MAY 13, 2008: Tue - Day 1 - SW OK - N TX BUST:
We left OKC this morning with little hope that the day would offer much in the way of a tornado, but a pretty supercell did seem to be a good bet. The NAM & RUC had the triple point CF/DL intersection in SW OK by 21Z with a 3500 CAPE axis nosing into south central OK. Even though a secondary target in SE KS had better wind shear, it was hard to ignore the big instability axis to our south. We hung out near Waurika until mid-afternoon and found ourselves located in the far west central part of a tornado watch box that was issued shortly after 2pm CDT. We then drifted a few miles east when winds began to dry out and veer to the SW. A few anemic TCu lured me briefly north toward Maysville (severe-warned storms were ongoing 25 miles farther NE near OKC) before I headed back south towards a region of backed SFC flow in north Texas. SFC analysis showed a persistent SE flow between SPS and Breckenridge which should have been my clue to head south right away. A couple of isolated cells soon formed to the west of Graham, TX and the southern one had a decent look on radar. I knew we would not make it before dark, but I had to try since it would be my only shot. We approached the base of the cell well after sunset near the town of Whitt north of MWL, but by then the lightning had diminished and the cell was going downhill fast. We called it a day and headed for MWL for the night. A day with nothing to show for my efforts despite having driven 382 miles.
MAY 14, 2008: Wed - Day 2 - San Angelo-LLano, TX Supercells:
After having an enjoyable lunch at Joe Allen's BBQ we headed west towards Sweetwater and then south towards an area of backed surface winds near SJT. We ignored the storms that had formed to the west of Big Spring and soon targeted a storm that was forming in southern Reagan County. We were able to make a perfect approach via highway 67 when the supercell was displaying its best structure west of SJT near Tankersley. We stopped just north of Knickerbocker for a photo op, but by this time the cell was not quite as photogenic.
We were able to stay with the southern flank of this storm via highway 87 and watch the massive white cloud towers punching into a clear blue sky.
We arrived in Brady hoping for a good photo op but quickly got slammed with strong RFD/outflow winds before blasting south on 87. We cut east at Katemcy but our view back to north was mostly uninteresting A second supercell was forming to the south of the Brady storm and was located to our SE. We approached this storm via highway 71 which was funneling a multitude of other chasers with the same thoughts. We encountered the back end of the hail core a few miles NW of LLano and I backed around to find another way south to avoid a good hail pummeling on my new chase vehicle. There really wasn't any other good paved road south, so I held up a bit and then followed the hail core into LLano which was awash in hail-fog and hail drifts to two feet deep! We continued SE via highway 71and observed plenty of storm base motion and a hint of a clear slot, but no tornado. We ended the chase just south of Marble Falls before heading to Fredericksburg for the night. 536 miles
MAY 15, 2008: Thu - Day 3 - Eagle Pass, TX Supercell:
With moisture being swept well south of I-10 we knew our only hope of seeing a supercell today was to do the same. SFC analysis indicated that an easterly upslope flow was carrying high Theta-E air westward over the higher terrain of Mexico west of Del Rio. With a stoudt westerly 500Mb flow it appeared likely that any storm that could form west of the river would be carried east into the 3000 CAPE axis that was in place between Del Rio and LRD. So if everything came together just right, we could luck out and intercept a pretty supercell, and fortunately that is exactly what happened! By mid-afternoon two cells had our attention about 60 miles WSW of Del Rio. The southern cell soon died and the northern cell began to turn hard right. I was in Eagle Pass at the time and it began to appear that this cell might dive well to my south near Laredo. Fortunately, it began to slow down and take a more easterly direction. I couldn't see a thing from Eagle Pass so I drifted north of highway 277 and began to get a peek of the updraft tower to my west as I approached Quemado. From a high point I was able to view the base and a long inflow band stretching out to the east, but other than an occasional distant CG there really wasn't much to see. It was time to for us to head back south.
