RSS

Category Archives: Chase Logs

Chase Log: May 18, 2017 – Waynoka, OK

High risk. Two words that can invoke a variety of emotions depending on how you feel about storms. For a storm chaser, there is some excitement involved, but also a realization that a high risk day means a difficult chase. The SPC categorical risks are not purely based on storm strength. Storm coverage is a big factor as well, and in order for a storm system to warrant a high risk, there is typically a large area of storm coverage expected.

From a chasing perspective, this can mean difficulty in picking a target area, and then even more difficulty in picking a storm when 100 of them fire up at once!

After much debate between three potential targets, I settled on Woodward, OK. Further north along the warm front I figured would be too messy. Further south on the dryline I was unsure if the tornadic potential was as high (this was also outside of the high risk area).

As I sat in Woodward, storms had initiated in SW Oklahoma, and began producing tornadoes. Dang. Maybe I should have gone down there! It’s closer to home! It wouldn’t be long before initiation happened in my target area, however.

The problem was, as storms initiated, they were a mess. I had met up with my buddy Spencer, who I had met on that glorious Dodge City chase last year, prior to initiation, so we formed a 2-vehicle convoy, if you will. We went southwest out of Woodward to get on one of the first storms, but when we got to it, it was less than impressive. We followed it back up to Woodward where Spencer needed to fill up (Dude! Fill up BEFORE storms fire!). Looking at that storm, it was getting interference from additional rain to the south, and at that time I was thinking we should let it go, and in hindsight, that’s what we should have done. Instead we followed it a little ways north of Woodward before deciding it was junk, and we should bail to the tornado-warned storm to the south that was actually isolated.

In order to get in this storm’s path, we had to head straight east on 412. It seemed to take forever to get there, as it always does when you wish you were on a storm 10 minutes ago! It’s frustrating to watch tornado reports come in when you’re still 30 miles out!

Nonetheless, we caught up to it at Hwy 281. I was losing faith in it at this time, however, as it was becoming weaker with each radar scan. I thought we’d be too late. It would require a core punch to take a look at the meso, but with that weak reflectivity, I didn’t even hesitate.

Funny thing happened as I turned south on 281, as a Lexus driving north flashed their headlights at me. I’m thinking, “Yeah, I know there’s a tornado, that’s why I’m going this way!”

I came through the core and saw a rotating wall cloud to my southwest. Still looked promising! It developed a few funnels, then actually became a bit ragged. I thought it would cross the road, but it began taking on more of a northerly direction. I followed it back north, watching more funnels form, and then dissipate. This thing still had something left!

At one point I thought I might be getting into a developing circulation, as wind really picked up out of the south. I believe it was actually just RFD that was intensifying… a good sign.

As I got back to 412, an inflow tail had formed, and a more solid and tight rotating wall cloud was on the western end of it. It was clear at that point that a tornado was imminent! Only one problem from my position… a huge canyon! And lots of traffic! I got slowed down right as the tornado formed, and actually could not see it when it was at its most photogenic point.

Anyway, once I made it to the clearing, it was quite a sight to see! It was no more than 2 miles off the road, just paralleling it to the north! The condensation funnel lifted, but the tornado was still down, ripping trees out of the ground and tossing them like twigs. It was the perfect tornado, as no structures that I know of were affected. It was in the middle of nowhere, or actually in an oil field, I believe. Not a populated area, anyway.

Here’s a video still and a couple photos:

DSC_5590-3

DSC_5591

DSC_5592

A funnel cloud persisted after this, but I believe there was no ground contact. A new area of rotation began forming to the east, but it did not produce another tornado that I know of. I lost contact with the storm for a while due to the road network, and by the time I caught back up it was evident that outflow had taken over, and it was done.

At that point I figured the environment had been wiped out, so even though more storms had popped to the west, I decided to call it a chase and head for OKC to get a steak! There was another storm that went through the same spot where I had stopped that was tornado-warned, but it did not produce.

On the way to OKC I witnessed a spectacular sunset!

DSC_5612

DSC_5699-HDR

DSC_5717-Pano

As I approached OKC I got another treat with incredible lightning contacting radio towers in Edmond! Since I was driving, and wanted to get to Outback before they closed, I did not get any pictures of this.

