MAY 15, 2004: Saturday - Boyd County, NE:
Today was primarily spent getting into position for tomorrow's (DAY 2) risk of supercells somewhere in the northeast/east-central Nebraska area. By late afternoon a few severe storms had formed in ND within SPC's slight risk of severe area. South of that a few isolated, but fairly weak storms extended in a broken line across east central SD to near the Yankton Indian Reservation. Since I had nothing better to do after driving 800 miles today, I decided to investigate the southern most "storms". The first storm was decaying fast by the time I drove under the anvil near the Niobrara State Park (Picture 1). However, the storm's remnants treated me to a pretty rainbow scene back to my east near Bristow along Highway 12 (Picture 2). The next storm north was near Chamberlain, SD and was moving ESE along I-90. The Baron Threat Net was exhibiting recent lightning activity with this storm, but of course this died out as I made a run north along highway 281. The last digital photo was captured looking NNW from the Fort Randall Dam overlook. Given the fact that these storms were feeding on 63/48 air I wasn't expecting much, but it was still nice to see some convection on the first day of my chase vacation.
MAY 16, 2004: Sunday - Severe Storms - South Central NE:
A nasty cloud cover and on-going precipitation held over my original target area in NE Nebraska until late morning, which prompted me to head further south toward the clearing skies moving in from the southwest. By late afternoon a severe storm formed to the northwest of Kearney as I was heading south on highway 183. I arrived just to the east of this storm near Elm Creek just as a tornado warning was issued. Although rotation was indicated by radar, visually the storm did not appear ready to drop a tornado (see picture one). As the storm moved northeast, it began to get better organized. After meeting up will Bill Reid and the Tempest gang we followed this storm back north on highway 183. The storm continued to look better and began to draw the attention of several other chasers near Miller (picture two). Paved east options were limited, so we had to jog southeast on highway 40 before going back north on route 10. Strong southeast wind gusts almost blasted us off the road a few times, and there was plenty of nearly overhead cloud rotation to hold our attention along the way! As we were traveling east near Rockville some of the guests observed a brief tornadic touch down back to our northwest (which was later confirmed by others). The storm continued to be tornado warned as we continued our jog east and north. We had another decent look at this storm to our WNW near the town of Farwell along highway 92 (picture 3). We finally gave up the chase near Fullerton, which is where we spent the night. The storm gave us a nice show from time to time, but all the competing convection no doubt prevented it from reaching its full potential. Total chase mileage for the day is 305.
MAY 17, 2004: Monday - Supercell - North Central KS:
A tough decision today choosing a target between the high plains of CO and the north central KS region. A final decision was made while we were having lunch in Stockton, KS. Strong southerly winds were converging on the boundary just to our east in an area that was receiving good insolation, so it soon became rather obvious to head the short distance east. We headed east on Rt 24 to Osborne and then south on 281 towards Waldo. Traveling south we could see the first towers forming to our southwest, and a few radar echo returns soon became evident on the Threat Net. We went through the remnants of the first storm just south of Paradise as we were pelted with golf ball size "rain" drops. We sat just south of Gorham and viewed a weird funnel shape lowering on a storm just to our west. The storm just to our north began to get better organized, and became our target storm...along with most every other chaser that is in the "who's who" directory. The second picture below shows the storm's base trying to organize and rotate just south of the I-70 Russell exit. We headed back east on I-70, and pulled over once to get a look back to our NW at some great base structure (above the billboard in the third picture).
Our next stop was at the Bunker Hill exit looking north. The base exhibited plenty of rotation, but just couldn't tighten up for any length of time. We were soon hit by a cold and wet RFD and once again headed east on I-70. We exited at Dorrance and briefly stopped to watch the storm off to our west along with several other chasers including Tim Marshall, Chuck Doswell, and other familiar faces or vehicles. We made our final film stop near Wilson as the storm approached from our west and several vivid CG's crashed just to our north in the rain and hail core. It soon became apparent this storm was history, so we headed back west a few miles to film some pretty front lit structure scenes near sunset. This definitely seemed to be the "storm of the day" for northern Kansas, and put on quite a show from time to time. Total miles logged - 350, highest gas price paid $2.09!
