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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: 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!

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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!

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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.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 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: 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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Chase Log: May 26, 2016 – Ashland/Coldwater, KS

This day had been on my radar (no pun intended) for a while as THE day of this week. It was the day that featured the strongest winds at 500mb. During the early part of the week, it was looking like a classic dryline tornado outbreak in western Oklahoma. Things really began changing as the day got closer, however. By the afternoon of the 25th, it was looking like NW Kansas into Colorado was going to be the best spot, to the north of the surface low.

The morning of, everyone was hyping this day up, including the SPC, who issued a moderate risk over central Kansas along the warm front. I got up early, thinking I’d be making a 9-10 hour drive to NW Kansas. However, I spent literally hours in the morning debating between that spot, central Kansas, SW Kansas/NW Oklahoma, SW Oklahoma, AND west Texas! I could make a case for every target! That being said, my hopes were not nearly as high as everyone else. The HRRR was breaking out a boatload of JUNK early in the day over western Oklahoma into central Kansas. It was also dropping dewpoints significantly all throughout western Kansas, as a result of downward transport of dry air from ongoing overnight convection (per SPC).

I figured those storms along the warm front would be really messy, as warm front storms typically are anyway. Nonetheless, I thought this was probably going to be the best spot to see a tornado, so I left Carrollton around 9am with a target of Salina, KS. I was already way behind.

As I approached OKC and that junk I spoke of previously was going up and beginning to intensify, I realized I wasn’t going to catch it. I actually liked the prospect of more isolated storms in NW Oklahoma/SW Kansas along the dryline, so I began heading that way. A couple storms broke out as I was on my way, and I approached my first storm of the day, which was severe warned, near Arnett, OK.

Long story short, it was very high-based, had some decent hail in it, but that’s about it. I followed a little ways, then let it go. Back to the west in the Texas panhandle, it appeared further initiation off the dryline was starting. I went southwest to Shattuck, OK and stopped there, as these storms seemed to be struggling to develop. Finally, the cell to the north began intensifying, and I raced north to catch it. I got to it near Englewood, KS.

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Another high-based storm. I wasn’t very hopeful for tornado chances when I saw that. I followed it north and then east, and went through some pretty good hail, maybe up to ping pong ball size (1.5″) at most. I finally noticed the distinct sound of the hail hitting my sunroof hail guard during this barrage, and I was glad I had that!

Out in front of the storm, it did have some great structure!

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I stayed in front of it for a while, then it finally died near Greensburg as I felt the ice cold outflow coming from the storm. Time to call it a night. Well, maybe.

As I got south of the storm, I noticed a beautiful scene and had to stop! I could see mammatus forming at the top of this storm, with the updraft of another to the south, as the sun was beginning to set over a wheat field. What a beautiful scene!

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I just love those wheat fields. Especially the way they wave in the breeze. This to me is the very essence of the Great Plains! It is far from boring, especially with those violent storms!

Unfortunately I wasn’t going to get a great mammatus shot, as low clouds expanded and took over this scene. It was still amazing to see the orange glow on the wheat fields as the sun set!

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After going through Coldwater, I headed back west and noticed quite a lightning show going on! I got a KILLER shot of an anvil crawler, but came to find out later it was not in focus! Ugh! I had been zoomed in on an updraft earlier and forgot to re-focus (it was on manual focus) after going back to wide angle. That’s not the first time I’ve completely forgotten I was on manual focus and it needed to be changed!

I was at least able to get several great shots of lightning darting through the sky around a new updraft!

No tornadoes for me on this chase, though I apparently missed one RIGHT where I had been earlier in the day; Arnett, OK. So again, I nailed the forecast, but just wasn’t there!

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Chase Logs

 

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Chase Log: April 26, 2016 – Snyder, OK

I had high hopes for this chase several days in advance, but as each new model run came out, those hopes diminished a little bit more. CAPE was forecast to be incredibly high, especially for this time of year, but other ingredients left something to be desired. Hyped up as a potential outbreak, this day didn’t live up to the hype.

I wasn’t that confident the morning of, or even the night before, that there would be a good chance for tornadoes. There were a couple of key issues. Meridional flow at 500mb, plus S-curved hodographs meant there would be messy storms that would interact with each other, and quickly form an MCS. It was even worse than I expected, however. I thought we’d at least get an hour, maybe 2 hours with isolated cells, but things went linear almost immediately. There just wasn’t enough directional shear to keep cells isolated, plus the storm motion almost parallel to the dryline didn’t help that, either.

In the morning, high-res models were showing some enhanced sig tor values in southwest Oklahoma, so I decided on the target area I had been flirting with since the night before: Lawton, OK.

I set out immediately after work and went straight to Lawton, then on to Cache, where I sat at a gas station for a few minutes looking at a developing storm near Vernon, TX. I decided it was good enough to go after, so I head toward Frederick.

I watched the storm develop from west of Frederick, and saw a funnel-shaped scud cloud that was reported as a funnel cloud. The storm was subsequently tornado-warned. This is somewhat frustrating to me, because this was clearly not a funnel cloud to anyone who has seen one before. It was not rotating at all. Not even moving, really. People are already pretty numb to tornado warnings, so we really need to avoid false warnings.

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There were a few moments where I saw some rotation on this storm, but they didn’t last much longer than about a minute. When the storm was approaching Snyder, it was looking its best.

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My only good road option to get east of it took me right through the back edge of the storm, and into some hail. I got hit by a few golf balls that I believe added a couple new dents to the car. I had my hail guard on over my sunroof, but I’m not sure if any stones even touched it. It did stay put like a champ, however, even up to 80 mph, so the four 82 pound magnets are sufficient enough.

I broke away from this storm at this point, choosing the better road options to get in front of it, and beat it to Apache, OK, which I did. Nothing really changed with the storm, and just north of Apache after snapping the photo below, I decided to call the chase.

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There was quite the squall line that had formed to the south in Texas. By the time I hit Wichita Falls and began tracking southeast on 287, I was on the back end of the line. I was treated to a wonderful lightning show on the way home. One round of strikes started in front of the vehicle, then worked their way around the right side and all the way behind the vehicle. It was quite an amazing sight to behold!

As soon as I got back to my apartment I rushed to set up my camera on my balcony, where I was able to capture this shot.

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Overall this was a pretty uneventful chase. It certainly didn’t live up to the hype, but I had said that morning I’d consider myself lucky if I saw a tornado that day. I guess I wasn’t lucky!

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2016 in Chase Logs

 

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Chase Log: April 16, 2016 – Texas Panhandle

I started this day off in the general vicinity of the target area in Amarillo, so I did not have too far to travel to get to storms as they fired early in the afternoon. I had originally expected this to be the better of the two days. I left Amarillo around 1pm and headed east on 287, where I caught the first storm near Washburn. It had some pretty good structure and a wall cloud on it already!

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There wasn’t really any rotation, however. I followed this storm north for a ways, then it started to weaken, so I dropped south onto some other storms.

I really don’t have a lot to say about the rest of the chase. I followed these storms for a while, got into some small hail, but at the end of the day none of these storms were close to producing any tornadoes. I really think we needed these storms to hold off until peak daytime heating.

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Posted by on April 29, 2016 in Chase Logs

 

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