MAY 18, 2005: Wed - Day 1 - Wichita, KS:
My daughter Alicia and I left home at noon on Tuesday with a goal of at least reaching the eastern part of Kansas by late in the day on Wednesday. Upon reaching Kansas City we decided an area to our SSE looked prime for severe thunderstorms by late afternoon. We hung out to the west of Yates Center waiting for the CAP to weaken and storms to form to our west. Meanwhile a few storms had formed back to our north near Topeka which eventually lured us back in that direction. When we were about half way to the storms to our north, our target region finally starting to generate a few weak radar returns on the ThreatNet. Since we liked this area better, we blasted back towards Wichita just in time to witness a few weak storms right after sunset. I later learned that the storms to our north became the main event as they merged into a severe line of storms and put on a nice show for the few chasers that stayed with these storms. Many of those that targeted Wichita bagged it early and called it a bust.
MAY 19, 2005: Thu - Day 2 - Blackwell, OK:
Another bust! Alicia and I hung out for hours in the Kaw Lake area beneath hot sunny skies watching every little cloud for signs of development. The CAP once again proved far too formidable for storm initiation. We finally gave up all hope around 6PM and decided to go for broke and target NW South Dakota for a pretty LP on Friday. We drove straight north and arrived in York, NE a little before midnight.
MAY 20: Fri - Day 3 - Harding County, SD:
Adequate moisture, instability, and shear offered our first real chance at seeing a supercell somewhere in extreme NW SD or SW ND. We arrived in Castle Rock, SD around 5 PM MDT and watched some towers try to break the CAP just to our east. We decided to continue a bit further north to our target area somewhere between Buffalo, SD and Bowman, ND. As we were driving north on Highway 85 a new and isolated tower began to rapidly form off to our NW. We held up just south of Buffalo and watched the tower evolve into a pretty LP supercell and then later into a more classic mode as it slowly drifted closer to our position. The storm exhibited excellent separation between the updraft and downdraft regions as the base structure evolved from spoon shaped to a more laminar stack-o-plates appearance. A few brief base lowerings were observed as scud clouds condensed beneath the base, but I could not determine any rotation within these areas.
As the storm moved off to our north the base gradually became more bell-shaped. We could no longer see the main updraft tower but we did observe a very long and narrow anvil drifting well off to our east. The storm was upgraded from severe to tornado warned (Doppler indicated) at the time the following photos were taken.
We then followed the storm's southern flank eastward along highway 20. We made another film stop about 5 miles east of Buffalo as the bell-shaped updraft began to shrink. Mid-level clouds began wrapping around the main updraft area as a new updraft base developed briefly on the storm's most western flank, but this soon collapsed as well. I'm not sure why this storm didn't continue to strengthen since there were no competing storms nearby. Perhaps the upper level support was ill-timed or inflow became a problem; southeasterly winds decreased dramatically at the time of the storms demise.
We paralleled the weakening storm until well after sunset, but it showed no signs of re-organizing and very little lightning was observed. We ended up staying in Eagle Butte, SD for the night a did see a little lightning east of town near midnight.
MAY 21: Sat - Day 4 - Onawa, IA:
Yet another day with great promise that went down the tubes in a bust as chasers lined up from the Sioux-Land south along the Missouri River to the Omaha, NE area. Alicia and I hung out in Mitchell, SD for a while and then slowly drifted south to the Sioux City, IA area. We made our final stand near Onawa, IA watching a cumulus field struggle to break the CAP. We gave up at sunset and headed to Lincoln, NE for the night.
MAY 22: Sun - Day 5 - Northeast, CO:
I didn't want to get burned by the CAP again today, so we blew off the severe potential along the eastern OK/KS border and blasted west to northeastern CO to be in position for the promise of some pretty supercells for today and possibly the next few days. We hung out near Roggen along I-76 watching a few strong updrafts pulse to our south as new and stronger cells formed to our north to the west of Kimball, NE. SPC meso analysis indicated a tongue of slightly elevated moisture nosing northeastward into this region so I decided to blast back north for an intercept just as a severe warning was issued for Laramie County in WY. We got south of the rapidly weakening storms along the Pleetz Plateau and enjoyed the virga and dissipating storms from a windmill farm just south of Pleetz, CO.
New storms began to form back to our SW and a severe warning was issued for Morgan County, CO. We finished up the day just south of Sterling filming the decaying storms amid a blaze of color from the setting sun. 586 miles driven today.
MAY 23: Mon - Day 6 - Southeast, CO:
We stayed in Sterling until about noon waiting for a good reason to leave. Good updrafts began percolating to the west of LIC (Limon, CO) and began moving slowly to the SE in Elbert County, so off we went. We caught up with the base near Punkin Center and watched the base for further development. A severe warning was in effect at the time, but the base remained high and struggled to lower and organize. The following two pictures were taken looking to our west from a little east of Karval between 3:00 & 3:25 MDT.