MAY 18, 2004: Tuesday - Wichita Bust:
We started out the day in Russell, KS thinking that an initial target near Pratt looked to be a pretty good place to be by mid afternoon. As the day progressed, it was evident that we needed to head further east where better instability existed. By late afternoon an area just east of Wichita looked primed for explosive thunderstorm development, IF the cap could be broken. SPC meso analysis indicated very high CAPE values and moisture values throughout southeast KS, with little or no CIN! So why were the towers struggling at what appeared to be a strong CAP!? We watched mostly soft looking updraft towers struggle and die between ICT and EMP right up until sunset. As soon as we got our hopes up, the upper portion of the updraft towers would either detach, flatten, or quickly subside...and none of it was pretty.
We spent the night in Topeka, KS with hopes for a much better day further north on Wednesday. 335 miles logged today.
MAY 19, 2004: Wednesday - NE/IA Bust:
Another frustrating day! We once again targeted an area primed for explosive thunderstorm development along the SE NE/SW IA border. Positives were the very high Theta E and CAPE values, which were even better than Tuesday's indices. The negatives...another capping inversion, a pesky cloud deck that hung on for most of the day, and lack of good surface convergence. We sat in the Bellevue library (near OMA) for a couple of hours trying to pick the best target area. The librarians were very mean to us and scoffed at the idea that a storm chaser could predict where a severe storm would form. Unfortunately, we couldn't prove them wrong on this day. I liked the better insolation occurring in extreme northeast NE and points further north where the mid and upper level flow was much stronger, but it was difficult to ignore the potential that existed overhead. There was some clearing taking place a little to our east in IA, and VIS SAT indicated that some TCu was beginning to form in that area as well. We overtook a small broken line of TCu a little east of Irwin in Shelby County and waited for the show to begin (pictures below).
The towers bubbled for awhile and then fizzled. Meanwhile, severe storms had formed in a broken north/south line across central SD. We contemplated intercepting the tail end Charlie storm moving ESE along I-90 near PIR, but abandoned that idea once it showed signs of weakening. We called it a day along I-29 northeast of Blair, NE. We stayed in Freemont, NE for the night with another 389 miles on the odometer.
MAY 20, 2004: Thursday - Morgan County Supercell:
What a great looking storm! I took a quick look at things this morning, and liked the easterly flow predicated by ETA across NE Colorado by 00z, as well as a pronounced ridge of Theta E oriented east/west across the northern counties. I planned on getting to Sterling as soon as I could, and re-position from there if necessary. Along the way I met up with Matt Crowther who had pretty much the same plan in mind. A couple of data stops along the way still pointed to initiation somewhere near DEN, with storm motion to the northeast. We set up shop just south of Brush on Highway 71 for about an hour watching the skies to our west and keeping an eye on the WxWorks radar. There were a couple of severe warned storms down in Las Animas and Baca counties, but we were not the least interested in pursuing these distant cells. Time was on our side, so we just waited for our little Cu to grow into something interesting. After a few false starts, we finally had a lone beefy tower to target.
We decided to get a little north of Brush and Ft. Morgan to be in a better viewing and intercept position. We set up our tripods and cameras in a nice level field and proceeded to take dozens of pictures and time lapse photography of this developing supercell. This isolated cell was quite cooperative and put on a fabulous show for the next hour and a half! First it displayed LP characteristics, then morphed into a more classic looking supercell giving us a fantastic text book view of everything from a hammer nose beaver tail to hard knuckling in the upper tower.
We eventually made a couple of more film stops to our north and east as the beast really got cranking. Inflow was quite intense as the storm picked up speed, so our time was rather limited for film opportunities. The storm was tornado warned, but we never saw anything close to looking like a tornado.
We believe the spotter report of a tornado was prompted by a large dust plume and power flash that occurred around 8:15 PM MDT, unless a quick spin up occurred as we were blasting east. We experienced some hail, but nothing big. We did however encounter hail depths up to 2 inches deep along I-76 as we pursued the core after dark to the northeast. No tornado for us, but this storm did its best to make up for the last two bustola days! 530 miles logged with record high paid for regular gas at $2.19...but it was worth it!