Nancy and I joined Bill Reid and his group on the way back to Eagle Pass via highway 277 and were treated to a much better view of this organizing cell to our west as we approached the downtown area. By the time we got through town the cell had become a full-fledged supercell and began to exhibit a circular shape with some low-level banding. We stopped south of Eagle Pass along FM1021 and watched this beautiful cell develop for about 20 minutes before continuing south towards El Indio.
We continued south to El Indio and then east on FM2644 towards Carrizo Springs. This eastward route allowed us to parallel the storm's southern flank, which was luckily the only option we had. The cell was tornado-warned for Maverick county at this time and 2.5" hail was reported 8 miles to our north. We watched a wet RFD area push in around the storm's western edge and a few turbulent scuddy lowerings on the storms forward flank.
We let the storm go prior to reaching Carrizo Springs and headed back to Eagle Pass. We were able to stay clear of any hail but did experience torrential rain and flooded streets back in town. Although no tornado was observed, all in all a very fun chase and it was nice to squeeze out one more chase day before the lame pattern sets in. 404 miles traveled with the cheapest gas found in Leakey, TX for $3.63 per gallon.
MAY 16, 2008: Fri - Day 4 - Del Rio to Big Bend, TX:
With the outlook for a quiet pattern the next few days we decided to head to the Big Bend National Park area for a few days of R&R and photo-ops. A dark sky Bortle Index of class 1 would yield excellent dark sky viewing opportunities except for a light polluting moon high in the sky. Gas priced at $4.12 per gallon in Marathon. 275m.
MAY 17, 2008: Sat - Day 5 - Big Bend National Park, TX:
Nancy and I had a wonderful day touring the million plus acres of the Big Bend National Park via 145 miles of paved roads. We started out the morning with rain...the first the park has seen in 7 months, and finished up the day filming the majestic rock cliffs set aglow by the setting sun.
MAY 18, 2008: Sun - Day 6 - Terlingua to Presidio, TX:
With no storms forecast anywhere on the Great Plains we were able to enjoy another great day taking in the sights along the Rio Grande. This time via route 170 running west from Big Bend National Park west to Presidio...renowned as being one of the top 10 scenic highways in the USA. After numerous photo stops and short hikes we headed north to Carlsbad, NM. Gas prices ranged from $4.10 to $3.69 per gallon on our 326 mile journey north.
MAY 19, 2008: Mon - Day 7 - Lamar, CO:
Today we traveled north in order to get into position for severe storms that were likely to occur by mid-week somewhere in the SW NE/NW KS - NE CO area. There was also the possibility that an isolated strong storm could form over the eastern plains of Colorado into far western KS. We figured we'd head north and stay close to the CO/KS border for any possible intercept of a SSE moving storm along the way. Some weak convection formed to our north as we entered Baca County and we observed a dust plume being kicked up beneath some virga just east of Lamar. We then headed west on highway 50 to check out some weak convection to our west. Not much happened but Nancy and I enjoyed hanging out at the old "Star School" for some photo-ops until after sunset. Another weak impulse went up over Lamar on our way back to town and teased us with about a half-dozen CG's until it croaked in the eastern sky. 540 miles total.
MAY 20, 2008: Tue - Day 8 - Pretty Storms, Northeast CO:
Twenty five years ago today Nancy and I got married and if anyone back then would have told us how we would be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary I'm sure we would have both said "that's crazy"! Well, we were together today and that is really all that mattered...and we got to enjoy a couple of pretty storms too. We targeted the northeast CO area which was closer to the better mid-level flow to our north with hopes that the surface winds would back sufficiently by evening. Moisture was limited, but sufficient for at least a marginally strong storm. By late afternoon a Cu field teased us to the east and a storm to our south near Colorado Springs also looked tempting. Convection was also showing up on radar to our NW along the Cheyenne Ridge. We decided to target these developing storms because they would be moving in our direction and we would wind up being closer to our target area for Day 2. We intercepted the first storm just north of Stoneham, CO along highway 71. As expected it was high based, but did exhibit a bit of a rain free base for awhile along with a few CC's.
