Friday, 28 June 2013

Friday 14th June 2013 - Nebraska

Started today in Sidney in the Nebraska Panhandle and we had high hopes that any Supercell that initiated along or near the warm front in North East Nebraska would have a great chance at becoming tornadic, pretty much all of that went to plan apart from the tornado part due to interference with storms to it's South West.

So we left the hotel early, killed the miles on Interstate 80 and had some lunch at Grand Island before taking the North East road there to be in Norfolk (Nebraska) in plenty of time, we found the warm front quite easily and sat there watching towers go up and down for ages. A tornado watch was issued around 3pm and there was already a line of strong to severe storms that had initiated in the morning in Northern Kansas already encroaching into the South west part of the Tornado Watch Box.

So already we had a decision to make wether to sit out the Warm Front play or to head Southwards to take a peek at these storms that were nearing Columbus. What I did was to split the difference, head half way south and keep both options in play and this worked perfectly as half way into the trip south we had explosive initiation along the warm front 11 miles to our East, and with a prefect east road in 1 mile we went for the warm front, our fledgling storm was only about 40 miles in front of the line though so time was very limited.

Initially our developing storm looked like junk with 3 or 4 laminar bands struggling to get anything going but it quickly picked up and as it crossed the warm front started to look amazing structure wise, a beautiful Classic Supercell was in front of us with a layered cake appearance, a nice rain free base and wall cloud appeared and the storm quickly went tornado warned, now the big problem!!!

Our storm was moving at 5mph whereas the line behind was doing 45mph and quickly catching our storm, we had about 45 minutes to see if this lovely Supercell could get the job done, unfortunately it could not and the rest is history with the structure dissapearing within 10 minutes and the whole line morphing into a eastward moving MCS. That equalled Game Over and we headed east to Blair to let the line overtake us as we ate in a nice BBQ Bar with Skip Talbot.

Thursday 13th June 2013 - WY/CO

Started the day in Denver and drove up Interstate 25 towards Cheyenne, then onwards to a small storm over the Rockies near Wheatland. The storms today were having some big problems getting organised, we went to a truck stop that had some great views North and West and watched the storm literally fall apart in front of us spitting out sporadic Cg Lightning. With this storm moving away to the ENE We were contemplating heading back towards Nebraska to get into position for the next days risk when the dying storm hit some moisture and momentarily gained brief supercell status as it trundled towards the Nebraska / S Dakota border areas, so we decided to take one last look, along the way and as we got closer we ran into some dime sized hail covering the ground but once again and for the final time today the storm fell apart (This time for good). Headed towards Sidney for the night knowing that tomorrow's risk looked very good along a Warm Front in Northern and Eastern Nebraska.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Tuesday 11th June 2013 - Nebraska

Started the day in Salina (Kansas) and had a chase target of Alliance to Chadron (Nebraska) Storms were ongoing across the Laramie Divide of Wyoming but waited it out in the North West Corner of Nebraska and our waiting paid off. A small line of storms formed late and broke the cap, at the very end of that line was a stunning LP Supercell between Scotts Bluff and Alliance, went south to be just east of it and was presented with a lovely little LP Supercell in front of us, this rapidly went Tornado warned and tried so hard to put down a late evening tornado. The structure was amazing and getting better by the minute.

We dropped further south to Alliance and missed an east road option that would have given us some incredible structure with inflow tail cloud and stacked plates, the south west road option drove us straight under the base of the rotating storm and ultimately we were too close to get any pictures, took some sporadic golf ball sized hail and left the storm as it weakened to stay in Scottsbluff for the night.

Saturday 8th June 2013 - KS/OK/TX

Had high hopes for this day but was cursing when the new update came through that a surging cold front would be the main focus of storms for this day, not being a fan of these types of set-ups it actually went better than expected with a slow south eastward moving broken line of Supercells and the main cold front much further north, our choice of SW Kansas was a good one and we witnessed some funnel clouds and the best Mammatus I have ever seen at the end of the day in the Texas Panhandle.