MAY 21, 2004: Friday - Beaver County Supercell:
Not much time for a detailed post, I've got to get some rest for what could be a big day tomorrow. I stayed in Sterling, CO last night after filming that spectacular supercell in Morgan County Colorado, but needed to make the long drive to OKC today for the start of a new tour group on Saturday. The plan was simple, drive south along the DL in western KS from Colby to Liberal and hope that convection would occur by the time I got to SW KS, or the OK PH. CAPE values and surface convergence looked good in that region, so I felt pretty confident that I might see a decent storm. I believe I drove thru the DL bulge around Scott City as DP's dropped from the low 50's into the high 40's. Twenty miles further south they rose once again to near 60, and the the first really decent towers went up to my east near DDC. These rapidly became full fledged Cb's.
Later when I was south and east of Liberal I was treated to a very nice Cb with a hard updraft tower, crisp anvil, and an overshooting dome as I looked to my north towards DDC.
The main show came a few miles to my south as I approached highway 64. The main updraft tower of my target storm had finally come into view as it was moving northeast out of Lipscomb County, TX northeast into Beaver County, OK. The storm had a severe warning, but had weakened some. As I was driving east on 64, the storm strengthened again, and put on a nice show on it's north side. My plan was to beat the core east and then drop south, but the storm weakened all too soon---but not before it gave me several great photo opportunities. 554 miles logged.
MAY 22, 2004: Saturday - Jefferson County NE tornadoes:
I'm way too tired to go into a detailed post, but hear are the basics. We couldn't leave OKC until the last guest arrived, which meant we wouldn't arrive near our target area until after 6:00 PM. Keith Brown and myself decided the best thing to do was to head straight north on I-35 and 81 to the NE/KS border, and hope for a late storm initiation along the southern edge of the risk area. Before we even reached the border a supercell well off to our WNW had produced a nice tornado (congratulations to Matt & Betsy) on the southern most storm in a cluster of severe and tornado warned storms near Red Willow County NE. The tornadic storm was moving ENE and became our target storm...unless something else caught our attention nearby. Soon after that a storm went up near Columbus and became tornado warned. Bill Reid and his group targeted that storm, which looked pretty good on radar at times. Around 6:30 PM a new echo return showed up directly to our north and began to intensify rapidly. This storm was the southern most storm and was probably in the axis of greatest instability, so we knew this one had an excellent potential to become tornadic. Within 15 minutes it became severe warned, and then tornado warned. We went as far north as Hebron and then proceeded east on highway 136. We stopped briefly for a quick assessment of the developing meso near Gilead.
We knew we had to blast north as this storm was intensifying and picking up speed. We went north on highway 53 to highway four and were treated to plenty of orange blowing dust and a very nasty looking lowering developing directly to our north, which soon became a large low contrast wedge tornado at 7:25 PM CDT.
Soon after, we cut east on highway 4 and confirmed our first tornado sighting just east of Daykin around 7:29 PM CDT to our NNE. The sirens were going off as we went thru Daykin and we continued to film the ghostly white tornado to our north. An awesome and rapidly rotating collar cloud was encircling the tornado at this point! Contrast wasn't the greatest, but it got better the further east we went. The mostly cone shaped tornado remained visible with occasional touch downs directly to our north for the next 12 miles, and we even had two tornadoes hanging from a large wrapping wall cloud at one point.
We then drove north on highway 103 towards Dewitt and watched as the tornado crossed the road in front of us. There was an intense RFD to our northwest that was kicking up huge amounts of dust. We were forced to retreat at least once on our northward trek due to blinding dust and horizontal rain and hail.
We called off the chase in the town of DeWitt due to darkness as the storm moved rapidly off to our east. We finished up the day filming a nice display of lightning south of Beatrice.
What an awesome day...especially considering my late departure! 500 + miles logged.
MAY 23, 2004: Sunday - Down Day - Damage Survey:
We elected not to make the long trek east to IL or west the SW SD today since we needed the rest. Instead, we decided to track the damage path of the tornadoes we filmed yesterday in Thayer, Jefferson, and Saline County. After reviewing our video and measuring the damage path, we can now confirm that we witnessed a very large 1.5 mile wide wedge tornado at times. This was a storm of monstrous proportions, and was almost like a mini inland hurricane. I'll post a few rather tame digital captures below, as I took mostly video while we were driving by damaged properties so as not to disturb the residents. On Saturday evening, we left the tornado go just to the southwest of Hallam around the time it was raging through the town as a completely rain and dust wrapped beast. We decided not to enter the town for pictures, but this is where the most damaged occurred. Tomorrow (Monday 5/24) looks like another significant tornado day in the SE NE, NE KS area. We stayed in Lincoln, NE...what an incredible pattern for severe storms this season!