Another storm had formed about 25 miles to the west of our first storm and we were able to catch the show on this one near Buckingham, CO. This weakening storm gave us a nice show of colors and CC's until well after sunset. After enjoying the display for over an hour we headed north to Kimball, NE for the night. 345miles.
MAY 21, 2008: Wed - Day 9 - Dust Bust, SW Nebraska:
Like others have mentioned, the day was basically a bust in the dust with not much to show for the gas burned or the tumbleweeds sacrificed. We targeted the BFF to Torrington, WY area in hopes of intercepting a northeastward moving supercell. By mid-afternoon capping issues became a concern and a severe-warned cell in Yuma County lured us eastward. We were buffeted about by intense southeast winds and tons of blowing dust along the way...I can't ever recall encountered so much blowing dust as it persisted for hours on end! Winds were reported sustained throughout the area at 35-45mph with gusts as high as 66mph! By the time we reached Sydney what was left of the storms coming out of CO was mostly uninteresting. The only "highlight" for the day was encountering a developing cell along highway 385 just north of Sydney that briefly displayed LP characteristics. OGA - 284miles
MAY 22, 2008: Thu - Day 10 - Dryline Supercells, Western Kansas:
We spent a lot of time and effort chasing up and down the DL with very little reward. We targeted the southern most cell first that was heading northeast towards Scott City. I figured if I got on this cell early enough it might produce since it didn't have seeding issues like the storms farther north, and I could then follow it north into the higher shear environment. We had a good look at the base just west of Amy on highway 96 , but had to quickly retrace our steps to follow the storm back north along highway 23.
We decided to let this storm go at Grainfield then turned our attention to new development back to our south and once again headed back down highway 23. Along the way a storm to our immediate west near Gove caught our attention, but I decided to bolt south after a "tail end" storm. Fatal mistake, the storm to our west went on to become the cyclic tornado producer! We were able to get east of the southern storms updraft base near Utica along CR4. Again, this storm exhibited tornado potential with several wall clouds, but no tornado that could be confirmed. We then followed this storm north the best we could via route 283 and pulled off on a gravel road a few miles north of Ransom when a tornado seemed imminent.
We followed this storm to about 10 miles north of Wakeeney before letting it go. By this time I was aware we had blown our chance to witness the big tornado producer about 12 miles to our west. We made one last attempt for the southern most cell (yep, again) and were able to get a good view of it's southern flank near Trego Center south of Wakeeney. The cell looked great on radar and exhibited a very large bowl shape wall cloud. We then bolted north again on highway 23 and could see an area of rotation crossing the road to our north, but wrapping rain/hail prevented us from getting a good look at what was likely a tornado crossing the road. I later learned that this storm did indeed produce a brief tornado.
We then held up a bit for marble size hail and then entered Wakeeney where parts of the town were without electricity. We also discovered several cars with window damage from the hail barrage. All in all a rather frustrating day for me, on what could have been the highlight of my chase vacation. Guessing about 540 miles driven.
MAY 23, 2008: Fri - Day 11 - Tornadic Storms, SW Kansas:
Since we needed to be back in OKC tonight we figured we may as well play a little farther south near DDC. Nancy and I had a leisurely lunch in town and then teamed up with Keith Brown who also needed to be back in OKC. While looking at data and waiting for the surface winds to back more along the DL, storms had initiated to our north and quickly became severe warned. A few embryonic cells were showing up on radar to our SW and these northeastward moving storms would be the ones we were interested in intercepting. When a cell to our SW became severe-warned we decided to make an intercept via highway 56 southwest out of DDC. Near Montezuma the storm exhibited a circular base and began to lower in the higher Dp air. We followed this storm north via mostly unpaved roads and witnessed several attempts that nearly produced a tornado. We witnessed wall cloud rotation and several cone and roped-shaped funnels that extended at least half-way to the ground. I hate to call any of these a tornado since I couldn't confirm ground contact, but I'm sure one of these funnels resulted in the reported tornado with this storm.
