds of chase vehicles.

We decided that this storm was never going to tornado due to the outflow, so instead of going into Lubbock and getting hailed on, we went southwest to near Ropesville, and were treated to a spectacular view of the updraft lit up orange by the setting sun.

After a nice dinner at Hub City Brewing in Lubbock (highly recommended, great beer and good food), we went to Plainview for the night.

Photos here


May 30 log

We started the day in Guymon, and determined that the action would be best beginning on the Raton Mesa of far northeast NM and SE Colorado. Upon reaching Clayton, we went north through Des Moines, NM and towards Branson, CO just north of the border. Upon reaching the junction of US highway 160, we ran into Al Moeller and company, and also Alnado. We watched a storm move off to our north and NE- and worried it might tap cold air north of the front, so decided to hang out where we were. It turned out that if we had gone after that storm, we would have seen a nice supercell and maybe a brief tornado, but that was alright, because after not too long two supercells developed- one was a left split LP to the northwest, and another stronger classic right over the mesa. We dropped south to Branson, and the DOWs showed up, so we figured we were on a good storm. Sure enough, the cell took on a very nice appearance as it slowly moved east towards us, with a barrel shaped updraft, and a small but persistent funnel was seen as well. After a while this storm began to take on less of a pretty look, so we decided to move south back towards Des Moines. When we got to that area, I could not really see the structure of a new cell just to the west, and made what turned out to be a bad error- we decided to keep heading southeast towards Clayton. I did see some kind of a storm continuing out the rear view mirror, but because of the terrain, I did not really get a glimpse of the updraft. We happened to be following Alameda at the time- and about 10 miles west of town, he suddenly stopped and turned around. I wondered why, but continued to go towards Clayton. Mistake # 2. As it turned out, the storm we blew off produced a very slender cone tornado- which Alnado saw right after he turned around, despite it being 30 miles away near Des Moines. Oh well, that's chasing.
Before dark set in we went north out of Clayton, towards Kenton, OK in the far NW panhandle. We did see a brief mesocyclone to the NW that had a bowl-shaped lowering and explosive convection above, but the updraft quickly became more linear.

We then called it a day and headed to our motel in Dalhart, TX

Photos here


May 29 log

On this day, because of weak mid and upper wind flow, we decided not to chase, but to hike in Black Mesa State Park, in the far western Oklahoma panhandle. We got a bit of a late start, and when we got there some thunderstorms were already developing to the south and east. However, the cumulus to the north and west had a relatively stable look to them, so we decided to hike anyway, since I thought any storm would most likely move southeast or south. This turned out to not a wise choice, because when we got about a couple of miles down the trail, we noticed that a storm which had been grumbling a bit well to the south seemed to be getting closer. So to be safe, we turned back. Too late, as the storm began to overtake us- so we took shelter on the lee side of a low juniper bush, as heavy rain and hail up to penny size pelted down. This proved to be scant shelter, and we were soon soaked through. So we decided to head back to the car- luckily the storm had no close lightning and we made it without further incident. Finally we headed back to the motel in Guymon to change our clothes and call it a day.

PS, if you are in Guymon, the Acapulco Mexican restaurant is very good, but avoid Cactus Jack's steakhouse.