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


1 comment:

Jeff said...

I was right in the middle of the 1990 Spearman, TX tornado. It was truly awe-inspiring. 17 separate funnels touched down that night. You could see numerous funnels continually coming down and back up into the clouds. A friend of mine and I were driving around the southwest side of Spearman, and a funnel touched down a few hundred yards from us. Eventually that funnel touched down and ravaged a John Deere dealership but missed the city. Despite the severity of the storm, Spearman did not really sustain a direct hit, although there was $5 million in damage.