MAY 24, 2004: Monday - Chester, NE & Bellville, KS Tornadoes!:
Another incredible day! Once again I am totally exhausted, but thrilled at having seen at least 4 beautiful tornadoes today. We hung around Beatrice, NE until the early afternoon unwilling to move very far until we had a reason to do so. We watched some hard towers bubble up to our east near the Missouri river, but felt these storms would not be the main players. Around 2:45 PM we were beginning to have second doubts as that storm began to look better on radar and was now tornado warned. At the same time a cell began to develop about 50 miles to our west in Franklin County, NE. We weighed the pros and cons. The storm to our east may have already been producing a tornado, but was moving away from us, and we would have to deal with river crossings if we changed our minds later. The "western" storm was moving in our direction, we had a good road network to intercept, and this storm would be moving into a favorable environment...I liked it! We plotted our course for an intercept near Hebron...Hey, that's were we picked up our Thayer/Jefferson/Saline County tornadoes just two days before...now I liked it even more! Somewhere near Hubbell traveling west on highway 8 we could see the tornadoes (there were two!) come into view from a distance of about 8 or 9 miles to our WNW. The southern (left) tornado/landspout soon occluded as the northern (right) tornado became dominant. The time was 4:15 PM CDT.
Just west of Chester we set up our tripods to film the incredible show. Absolutely fantastic, my best tornado capture yet (the second best occurring just two days ago!) We captured about 7 or 8 minutes of tripoded video, right up until the rope out stage.
We soon had to blast back east as we began to get pelted by rain. We cut south on highway 81 and took another film stop to see if the storm could produce another tornado. Again, we were not disappointed. This would be tornado number four (we had seen an earlier weak tornado during our approach from highway 8). Looking NW at 5:02 PM from highway 8 south of Chester, NE and north of Belleville, KS.
We stayed ahead of this storm for awhile as the southern flank was showing signs of intensifying. It put on a good show, but never did tornado. We noticed rapidly building towers exploding to our SE near TOP, and decided to go after those. These extremely dynamic towers entertained us for the next couple of hours with an array of powerful "A-Bomb" updrafts, massive anvils with inverted knuckles, and an occasional overshooting dome. We burned thru dozens of pictures and miles of video tape along the way.
The storms began to merge and bombard us with lightning bolts by the time we reached Reading, KS along highway 170 northeast of Topeka. We called off the chase near the town of Lyndon on highway 75, and filmed a fast paced lightning show off to our east. I want to thank my chase partners Keith Brown, Kinney Adams, Blake Naftel, and Bill Reid for all the great team work in making this day a fantastic success! Miles logged, three hundred...maybe four hundred, who knows!?.
MAY 25, 2004: Tuesday - Low Expectations in OK:
Our original target for the day was somewhere in NC/NE Oklahoma along the quasi-stationary NE/SW oriented boundary, but shifted further south as the day wore on and so did the thick cloud shield. The clouds kept the boundary further south away from the best upper and mid level flow, and there was no insolation to bolster the instability. OKC will be our home tonight, possibly heading back north a bit tomorrow to try the same plan again. This weekend is starting to look just plain scary!
MAY 26, 2004: Wednesday - Central OK Supercell:
Our target for today would be NC/NW OK, starting somewhere near Perry, and possibly working north and west from there. We needed to also keep our options open and be prepared to blast back south for possible storm development anywhere along the dryline stretching into SW OK. Conditions were better today...the DL would be a player from near Enid SW to near Altus. I liked the area further north because of it's proximity to better flow aloft and the quasi-stationary boundary. But we also liked the area further south were surface winds converged better with the dryline. I didn't like the general grunge that hung overhead until mid afternoon...I really hate waiting for something under those awful skies. The first cell went up to our southwest along I-40 near Elk City and looked to be moving ESE. Our group decided this would be our target storm. The other half of the group decided to sit tight a bit longer, or move slightly west. Traveling west on I-40, the storm split and we intercepted the southern flank of the southern (right) split in the town of Hinton. We had a great view of a menacing wall cloud just to our west, but there was only rising motion visible during our photo stop.