All in all, I was satisfied that I had gotten a tornado out of that mess of a day, and ended the chase with some great skies. At the same time, I was disappointed that I hadn’t bailed on the Woodward junk earlier, and seen the other two incredible tornadoes that storm had produced in Seiling and Chester. Lessons for next time, I suppose.

Here’s my video:

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 2, 2017 in Chase Logs

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Chase Log: 5/16/17 – McLean, TX Tornado

After the previous day’s chase, I stayed overnight in Pampa, TX, and didn’t really feel a need to move from there when the day started. The dryline was situated just to the east of Amarillo, so I liked my position. I wandered around Pampa, and a little northeast, shooting B-roll and just waiting. Finally storms began to fire to my southwest.

There were a few different cells, so I waited a little while to see which one would dominate. It became clear the northernmost cell was getting cut off, so I went for the one south of it. This storm went tornado warned as I dropped south to Alanreed. It was becoming wrapped up in rain from the storm to its south, however. Long story short, I went a little ways west on I-40 from Alanreed and observed the wall cloud, but never saw a lowering. Once that was completely obscured by rain, I headed back east on I-40 to get out in front of the next storm to the south, which was looking better.

The south winds were crazy on that entire drive, trying to blow me off the road! I knew there’d be big hail on this day, so I wanted to get far enough in front of it before dropping south so that I’d stay out of the hail. I exited onto 273 from McLean. Looking at the map, 273 did not have any good east options if I were to go too far south of McLean. This would mean I’d have to let the storm pass, then come in behind it in order to follow it (storm motion was ENE). So, I took a dirt road east to get to 3143, which would give me an option to go east, and then north again, staying out ahead of the storm.

When I stopped on the side of the road on 3143, there was a funnel cloud forming well away from the core of the storm. Sweet! I was quite a distance from it, but had a good view. It didn’t take long for the funnel to drop halfway to the ground, and then all the way to the ground. Tornado! A beautiful tornado!

DSC_5476

It grew from there into an elephant trunk, and then began getting wrapped up in the rain.

DSC_5479

After a few minutes it had completely disappeared behind the rain. I got back up to I-40 and had a decision to make: continue to follow this storm, which was now HP, or get in position for the next storm to the south. It looked to me like this storm was beginning to gust out (it would go on to produce another rain-wrapped tornado, though), so I went east on I-40, and then dropped south across the border in Oklahoma on 30 out of the town of Erick.

Here I had a great view of this beast of a supercell!

DSC_5530-HDR-Pano

I was struggling just to stay standing upright, as inflow winds were quite powerful! I ended up holding this position as the storm overtook me (once again, limited east options here). It was tornado-warned at this time, and radar indicated rotation. I was just about to drop south to escape the RFD when I noticed inflow bands picking up. I decided to hold my position.

RFD was beginning to overtake me, but no hail luckily. It was difficult to find the rotation, but I noticed it in the rain curtains. Strong left-to-right motion in front of rain feeding in from right-to-left. I kept my eyes locked on this area, and after 30 seconds or so, there was a brief spin-up of dirt/debris right where these circulating rain curtains were. Tornado from the bear’s cage! I was probably a mile away from it.

After that the heavy rain and RFD really hit, and I became blinded. Not knowing if a full-blown tornado had formed at that point, I slowly scooted north. I’d have to get behind the storm and catch back up on I-40.

Just south of Erick, at the location where 3.5″ hail had been reported, I stopped to pick up a couple big stones! I’m sure I could have found bigger had I looked, but I just grabbed a couple real quick. Also bear in mind, that these had been sitting on the ground for several minutes, getting rained on, and surely had melted a decent amount.

18518175_10212655351689326_4842786775418709424_o

Nothing like getting to see big hail without being hit by it!

I came in behind the storm on I-40, again taking care to avoid the big hail. I’d proceed a little ways, the hail would start getting bigger, then I’d stop. And repeat.

