Thursday, 29 March 2012

May 29th 2008 - Nebraska High Risk - Relived

This makes it onto my 12 by sheer crazyness over memorable chases. Today the SPC Gave out a High Risk over portions of North Kansas and upto Central Nebraska. We started the day in Concordia just on the Eastern Edge of the High Risk Box with a few targets in mind, the first was where we were in Concordia and the 2nd in South Central Nebraska and along the I-80 Corridoor. Storms started to fire near to Lexington and as we had already had lunch in York we meandered are way along I-80 Westbound to approach the oncoming Storms. Our first look at the furthest East Supercell was near Overton a small town just west of Kearney. As we had an ITV Cameraman with us we played in some of the hail, but this put us behind the Storms in the Core region, this Storm started cranking up so we followed a now evident wall cloud staying just to it's west following it into Kearney. Ahead of us we noticed Power Flashes and spotted a Cone Tornado to our SSE, Also just to our South was a Coal Train sitting at Red Lights atop an embankment, as the RFD Winds around the backside of the Tornado hit our location it toppled about 25 of the Empty Coal Wagons and pushed them clean off the tracks. We continued to follow this Storm which was now just East of Kearney and came across sporadic EF1 Damage to the Town. We then punched back through the Core and headed South to reach the I-80 Interstate again. Our Storm was now not looking so good so we reconvened in a Love's Petrol Station just South of Aurora, Storms were firing further South just West of Concordia and we had a decision to make on wether we could make these before nightfall, I really wish we had because the Supercell at Beloit (Kansas) was insanely incredible from the pictures we saw the next day.
After the decision had been made to play around with some new developments about 15 miles to our west we got some Gas Station Snacks and totally took our eyes off radar for about 3 radar scans, when we got back out of the Gas Station with our burrito's and snacks the sky to our west was pitch black, this storm had obviously cranked up in the 15 minutes we took our eyes off the ball, the gas station lights then went off and people scurried inside the Gas Station and into the cooler area (Safe Area). Dave and the others went to their van and I powered up our Laptop to take a look at what was about to hit us, before the Laptop could even come on we went from Daylight to complete darkness with Hail and zero visibility, I lost site off pretty much everything for the next 6 minutes, a wooden shed that was just to my west had dissappeared, a Winnebago just next to me had toppled in a southward direction, about a minute later it had now toppled the other way (Northwards) I knew we were in a bad situation and very near to a tornadic circulation. Finally the light started to improve and I could start to make out the Gas Station awning which was lying on the forecourt in front of me. People started to appear shell shocked and as it became safe to get out of the cars what was in front of us was an incredible scene, cars with smashed windows, the Gas Station had taken considerable damage, 18 Wheel Trucks visible on I-80 Scattered on their sides like a kid had played with them and threw them down on the floor, to my south Powerlines were across the road. I have since seen a video showing a White Wedge Tornado (Very Fast Moving) hitting our location and after the SPC Did a damage survey they deducted an EF2 Tornado at 1/2 Mile Wide had indeed hit our location with winds of 136mph. We made our way to Lincoln where we stayed the night and ate a very sombre takeaway Pizza. Not a nice experience and a few mistakes I will never make again in a hurry. - Video of RFD & Train Trucks blown over