We cut east and south along highway 37 and got blasted with the RFD in the town of Hinton, and had flying boxes crossing the road! I'm not sure if the residents were more interested in the storm, or all the storm chasers passing thru their town. The original wall cloud soon occluded and a new lowering formed directly to our north, but it was no where near as interesting as the original WC. By the time we entered Minco, the storm looked less and less likely to produce a tornado as it morphed into a beautifully sculpted LP with a stacked plate base and sheared over updraft towers.
We finished up the chase near the town of Tuttle while enjoying the final moments of this once tornado warned storm. The storm now had a large spoon shaped base with a highly sheared updraft towers leaning far off to the east. Meanwhile the other part of our group intercepted a tornado producer near Sooner Lake...congrats to Bill R, Blake N, and Kinney A., for sticking with our original target! I would have loved to been there for the tornadoes, but I'm not complaining...we found a very photogenic storm to chase!
MAY 27, 2004: Thursday - North Texas Bust:
The SPS to ABI area appeared the best place to be today for supercell thunderstorm development. There was a slight risk across this area for severe in an area of instability east of a southeast moving dryline. Unfortunately, this was the third day in a row we had a pesky mid level cloud cover in place most of the day, along with elevated convection. A few cells south of Abilene began to take on a discrete appearance and severe warnings were issued for these storms by the time we reached Seymour TX. We plotted our approach as a TOR warning was issued for Nolan and Jones County. Martin Lisius was just south of I-20 near Merkel when he reported seeing a dusty and rain wrapped tornado to his north. By the time we skirted the core and got into position, the storm had lost it's organization. The rest of the afternoon was spent playing tag with marginally severe storms on our way east to Fort Worth. Too much competition between storms and a lack of instability were the culprits today. We had a nice dinner at a popular Tex-Mex restaurant in FTW, and called it a night.
MAY 28, 2004: Friday - OKC:
This was the last day for the T3B guests, and the day Nancy would join me in OKC. With no threat of severe weather, everyone agreed to end the day with a group photo at the SPC (Storm Prediction Center) in Norman, OK. Then it was off to return the rental van and get ready for tomorrow, a potentially big day somewhere in NE, KS, and OK.
MAY 29, 2004: Saturday - Tornadoes in Harper & Sumner County, KS:
The greatest threats for tornadic supercells for today appeared to be one of two places. The triple point play in north central KS near Concordia, or further south ahead of the dryline where upper flow may be a bit better...and the CAP would hold off a bit longer. We choose the latter, but both areas produced tornadoes. We watched the first towers go up as we approached Medicine Lodge and waited just east of town for things to develop. Soon, there were tornado warned storms to our south in OK near Elk City, and another one well to our north in NC KS. Our storms to the west were kind of lame, but they continue to show signs of strengthening. As new and stronger storms began to form to our immediate southwest, we decided to head south and be in position to intercept these northeastward moving storms. We waited again just north of Kiowa for these storms to move eastward into better instability, and stayed ahead of them to a point south of Anthony on highway 179. We watched a rather disorganized storm grow into a pretty LP to our west, but it sure didn't look like it was going to tornado.
Eventually a wall cloud developed and began to rotate. We were just about to pack up and head north when a small needle like funnel began snaking its way to the ground around 7:13 PM CDT. We were then entertained for the next 15 to 20 minutes as an elephant trunk tornado remained planted on the ground with a clearly defined debris whirl at the base. I believe the tornado may have lifted and reformed once during this time period.
We then blasted north through Anthony as the sirens were sounding, and then turned east on a gravel road on the north side of town. As we approached the town from the south, the old tornado had become occluded and a new funnel began forming from a new wall cloud to our NNE. We had a great view to our north of a pretty cone shaped tornado that was kicking up a red dust whirl. We made a brief stop a couple of miles east of town to film this beautiful tornado that had now formed an impressive rotating collar cloud.
Further east the tornado became heavily wrapped in rain and/or dust and took on a wedge appearance. This slightly enhanced photo reveals a cone tornado on the left side of the wrapping rain/dust curtains below a pronounced RFD clear slot near the town of Argonia, KS.