Finally took 152 east from Sayre. The core was north of here by this time, but the rotation was not. It was almost right in front of me. I proceeded slowly, paying close attention to the wind direction. It remained out of the north the whole time. It was strong, but it was just RFD. I knew there was a tornado at this time just by looking at the couplet on radar, but I could not see it.

I passed a farm on 152 that had debris strewn across the road; yep, tornado had just passed right here. It was now safe to proceed east. I thought I could possibly get east of it and catch a view, but no such luck.

18491735_10212656111788328_9100900507635518285_o

Here you can see just how close I was, and yet I couldn’t see a tornado. That’s not an old radar image either. Note the time; radar image is 7:03 pm, current time is 7:04 pm. I was 2 miles or less from the tornado.

This tornado ended up hitting the south side of Elk City, unfortunately doing quite a bit of damage. As you can see from the radar image above, it had to take an almost due north direction to hit Elk City. I noticed it took a left turn on radar. This is not unusual as the circulation occludes. That’s why being north of the tornado, even if it’s moving to the east, can be a dangerous spot.

I followed this storm a bit further, to just north of Clinton, OK, where it had become tornado-warned again. I saw some rotation there, but it was started to get stretched out, and I ended up letting it go. That was the end of the chase, as daylight was just about gone as well.

Below are two videos from the McLean tornado, and the Erick tornado (that is just out of frame, unfortunately). I had to put them on two separate videos because I shot at different frame rates. I’m working on a project that I’m shooting 24p for, but for handheld video I switch to 1080/60p in order to use the electronic image stabilization. Hectic, handheld shots will not be in this project anyway. 🙂

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 26, 2017 in Chase Logs

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Chase Log: 5/15/17 – Stinnett, TX

May 15th was a “day before the day” scenario in which tornado chances were pretty much zero, but the following day would feature a much greater tornado risk in essentially the same area. If a day like this were isolated, I may have just skipped it.

The main factor limiting the tornado risk was the large dewpoint depression. That’s a fancy term for the difference between the air temperature and the dewpoint. When this difference gets high (Generally about 20° and greater), it means the cloud bases will be high, and you need lower cloud bases for tornadoes.

High-based storms can still produce large hail, and they often produce beautiful storms. I didn’t really have an exact target, but just set out mid-morning toward Amarillo. After looking at data in Childress, I decided I’d stop just east of Amarillo in Claude, TX. It was long after I reached Claude that towers began attempting to go up. I followed the developing towers north, and met up with my buddy Adam at the Love’s station off I-40. From there we determined we needed to go further north, as the more robust initiation was that way, and we set out for Borger. I was leading the way, and just went past Borger and through Stinnett, heading west on 152 until we reached a clearing. I made this decision as I saw the storms were moving almost due north.

There ended up being quite a bit of convection forming, and we were able to sit in this same location and let 3 different severe storms come to us.

We let the core overtake us on the second storm, and it contained some decent hail in our location, maybe a little over 1-inch.

The third storm was definitely the best, as it developed incredible structure! We had to move back to the east to get in front of this one, and through Stinnett, repositioning to the south side of town. What a beauty!

DSC_5047-HDR-Pano

Limited road options from there meant we had to slowly get through the core while avoiding the largest hail, in order to end up back to the south of the storm. However, it was almost dark at this point, so the storm began to lose intensity, but the lightning was brilliant. The mosquitoes were relentless, however, so I did not want to stay out there trying to shoot lightning only to come away with 100 mosquito bites on my legs! No, I stupidly did not have any bug spray with me! Lesson learned!

DSC_5236

So no tornadoes to be seen on this day, but every once in a while chases like this are a welcome change of pace. It’s nice to have a more relaxed attitude and pace, and just be able to enjoy watching the storms.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 23, 2017 in Chase Logs

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Chase Log: 4/21/17 Gainesville, TX

I debated whether or not to even chase on this day! I was concerned of quick upscale growth into a linear storm mode due to the cold front coming down from the north. I expected storms to be quickly undercut, thus taking away the tornado threat.

But, this was in my backyard, so it was too difficult to pass it up, and I’m glad that I did not! The cold front ended up not being an issue, as I believe it didn’t even start surging south until after the storms had already continued well into the night. Storms stayed discrete all night.

