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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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!

 
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Posted by on April 16, 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: 5/24/16 – Minneola/Dodge City, KS

There was a pretty obvious target on this day where the surface low, outflow boundary, and dryline all met. Dodge City, KS was my target, but I planned on going wherever that outflow boundary ended up. My hopes weren’t SUPER high for this day, but I liked the prospect of seeing a tornado, and by the morning, the SPC had increased the tornado risk to 10% for this small area in SW Kansas into NW Oklahoma.

I didn’t want to take a chance on being late, so I left Carrollton at 6am in order to avoid rush hour traffic and give myself plenty of time. This ended up being WAY too early, as I arrived in Woodward, OK by noon. I would proceed to spend the next 4 hours or so hanging out in the Wal-Mart parking lot with a group of chasers! It was not time wasted, however, as I met some cool people! At the 3pm outlook, the SPC upgraded to a 10% hatched tornado risk in that area!

With towering Cu starting to build, and the outflow boundary retreating back to the north, we decided to reposition further north, and headed up to Buffalo, OK. This still appeared to be too far south, so we continued on into southern Kansas. Here we had a tower going up to our west. It was about 5pm at this time. I noted that it was moving due north, and that we needed to continue to Minneola, KS.

The storm started as a cluster of 4 small cells, but ended up merging and developing pretty rapidly, getting a nice supercellular shape on radar. Here is the very first picture I took when we stopped just south of Minneola.

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A couple of things to note on this picture: The flat, smooth base, inflow tail, and striations in the updraft. This had all the makings of a fantastic storm, even though it was early in its development. It already had a tornado warning on it at this time, as radar was beginning to show some rotation. Visually we could tell it wasn’t about to drop a tornado, but it was getting to that point quickly. It wasn’t long before a wall cloud started to form, and we decided to go ahead and get north of town prior to tornadogenesis.

The wall cloud had persistent rotation and a funnel cloud for several minutes.

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Finally that funnel reached down and made contact with the ground, and we had our first tornado just one hour after initiation!

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This tornado remained thin for a while, danced around a bit, and appeared to be ready to rope out before coming back stronger, and building into a big stovepipe! I moved north to stay up with it, but it appeared to be moving off to the west as well.

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I continued north, noting another rapidly rotating wall cloud to the east of the tornado. It was evident that another tornado was on the way, and it would touch down prior to the first tornado roping out! I got up to Ford Ensign Rd and began tracking east to get closer. At this time, yet another wall cloud was to the east, and TWO skinny rope tornadoes came down!

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I didn’t think I captured this, but I actually did in the above photo. There’s a very skinny rope to the left of the more prominent rope, and if you look at the dust on the ground, you can tell that it has a separate dust whirl.

The main tornado turned into a beautiful light grey stovepipe, kicking up dark brown dirt as I moved closer to it heading east. I had to stop, however, when I reached a beautiful wheat field, which was the perfect foreground and created this incredible scene!

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This was a shot I had been dreaming of! I felt like I was fairly close to this tornado at one point, maybe a couple miles, but it was moving away from me. The above picture was shot at 11mm, so the top of the picture was basically what was directly above me. It’s a large field of view. Here’s a shot from my D5100 taken at 32mm, which is just about a perfect representation of what the eyes see.

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This was hands down the most photogenic tornado I had ever seen, and to have a second one on the ground at the same time was icing on the cake!

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This tornado would rope out shortly after the above photo, then actually touched back down as a skinny rope. I would find a paved road going north and made one more stop when these tornadoes had dissipated, when I saw another brief spin-up underneath a bowl funnel. It was apparent, however, that a big tornado was about to happen. There was a large area of rotation getting closer and closer to the ground! We were about to have a wedge!

I went north all the way to Hwy 56 while watching the wedge form, then I stopped there to shoot video of it moving away, and snap more photos. Another chaser pulled up and said in 46 years of chasing he had never seen anything like this!

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After leaving this spot I got bogged down in Dodge City a bit, and fell pretty far behind the storm. I witnessed another tornado touch down while I was in the town, but couldn’t get a good picture of it.

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The above picture is the end of the wedge, I believe. East of town I witnessed another two tornadoes touch down before going north on 283.

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At this point the storm was about to get cut off by a new storm to the south, and rain started interfering with it. I thought it was done, and sat and waited for a while, but then rotation began picking up on the wall cloud again, so I continued north. One more tornado touched down! All I have is a cell phone picture of that one.

It’s tough to get an accurate count on the number of tornadoes on this day, especially near the time when there were 3 tornadoes at once, as it seemed like there may have been several different ropes dancing around that huge wall cloud. Other chasers have said 12, and I’ve heard even as many as 17! I think my number is still conservative, but is likely the best representation of what I actually saw with my own two eyes.

After that, I was starving, and it was time to celebrate, so I linked back up with my buddies for a steak and a beer!

This chase was a great example of the kind of influence an outflow boundary can have on a storm. The environment was conducive to tornadoes, but I don’t think we would have seen this prolific of a storm without the interaction of that outflow boundary. It’s amazing how you can see tons of storms that just struggle and struggle to produce, and aren’t able to, and then this storm it was basically a given with each new wall cloud that another tornado was imminent! Whenever there is an outflow boundary, that should be your target! Period!

This was by far my best chase day ever. My previous high was 4 in one day, so that was blown away! I came into this year having seen 9 tornadoes TOTAL in nearly 7 years of chasing, and eclipsed that all in the span of about 2.5 hours! In hindsight, I wish I would have made the effort to get closer to these tornadoes, as they were moving very slow, and it was the perfect terrain and storm to come up behind them safely. That being said, I really love the shots I got of the tornado plus the incredible structure of the storm. It’s funny, last year in Elmer I was a bit jealous of those who had been further back, as that storm had some amazing structure, and on this day I was a bit jealous of those who were close! I can make a case for preferring either location, really. I may just have to alternate with each chase!

I may not ever top this chase, but you never really know what Mother Nature has in store!

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2016 in Chase Logs

 

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