We continued south on highway 71 as new storms began to form off to our ENE, but nothing really stood out as a "target" storm all the way to the CO/KS border. We briefly thought about heading north to the disorganized storm cluster north of I-70 near Burlington, but ventured back west to intercept a new line of storms in Crowley County. We ended the chase just west of Lamar filming some pretty skies at sunset.
We got blasted by some small hail and close lightning while getting our rooms in Lamar, then went south of town to film some lightning. My daughter finally got to see a decent light show, albeit somewhat from a distance.
MAY 24: Tue - Day 7 - Northeast CO Supercells:
Northeast Colorado again appeared to he best place to find rotating storms so we headed back north from our overnight stay in Lamar. By the early afternoon storms had already developed over the mountains to our west and had begun moving eastward along the boundary roughly aligned along I-76. We stopped at Anton to watch the development of two storms off to our west and soon decided the northern storm would be the one to intercept. We could clearly see the base and some suspicious lowerings off to our west as we headed north to Akron along highway 63. We made a photo stop a little west of Akron to watch the supercell strengthen as it moved in our general direction from the WNW.
We observed some rotation in the cloud structure to our NNW before we got blasted by the strong outflow. Winds were clocked steady to near 50MPH and the truck immediately became filled with dust. Alicia finally managed to win the battle with the wind and get her door closed just before the strongest gusts occurred. We then headed east on Highway 34 as the storm paralleled our path to the north. We kept one eye on a low hanging wall cloud with dust plumes below to our north and the other on road construction crews ahead of us trying to stay clear of the flying signs to our east. We took a few more photo stops along the way near Wray.
There was no way we were going to get out of this beast's path as it was now merging with other severe and tornado warned cells to our SSW. The best option would be to cut south on highway 161 to Bird City in KS and then go east on highway 36 towards Atwood. Alicia already told me she didn't like driving in heavy rain, but now there was no way to stop and switch driving with her. She would now have to deal with 50+ MPH outflow driven winds blowing heavy rain and endless tumbleweed families smacking into the side of our truck. Throw in an occasional dust plume crossing the road in front of us and a fun time was had by all! We rode out the brunt of the storm in Atwood and then went back west of town looking for some storm colors and lightning. We found a pretty rainbow a few miles west of town and then enjoyed a semi-decent light show on our drive south to Colby, KS for the night.
MAY 25: Wed - Day 8 - Eastern NM Supercells:
A cold front had swept through the central plains overnight and we had to get south fast if we wanted to see any severe weather today. We targeted the northeastern plains of NM where the best instability and easterly surface flow would strengthen any storms moving eastward off the mountains. By the time we arrived in Clayton, NM a couple of storms were already visible to our west. The northern storm near Springer looked best initially, but a rapidly developing updraft directly to our west and south of the Springer storm convinced us this would become our target storm. We cut south from highway 56/412 on two lane highway 120 towards Yates. We were in need of gas and a rest stop so we raced towards the town of Yates. I believe I recall seeing one collapsed building and a rusted out Buick along the way which must have been Yates, since GPS now indicated we were past the town! We stopped to film the explosive towers and developing base structure off to our NW.
Alicia and I then left the rest of the group and headed north along a dirt road into the Kiowa National Grasslands in order to get a closer view of the updraft base. Along the way we stopped at an abandoned farmstead to for a photo-op.
I navigated further north along the dirt road looking for an west option that would take us back to a paved road before any rain could overtake us. I found our west road at the same time the rain found us. I took a quick photo of the beautiful vault region off to our west and then gritted my teeth and headed west on the rain slick road. I soon found that 10 MPH was way too fast as the truck was swerving all over the place. 5 MPH wasn't much better even with 4 wheel drive. The deep bar ditch on either side of us seemed to lure the truck ever so closer to disaster. On two occasions an entire herd of cattle completely blocked the road and didn't want to budge...I think I was down to 2 MPH at this point so at least it would have been a "soft" collision.
We finally made it back to highway 39 just to the north of Mills and stopped to film the main updraft region of the same storm which was now off to our east.
We then targeted new storms that were going severe to our south to the north of Santa Rosa, but still needed to make that much needed fuel stop in Roy...a somewhat bigger town than Yates. We found the one and only gas station closed with a sign on the door indicating the hours from 9AM to Noon daily. Fortunately, the pump was working and took a credit card. We continued south to Logan and decided two new storms directly to our south would become the dominate players. We were able to thread the needle directly between these southward moving supercells near the town of Broadview. I took one last photo with my 12mm wide angle lens of the looming updraft tower of the "eastern" storm.
We managed to stay between these two cells all the way to Clovis. Each film stop just south of the storms would find us in somewhat warm air which was soon replaced by a cold surge of air from the north. We were able to see the bell-shaped updraft of the western storm illuminated by lightning from our position near the Clovis airport, but the show was pretty much over except some infrequent displays of lightning. The best lightning bolt of the day was viewed from inside the McDonald's next to the motel.
