Staff articles & Chasing summaries
I made my way to OKC on Tuesday, May 2, and with Bob C. and Bill S., rounded up five guests from Tour 1 and Tour 2 for a chase into northwestern OK. We left OKC really late, at 5 p.m., but that was not too much of a problem as the upper-level support was late and nothing had developed yet. I was hoping that the models which showed early evening development into extreme western OK would come to fruition.
The models that we looked at mid-morning were a bit weak and wishy-washy with regard to storm development near the surface low and down the dry line. It is never fun to wake up and see a downgrade by SPC, but I did not necessarily disagree in this case. I think I told the group that we would be playing the triple-point at the surface low. The instability and shear would be excellent to our east and southeast later on, towards Salina, and we would just have to cross our fingers that the cap would not be too strong.
On this chase day we began in Woodward and observed a tornado very close to Dodge City. On the previous day, we began in Dodge City and observed a tornado that was very close to Woodward. What does this mean?
The look of the sky was not helping too much yet. Chris was a little nervous about chasing south of I-40 in the eastern TX PH, where there had been flooding problems the previous evening. I elected to stick with the NW OK target. We were there, and on paper it was looking about as good as the southern play. We went back north to Shattuck…and north to Laverne. Deja vu! Eventually some towers developed…yes!
After about another one-half mile, we stopped and got out to see a gigantic dust tube spinning rapidly just to our WSW, perhaps a half-mile away. (CR 39 goes WSW-ENE here.) The tornado moved rather methodically to the NNE, and we were able to watch without too much concern for our safety now! I managed a bunch of stills and video — this tornado was quite strong and quite close and absolutely spectacular. What a moment this was!
I made my way east on I-10 and, with the help of Chris, determined that the place to be by 2 or 3 p.m. was Fort Stockton, right on I-10 in Pecos County. I arrived in town around 2 p.m., and clouds were starting to build above the sun-bathed desert landscape. The Storm Prediction Center was not especially impressed with the setup today
We observed a pretty supercell or two on the previous evening along the KS/CO border near Kanorado, and today we left Holyoke and motored north towards the Nebraska Panhandle and the western Dakotas.
This was the fourth chase day for Tempest Tours/Tour 4. We had had a couple of decent supercell days already, but we were still looking for a nice tornado. Today would be the day for that!
Severe weather prospects did not look too shabby on this chase day. In my morning briefing to the tour group in Fort Stockton,TX, I noted plenty of morning storm activity moving eastward through the Texas Panhandle area.
This put us about 8 or 9 miles south of Akron. The action area neared, and the storm did not exhibit a nice, big flat base with an obvious area of rotation, but a thin ropy funnel cloud materialized quickly and a prominent dust whirl was on the ground.
Friday, May 31, 2013, was the last chase day for the Tour 4 group. We had had a very busy and successful six chase days, but we were still missing the nice “cherry on top” tornado. We were in Ardmore, OK, and the outlook for severe weather and tornadoes looked pretty darn good later in the day, not too far away.
I almost elected to call off the chase or hope for something new and easy to catch later, in the western part of the severe watch box, but the storm towers to the east looked good and were not moving east too quickly.
There was another big cell to our west, near the border, and another one to the east, near Alpine. The Alpine storm looked to have a big area of precip with it, AND it was presumably closer to the really good moisture that was headed west along U.S. 90.
Why don’t they just say “…although an isolated tornado is possible”? What SPC writes here is tantamount to saying that a tornado may or may not be possible. A lot of good that does!
So, despite my reservations, I put some trust in the models and drifted east from Cozad and towards the middle of eastern NE. I was afraid of the strong cap over NE, and kept my eye on the area near the surface low near Valentine and Winner.
The setup for severe weather was not especially clear cut, but a weak low pressure area associated with large values of CAPE was forecast from north-central SD northward into central ND.
A very rewarding chase was had in northeastern Colorado, courtesy of a magnificent supercell that tracked east-northeastward right over Last Chance and through Washington County.
This Baca County supercell had been in progress for four hours at least, but it had not produced a tornado in the previous two-and-one-half hours. Low-level rotation in the updraft base continued quite hard. I knew that the cell might indeed produce another tornado, but I certainly was not expecting one.
Another hitch was the potentially fast storm motions from south to north. It would be very frustrating indeed if we made the long drive only to wind up futilely out of position behind a tornadic storm. I booked rooms two hours north of Goodland, in Imperial, NE. This decision wound up being very important.
Today we woke up pretty much where we needed to be — in Midland, TX. A boundary was oriented WSW-ENE a little north of I-20 from Monahans to Midland. With plenty of sun, instability and moisture, it appeared that tornadic supercells might develop near the front during the afternoon.
This was the second-to-last full chase day for Tour 5, which up to this point had been quite successful, with supercell intercepts on seven consecutive days. We had yet to be close to a photogenic tornado, and today offered a decent chance at that.
Crazy, crazy, crazy chase period from May 22 to May 24! I saw five tornadoes on the 22nd in NW KS, two on the 23rd in SW KS, and then ten or more in NC OK on the 24th. On the 24th we picked up the Tour 3 folks in OKC, got on the road northbound at 1 p.m., and were on the prolific tornadic storm in Garfield County (east of Enid) in one hour.
A classic, large negatively tilted upper-level trough was progged to move into West Texas by late in the day today. I wanted to focus on the area just south of the Texas Panhandle where I expected better instability and more discrete, right-moving storms. My morning target was Plainview, updated to Tulia by early afternoon. A steady steam of information was delivered to me via cell phone by William Reid to keep me on track.
I never really thought that I would see a storm like I saw on Tuesday evening. Ever.
On Tuesday, June 24, I watched the same storm produce tornado after tornado after tornado for more than an hour, with two or more tornadoes on the ground at the same time, THREE different times! It was simply unbelievable.
Dean Cosgrove and I caught the Happy, TX, tornado for the Tempest Tours folks on early Sunday evening, May 5.
Like many other chasers, I was not exactly confident in my "target area" for Sunday, even into early afternoon. I liked the southeast Texas Panhandle, somewhere in the Amarillo-Childress-Shamrock vicinity.
Becoming a storm chaser was the natural course for someone fascinated by severe weather and tornadoes since childhood. My interest in storms developed during that time as a result of many days spent viewing dark, ominous Texas skies, and nights spent awake watching vivid lightning from the window of my room while thunder, hail and howling winds combined in a cacophony of incredible noise that shook our home.
Dean Cosgrove and I caught the tornado near Seward, Nebraska, on Wednesday for the Tempest Tours gang. The tornado was large and slow moving, and we had great contrast and were able to set up camcorders on tripods and watch it from 3-4 miles away!
Just a day after the devastating Oklahoma-Kansas outbreak, a strong tornado formed beneath a low-precipitation (LP) supercell thunderstorm at Tennessee Colony, Texas on May 4, 1999.
Hey, why didn't someone tell me about Dakota magic before? I've been hanging out around the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles all these years, waiting for the Holy Grail of Tornados to unfold before me. Maybe I should trade in Amarillo for Aberdeen.
It was Saturday evening, June 13, 1998. I was having dinner with some of the top storm chasers in the country at the Wagon Wheel Tavern in historic Marysville, Kansas. Fellow chasers Carson Eads, Tim Marshall, Alan Moller, Gene Rhoden and I sat down to a late meal after chasing a fast-moving, high-precipitation supercell along the Kansas-Nebraska border for several hours.