We started from Liberal and mooched upto Greensburg for Lunch, the Cold Front line was already firing off near Hays and backbuilding so we sat it out near Meade. A very nice Supercell tucked in just SE Of Dodge City would be our focus and it was not long before this was just to our North West, almost instantly a funnel cloud dropped from a nice looking base between the line of storms.

Just not enough low level shear to get this rocking and rolling and the cows did not seem to bothered by its appearance over the horizon.

After this we did the usual with SE Moving storms and let them chase us all the way back to the Oklahoma Panhandle, with more storms forming a few core punches ensued but we never really found the hail, after moving west towards Canadian it was clear that 2 Supercells that ironically initiated near Liberal late in the day would be the focus towards sunset, but roads west of Woodward screwed us over so we could only creep up towards the Northern side of these storms due to the Baseball and Softball sized hail being reported.

What happened after that was Mammatus heaven with some of the best I have ever seen in the USA.
A simply stunning display to end the day in the Texas Panhandle in the town of Follett.

Friday 7th June 2013 - NM/CO/K/TX

This one will go down as the Quad state storm, it never really got into the Supercell Catagory but was pretty all the same. Had lunch in Texline at a great Amish Restaurant and then mooched west into New Mexico to watch a Storm that had initiated in SE Colorado. This was moving towards us at a snails pace, the western part of the storm dropped into New Mexico, the Eastern Part was already in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Some decent views were had.

This was to be the best part of the structure of the day as these little Multi Cell Storms were struggling, some decent hail was being reported at this stage of the day with some quarter sized hail.

We played around for a few more hours watching Lightning, but knowing that we needed to be in Kansas for the next day we made out way towards Liberal for the night, the next part was a real bonus with a stunning Mammatus Display along the was and some beautiful scenery to take pictures along some railway tracks. To good to resist really.

Temperatures on the cold side of these storms were chilling at about 52f, so out came the jackets.

All in all though an absolute bonus for photography on a very low risk storm day.

Wednesday 5th June 2013 - NM/TX

Started the day in Childress with 3 areas of interest shown on the models, decided the pick the Upslope Regime in New Mexico as the safest bet with Storms initiating over the Higher Terrain of the Santa Rosa Mountains and heading South Eastwards towards West Texas. We drove west and it was not long before we intercepted a huge HP Supercell near Logan (New Mexico) which was on a South East course towards Interstate 40 and the lower terrain of West Texas near Hereford (Texas).

Logan Supercell Below

After letting this beast with its numerous Gustnadoes and Impressive Outflow winds chase us for a while we set up shot at the Caprock Ampitheatre which put us level with the Storm as it closed in, some very close Cg bolts started raining down onto the wind farm near our location so it was off again, Just North of Clovis and with daylight running out we plotted a course to Friona (Texas) where we thought the highest chance of hail would be just before sunset, now the tricky part of trying to find a car wash to put the car under and a safe viewing point to video the near 100mph winds and Golfball to Baseball sized hail. As we drove into town we luckily got the last space of cover and let the Storm unleash, with a full hour of daylight left it went pitch black and the next 30 minutes was spent watching an incredible hailstorm with major flooding and very high winds.

Monday 3rd June 2013 - KS/OK

Started the day in Amarillo with a chase target bounded by a circle from the Western Oklahoma Panhandle to Dodge City to Woodward. Got onto some storms that were weak initially and raining on each other for a few hours near Liberal, this would go on for a few hours before it became clear 2 storms would be gaining Supercellular Status and vied for the top dog billing. We followed the first storm from near Mead Southwards to the Oklahoma and Kansas Border area, it started to put on some great structure but all the time area of rain and storms were going up to it's south interfering with proceedings.

Daylight was fading and we chose to stick with this storm as it started to turn to the east, another Supercell had gone up further south of ours and it was clear even from our vantage point 15 miles to it's North East that this was a stunning classic supercell off to our South West. Should really have taken Highway 270 Westbound as we were on that intersection and intercept time would have been as little as 10 minutes but we carried on eastbound for the insane Cg Barrage our storm was putting out.