MAY 26: Thu - Day 9 - Socorro, NM Storms:
Alicia and I decided to head to the south and east of Albuquerque with the expectation of finding a few southeastward moving storms that would develop over the mountains. We weren't expecting much, just some lightning and pretty sunset colors and that is pretty much what we found. We viewed a few spectacular lightning bolts near Socorro, but all escaped our cameras. We also found the ground covered with small hail a few miles east of Socorro along highway 380. A pretty sunset near Bingham finished up the day.
MAY 27: Fri - Day 10 - Travel Day:
We could not chase storms today since we needed to be back in OKC for the night. Alicia and I visited the Palo Duro Canyon south of Amarillo, TX and then headed east to OKC. A severe storm formed to the north of Amarillo and other storms developed back where we were the day before in the Albuquerque, NM region. Those storms dumped copious amounts of hail and snow plows were required to clear I-25.
MAY 28: Sat - Day 11 - T3 Orientation Day:
I dropped Alicia off at the OKC airport early and then headed back to the hotel to help prepare for the T3 Guests arrival. Bill, Keith, Kinney, and I decided to take the guests (17 of them in three vans) towards some potentially severe storms in the SE CO/SW KS/OK PH region. If nothing else, this would put us in a good position for DAY 2. We ended up intercepting the tail end of a line of storms near Hugoton, KS. The weakening line strengthened near sunset and tried to produce a weak shelf-cloud as some new towers began to form just to our south. It was about as much as we could hope for due to our late departure, a few semi-interesting storms and a bit of lightning. We later had a continuous light show on our way to Guymon, OK for our nights lodging. Alicia would have had her camera running the whole way! Based on other reports, I don't think we missed all that much earlier further north in Colorado.
MAY 29: Sun - Day 12 - T3 Hail Storm:
The best chance to find a supercell today appeared to be a triangle bounded by Springfield, CO south to Clayton, NM northwest to Trinidad, CO. Shortly after 12 noon the first convective towers were visible to our west just as we approached Clayton. A few storms had initiated over the mountains near the CO/NM border, but one cell was out in front of these near Raton. We plotted an intercept course along highway 64/87. The storm then prompted a severe warning for Colfax County as we approached the town of Capulin. We filmed the storm from just west of Capulin at the time when it looked best on radar.
We filmed a few good CG's and then plotted a course for some new development further to our south. We soon gave up on these storms since the route south was dirt, not blacktop as we had hoped. A light rain is all it takes to turn these roads to a slippery mess and we didn't want to spend the rest of the day stuck in a ditch. We traveled north to Kim and had three areas with severe warned cells to consider, the ones to our south (too far to be easily reach) the ones to our east near Springfield, CO and a newly developed cell to our WNW near Walsenburg. After digesting all the pros and cons we decided to head west. There was some good insolation taking place out ahead of the western storm and it would be logistically easier to intercept the approaching storm. A severe warning was soon prompted by this storm for Las Animas county so that made the decision easier. Along the way a cell formed just to the south of highway 160 to the east of Trinidad. It had a nice updraft tower and put on a nice CG display for awhile. We stopped to watch this cell for a bit prior to heading west after the Trinidad storm.
We then approached the core of the Trinidad storm from at a point where 160 curves hard SW north of Trinidad. We had some scary scud dangling in front of a bright white hail core just as we prepared to "enter the core". We only traveled a few hundred feet before having to stop and ride out the deafening roar of the wind driven hail slamming the van. The beating lasted for over 15 minutes and the largest hail we observed was quarter size or slightly larger. The hail began accumulating up to a depth of several inches at spots much to the delight of the tour guests! We then traveled back south to get out of the residual rain and observed a nice fully arched hail bow and and a few patches of hail fog. Later on our way back to Trinidad hail could still be seen covering the roads and the surrounding countryside.
MAY 30: Mon - Day 13 - T3 Des Moines, NM Tornado:
We hung around Trinidad until shortly after noon and then decided to head a bit east of town and wait for the developing convection to move off the mountains. A storm had already formed to our west and we left this one get slightly ahead of us prior to leaving town.
We then drove east through the moderate rain and hail core to a point about 15 miles east of town. We hung out for more than an hour watching several storms form off to our WSW and then drift off to our north. Some of these storms looked good at times but just couldn't seem to really get fully organized.
As these storms moved off to our north they prompted severe warnings, but another storm beckoned us to head south towards Branson. This storm had no competition to its south so we figured we could hold up somewhere along highway 389 until it got closer. As the RFB area neared we observed a small "shear" funnel hanging from the base and a neat rain/hail shaft in front of the snow capped peaks beyond. However, we got bored with this storm rather quickly.