By now the storm had become quite a beast and was ingesting strong moist inflow winds from our south. Dust from the vehicles in front were streaming rapidly off to our north as intense RFD winds were kicking up huge black dust plumes back to our NNW. Again we continued east to a dirt road that cut north towards Conway Springs. By now there was a massive rotating wall cloud only a couple of miles to our north that produced several tornadoes in a "merry-go-round" fashion for the next 15 minutes or so.
Our final film stop was south of a roadblock along highway 49 southwest of Wellington. We were able to get one last look at the departing bowl shaped lowering and a white cone shaped tornado racing off to our ENE. What an incredible chase day...close to two hours of filming a prolific tornado producer across two counties! Once again I want to thank my chase partners Bill Reid, Keith Brown, Kinney Adams, and Martin Lisius for the incredible teamwork to make today among the best three days of my chase career...the other two occurring just in the past week...what an unbelievable chase season!
MAY 30, 2004: Sunday - Eastern Oklahoma Bust:
Today Nancy and I decided to drift into SE OK and possibly intercept a supercell that might be moving east into the moderate risk area across Arkansas. By late morning there were 5 PDS tornado watch boxes in effect, and two of them included far eastern OK. We targeted a storm that had just gone severe near McAlester, and pursued it to along highway 31 to near Poteau. The storm sported some nice updraft towers early on, but they were somewhat soft and vertically aligned. Other than experiencing a few close CG's and torrential rains in Panama, the entire day was a bust. We tried to get ahead of a couple of severe warned storms nearing Idabel in extreme SE OK, but were slowed dramatically while climbing the mountains along highway 259 south. Note: NEVER take this road again...I thought I would encounter snow along the switchback turns leading to the mountain summits! We spent the night in New Boston, TX after 400 plus miles logged.
MAY 31, 2004: Monday (Memorial Day) - Waco Severe:
We targeted the Waco, TX region today based on a its location close to the old E-W frontal boundary/OFB intersection NE TX, combined with high CAPE values and a DL bulge located to the SW. By mid afternoon a few storms developed and began to intensify on an OFB that curved from about Lufkin NW to near Corsicana. SPC meso-analysis indicated the best parameters still pointed to ACT. We exited I-35 south near the town of West to watch some convective towers that were beginning to exhibit good vertical development to our north.
After waiting things out for about an hour, we (Bill R., Keith B, and Kinney A and myself), decided to target the storm to our immediate north. Just north of the town of West we were amazed by the explosive growth that was taking place overhead.
This cell and another one to our NW in Johnson County looked the best on radar, and both had gone severe. We continued to follow our storm south and east along various roads thru the town of Coolidge. By now we were trying to outrun the core to the southeast on highway 171...the same road the storm preferred! The storm was getting nastier and began to spit out some small hail and high winds when a warning was issued for a possible tornado developing near the town of Coolidge, about two minutes after we passed thru the town. We outpaced the core near Mexia and cut south thru some winding back streets to highway 39. Once "safely" south of town we opted to pull into an open field thru a cattle guard to get a good look at our approaching storm. We figured we were safe for a few minutes until we were blasted by the first CG...then another, and another all in the matter of a few seconds. Just as I yanked the camcorder off the dash to try to find the next bolt a flash/bang occurred right in front of my truck (three other vehicles were behind me at this point). Nancy yelled "DID YOU SEE THAT"!? As I swung the camera back thru the windshield I could see a puff of smoke rising off the grass no more than 50 yards in front of me! I yelled on the HAM for everyone to get turned around and get out of here fast. Bill replied "let's stick around", but his van was already making the turn...silly boy. Our next film stop was near the town of Donie. The storm was developing an inflow tail and had a well formed updraft base, but we soon had to blast east again.
We took one last look back to our west as we neared the town of Buffalo.
We were running out of light, so we decided to find some shelter in Buffalo and wait for the core to pass by to our east. We were fortunate to find a drive thru bank on the east side of town big enough to accommodate all our vehicles and wait out the core. Once the core moved east, we made the drive back to Waco under an almost continuous light show. Approximately 400 miles logged today.
JUNE 1, 2004: Tuesday - North Texas Supercells:
Today's storm setup was very similar to yesterdays, except that the best combination of extreme instability, moisture convergence, and mid/upper level wind support was west of I-35. After a longer than expected lunch in Hillsboro, we headed west and north towards our target region near Stephenville. A couple of storms initiated by mid afternoon to our west near Hilo, but soon split into multiple cells. We hung around just south of town under a mammatus canopy waiting for a target storm to present itself. Nancy decided to collect some wildflowers.