We left this storm go near Cimarron and turned our attention to a big supercell that was directly to our south. The storm was moving north and we needed to get east of the core quickly and then find a south route to get in front of this storm which was moving to the NE. We blasted SE on Route 400 and bypassed our first south option (kr34) thru Bucklin. We managed to just barely stay ahead of the approaching hail core on our way to our first paved option south, 183 just west of Greensburg. We blasted south on 183 for a few miles and Keith noticed several shear markers showing up directly to our west in the storms eastern flank. We had no paved roads west so opted for a dirt road that would get us a mile or two closer. We watched a beast of a storm sucking in the most intense dusty inflow I can ever recall experiencing as we stood there with our backs to the wind while being sand-blasted! Thru the dusty haze we could make out a wide dark area that appeared to be either a wedge tornado or a large intense rain-wrapped bears cage just to the north of what appeared to be a wet RFD. A review of the video on the small LCD screen seems to confirm this may have been the "large violent tornado" that was being reported south of Mullinville. We then headed back north toward Greensburg and stopped a mile or so south of town and could hear the tornado sirens going off in town. The circulation part of this storm was heading right for us and we didn't hang around too long before bolting back south a bit.
After leaving this storm we headed south towards Coldwater as another storm moved up from the south. After a pit stop in town we needed to get moving east on highway 160 to stay ahead of the core, but after blasting 23 miles east we realized there was no way to beat core or the reported tornado that was on an intercept course for our vehicles. We had no choice but to blast back west on 160, to Coldwater but now we had another problem. There was another supercell with a reported tornado on an intercept course for Coldwater, where we desperately needed to get gas! We arrived in town to the sound of tornado sirens wailing and one open gas pump. We filled up while being buffeted by wind swept rain and then headed back west on 160 to stay ahead of the approaching core. Being stuck between two tornadic supercells at night with NO road options is no fun at all! By the time we reached Medicine Lodge the tornadic storm to our east had drifted to the north near Pratt and had cleared our route east. It was later reported that this tornado was responsible for two deaths that occurred in a vehicle that inadvertently had driving into the tornado. All in all a wild and crazy chase day! Took mostly video on this day. Appx 600 miles total
MAY 24, 2008: Sat - Day 12 - TT3 Orientation Day - OK Tornado Fest:
We knew we had to get north yesterday and that was about it. There was no time to look at data since we had to get the vans ready to take the newly arrived guests northward ASAP if we had any hopes of seeing any storms in Kansas. Just as we were preparing to leave we learned of a big supercell in NC OK and decided to blast north for an intercept. Along the way we received a call from Chris G. that he had just observed a tornado with storm. Shortly after our arrival we saw our first tornado, and the show never stopped...we observed at least 8-10 tornadoes, maybe more. We also encountered a very intense and close barrage of anvil CG's and hail to the size of tennis balls in the northeast part of the storm. Again, I took mostly videos as there wasn't much time to set up the camera tripod! 335miles.
MAY 25, 2008: Sun - Day 13 - TT3 Day 1 - Western KS Supercells:
By 2:00pm CDT a storm had developed to our southwest and quickly became severe while we were having lunch in Hays. Initially, we weren't too interested in this storm but then had second thoughts after it had become tornado warned. We briefly made an approach to this cell then turned our attention to storms that had formed to our south in an area of slightly better instability along an outflow boundary. SFC flow was not backed anywhere in western KS and the supercells that formed were doomed to become undercut before reaching their full potential. We intercepted a couple of imbedded supercells between Garden City and Great Bend that showed signs of rotation and may have produced brief spins ups. By early evening an almost continuous line of storms with imbedded supercells had formed from NE to SW across west central KS and was beginning to connect with another area of storms located to our south across the OK and TX panhandles. We figured the "tail-end" of the northern activity would be our best hope of finding a tornadic storm and it did indeed show promise near the town of Burdett, but this storm too soon became outflow dominant. We finished the day with an anemic light show after dark and then headed to Russell for the night. 385miles.
