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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!

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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. 🙂

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2017 in Chase Logs

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2017 in Chase Logs

 

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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!

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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.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2017 in Chase Logs

 

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Chase Log: March 26, 2017 – Decatur, TX

This day turned into a moderate risk in the morning outlook, which was for large hail, not tornadoes. Just about every ingredient was there for tornadoes… except adequate moisture. A storm system had just moved through two days prior and wiped out the moisture that had been in place, so on this day we struggled to get to 60° dewpoints.

I knew that going in, but still expected there would be a few tornadoes. Most other chasers focused on south-central Oklahoma, but I decided to remain in Texas; based off of proximity for one, and the chance at better moisture. Initial target was Bowie, TX, but I never actually made it there!

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I went up to Gainesville first, and just waited and monitored the data. Storms ended up firing way down near Mineral Wells, and were heading NE. I dropped down to Decatur, TX. At first the plan was to wait there, and intercept the storm on 380, but it seemed to be taking its sweet time, so finally I just decided to go further south and get a look at the base.

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Pretty storm! And a beautiful flat base! Unfortunately it was pretty high, and I wasn’t really expecting any tornadoes, but I did enjoy the storm structure. Knowing the chances were high for large hail, I stayed out of the core of the storm, dropping further south to get back in front a little bit.

I ended up making it to I-35 in Denton when the sirens started going off. The cell to the south of the storm I had been following was tornado-warned. Looking at the velocity, there did appear to be strong rotation over Justin (I had just been through there!). I tried to make a few stops on exits along I-35 to find a view, but I couldn’t really find a good view, and time was running out if I were to drop south prior to getting overtaken by softball-sized hail!

I ended up literally chasing this storm all the way home! I have never done that before! It passed just to the north of my apartment. I ran up to my balcony to get a few shots before it moved off to the east.

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Not a lot happened on this chase, but it was still a fun chase, and good to get out there! No time to sit back and wait for the next chase, as it will be here tomorrow! I may post a forecast for this one. Or I might not. It’s already almost 9pm, and I need to get some sleep if I’m going to be out late chasing again tomorrow evening!

 

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2017 in Chase Logs

 

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