Strong cells prompted severe warning back to our NE in Baca County Colorado and a good looking isolated cell tempted us 75 miles to our south in San Miguel county NM. We hated to leave our forecast area, but logistically this seemed to be the best bet. Also, new cells were still forming to our immediate SE, so these would need to be watched along the way. We took a much needed break in Des Moines, NM before heading east along highway 64/87. We were watching our old cell just to our north when a new one formed nearly behind us. This one was starting to look really interesting visually and on radar so we decided to stop for a better look a few miles east of town. Once we turned the vehicles around it became apparent that this storm held the most promise of the day! A cone shape lowering in the cloud base had formed and a clear slot soon began working in from the south. We quickly got our cameras set up as a rotating funnel cloud began to form. A cone-shaped funnel soon extended at least half way to the ground and was visibly rotating. Although I can not honestly say I witnessed any dust whirl on the ground I am fairly confident in calling this a tornado. A review of my video with the contrast adjusted revealed a faint condensation tube below the main condensation funnel that extended nearly to ground level. We filmed this event from 6:45 to 6:51 MDT.
We followed this storm for awhile as new storms began forming to our NNW. Stronger cells were now prompting tornado warnings near Springfield, CO. The storms to our north fizzled as we approached from the south and darkness was now upon us. We finished up the day near Seneca, NM watching a nice lightning display form the still active storms to our north.
MAY 31: Tue - Day 14 - T3 Tornadic Storm - Lamb County, TX:
When I woke up this morning my first best guess was to head to Muleshoe, TX. I figured this would be a good starting point for convective initiation (CI) later in the day. Boundary layer convergence in this area correlated well with a Theta-e ridge and high CAPE values. However, upper flow seemed a bit better further to the south so after lunch we headed south of the boundary to Brownfield figuring to play the middle ground and be patient. Patience began to run out as storms had already initiated along the boundary south of the AMA area. We weren't all that interested in those storms based on radar and field reports from other chasers, but we were very interested in a newly developing cell just east of Clovis, NM. We caught up with the base of the storm along highway 84 a little east of Muleshoe. The base was rather high, but it was showing signs of rotation...and there were no competitive storms to its south.
The storm began to show better signs of development as we followed it east along route 70, then south along 303 and then to the southeast along highway 84. The tornado sirens were going off in Sudan as we cut southeast along highway 84 even though the storm was only severe warned at the time. A tornado warning did follow shortly thereafter though. The storm was now turning more to the southeast and began to cross route 84 behind us. We got a few miles ahead of the storm and watched it approach from our WNW from a point SE of Amherst. A very low base could be seen above blowing dust and a tornado was very likely occurring at the time. We took the following photos between 6:35 & 6:38 CDT...which I later learned was about the time a brief multi-vortex tornado was observed by Jim Leonard near Amherst. A fat cone-shaped lowering was revealed by contrasting the photos.
The storm soon began to go HP as we continued SE to Shallowater and then south on 179 to Wolfforth. We were now to the west of the southeastward moving rain core so we could safely view the storm move towards us from the north.
We decided to let the storm slide by to our east as we headed west along highway 41 to Ropesville. For several miles we encountered dust plumes racing across the road from the north. At Ropesville we viewed the departing storm at sunset.
JUNE 1: Wed - Day 15 - Positioning Day:
No storms were forecast today so we used the time to reposition ourselves from our overnight stay in Plainview, TX to northwest KS in order to be in a decent position for Thursday.
JUNE 2: Thu - Day 16 - T3: Sculpted Mothership - Arriba, CO:
On Wednesday we spent the day traveling from Plainview, TX to Goodland, KS in order to be in what we hoped would be a good position for Thursday. The 12z ETA and RUC on Thursday morning indicated we were in good position and we had little reason to move. Around noon Bill Reid, Keith Brown, Kinney Adams, and I decided to head a little further west into CO to be closer to any convective initiation. We hung out at a Seibert convenience store for an hour or so trying to decide what to do. We were experiencing cool easterly surface winds in Seibert and a strong CAP was evident to our south. A severe-warned storm was coming off the front range and was located about 75 miles to our WNW, but we decided to wait for bigger and better stuff back to our east near the KS/CO border. We headed back east on I-70 towards the CAPE maximum which was located east of Goodland and watch for signs of towering CU to form overhead and to our east along the way. While stopped at another convenience store near Goodland we received a HAM transmission from the NWS GLD concerning the now tornado warned storm back to our NW in Washington County. According to a report from the field this storm was reported to have produced a "large destructive tornado" in the Woodrow area. Also, there was now another tornado warned storm bearing down on the Limon area to our west.. The sky was now virtually clear overhead and we saw no signs of the bubbling Cu field off to our east as expected. So back west on I-70 we went. We had to decide along the way whether we would target the tornado warned storm to our northwest or the tornado warned storm directly to our west near Limon. The storm to our north would be an easier intercept, but the Limon storm to its SW was in the process of spreading a large anvil plume over the Washington County storm. We soon decided the southern storm would be the better play. We began to get a pretty good view of the storm as we approached Vona and it was evident that this storm was going to be a sculpted beauty! We set up our cameras just east of Arriba and were awed at the truly amazing upside down "wedding cake" structure approaching us from the west!