The Below image is a 4 second Image at F22

We finally got into Woodward at darkness and ordered some pizza and awaited the Storms out to our west to come over, little did we know that the following display would be perfect for our location, staying on the dry side just to the south of the training line of Storms. It really was like taking candy from a baby with nearly 100 shots at F8 ISO 100.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Friday 31st May 2013 - C Oklahoma

Started the day in Ardmore with a pretty good idea of where the Storms were going to fire today, the focal point was a real giveaway along and near a stationery triple point which was sitting just west of El Reno. Strong wording from the SPC Had me thinking this was a borderline High Risk day and we would need our wits about us today with the possibility of a Strong Tornado or two thrown into the mix. Little did I know that in just a few hours I would be facing the most challenging chase in my life ever and would be witnessing a record breaking EF5 Tornado with a 2.6 Mile Wide Circulation.

After getting to El Reno 3 Supercells fired just due west of there, the northern most was a little LP Supercell just West of Kingfisher and the other 2 were a pair of Classic Supercells, 1 west of Okarche and the other sitting stationery west of El Reno just tucked into that triple point, once again an Outflow Boundary stretched east from El Reno towards the Oklahoma City Metro area.

So today I would not be making the same mistake I made on the 20th May EF5 Tornado and would make a beeline for the Southern Most Supercell and get a good position on it from an early stage.

I took Highway 83 South out of El Reno to take our first decent look at the Supercell sitting about 10 miles to our west, temperature at our location were 84f with dewpoints approaching 77f (A  Scary Mix) and with a screaming sustained 30mph inflow wind from the South East you just knew something big and bad was about to happen, the structure at this point in proceedings was spectacular.

Our location at this point was about 2 miles South of El Reno looking straight west. I then re-positioned us a further 3 miles south to make sure we were keeping south east of the storm as it was moving south east towards us. It was about this time the first Tornado was touching down near Airport Road about 4 miles to our West North West, although we could not get pictures at this stage it was viewable to our eyes over a few hills. At this point I thought the storm was going very HP Supercell in nature and was busy snapping what I thought was precipitation curtains about 1 mile to our west but it turned out this was the whole tornadoes core, the giveaway was the violent motion of the rain curtains and the fact the mesocyclone just popped out of the rain and hail core. So another 1/2 mile re-position south was in order and we then stopped to look straight north. What we saw next was simply amazing, the whole Tornado had widened to about 1.5 Miles wide and was crossing the road from west to east just 1/4 of a mile to our North literally where we had been sitting just 90 seconds earlier.

What happened next was totally unforeseen, the tornado just after it crossed the road did a 90 degree turn from heading east to straight north and the whole mesocyclone lowered onto the ground level from about 500ft above the surface, this made the Tornado grow from 1.5 miles wide to 2.6 miles wide within 45 seconds, the gate to gate shear in this tornado was clocked at a staggering 296mph and the RFD Path was now spreading out to nearly 5 miles in width. The next set of events makes the picture above even more heart wrenching, parked just North East of where this picture was taken were Team Twistex (Made up of Tim Samaras, His Son and Carl Young) and they must have thought they were in the safest place watching a South Eastward moving tornado moving away from them, I can only imagine that when the tornado turned they had about 1 minute to react and thinking the tornado was not as wide as 2.6 miles wide they tried to escape it to the east, unfortunately they could not outrun it and were all tragically killed when their car was thrown by the 300mph winds. Other chasers also had a close scrape with this Killer Tornado with their cars tossed into fields and other lesser known chasers were also killed in this event.

