Thursday, April 26, 2007

Back chasing!

Well, here I am again after the long winter's sleep....

Last week I began to notice on the long-range models that the pattern for the period from April 21st to the 24th might be promising for chasing. Therefore I arranged to have an extra day off from work in order to have 4 days to chase. However, I did not commit to going out until I found some chase partners- and by the time I decided to fly out Sunday the airfare to OKC had risen to $700- ouch! I still thought it looked good enough, so I bit the bullet and bought the ticket.

The person that was kind enough to let me tag along was Charles Edwards of Cloud 9 Tours- so after being picked up at the airport on Sunday by Vince Miller, (thanks Vince for the ride and the lodgings), I was ready to go Monday. (I wish I had come out Saturday when there was a mini-outbreak of tornadoes).

The target was the Texas Panhandle- but there was a large moderate risk all the way north into Kansas. We headed west on I-40 to Shamrock (the crew was myself, Charles, his wife and dog, Rocky Rascovich, Mike Theiss from Florida and his friend Brad).

After arriving at a Wi-Fi spot, we ran into a decent chaser convergence including Gene Rhoden, RJ Evans. Bobby Prentice and Hank Baker. Jim Leonard called from FL and suggested SW Kansas as a target, but after looking at data we decided to basically stay put.

Big Mistake. The SW Kansas area was the place to be- only one storm of note formed in the Panhandle- a pretty but rather shriveled up small LP west and SW of Pampa, while a cell near Protection in SW Kansas produced multiple very nice tornadoes.

OK, now it was on to Tuesday. We stayed overnight in Woodward, OK, thinking anywhere from Kansas to north TX could be productive. However, the next morning at around noon a large glob of storms formed rapidly from central OK all the way into TX- it looked way too messy on radar to fiddle with. so we made the decision to go into Kansas, where the data showed a stationary dryline and some sunshine to help things percolate.

We eventually headed towards Hutchison, and a small line of storms formed to the west. After getting west of town, we intercepted several cells all bunched together, but they were all interfering with one another, and despite one tornado warned storm with a weak wall cloud, it did not look promising. So we decided to drop south to look at the "tail-end Charlie" before calling it a chase. The storm began to look a bit better on radar as we approached the town of Nickerson- and suddenly a tornado warning was issued because of a spotted funnel cloud. Sure enough, a couple of minutes later we could see the small skinny funnel halfway to the ground to the SW. We entered Nickerson, and our collective jaws dropped when we saw what the structure of the storm looked like- it was a gorgeous striated narrow but tall barrel!

The next move was to find a clearing in the trees west of town- and this was accomplished in short order in a mile or two. By this time the storm was absolutely incredible, and we jumped out of the vehicles cameras blazing away. For the next 20 minutes we were regaled with the spectacle of awesome storm structure and several brief tornado touchdowns from the same rotating area-I took numerous photos and a bit of video.

When the storm got too close, we blasted back through town, but looking behind us it appeared as if the storm was losing its shape. Sure enough, after a few miles we stopped again, and the cell had become more strung out- so as the sun set we snapped a few more pics and headed into Wichita for a celebration dinner.

My one year tornado drought had ended, and I flew home happy on Wednesday, despite a 12 hour ordeal of delayed flights because of the very storm system that had provided the bounty the day prior- Ma Nature's small measure of revenge, I suppose.

Pics are here