Additionally, a large beaver tail could be seen feeding in from the northeast. We were able to identify a few dust plumes and/or whirls beneath the base structure from time to time, but could not clearly identify any rotation at cloud level or on the ground. A cool outflow blast soon had us heading east, and it was now getting dark which would limit any further photo opportunities.
As we once again approached the KS/CO border a large storm to our north began to draw our groups interest. We got ahead of this storm at Goodland and filmed an almost continuous lightning show after sunset. Lightning revealed some nice stair stepped structure during our last film stop, but we once again had to head east to stay ahead of the cool gusty outflow. We arrived at our hotel in Oakley and the storms continued to move east just missing our location. Meanwhile, Bill headed back west to get reunited with his camera case which he left sitting next to the railroad tracks at our last film stop west of Colby.
JUNE 3: Fri - Day 17 - T3 Final Day: Oakley, KS to OKC:
There was a chance of severe storms over a broad area of the central and southern plains, with a conditional risk of supercells and tornadoes along the DL in the eastern TX PH region south to CDS. Unfortunately convection in this area continued until late afternoon thereby eliminating any chance for severe storms later in the day. Near Wheeler, TX we decided to go after some rapidly building convection off to our east, but these storms never got very strong. We headed back to OKC and had one last dinner with all 17 guests...a very nice ending to a successful week of storm intercepts!
JUNE 4: Sat - Day 18 - Tornado - Severy, KS:
Bill Reid, Kinney Adams, Martin Lisius and I intercepted a tornado on Saturday near Severy, KS. We initially targeted the Wellington to Harper area then later decided to move further east when we began to experience SSW winds. We later re-positioned to the northeast near El Dorado and then followed some developing storms via highway 54 towards Eureka. Numerous cells were imbedded in a line of storms oriented NE to SW, none of which looked very promising. However, a few of the smaller cells seemed to be merging into somewhat more discrete cells as we watched numerous shear markers appear on the Threat-Net. This gave us a glimmer of hope since darkness was fast approaching. We targeted one large cell located off to our northwest and then headed north on highway 99. Just as we approached the intersection of 99/400 near the town of Severy we could see a wall cloud taking shape directly to our west. A cone shaped funnel was then observed below the wall cloud which rapidly morphed into an elephant trunk tornado. We were only able to film the tornado from our moving vehicle since we were experiencing a moderate rain and some small hail at the time. The tornado occurred at 8:08 PM and lasted for about three minutes before the rope-out stage. Bill Reid relayed this information to the NWS ICT.
JUNE 5: Sun - Day 19 - Orientation & Positioning Day T4:
The tour 4 guests and BBC crew arrival day. After the orientation meeting we loaded everyone and headed to York, NE in order to be closer to our target region in NW SD on Monday. Hmmm...didn't I just do this about two weeks ago!?
JUNE 6: Mon - Day 20 - T4 - Severe Beauty - Howes, SD:
On Sunday Blake Naftel, Kinney Adams, and I headed the new Tempest guest arrivals (including a film crew from the BBC) north to York, NE in order to be closer to our target region in extreme NW SD for Monday. I wasn't expecting to reach the initial storms that would develop in eastern MT (even with our early morning departure) but I figured we would be able to intercept a decent storm as it moved east into western SD. Storms had already developed to our west as we approached Sturgis, SD so we headed north towards Buffalo along highway 79 in order to intercept one of the northeastward moving storms. We watched one high based storm develop just to our southwest near Newell around the time other chasers were intercepting the tornadic storms further to our NW in Montana. Our best plan at the time appeared to stick with our storm and follow it to the northeast where it would encounter the rich dew point air that was flowing in from the SE. The plan didn't work, our storm was really struggling.
Meanwhile we could see the tornado warnings continue for the counties in MT about a hundred miles off to our NW...but we couldn't see the stupid storm on radar since it was located directly within a region where no radar coverage existed. It didn't matter, logistically we could never intercept any storm in that region so we decided to continue east and south hoping one of the storms moving towards us from the southwest would get its act together. Nothing looked like a supercell on radar, but there was a nice bowing line-segment heading our way. We stopped to film this little beauty along highway 73 just to the north of Howes, SD. A beautiful rolled shelf cloud revealed itself replete with numerous scud fingers dangling below. It put on quite a show for everyone right up until the time we got blasted by the strong gust front winds. We encountered near severe limit winds and hail as we headed SE along highway 34/73. No tornado, but a very nice storm none-the-less.