Fighting rush hour traffic was a pain, and it took me an hour just to get to Denton. By this time a storm had gone tornado-warned north of Durant, OK that had me thinking maybe I should have taken 75 instead. I wouldn’t have had to deal with so much traffic, and I probably could have been on that storm at that time. This storm never actually produced a tornado, however.

I had originally thought Denton would be a good place to stay, as the outflow boundary from earlier storms seemed to be slowly moving south from near Gainesville. So I thought, at least. I think it probably stalled out right there. There was one failed updraft attempt near Bridgeport that I had stopped along 380 for a minute to watch before determining that it was not going to get going, and I needed to head north for a storm that was currently severe warned.

I hadn’t been paying much attention to this storm because I thought it was associated with the cold front. I caught up with it just outside of Lindsay, TX, and at this time it appeared to be starting to go linear. I thought I could at least get a good shelf cloud out of it if I stayed out in front, so I headed back east through Gainesville, and then dropped south.

As it turned out, it was back-building, and that area started to show signs of rotation. This was initially in an odd location, kind of on the northwest corner of the storm, but it quickly worked its way around to the southwest corner! My issue at this point was finding a good vantage point! The area I was in was covered in trees!

I finally found a spot, and I saw the wall cloud, could see rapid rising motion, but I wasn’t sure if this was a tornado, or just the wall cloud, with the horizon obscured by the trees. It was at this time that a brief tornado happened, but I was unable to see it. The way the couplet was coming together, I had expected a more significant tornado, and wanted to be in a good position well out in front of it in order to get good video. As a result, I missed it. Oh well.

I had to keep moving in order to stay in front of it, and was right in front of the wall cloud near Pilot Point.

DSC_4082

There was rapid rising motion here, but no real rotation. By this time the rotation was not impressive on radar, so I was feeling as though the chances of another tornado were slim. I could tell, however, that this storm had some crazy structure on it, so I was trying very hard to get back in front of it, but just couldn’t do it!

It began back-building again, and I pulled off the main road on the north side of Aubrey to quickly take this shot as we were losing daylight.

DSC_4083

Impressive looking storm! Okay, back to moving! Try as I might, I just could not get in front of this storm. I stopped again for one last shot as it was pretty much dark by this point.

DSC_4086-Pano

I continued following this storm east on 380, getting in the little hook, or at least appendage, that it was forming and into some quarter size hail. But the traffic was going so slow through the heavy rain that I could not get through this section. I was trying to get in right behind the biggest hail so I could collect a few stones. There were baseballs falling with this storm!

Once I reached the tollway I just decided to head south back to the apartment. A little while later a new storm had formed to the northwest and was heading my way! This had moments and areas with larger hail, but about 1.25″ was the biggest stone I collected after it had fallen. Another chaser was a couple miles south at the Ferrari & Maserati headquarters and filmed golf ball sized hails pounding these expensive cars! I bet that dent repair will NOT be cheap!

Overall it was a fun Friday evening!

Looking ahead, we’ve got an extremely active week of severe weather, and I could have a few more opportunities for after work chases close to home! Regardless, I’m only 3 weeks away from my chasecation, where I’ll be able to chase EVERYTHING for two whole weeks!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 22, 2017 in Chase Logs

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Chase Log: 4/15/17 Protection, KS

Even with the mesoscale accident that produced 7 tornadoes in Dimmitt, TX the day before, I was not overly confident in the setup on this day, especially in terms of tornado potential. Upper level winds were marginal, at 30-35 kts at 500mb. I really like to see at least 40, and preferably 45 kts for better tornado potential. Dewpoints were also meager at barely 60 degrees. However, CAPE was adequate, and the HRRR consistently depicted storms firing west of Woodward, OK a few hours before sunset. I had just hoped this chase would provide some good time lapse footage and structure shots.

I left Carrollton at 10 am and headed to Woodward to meet up with Jacob Terrell. We had interacted on Facebook for several years, but had to actually meet in person, so it was good to finally meet and chase some storms together!

