RSS

Tag Archives: Storm

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: 5/15/17 – 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: 4/15/17 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: 5/4/15 Indiana

I said yesterday was a surprise chase, but I suppose that isn’t completely true. I was aware of the marginal risk, and the stationary front, though said front was draped over northern Indiana, so I did not expect much down here. I was actually laying on the couch dozing off into nap land when I heard that glorious sound… thunder! To most people, this probably wouldn’t phase them, and they’d continue into a full-blown nap. For me, this was as good as blowing an air horn directly in my ear. Suddenly, I was wide awake.

I pulled up my trusty radar to find multiple storms in the area, one of which carried a severe t-storm warning. I gathered all of my electronic devices and headed out to see what kind of hail was in said storm.

The storm that caught my eye was actually in front of the currently warned storm. It had gained some intensity, but as soon as I started heading west, it began losing strength. Visually, I could see a pretty decent updraft, so I decided to get somewhere with a good view and at least watch it. As it approached, I was in awe that this thing was actually developing some decent structure.

DSC_0639

A wall cloud forming with a little tail cloud, and are those striations? In Indiana?! Is there even that much shear in this environment? It didn’t look impressive at all on radar, but continued to look great in person. Obviously I had hoped that some sort of rotation would appear, and perhaps a funnel reaching down and high-fiving the ground, but I digress.

The storm wasn’t moving too fast, and there was a pretty good road network, so I was able to stay out in front of it pretty easily. The only issue was the trees. It took a little bit of searching to find an open area. Further west, the structure became even more impressive.

May4Panorama1

Are you kidding me?! I’ve never seen anything like this in my home state. And to think, this storm didn’t have any sort of warning on it! It was just a plain old run-of-the-mill thunderstorm. But who really cares about titles, anyway? All that matters is that the storm and I know the kind of relationship we have. And it was a good one!

I continued west, hoping that maybe, just maybe, this could turn into something more, although every time I took a peak at the radar it appeared this storm was losing intensity, rather than gaining it. The inflow looked pretty nice at one point, and even began to pick up some velocity, but there was never any left-to-right motion on the other side.

May4Panorama2

The striations are very evident on the picture above. That whole flying saucer was rotating broadly, albeit slowly. The wall cloud, however, never got any rotation. I ended up staying at this spot and letting the storm over-take me. After this, I drove south to get into the storm just behind this one. It carried with it some small hail. Like, really small. Not much to see there. I tried and tried to get some lightning shots, but to no avail. I actually did capture one earlier in the evening, but it was so quick on my long exposure that it was extremely faint on the picture. Well, I suppose I can’t complain! No big hail, no tornado, nothing severe at all, not even a warning of anything severe, but mind-blowing structure! I’ll take it!

DSC_0701

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 5, 2015 in Chase Logs

 

Tags: , , , , ,