JUNE 7: Tue - Day 21 - T4 - Sculpted Supercell & Tornado - Wanblee, SD:
On Tuesday Kinney Adams, Blake Naftel and I hung out with our group just outside the town of Kadoka waiting for storms to initiate to our southwest. We had a great view of the skies to our south overlooking a herd of sheep...which was fine as long as the winds maintained a more easterly component. Storms were on-going to our west and to the north of the Rapid City area during this time. Meanwhile, we waited for about two hours for any signs of convective development to our SW. We already had our intercept plot calculated, so all we needed was one good storm to get things in motion. That occurred sometime after 3:00 PM MDT when two cells looked promising enough to get us moving. The first and most northern cell in Bennett County croaked while we were in route, but a second cell to it's south began to demand our attention. This became our target storm as we headed south on 73 and then west on 44 through the town of Wanblee.
The storm was located about 12 miles to our SW and was evolving into quite a beauty. We found a high spot with a relatively good view through the rolling hills to our SW and set up our cameras. The storm was now a beautiful twisted LP and had no competing storms to its south. An unusually long line of low-level clouds was feeding into its base from the east and then rapidly rotating into the corkscrew updraft tower. This rapid rotating motion could easily be seen from base to anvil level! The base was nicely rounded and essentially free of any visible precipitation.
A nice size wall cloud soon developed and a clear slot became evident. This storm had everything...the icing on the cake would be the tornado. Sure enough, a pointy funnel soon appeared to the right of the clear slot and it wasn't long before a fat cone shape funnel cloud began to lower from the cloud base. The cone-shaped funnel then tapered into a needle point reaching at least half way to the ground. I feel fairly confident calling this "tornado #1" even though we couldn't visibly confirm ground contact below the hills. The following photos were taken between 4:50 & 4:55 MDT.
The first tornado lifted but a new snaky funnel soon appeared dangling below the base. This funnel quickly evolved into a slender and nicely backlit elephant trunk and extended fully to ground level. It was amazing to witness such a slender tornado and its subsequent rope out stage below such a behemoth of a storm! The following photos were taken between 4:56 & 5:01 MDT. Threat-Net indicated the tornado was about 5 miles SSW of our location.
We then headed back east on 44 to stay with this storm and while doing so briefly observed a curved funnel nearly touching the ground for a tornado warned storm about 20 miles to our north. We stopped again just outside Wanblee to view the nice base structure of "our storm" hoping for another tornado, but it was not to be.
We briefly followed the storm north on highway 73 and took one last photo-op overlooking the Dakota Badlands. Dang...if only the storm could have dropped another tornado at that point!
We finished up the day filming some pretty rainbows and mammatus clouds south of Pine Ridge, SD before heading to Chadron, NE for the night. These two thumbnails really need to be opened to be fully appreciated!
JUNE 8: Wed - Day 22 - Positioning Day:
We opted not to make the long haul eastward to western Missouri or eastern Kansas where tornadoes were possible. Instead we took a down day and visited the Carhenge near Alliance, NE and then on to our hotel in Ogallala, NE for the night. A tornado was reported in eastern KS and I lost my set of van keys in Chadron...but hey, at least we were close to the next days target!
JUNE 9: Thu - Day 23 - T4 - Tornadic Frustrations - NC KS:
On Wednesday we traveled from Chadron, NE to Ogallala ignoring the tornadic potential in eastern KS. We needed some rest for the active days ahead and would have needed to drive 7 or 8 hours at the risk of not seeing much. Tornadoes were captured by the a few who made the trip. On Friday NW KS & parts of SW NE were primed for explosive thunderstorm development. We had lunch and reviewed data in Imperial, NE. Our plan was to head a bit further south to Goodland, KS for storm initiation and then follow them east. Along the way hard convection began going up to our east along the boundary. I'll post my summary below:
Very frustrating day for this chaser and his group on
Thursday. We stuck with the initial "northern play" storms in Red Willow county
in NE and Rawlins & Decatur county KS. They looked promising for a while, but a
mega-updraft beckoned us to abandon these storms near Oberlin and dive south for
the now tornado warned storm moving into Graham county south of Hill City. Road
options forced us to go south to avoid the core, and we made a desperate attempt
to do so in the town of Penokee. We had a good hardtop road for all of 1 mile
before it turned to gravel. I didn't like the softness of the road so I
instructed my driver to turn around. Unfortunately he backed a little short of
the field entry and we ended up deep into a bar ditch as "large tornado on the
ground" reports were heard coming over the radio for a point just a few miles to
JUNE 10: Fri - Day 24 - T4 - Texas Panhandle Storms:
We started the day in Pratt, KS and decided to head for the Liberal area and adjust our target from there...most likely to points further south into the TX PH. A tornado watch was in effect by the time we reached Liberal and a few storms had already initiated just to our west and over a good portion of the Panhandle region. It was early afternoon, so we didn't hold out much hope that this would be a big day for discrete supercells or tornadoes. We, along with a lot of other chasers, targeted the Liberal storm and followed it north of town. From time to time a lowered base with a clear slot and weakly rotating wall cloud was observed, but the storm was ingesting cool destabilized air in the wake of other nearby convection. We let the storm go about 10 miles north of Liberal and headed back to the southwest in hopes of finding sunnier and warmer conditions.