The first couple towers that fired were just not able to get going. What appeared to be the dominant cell made three attempts, and then died. We had made it out west to Shattuck, OK where we watched that cell die, and to the south of that there was absolutely nothing. There were some agitated Cu to the north, so we re-positioned north. As we were moving these storms started to look a bit more beefy than that previous storm that had died, but they still were struggling to really become supercells.

I lost Jacob at that point as I got to Buffalo, OK on the back end of another dying storm. At this time, however, there was a good looking tower going up to the north, which had a much better looking base on it. This storm’s base was large and flat, as opposed to the others that were very small. At this point it was nothing on radar, but it looked more promising, so I continued north of Buffalo to watch it.

DSC_1868

I sat here on this dirt road, where the aroma of cow manure filled the air, shooting a time lapse of the storm as it got going. If nothing else, it was visually nice, with an updraft that looked like blooming cauliflower swirling skyward.

DSC_2031

Photo opportunities would prove to be plentiful on this day, and prior to leaving this spot I turned to my west and was treated to this spectacular view.

DSC_2242

I moved north and found another spot to time lapse a little closer, as I didn’t want this storm moving too far away during the sequence. It had a really nice, flat base on it at this time, but it was quite elevated, so I was not expecting any tornadoes to develop from it.

DSC_2243

As the sun set, the show really started near Protection, KS. The other junk clouds began dissipating, making way for the lone supercell to stand out on its own with the last remaining sunlight giving it a brilliant glow. Even the cows came over to watch it. Or maybe they were watching me. Maybe they thought I had food. I’m not sure.

DSC_2730

DSC_2880-HDR

I was too close to get all the way to the top of the anvil, even shooting vertically on a panorama, but I was at least able to shoot the storm from end-to-end using this method.

DSC_2859-HDR-Pano

And that right there, ladies & gentlemen, made the 6 hour drive worth it! I had gotten exactly what I was looking for on this day! Then as icing on the cake, I was able to capture what I believe was the ONLY CG strike out of the rear-end of this storm!

DSC_3296

Even though the storm was losing intensity at this time, it was still stunning to watch!

DSC_3366

Overall very pleased with the photos I came away with from this storm! I wondered for a while if we would even get anything worth photographing as those storms just kept struggling, but finally this beauty emerged! I definitely consider this a successful chase, even with a lack of tornadoes!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 16, 2017 in Chase Logs

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Chase Log: April 1, 2017 – Valera, TX

I wasn’t too enthusiastic about this day, and in fact I originally had no intentions of even chasing. It wasn’t until I was eating lunch that I decided what the heck, it’s close by and I’m available, I might as well go for it!

The SPC only had a 2% tornado risk, and I didn’t see any reason for it to be any higher than that. Dewpoints were pretty meager, low-level winds were rather weak, and convective models were showing a pretty quick progression to a linear mode. Add to that a bit of a crashing cold front, and the ingredients for tornadoes just weren’t really there.

My hope was for some good structure, and the chance to shoot lightning after dark. The hail risk was definitely there, with cold temperatures aloft, but I didn’t want to bust any windows, so I had no intentions of venturing into any hail cores.

I was a bit late on my departure, given my last second decision to chase, but set out for Abilene. The plan was to target the triple point, which was right in this area. Or so I thought. Turns out it was further west. There were initially two storms that fired; one way out in Colorado City, and the other down south near San Angelo. Looking at the environment, I felt the southern storm had the better, with CAPE topping 2000, and no crashing cold front to deal with. However, this storm was having trouble getting going, while the Colorado City storm exploded. I waited for the southern storm to show me signs of more robust development, but it wasn’t happening, so I decided to head west. I could always come back to the southern storm later, I figured.

When I got on this storm, it wasn’t super impressive. Just a large flat base, a little ragged wall cloud that didn’t have much of any motion on it, and some small hail. I got a little ways into the core with the intent to pull in behind the thick of it and see if there were any larger hail stones on the ground, but no such luck. At this point between Sweetwater and Roby, I had two options to follow the storm. I could go north to Roby, then go back through the storm to the east on 180, or drop back south and head east on I-20, then back north. The storm was heading NE, so this route was out of the way, but it was moving so slow, I didn’t feel it would be a problem. I’m glad I chose that route, because as I got back to I-20, the storm began to weaken, and lost its severe thunderstorm warning. Then I check the radar, and what do you know, that southern storm had blown up! The unfortunate thing at that point was that it had literally not moved! So it was still about an hour away!

