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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:

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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!

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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:

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2017 in Chase Logs

 

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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. đŸ™‚

 
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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: 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: 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.

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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.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2017 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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Chase Log: May 22, 2016 – Big Spring, TX Tornadoes

I went against the grain on this chase and picked a target that was far removed from where almost every other chaser was in the TX panhandle. I saw models breaking out storms early, and away from the dryline up there, and didn’t think the tornado potential would be as great. I liked the dryline bulge further south in west Texas, and chose Big Spring as my target.

When I got to Sweetwater, it appeared Big Spring might end up being too far west with the advancement of the dryline, so I stayed put for a little while. When it looked like we had initiation near Post, I started heading that way. That little cell died, however, so I didn’t go any further north than Snyder. I had actually started west toward Gail when I lost data, so I went back east to Snyder, then saw cells firing to the west, and went back west!

I caught up with my first storm of the day near Ackerly, TX. The issue I saw with this cell was interference from the cell to the south. However, it did have a wall cloud on it, so I stuck with it for a little while with the plan to drop south once it was completely cut off. It did have some decent structure to it.

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I knew that I needed to be on tail-end Charlie, however, so I let that storm go and started my way south toward my original target of Big Spring.

Just north of town on 87 I was able to see the base, and things were looking pretty good! I had expected more easterly movement, but it seemed this storm was moving straight south, so I went around Big Spring and headed west on 176. This storm really began intensifying at this point, was tornado-warned, and had a hook developing on radar. I snapped this photo looking west as the inflow really began to pick up.

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I saw some dust on the ground to the southwest and thought that was a tornado, but then noticed it was all moving in one direction… gustnado. A few minutes later there was another spin-up, this time rotating… tornado! I reported it on Spotter Network, then continued to 2599 to drop south.

At this point that first spin-up had dissipated, but inflow was getting VERY strong! I knew I was very close to a developing tornado, but the storm was messy and I couldn’t tell exactly where it would happen. Then I did see another spin-up, and this time I could see the clouds above it rotating. It looked like this could evolve into a big wedge! Multiple vortices were spinning around the parent rotation. I’m not good at judging distance, but I was not very far away from it, maybe a mile or so. I did not feel unsafe, however, with the storm moving south, and me being north of it.

This became completely wrapped in rain, and I couldn’t discern any ground rotation. I continued south and when I got to I-20 I was pretty sure I could see the left edge of a big tornado! I was paying close attention to the collar cloud, which was directly above me. I did not want to advance too quickly, and in fact at one point I got hit with strong winds and blinding sheets of rain out of the east. I turned around and went back north until I was out of that. I could have potentially been in the outer circulation of the tornado at that point! Looking at the radar, I was basically right on top of the couplet!

When I turned back around all I could see was a big wall of rain. Ben Holcomb, a very seasoned chaser, was right in front of me, and I pulled up and asked him if he could see it, and he said he was pretty sure that whole thing was a big tornado. We started moving across the interstate when I noticed HUGE hail stones falling! They were at least baseballs, some looked bigger! When I got to the access road, there were even more big stones falling. There were some vehicles parked under the overpass, but it looked like there was room for me, so I ducked under there to avoid losing any windows. Unfortunately this made me lose touch with the storm, and it would continue to drop more tornadoes further south… or perhaps that was still the same tornado, I’m not sure.

Eventually I punched through the core, and luckily only encountered half-dollar sized hail. It likely put some new dents in the car, but I didn’t lose any windows. Out in front of this storm I saw some beastly structure, but was not able to get to a good spot for a photo. The lightning was incredible, frequent, and surrounding me, so I wasn’t comfortable getting out of the car!

I was able to get in front of the storm east of Garden City and get a few shots as the sun was setting.

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It ended up producing another tornado near Garden City, but I let it go at that point, not wanting to chase an HP storm at night!

Click here for a link to the storm survey.

Below are my two videos, one from my Handycam before it locked up, and the other from my D5100.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2016 in Chase Logs

 

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