We headed southwest through lots of grunge to Spearman and watched the radar indicate numerous severe warned cells to our south across the northern half of the TX PH. No sooner would one of these cells look promising before it fell apart and a new one would capture our attention. We gave up on heading south and targeted an area to our west near Stratford that had partial clearing and severe warned storms heading in from NM & extreme SE CO. When we arrived in Stratford a left-split cell was lifting its updraft base into the anvil almost over our heads.
Our last hope for anything interesting was to head west of town and intercept a line of storms moving in from the west. We figured we might as well end the day with a pretty shelf cloud and that is exactly what we got. A pretty scene to end an otherwise uneventful chase day.
JUNE 11: Sat - Day 25 - T4 - Wayside - Vigo Park, TX Tornadic Storms:
Bill Reid, Blake Naftel, Kinney Adams and I were hoping to show the Tempest guests some tornadoes on the last day of their tour...they would not be disappointed! We headed south from our overnight stay in Dumas anticipating storm initiation somewhere along a line from Hereford to Plainview, TX. We decided to meet with Martin Lisius at the Big Texan in AMA to digest a bit more data prior to heading any further south. We all agreed Hereford would be a good target and drove there shortly after lunch. A weak shower developed right over head, but thankfully this died out as it was much too early in the day for convective initiation. We were experiencing ENE winds in Hereford so we felt safer moving a bit further south to Dimmitt where southerly winds were reported. A tornado watch went up at about this time and the Cu were beginning to exhibit good vertical growth. We headed a bit east of town and watched a large Cu develop nearly overhead. Threat-Net showed there were three storms taking shape, one to our SSW, the one overhead, and another one to our north near Amarillo. We stuck with the one overhead and followed it into Happy where we experienced brief heavy rain and small hail. We then pursued the storm east on highway 285 and set up shop a few miles east of I-27. An impressive bowl shaped wall cloud began to rotate at about 5:50 CDT and move in our direction from the NW as our storm began to feed into the moisture rich SE inflow.
Small spin ups were observed below the wildly rotating lowering, but the big tornado anticipated never dropped to the ground. A storm to it's southwest had no doubt seeded "our" storm's updraft lessoning the likelihood of tornado genesis. Meanwhile the Hereford and Amarillo storm continued to offer an alternative temptation. We stuck with our storm to Wayside and then south on 2301 to just west of Vigo Park where we viewed an incredible ground hugging wall cloud.
While filming this wall cloud to our NW a smaller wall cloud was observed to our WNW which soon produced a brief tornado at 7:02 CDT at about the same time a brief tornado appeared below the main lowering to our NW.
We then followed the main updraft base east and north via highway 207 north towards Palo Duro Canyon. We could only travel so far on 207 as the core of the storm had cut off our path to the north. We once again set up shop and filmed another incredible series of ground hugging wall clouds to our north as tornado genesis once again occurred to our west between 7:35 & 7:37 CDT.
The real show however was the beast of a storm raging to our north! Several ominous rotating and ground hugging wall clouds could be seen churning eastward just a couple of miles to our north as an RFD cut in from the west. I feel confident that at least a couple of these circulations had to be tornadic in nature.
Our storm was beginning to get undercut and messy so we set our sights on another storm that was developing to our west. We briefly pursued this storm but it soon became clear that it was ingesting worked over air from the previous storms.
We then decided to head north toward I-40 and possibly catch a piece of a storm near Hereford along the way. This storm eventually blocked our path northward after dark on I-27 as a large blocky wall cloud to our north became backlit by some intense CG activity. We finally went north thru part of the core to I-40 and then made the long 4 hour drive east to OKC in order to get the guests back in time for a little sleep and their flight departures the next morning.
JUNE 12: Sun - Day 26 - Aspermont - Rotan, TX - Tornado Warned Storm:
After returning the rental van and re-outfitting our personal vehicles Bill, Blake, and I were finally able to depart OKC shortly after lunch with the hopes of at least reaching the TX PH prior to storm initiation. By the time we reached Shamrock, TX a few weak radar returns were beginning to show up to our SSW as elevated convection continued overhead. We experienced a dramatic increase in T/Td south of the boundary as we approached Childress...an almost immediate jump from 72/69 to 92/78! The northern most storm ahead of the Dryline had fizzled...presumably as it crossed north of the boundary, but new storms were initiating further south ahead the DL. Meanwhile other chasers raced past us on their way north after the elevated severe stuff we had just left ...hmmm? We held up briefly a little south of CDS deciding whether to go after a severe warned storm approaching Matador, or hang out near the boundary. While we were deciding what to do the same chasers that had blasted past us heading north were now blasting past us heading south after the Matador storm! We headed south on 83 and plotted an intercept course via highway 193 west towards Dumont on what now had become a tornado warned storm. At the same time an even more impressive storm had formed to the south of this one which also became tornado warned. Just as we cut west on 193 I received a call from Matt Crowther that a large tornado was on the ground with the southern storm! Blake and I cut south on 83 towards this storm in Kent County while Bill continued west towards the Dickens County Storm.