It started showing rotation, and went tornado warned as it finally began moving NE toward Ballinger. It was a race for me to reach Ballinger before the storm did. This is the worst feeling while chasing! A tornado warning, and you just can’t get to it fast enough! When I got to Ballinger, I was too late to drop south and still be in front of it. I’d have to punch through the biggest hail, and even then the circulation probably would have already passed by that road. So I went east on 67 instead.

I remained in the core of the storm for what seemed like forever, with small hail, heavy rain, and no data! Still, as slow as the storm was moving, I knew that I’d come out of it sooner or later, and finally I did, and got a look at the base. Not a bad looking storm! There was a lowering, and right-to-left motion of inflow, but I did not see any rotation. It was tough to get a clear view in this terrain, which was somewhat hilly, and filled with short trees.

I dropped south out of Valera and found a clear enough spot, and the structure on the storm at this point was awesome!

DSC_1158

As it approached me, I had another decision to make. Could I beat the hail if I went back north to 67 and get east of it? I didn’t want to take that chance, so I dropped south instead. I ended up seeing reports of softball sized hail in this storm, so that was probably a good choice, but I may have still been able to make it. Nonetheless, I had to drop a lot further south than I had hoped for. Poor road network in this area, and every road was dirt, so I wanted to be sure I was on DRY dirt!

I got all the way to 283 and headed back north toward Santa Anna. By this time it was after sunset, so getting dark, and it was difficult to make out all of the features of the storm, but it still had some great structure. There was a tornado reported on it at this time, but I’m still not so sure about that. I saw a video, and in my opinion, you cannot verify a tornado based on that video. Too dark to discern motion, and trees are blocking the view of the ground. But that’s neither here nor there.

I lost data again as I approached Santa Anna, and wasn’t sure if I’d beat the hail to town in order to begin tracking east again, so I was a bit nervous, but at that point I was committed to that route, and mentally accepted that if I got into big hail and broke the windshield, that’s what I’d have to do, haha! I couldn’t drop back south, because if there was a tornado, I’d be putting myself within its path at that point. Luckily I made it to Santa Anna before the core hit, and was able to move east and stay ahead of the storm.

At that point the whole goal was just to stay out in front and shoot lightning. There were some decent anvil crawlers, but they were confined to small areas. The storm remained tornado-warned with signs of rotation on radar, but I never saw anything of interest. Here are a few lightning shots.

And that was all for that chase. No tornadoes, but it was still a pretty fun chase, and I was glad I decided to go for it.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 3, 2017 in Chase Logs

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Chase Log: March 28, 2017 – Stamford, TX

Not even to April yet, I’ve already logged 3 chases! That’s never happened before! We’ve gotten off to an early start this storm season, and I’m not sure if that’s a sign of things to come, or a sign that it’s going to be an early season overall this year.

Tuesday was a different kind of day. After working in the morning, I set out for a rough target of Paducah, TX. Storms fired early, and were pretty messy, forming a broken line way out west by Lubbock.

As I was driving out I get a message from one of my friends saying that he’d heard 2 storm chasers had died. He didn’t know any more details at that time. I knew there had been a tornado warning out there, and the circulation looked like it was completely covered in rain, so I was wondering if they had been hit by the tornado, or if it was something else. That news had me somewhat on edge the whole chase. It also changed the mood of the whole chase, but I still had not been able to confirm exactly what happened.

The chase itself was a tad frustrating. My plan was to play along the warm front, which I expected to travel north toward Paducah and Childress as the day went on, but it didn’t seem like it really moved. I was originally heading for the line of storms, and targeted a little further south toward Guthrie, but before I even got that far, I had become unimpressed with the progress of these storms. It seemed as though they were losing intensity as they traveled north, I assumed as they crossed the front. There was one isolated storm that had fired south of Abilene. Looking on visible satellite, that whole area down there had towering cumulus, while more stable wave clouds were covering the area I was in further north. So I dropped south from Guthrie.