MAY 26, 2008: Mon - Day 14 - TT3 Day 2 - South Central KS Supercells:
After having a long lunch in Offerle our group
caravanned north to get in front of the cells that were developing west of
Kalvesta. We then followed these storms east but began to give up hope of seeing
a tornado in the murk as they were ingesting coolish air (72/70)from the ESE.
We bid our final farewell to this storm just north of Belpre where I was bitten
by a huge mosquito. Now I know why Chuck D. was spraying himself like crazy
back at the intersection of 50&19! We decided to dive south near Rozel when a
tail-end storm appeared to have a brief window of opportunity to become
tornadic. We had a few decent views of this storm to our west near Pratt, but
couldn't get south of it at the time it was looking the best on Radar. We
continued south to Medicine Lodge where surface obs appeared more favorable.
Our plan was to follow any storms east from there. We needed a pit stop and
best I can figure I was locked in a bathroom at Medicine Lodge about the same
time the tornadoes occurred with this storm. I guess we should have stayed with
the Pratt storm for a bit longer, but hindsight is always 20/20.
MAY 27, 2008: Tue - Day 15 - TT3 Day 3 - Western OK Severe Warned Storms:
We weren't expecting too much today and were just happy to find a couple of pretty storms to photograph in SW OK. By mid-afternoon a couple of storms formed in the northern part of a SEV watch box and we were able to get in front of one near Carter, OK. We took a photo op looking under the base from the east, and then drifted south when new cells began to form to our west. The biggest cell was located to our south near Vernon but just as we were considering an intercept it too began to loose its appeal. Without much flow to support the updrafts each storm was doomed to dissipate before it could really become established. Before calling it quits and heading back north thru Sayre, we watched one last storm near Willow briefly take on a corkscrewed appearance before falling apart. Oh well, it was nice to slow things down a bit and play with the cameras after the last few days. Tomorrow looks like a day to position north for Thursday in Nebraska. Shamrock, TX 375miles.
MAY 28, 2008: Wed - Day 16 - TT3 Day 4 - Position Day
Although the threat for severe in eastern NM was was very tempting, we spent the day positioning ourselves north for what looks to be a tornado day in Nebraska. Along the way we stopped at "Dorothy's House" in Liberal, KS and then visited the Monument Rocks in NW KS. 460 miles total to North Platte, NE.
MAY 29, 2008: Thu - Day 17 - TT3 Day 5 - Tornado - Kearney, NE:
Another great chase day today as our group was able to intercept the supercell that produced the tornado in Kearney, NE. We first got in front of the storm south of Elm Creek and then followed it eastward via a dirt/paved road to highway 44. We were able to witness the wrapped up tornado and power flashes as the tornado passed through Kearney to our north. The storm got rather messy after that and we finally let it go east of Grand Island and headed south towards the tantalizing supercells to our south in Kansas. We were a bit too late for the main show, but did view the meso and probable tornado being illuminated by lightning from our view point near Concordia, KS. The following photos are of the tornadic storm approaching Kearney. 500m
MAY 30, 2008: Fri - Day 18 - TT3 Day 6 Final - Weak Storms SE KS:
Not much to write home about from this day. We needed to head back south to OKC for the guests departure on Saturday, so the western edge of the slight risk area over SE KS worked in our favor. We were in position by mid-afternoon and on the western edge of a tornado watch box, but the CAP was strong and suppressed thunderstorm development until after 6pm. Storms finally got going along the boundary nearly overhead, but really struggled and looked like "string beans" on radar. We had some decent structure views off to our east at sunset, and later a nice light show on our way to Independence for the night. Saturday looks more promising over the same region, but we won't be able to chase since we need to prepare for the arrival of the new tour guests. 435m
MAY 31, 2008: Sat - Day 19 - TT3 Departure - Back to OKC:
We had to have everyone back for their departing flights by noon, so no chasing today. We passed thru the core of a severe warned storm in Tulsa, OK and had one last storm encounter with hail. So that makes 7 days out of 8 that severe storms were encountered for this group...excellent! 165miles. Total distance traveled for T3 was approximately 3,000 miles.