My HAM report to Blake of the large tornado observed with the Kent county storm caught everyone's attention and there was soon a sizable rolling caravan of chasers blasting south on 83. Everyone cut west on highway 380 towards Jayton for the tornadic intercept. I noticed a rapidly building cell showing up on radar to the south of the known tornado producer to our west and made a gamble on intercepting this new cell. I turned around and plotted a course east to Aspermont and then SW via 610 towards Route 70. The plan worked perfectly as I had a great view of the updraft area and occasional views of a rotating wall cloud through the mesquite trees...but no tornado was visible. I set up my cameras on a gravel road just north of highway 70 and had a perfect view of the storm to my west.
For thirty minutes I had the entire storm to myself...my first time in 26 days! A large rotating wall cloud was observed with many suspicious lowerings making their way to the ground, but no tornadoes could be confirmed. It didn't matter...the storm was awesome and produced one of the most prolific CG barrages I have ever experienced! A continuous hail roar could be heard overhead broken by frequent thunder blasts and rumbles. I could literally feel the blasts from several close strikes as a lightning induced grass fire was ignited nearby. The smoke from this fire was then drawn into updraft of the approaching storm. Other chasers soon appeared on the scene and it was time to head south and east to escape the approaching core of the storm. The storm began to go HP as I approached the north side of Rotan, but another suspicious elephant trunk lowering was observed dissipating back to my NW.
Blake and the other chasers that continued west on 380 scored with several views of tornadoes with the original storm, but I was not at all disappointed with my decision to gamble on the southern storm. I broke off the chase at Rotan and had a bite to eat. I later followed the remnants of this once powerful storm to my east into the town of Hamlin where it offered some nice sunset colors.
I then headed back north on highway 83 a few miles and took once last look at this storm which was now located to my south. It wasn't dead yet as it offered one final spectacle showing off its pretty white updraft towers filled with CA's and CG's.
JUNE 13: Mon - Day 27 - Springfield, MO - Tornado Warned Storm:
A moderate risk of severe and a 15% tornado risk was on tap for a good part of eastern IA, western IL and northwest MO. I needed to start my trek home to PA so I cautiously headed east from my overnight stay in Elk City, OK. I checked data near Blackwell, OK as I would soon need to make the decision on where to go next. I wasn't too enamored with the prospect of chasing warp-speed storms in the moderate risk area that would all too soon turn into bowing-line segments...especially since I would be making my arrival from the east late in the DAY 1 period. Instead I opted for the extreme instability situated near the frontal boundary in extreme SE KS and SW MO. Convergence there was weak, but any storms that did form would be moving slowly and I could get there a lot sooner than the NW MO target. I headed east along Kansas highway 166 and watched a nice cumulus field begin to build to my east. By the time I reached Coffeyville, KS a tornado watch had been issued for my target area. Just east of Baxter Springs I stopped to photograph a developing Cb.
A few storms showed promised as I approached Springfield, MO but these died out rather quickly. I continued north on I-44 as new storms began to form back to my SW. I decided to turn around as these storms looked more like the real thing, and it wasn't long before a tornado warning was issued for the counties just west of Springfield. I was able to intercept the northern of two tornado warned storms near Republic as the tornado sirens went off in town. Many trees and hills blocked my view of the storm, but I was finally able to view a weakly rotating wall cloud to my west thru a clearing in the trees. I had to blast south quickly in order to get out of this storm's path and then head east to pace the southern flank of the storm. Again, my view of the storm was foiled by heavily forested dips in the road. By the time I did find one brief opening to view the still tornado warned storm to my north it had now become outflow dominant. I was way spoiled by the wide-open views of the plains further west.
I followed the storm a little further east before letting it go just south of Springfield. I headed back north to I-44 and then exited at the Northview exit for a look at some new storms developing back to my SW. To the north of these storms a very pretty sunset was in progress.
I then continued a few miles south of Northview to watch the light show to my west from the approaching storms. I finished off the last day of my 2005 chase vacation filming (mostly video) some nice anvil crawlers and CG's that at times appeared to fill the western sky.
Interesting Factoids from 2005:
Total Miles Logged w/Tempest T3: 2789
Total Miles Logged w/Tempest T4: 3100
Total Miles Logged on my own: 8242
Total Miles Logged May/June: 14,131
Average Miles per Day: 487
Total Days on the Road: 29
Total Days in Chase Mode: 23
Severe Storm Intercept Days: 16
Tornadoes Intercepted: 1 Des Moines, NM May 30th
1 Amherst, TX May 31st
1 Severy, KS June 4th
2 Wanblee, SD June 7th
1 (distant) Hays, KS June 9th
3 (possibly 4) Wayside-Vigo Park, TX June 11th
Average Time to Bed: 2:15 AM
Gas Prices Paid: Ranged from $1.83 to $2.29
With average of $2.09