Friday, 23 March 2012

May 25th 2010 - Slight Risk (TX/OK/CO/KS) - Relived

We started this day in Colby (Kansas) and the Set-Up was for an almost Stationery Dryline draped from New Mexico up towards the Western Nebraska Panhandle. Our focus would be Western Kansas and SE Colorado for mostly Hail Producers and Photogenic Supercells, Tornado Opportunities would be limited but the SPC Still had a 5% Risk over the Slight Risk Area.
We ate lunch in Garden City and Storm Initiation occured around 2pm near the Springfield area of Colorado extending down into New Mexico. We went west and watched a few cells struggle as they left the dryline. At around 4pm one cell started to become dominant and began to show Supercell Characteristics, we noticed a Wall Cloud and headed west down a dirt road to position right under the rain free base, rotation was noted but alas no tornadoes at this time. We punched through the back side of the storm and sampled some small hail, we were now West of the Storm just to the South of Springfield, the back side of the storm was beautiful with a full hailbow and hail fog noted. We then punched back through the storm to sit on the east side literally on the Kansas / Colorado Border near Ulysses.
The time was ticking by and it was not 730pm in the evening so only 1 hour of light left, our storm still looked good on radar and in front of us was a very pretty Classic Supercell. Over the next 20 minutes our Storm almost stationery now started to shrivel on radar but new development to it's west created a cell merger. I have been taught by Dave Ewold that cell mergers can quickly bring about a rapid strengthening of the Storm and a quick evolution to tornadogenesis and luckily for us this is what occured. At about 830pm and in the fading light our storm became tornado warned and rapid violent rotation was noted, we headed back west as a funnel cloud started to descend along dirt roads and then a very nice Cone Tornado touched down at 841pm just near the Town of Walsh in SE Colorado. This Tornado which was rated as EF2 Was on the ground for about 10 minutes. We stopped and filmed and took photographs of this before shooting Lightning in the darkness, a great reward for a very long day. That same Storm 30 minutes later was a mere patch of drizzle as everything waned as the boundary de-coupled, we spent the night in Springfield and had a celebratory Pizza and Buds!

Monday, 19 March 2012

22nd/23rd May 2008 High Risks x2 - Relived

After 10 days of total Blue Skies the last thrird of May was shaping up to be an amazing period of weather more especially for Kansas. After chasing for the first time on the 21st since the 13th May in a Slight Risk in Colorado we awoke to this High Risk in Burlington (Colorado). Most of Western and Central Kansas was in the High Risk and our chase target was around the Dodge City area.

The first of these chase days was to be very eventful to say the least, after watching a Classic Supercell just North of Garden City we gave chase, somewhere North of there we drove straight under the Mesocyclone and turned North on a Gravel Road, rotation was become very violent and a brief Cone Tornado Dropped just to our North, we gave chase and about 3 miles further North we passed a Farm with an E-W Dirt road option, the road looked in a similar state to ours and knowing we had tarmac about 4 miles further North we took the North Option.........Doh!

As soon as the Multi Vortex Tornado just to our North turned into a Wedge all of our convoy sunk in about 1 foot of mud and hit the ditch, chase over unless a miracle could happen. Dave took off his shoes and walked the 1/2 mile back to the Farm whilst the rest of us tried to get the 4 WHEEL Drive cars back on the dirt road, everytime we thought we have mastered this back we went sliding into the ditch. Then in the distance a Tractor appeared with a Farmer and Dave churning through the Mud. A lifeline was given and with ease the Green John Deere tractor pulled us back onto the gravel. We had a whipround for the farmer who admittedly did not want anything for his troubles but in the end had made $20 per person x6 and the promise of a Xmas Card from Dave!

We made it back to the I-70 & Were thinking about tomorrow's High Risk when a Huge Supercell initiated to our South near Wakeeney, shall we have a bit more fun before Nightfall, the vote was yes! But this Storm turned out to be a monster and it's Forward Flank was already battering us with Golf Ball Sized Hail before we fled East, As we did the Storm went Tornado Warned and a rain wrapped Wedge was being reported to our South. The RFD Winds we tried to outrun on I-70 Were incredible at a guess about 80-100mph with zero visibility, the only way to follow the road was on the Streets and Trips on the Computer as I could not even see off the Bonnet of the car!

We finally got east of the Storm and set up for some Lightning Pictures before the retreat to Hays in readiness for the 23rd May High Risk. An eventful day with dangerous HP Supercells meant only brief glimpses at Tornadoes were to be photographed but we saw 2 in the end!

The 23rd May started early at about 5am with a Tornado Warned Supercell heading directly at Hays (Kansas) This from forecasted elevated Hail Producing Convection! Not nice being awoken by the sirens and evacuated into the Hallways of the Hotel, some of those Cg's hitting outside in the Parking Lot were louder and scarier than I had ever encountered, I was convinced our 1 Storie Building was going to take a direct Hit.