For us and the rest of the chasers the stress was just about to begin with a turn of events that could never have been seen starting to unfold. After the devastating EF5 Tornado just 11 days earlier people were running a little bit scared and what happened next needed to be seen to be believed, a radio station based in Oklahoma City urged all residents to get in their cars and flee south, this created carnage on the roads and the next several hours was almost hell on earth. There were only 2 river crossings south from Oklahoma City which were the Turnpike and Highway 83, all the other roads dead ended due to the proximity to the Canadian River and also the fact Moore was still a disaster zone to the east, whilst we were approaching Mustang all 4 direction were tail to tail cars and with embedded circulations and tornadoes approaching everyone was a sitting duck.

The radar grab above shows our location as the white brick, there were 3 confirmed tornadoes at this time, the one that dropped near Mustang is almost over our location, there is another near Union City to our west and the first original one nearing Moore. With the brilliant help of Tom navigating we somehow picked our way through circulation and rain wrapped circulations and tried to get ourselves out of the panic and carnage on the roads, we finally bit the bullet and blasted North through the bears cage and large hail/lightning and emerged on the Northern Side of the Supercell complex.

The map above from Scott Mcpartland gives a good idea of where the Tornado tracked and also where ours and their location was during this event.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Thursday 30th May 2013 - C Oklahoma

Changeover day at DFW Airport so it must be a Moderate Risk once again in Central Oklahoma. Our last guest arrived and we were away by 230pm, plenty of time to get onto Supercells that were initiating just South West of Oklahoma City once again. After some horrendous traffic around the 820 and I-35 Junctions we were well into Oklahoma and intercepted a Lovely Supercell near Ratliffe City around 5pm. This had some amazing structure, morphing from Classic to HP Supercell and back to Classic again, and ultimately ended up LP as the Dryline retreated back west. It tried so hard to get a tornado done on numerous occasions but the low level rotation was just not strong enough and the LLJ did not arrive in time before diurnal heating killed the storms off.

A great bonus chase day though and tomorrow 31st May once again unfortunately looks like a violent day with a Solid Moderate or Low end High Risk on the cards for the Oklahoma City Metro area, these guys this year just cannot get a break from the severe weather.

Some Structure shots below from the 30th May in Oklahoma

Wednesday 29th May 2013 - Texas & Oklahoma

Last official chase day for tour 3 from what had been an action packed 10 days. Another Moderate Risk this time along the dryline which was situated in the Texas Panhandle. We started the day in Perry (Ok) and went west and intercepted a Tornado warned Supercell near Pampa (Tx) as we approached the storm it really tightened up and a spinning mesocyclone was about 1 mile to our west, a dancing funnel cloud nearly tried to produce a few times but it was clear this storm was losing its balance and inflow winds suddenly switched to outflow and the storm increased it's forward speed from 15mph to 49mph.

We were almost instantly blasted with near 100mph RFD Winds and had to make a hasty retreat to the east, the storms behind us had now started to take on the effect of a bow echo racing eastwards across north central oklahoma.

I then decided to blast through the line west of Elk City as 2 Supercells were near stationery down near to Childress, we got down there in good time and had the tail end charlie to ourselves, it was spinning like crazy but just could not get the job done, we punched back through the core to Clinton to gas up as we were really low and then followed this storm south and east to end the day in Wichita Falls in readiness for the changeover day at DFW.

Tuesday 28th May 2013 - Kansas & Oklahoma

SPC Today had a broad 5% Risk of Tornadoes over nearly 1/3 of the contingent USA, I kid you not. It would have been easier to throw a dart at the map and choose a target location. In the end I narrowed it down to 2 risk areas, the first was pretty much where we started the day, but north winds were nagging at me early and with extensive clouds. The 2nd area was the dryline down in SW Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle. So we gambled and before we could rectify our position and it became apparant that things were changing quickly we were commited to the dryline, this would be the first major mistake of the season for us.

The boundary sharpened up and an amazing Cone to Wedge Tornado sat in the same position for nearly 45 minutes near Bennington (Ks) 5 miles from our starting point along the boundary which we earlier dismissed.

The dryline in the end was complete pants with cold outflow dusty storms with zero structure, shit happens as they say in the chasing world and you would have to be inhumane not to make a wrong decision some of the times.