When I was still quite a distance from that isolated storm, it went tornado warned. Oh no, I was going to be too late, I thought. After that, however, it seemed to become very ragged. In the meantime, a new storm had fired near McCaulley. I decided to head toward it, since I wasn’t far away, and it did in fact get a tornado warning on it. However, it was clearly becoming elongated, and unimpressive, while the storm by Abilene had cycled through and was looking impressive again. Dang it! I should have stuck with the original plan!

By this time, I would have had to punch the core to get to the storm near Hawley. I decided against that, but in hindsight I should have gone for it. I don’t think the hail was too big at that time, and I would have seen a multi-vortex tornado in that area.

Instead, I headed east on 180, then south on 600 to try to get in front of it. However, as I was on this path, I realized the storm was really moving almost due north, with very little easterly movement. So I turned around and went back to 180. At this point there was a reported wall cloud on the storm, but no tornado. I had to move west slowly on 180 to avoid hail, and then finally got a view of the wall cloud. Some broad rotation at this point, but it did not appear a tornado was imminent.

I then followed the storm north on 1226, and I thought it was about to drop a huge cone at that point! Rotation really tightened up, and a good inflow jet started forming, with a bowl funnel. I was in perfect position, too, with the funnel directly to my west! But my excitement was quickly extinguished as the wall cloud became very ragged, and dissipated.

However, a new wall cloud was forming off to the northeast, and it looked solid. The problem now was that it was already out ahead of me, so I needed to catch up. While this storm seemed to be creeping along before, at this point it just seemed to take off! This wall cloud developed rotation quickly, and within 10 minutes or less, we had a tornado on the ground just east of Stamford. It was a beautiful elephant trunk, but very low contrast from my position, with the core of the storm behind the tornado. It wasn’t on the ground for very long, maybe 6-8 minutes or so, and then it lifted. After that, I just couldn’t keep up with the storm. Stopping to take pictures of the structure certainly didn’t help that, either. It continued to have a very strong couplet on radar, but I never saw anymore tornado reports. There could have been one there obscured by rain. There were chasers around it.

DSC_0620DSC_0638-Pano

I didn’t get a whole lot of video, due to being so far behind and trying to catch up, but in the short video below you see four clips; the first was on 180 when I first got a view of the wall cloud, second is the original wall cloud as it was becoming ragged, third was the new wall cloud with tornado imminent as I was racing to get into a better position, and finally a brief shot of the tornado right before it lifted.

When I got home I learned more details on the storm chasers who had died. There was a car accident, and we lost 3 of our own. Two of the guys in one vehicle, which ran a stop sign, and the other in the vehicle they hit. As I’ve learned now, the guys who ran the stop sign, who were live streamers for the Weather Channel, had run several stop signs prior to this one, and this was evident on their stream (which is still up on YouTube; cuts out before the accident). It’s a shame to learn this. I want to see tornadoes as much as anyone, but it’s not worth putting your own life, as well as the lives of others, in danger to do so. Especially not by running stop signs. It can be quite chaotic out there around a storm, with so many chasers out there now, all jockeying for position, and driving dangerously in order to keep up with the storm. Yes, we are distracted by the storms, but I don’t think that was the issue here, knowing that these guys blew through several stop signs. I think they were purposely disregarding the stop signs, probably thinking there wouldn’t be any oncoming traffic in the middle of the country. It’s also pretty difficult to miss a stop sign in the middle of the plains. There’s literally nothing else around. Stop signs stick out like sore thumbs. The video even shows one of those yellow diamond signs with the stop sign ahead symbol on it ~200 yards before the actual stop sign. So, at least in my opinion (and it’s just that, I’ll never know for sure), this was willful negligence, not a simple mistake. It’s just upsetting that this was easily preventable by simply following traffic laws. I certainly hope something like this never happens again, but I almost feel it’s inevitable. Maybe not the exact same scenario, but the most dangerous part about chasing storms these days is not the storm itself, it’s the dangerous drivers out on the road.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 30, 2017 in Chase Logs

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,