After getting back to sleep this Chase day would become one of my Best for Tornado numbers in a Day with us documenting 5 Seperate Tornadoes across Central Kansas in an Outbreak of between 55-65 Tornadoes that Day. We got onto our first Storm around 3pm near Dighton and had to punch through the East side of the Storm taking Golf Ball Hailstones, once clear of that a Wedge Tornado showed itself just to our West, these storms were very grungy today, we watched for a while and out to it's South a Satelite Cone Tornado appeared before getting cut off by wet cold RFD. We reloacted further North and just to our North witnessed Tornado number 3 near Shields, this was a huge Elephant Trunk Tornado, 3 Tornadoes in the bag before 5pm not bad and with 3 hours of light left and numerous Supercells Initiating could we hit the Jackpot further.

We went further East towards Ness City and positioned NE Of a very dangerous HP Supercell, our Radars were showing a TVS In there somewhere but it was very rain wrapped and we could not visually see Tornado number 4, we let that storm pass to our North West but as it was disappearing out of sight we did just catch a Glimpse of the Tornado North of Ness City. The next storm in the line was now nearly upon us and with light fading we tracked this Storm Northwards to near the I-70 Corridoor. At about 832pm we noticed Power Flashes to our North West near to Ellis and Got on Video a Power Flash Lit Tornado in the night sky, unbeknown to us at the time was that this Tornado was also the Satelite to a Powerfull Wedge Tornado that was crossing I-70 At the Time.

Pictures of these 2 Days are below in those Days Threads - 22nd May 2008 - 23rd May 2008

Friday, 9 March 2012

June11th 2011 - CO/KS/OK/TX Slight Risk - Relived

Today sees my 4th Chase out of my favourite 12 (In no particular order).
We awoke in Dodge City under very dry conditions as we were behind the dryline, today was the last chase day of 2011 for us and we knew we had to be back at DFW Airport by early doors on the 12th June. The risk area for today was Colorado, Kansas and the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles. We would also need a little bit of luck on our side as we knew the western target of Southern Colorado would not allow us to chase storms easily as their Northward Motion would take us away from Dallas. So we were kind of tied into Oklahoma but as it turned out that would work in our favour not just for Storms but also motion of storms and tornadic storms.
We ate lunch in Liberal (Kansas) and headed South East towards Woodward (OK Panhandle) to an area of developing storms, one storm took off and headed straight into Kansas, we gave this a little bit of a chase but the forward motion would have seen us in Central Kansas within a few hours had we pursued it. At about 530pm we sat tight about 30 miles east of Woodward and played a bit of football whilst watching the radar, one Storm on radar looked very good North East of Amarillo and we could see the crisp top of the Anvil 60-80 miles to our South West, I told the guys this would probably be our last shot of the year and could get a few hours chasing in before nightfall and the long journey back to DFW So the chase was on.
We headed South and then South West, with the Storm moving North East at 25mph and us doing 65mph South West it took no time at all to get within 10 miles of this now LP Supercell.
I stopped us about 5 miles to the North East of the Storm with it's core just to our west, around this time something strange happened to the Supercell with it just grinding to a halt and not moving for about 30 minutes. The Storm finally starting moving again around 7pm and now started to move to the East along a boundary, I got everyone into the Car and went 5 miles back East to a North-South road we passed. At that junction we went South for a few miles so that when the Storm moved east we would be sitting South East of it with a clear view at anything going on in the business end. The next time we stopped the Storm had now become Tornado Warned and was starting to take on a more Classic Supercell look.
A wall cloud came into view and tornado Touchdown occured just North West of Shattuck (Oklahoma) the Supercell was now transitioning from Classic to HP and the Structure was something to behold (See Picture) So we once again went South into Shattuck and then East back towards Woodward. We stopped various times along an East road and witnessed a very nice Needle Funnel which was halfway to the ground. Darkness was rapidly approaching so we followed the lead Supercell east back towards Oklahoma (Perfect for tomorrows trip south down I-35). Further West more Supercells were training along the boundary all moving eastwards. If we could we would have been shooting Lightning all night long but had to cut off at around 11pm as some sleep was needed. Sods law this always happens on or near changeover days but the last days chase had already been a very big bonus so the other guys all voted for beds over Cg's.
A great way to end the 2011 Season though!