Rescued the day with some Mammatus and we did get a shear funnel near Buffalo (Ok)

Monday 27th May 2013 - N Central Kansas

Started the day in Kearney with a Solid Moderate Risk with the Set-Up being a stationery boundary with ample moisture south of the front. Our Target area of Osborne (Kansas) was not too far off the mark and we were pretty much the first chasers on the first cells that went up near Smith Centre. It became apparant that the Supercell at the end of the line would become the dominant force and this storm started to move east. We got just south east of the storm and followed at close range into Smith Centre, just to the North East of Smith Centre it produced its first Tornado, a lovely cone that was visible for about a minute before it got wrapped in rain.

We followed this storm further to the east but unfortunately missed the big EF4 Wedge Tornado about 5 miles to our North as it was completely wrapped in rain. Storms then congealed into a mess of cells moving east so we followed them in towards Salina and called it a day.

A decent enough day but a Moderate Risk on Memorial Day Monday in Kansas is not nice with the amount of chasers on the road and on 1 storm. Storm Chaser convergence at it's worst today.

Sunday 26th May 2013 - Nebraska

This day ended up giving me and the team our best ever LP Supercell structure with a simply stunning barbers pole supercell. My target area was around the Thedford area and it looked as though the cap was going to win out when we got to 730pm with towers collapsing every time they tried to organise. But finally 2 Storms broke through this strong cap and extreme instability blew up a storm that looked like somebody had dropped an atom bomb near Broken Bow. The 2nd storm fired literally just east of Thedford so we now had a choice, but my decision was made from just how extreme the updraught tower was exploding. Whilst approaching Broken Bow the Supercell was directly over the road i needed to get east to see the structure so we core punched through the northern part of the storm and took some decent sized tennis ball hail. When we got out of the core and looked back the structure was breath-taking with a stacked plates supercell in front of us.

The other dangerous part of this storm was the incredible Cg barrage it was spitting out, one such bolt landed about 50ft away from us which had us scattering back to the cars. A little jaunt further to the east was called for just to keep ahead of the storm and get ready for the night-time lightning which would light this storm up.

Another drive further to the North East got us a perfect position just east of the storm to watch the insane Cg Lightning it was putting out, the barbers pole LP Supercell getting better by the minute still, this really was High Plains structure heaven and some of the best structure I have ever seen, and in Nebraska to boot. Amazing

Picture Credit Above to Vanessa Neufeld

Saturday 25th May 2013 - South Dakota

Todays risk area was quite broad with Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota all in the mix, but it was South Dakota which had the best parameters for Supercells near Rapid City. We almost got suckered by Nebraska though and stayed with a small cell for far too long near Bridgeport. After it was clear this storm was struggling with mid level dry air we blasted north to Rapid City and caught up with an absolutely beautiful Classic Supercell just east of there. We went east along I-90 And was treated to 90 minutes of structure heaven as the storm meandered south east very slowly, we ended the day in Wall and ate Buffalo Burgers in the town.

Picture Below is from a Tour 3 guest John Finney - Thanks for allowing me to share this image.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Friday 24th May 2013 - Kansas & Colorado

Left Amarillo with a chase target of Lamar (Colorado) today would be all about weakish marginal Supercells and some decent hail to play with. Storms initiated near to Lamar and we got onto a nice little LP Supercell which we followed north towards Goodland (Kansas) It was hard to get excited about this slow moving little storm and ultimately it really did not do much at all most of the day, we decided to core punch it near sunset finding some ecent golf ball sized hail along the way, ened the day in Burlington and at least the next day in Nebraska and South Dakota was starting to look much better for structure chances.

Thursday 23rd May 2013 - Texas Panhandle

Another Moderate Risk day today, but this day would be remembered for insane dust storms, near 100mph outflow winds and a nice dusty tornado near Floydada.

We left Childress and storms duly erupted just south of there and east of Lubbock, we got onto a nice Supercell early near Floydada and it duly obliged with a nice brief dusty tube tornado.