A storm to our north was beginning to look better, so we plotted an intercept north through Erath County and stopped for a photo op on our way to the town of Bluff Dale. The storm to our immediate west was drying out from the bottom up, but another cell to our NW was looking better.
By the time we got to Bluff Dale, the storm that had been to our NW was now directly to our west. The storm looked LP'ish in nature, but did try to briefly organize a rotating wall cloud a couple of times.
We dropped back south via the same route to a nice high point to watch the approach of this storm from our NW. Again, it briefly tried to strengthen by developing a nice inflow cloud off to the east, but became undercut all too soon.
We continued to flank the south side of this storm for a few miles, but it began decaying fast into a skinny and twisted LP before drying up altogether.
Martin Lisius had now joined our group, and we set our sights on another set of storms to the north of I-20 near Graham. There were two main storms that were drifting to the SE, and we changed our mind a couple of times along the way as to which one would be best to target. Eventually, the western most storm looked the best on radar and was intercepted near Graford. A large wall cloud was evident, but we had to turn around and blast back south in order to stay away from the approaching core. After a couple of brief film stops to study any areas of rotation, we were pelted by the core while going thru the Mineral Wells as the tornado sirens were sounding. We cut south on highway 281 and broke out of the rain and some quarter size hail a few miles south of town. The storm had now moved off to our east, and we were able to get a few peaks through some low clouds at a pretty mammatus field that extended from a newer cell that had formed back to our NW.
We drove a few miles south of I-20 to get a better look at this approaching storm, but had pretty much run out of daylight by this point. I was able to capture one decent shot of the updraft tower and anvil/mammatus canopy through one of the few breaks in the trees in the fading light. Finished up the chase day in MWL with another 289 chase miles logged.
JUNE 2, 2004: Wednesday - Texas Panhandle Storms:
I liked the surface convergence, moisture axis, and directional wind shear progged by the 12Z ETA for the southeastern TX PH by 00Z. I figured a good first pick target may be near Turkey, TX. By mid afternoon a couple of decent storms had formed west of AMA, and weaker storms were forming in the LBB area. We blew off the LBB storms and headed north on 70. Bill, Keith, Kinney, and I all agreed it would be better to target the storms moving (or developing) into the better instability, moisture convergence, and backed surface winds to our north. A PDS tornado watch box had just been issued (to our surprise) for a good part of the northern TX PH.
By late afternoon it became more and more apparent the day was going to be a bust. We had a messy line of storms moving in from our west, a weakening storm sliding in from our north, and the back building line of storms propagating in from our east...what a convective mess! We got rooms in CDS, then headed a bit north of town to ride out the core of the linear storm complex moving in from our west. As we were turning our vehicles around to face the storm, a brief gustnado was spotted by Bill and others just to our south along highway 83. We later found the road blocked due to several poles blocking highway 83 where the gustnado had crossed. We rode out the core for awhile and watched the dusty outflow and CG's to our north before calling it a night. 300 plus miles logged.
JUNE 3, 2004: Thursday - Kit Carson County, CO - Tornado Warned Storm:
Like most other chasers, we headed to the eastern Plains of Colorado on Thursday in hopes of finding a high plains supercell. Dewpoints were marginal, but shear across east central CO was adequate to get storms rotating once they moved off the front range. For the second day in a row we were a encouraged when a TOR watch box was issued for our target region, this time for most of eastern CO. Insolation was less then desirable throughout the afternoon hours. We played the middle ground between the better shear up north and the better moisture further south near Kit Carson during the late afternoon hours. A decent looking cell on radar beckoned east of Pueblo, while other cells percolated in the Fort Morgan to Sterling area. We held our ground for awhile, then finally made our move north to intercept the southern most cell north of I-70 in Kit Carson County. We crossed I-70 on highway 59 and watched the approaching storm to our north...it was not all that exciting. New towers had gone up back to our SW that looked promising, so back south we went on highway 59. We intercepted the northern edge of the cell north of Kit Carson, and the storm was building flanking line towers to the north, and now the storms back north of I-70 were looking much better. So, back north we went on highway 59 again! The flanking line storms began pelting us with nickel size hail, that covered the road in spots. These storm towers soon passed off to our east.