Friday, 2 March 2012

May 24th 2011 - Oklahoma High Risk - Relived

The 3rd of my 12 Favourite Storm Chases goes back to the High Risk of 2011 in Oklahoma.
This Outbreak bore a lot of the Hallmarks of the May 3rd 1999 Outbreak in pretty much the same areas and came just 2 days after the devastating EF5 that ravaged Joplin (MO).
After finishing a great Chase day in Western Oklahoma on the 23rd we started the Day in Norman with a general target of West of Oklahoma City firmly in the High Risk area and along a developing Dryline. We awoke to cloudy moisture laden skies and strong winds out of the SE, Some of the guys with us were worried about the cloudy weather clearing but already over the Texas Panhandle and Western Oklahoma breaks were allowing Sunny Skies to develop and temperatures out there were climbing into the Mid 80's. It is not often that whole Interstates were preparing to be closed from 2pm that Tuesday afternoon and businesses closed for the day.
We left Norman in good time and ate Lunch in El Reno, my target area was from around Enid to Elk City and as we left the Subway the first Storm of the day was going up way off to our South West around Elk City, in 4 radar scans this had an amazing appearance on radar already and started to show signs of rotation. We left the Interstate and headed North towards Canton.
Out first Intercept around 245pm had a beautiful Matured Classic Supercell sitting in front of us, strong rotation was noted but it could not get the job done first time around, I noticed on radar this Supercell was already turning hard to the right from it's NNE Course. We loaded the cars up and took a Red dirt road North, we were very close to the FF Core of the Storm so took another Red dirt road East as the clay was starting to get sticky. Along this road the first Tornado dropped to our North about 4 miles away, we documented this Cone Tornado for about 5 minutes at 318pm but knew we had to get closer as numerous vortices were dancing around and the next stage would surely become a Wedge.
About 1 more mile further East we hit paved roads again and took a North to head straight towards Canton from the South, the next glimpse we got of the Tornado now showed it in front of us as a 3/4 Mile wide Wedge. I approached to be around 2 miles to it's South as it just missed Canton on it's North Side. We had a perfect road that ran East and then North East out of Canton to follow this now Eastward moving Supercell. We travelled east and then North East but the Mesocyclone by this stage had occluded. The next town we came to was Fairview, upon approaching Fairview rotation picked up again and a rotating Wall Cloud sitting just to our North West put down a Picture Perfect Elephant Trunk Tornado about 2 Miles to our North West. This was on the ground for about 5-6 minutes and as the Sun hit the lower parts the Tornado took on a beautiful ghostly white colour.
At about this time the weather radio was focusing on a beast of a Supercell about 40 miles to our immediate South that would become the El Reno EF5. Our only option was to punch the core of our Tornado Warned Storm and drive east through Enid and try to get back onto I-35 And then head south towards Guthrie to see if we could get an Intercept, but traffic through Enid and Chaser convergence meant the Storm was outpacing us to our South on it's movement East and we would have no time to get in front and try an Intercept. In these types of Situations when Fast moving Tornadic Supercells are heading for the Jungles of Oklahoma it is sometimes best to sit back and evaluate whether it is worth chasing warp speed Storms in dangerous territory especially as most of these storms were dangerous HP Supercells by now. So we stopped the chase quite early for our standards by about 6pm and headed back through the Damage Path back to Norman in readiness for another High Risk day on the 25th much further east over Arkansas and the Mississippi Delta areas.
All in all though a great day with 3 documented Oklahoma Tornadoes (The biggest an EF4 @ Canton from a range of about 2 Miles) and was pleased to nail the target and positioning around a very dangerous Storm.
Video Clip below of the Approach to the Canton Tornado