We followed this storm southwards but it was quickly starting to go outflow dominant and HP In nature, a 2nd better storm was getting its act together near Guthrie, but before we left the first Supercell we got some structure shots.

After cutting in front of the 2nd cell near Jayton (Texas) we measured a 92mph outflow gust and had all manner of parts of trees, tumbleweeds and other objects being thrown at the car, it was obvious this storm was heading south at a rate of knots so we decided to leave it there and then and head back north in readiness for Kansas the next day. A fun but tough chase with the amount of dust and lack of visibility and it looks like the Texas Panhandle could be a no go zone for 2013!

Monday 20th May 2013 - Oklahoma

After the fantastic days chasing on the 19th today was always going to be a bigger day for a Strong Tornado. Subtle signs in the morning should have alerted me with a stationery Outflow Boundary draped across Norman and Moore locations just south of Oklahoma City.

Storms today would fire again along the dryline which was just west of Oklahoma City, we went South to Pauls Valley and ate lunch, towers were already starting to explode at 14:00 CDT, Firstly down near Lawton and also near Chickasha. We headed west and it was not long before we were watching our first Supercell of the day to our South West. Whilst watching this an amazing updraught was forming just to our North West over the Newcastle area, this thing was exploding and we watched it for a while. I initially went North towards Bethany after this Storm and was starting to punch through a small core between the storm and our location, just as we were starting the core punch our initial storm went Tornado Warned so it was an about turn on our road and south we went, the main reason for this was the extra 40 or so miles we had to chase this storm out of the Metropolitan area, but still in the back of my mind was that Outflow Boundary draped east to west now just due east of the Storm. We went a further 20 miles or so south to clear the hail core of our 2nd down the line Supercell when we started to hear over the radio of a destructive wedge tornado heading straight for Moore, this was sickening to hear and I knew this Tornado was only going to get stronger as it interacted with the Boundary.

The rest of our chase was pretty non descript with a few attempts at Tornadoes but the day had been soured by that Tornado and the stories of death and destruction it was doing.

I did make some very basic errors this day in not chasing the EF5 Tornado that affected the Southern Oklahoma City areas but everyone agreed that seeing that type of devastation would have probably changed the whole ethos of the tour for the next 9 days to come.

Some Pictures Below of the Damage seen about 1 week after the Moore EF5 Of 20th May 2013.

Sunday 19th May 2013 - Oklahoma

This would be the changeover day between tours 2 and 3 and getting away from DFW @ 12 noon was key to how this day played out. There would be 2 areas of interest today, the first an outflow boundary in Southern Kansas and the 2nd the Dryline in Central Oklahoma. As luck would have it things played into our hands quite nicely with the Outflow Boundary firing too early and out of our reach, as we approached Ardmore the first cell of the day along the dryline fired near El Reno and we caught up with this in the Oklahoma City metro. When we approached the city an ominous looking tornadic sky was all clear to see with areas of rotation just west of Edmond. We took an east option to I-35 and the Supercell really started to crank up at this point, heading east out of Edmond we witnessed our first tornado of the day a beautiful cone tornado heading straight for us.

After escaping east from this tornado the same mesocyclone occluded and dropped our 2nd tornado at a range of a few hundred yards near Arcadia, we got blasted by RFD And made another hasty retreat east. We then took the interstate north east and then a good north option to catch up with the now EF4 Carney Wedge Tornado, which would be our 3rd of the day.

Our attention was then drawn to the tail end charlie which was already putting down tornadoes near Lake Thunderbird east of Norman, I plotted an intercept course near to Shawnee and headed south in good time, we then went just south of the Interstate and the tornado crossed just to our north by a few miles having deviated to the North at the last minute, this was also a Violent Wedge tornado that unfortunately killed people in a trailer home.

All in all a pretty sobering chase day given the amount of tragic deaths associated with these tornadoes, but it would be nothing in comparison to what would unfold on day 2 of this outbreak across much the same areas with the now infamous Moore EF5 of the 20th May to follow.