The "tail-end" storm to our north came into view as we approached I-70 and was beginning to take on some nice structure, and it was now tornado warned.
At Seibert, we cut east on highway 24 as the core of the storm approached from our NW. We could see a wall cloud to our north at times, but could not determine any rotation as we were on the move. The sirens were going off in Vona as we continued east. Daylight was fading fast, but the lightning activity had increased dramatically.
We gave up the chase east of Stratton, and called it a chase day in Burlington, CO after 489 miles logged for the day.
JUNE 4, 2004: Friday - Northeast Colorado Severe Storms:
Today was another day to play the upslope flow across the high plains of Colorado. Good southeasterly surface winds, adequate shear aloft, and dewpoints in the upper 50's across northeast CO and SW NE indicated we had a good chance at seeing a nice supercell. By mid afternoon a SEV watch box was put up for our target area and weak storms had already initiated to our west. We hung out at a park in Sterling digesting data and watching the TheatNet for intensification of the storms off to our WNW. We decided to target a storm moving slowly ESE in northern Weld County. Soon after we departed a tornado warning was issued for this storm based on a "public sighting", but my guess was that they saw a dust plume from an outflow downburst. We found a quiet gravel road just north of town and watched the storm intensify over the next hour or so.
We then headed east along highway 6 as this storm began to line out and merge with a more isolated storm that had exploded just to our north. The storm to our north had now become the focus of our interest as it was turning hard right in our direction. An intense hail/rain core had formed to our north, but strong southeasterly flow was still feeding into the storm to our east, which resulted in a highly contrasted gustnado off to our ENE.
Near Haxton we stopped to film the isolated core of the storm off to our north, and the merging line off to our WSW.
We ended the chase from a high point overlooking Enders Reservoir just south of Imperial, NE as we let the weakening line of convection overtake us. I recorded a maximum wind gust of 58 MPH as the plumes of reddish/orange dust blotted out most of the lake. 300 chase miles logged for the day.
JUNE 5, 2004: Saturday - NW TX Panhandle Storms:
I decided to target the SW KS area southward to the northern TX PH for the last day of my chase vacation. The mid and upper level flow was weak, but there might be just enough shear to get a supercell going. I figured by the time we got to Liberal, KS we could look at data and finalize the target region. Just as we arrived, an MD for severe had been posted, which was followed by a couple of SEV watch boxes across our target region. A few storms had initiated to the west in the OK PH, and I decided to target those. It was time to say good bye to my friends and chase partners Bill Reid, Keith Brown, and Kinney Adams who needed to chase towards OKC for the night...what an incredibly successful past couple of weeks we had all shared!
The primary storm cell to my west had gone severe and was moving slowly south into Dallam County, TX. I stopped on the east side of Stratford, TX to watch the base gradually become a little better organized. There was no way this storm was going to tornado, but it did display some interesting base structure from time to time.
I followed the storm on highway 54 to south of Dalhart before letting it go. It gave one last show to my west with a pronounced ragged wall cloud before going completely linear. I decided to head back NE on highway 54 in an attempt to intercept new storm cells that were forming to the NW of Guymon. The setting sun was backlighting a couple of newly developed rain shafts with imbedded CG's off to my west as I approached Optima. I set up my cameras north of Hooker, OK and was treated to a very pretty display of highly branched CG's and CC's until well after sunset. Even though the storms were rather weak, they put on a very nice display of lightning, which was not a bad way too end my 2004 chase vacation. We spent the night in Liberal, KS after 350 chase miles logged.
Interesting Factoids from 2004:
Total Miles Logged w/Tempest Tours: 2350
Total Miles Logged on my own: 8701
Total Miles Logged Trip One: 11,051
Average Miles per Day: 442
Total Days on the Road: 25
Total Days in Chase Mode: 20 (5 out of 6 w/Tempest T3B)
Severe Storm Intercept Days: 16 (4 w/Tempest T3B)
Tornadoes Intercepted: 4 minimum Thayer/Jefferson/Saline County, NE May 22nd
4 minimum Chester, NE / Belleville, KS May 24th
Who knows!?...maybe a dozen or more in Harper, Sumner County KS on May 29th!
Average Time to Bed: 2:30 AM
Gas Prices Paid: Ranged from $1.76 to $2.09
With average of $1.99