April 28, 2012: Sat - Day 1 - Departure/Travel Day : Uneventful start under cloudy skies and temperatures in the 40's. Centerville, IN 525mi
April 29, 2012: Sun - Day 2 - Travel Day: Another long day of driving under cloudy skies with occasional showers and cool temperatures. Made it to Kansas in time to see a mostly uninteresting broken line of storms to my south while traveling southwest on I-35 towards Ottawa, KS. Made in to Wichita by 10pm. Wichita, KS 745mi
April 30, 2012: Mon - Day 3 - Supercells - Texas Panhandle: Based on early morning data it was apparent that I couldn't fool around and needed to get moving towards the western OK-Texas PH region. I reached Shamrock, TX by mid-afternoon and toyed with the idea of heading south since no storms had yet developed. I opted to go farther west toward the dryline with the thought of heading south eventually if no storms developed to my west or north. As I was heading west I got a call from Bill Reid alerting me to some towers going up to his north along the NM/TX border. I was only about 30 miles east of AMA at that point and decided to continue west and into the middle of a newly issued severe watch box. The storms were just to the west of the I-27/I-40 junction so I decided to drop south a few miles on I-27 to get a better look at the southern most storm off to my west.
These storms seemed to be really struggling and the higher Cape values to my south beckoned. My gut instinct was to stay with this cell as it moved eastward, but my greedy side won out and I headed south. I watched several towers go up ahead of the dryline and then quickly fall apart. What was happening!? One tower directly to my south did show promise however and I figured this might become my target storm. Another call from Bill Reid indicated he too could see this cell to his east and since we would both be arriving at Kress at the same time we decided to join up. We then headed east after this cell while keeping our eyes on the storms to our north that were now getting better organized. My gut was reminding me that I should have stayed with that cell. But it didn't really matter since we could intercept the northern cells without much difficulty. The little cell to our east soon fell apart and we stopped near Brice, I believe, to take a look at the strengthening storm to our north.
Near Memphis we were able to get just to the southeast of this storm as it approached our location. I took the following image looking to our WNW.
Shortly after this image was taken we stopped again as the storm was fast approaching for one more film stop. It was at this point that Bill's group became hopelessly stuck on a soft dirt road while attempting a 5 point turn. This stuff tends to happen at the worst time. The hail and heavy rain core looked to be fast approaching from the west and we wanted out of there now! Fortunately, I was able to pull them out with my 4x4 locked into low-range...and we got out of there just in time! From there we managed to skirt the worst of the hail while blasting east towards Wellington. We had the option to continue southeast via highway 338 or south on highway 83. The south option seemed to make the most sense as it was getting dark and the new area of rotation according to GRLevel was now back to our southwest. We would easily be able to view this area while driving south, so the decision was made. About 7 or 8 miles south of Wellington we stopped to view the approaching storm off to our WNW. The structure was decent with nice circular banding nearly overhead and some ragged lowerings off to our west and northwest. While we were watching an outflow dust plume develop to our southwest a tight circulation of red dust formed just off to our northwest! The lighting was poor and it was difficult to see any rotation above this ground circulation, but there was a bit of a nub at cloud base with a possible connection. The dust while soon widened and began approaching our position quite rapidly! We packed up and dove south and were only moderately buffeted by the dying circulation crossing the road before we again headed east. A few more film stops were made along the way east but not much more of interest was observed. Altus, OK 645 mi
UPDATE: After review of our video by the NWS meteorologists at the Amarillo NWS this was confirmed as a tornado with the following statistics:
Preliminary Tornado Details
EF-0 Tornado = 75 mph
150 yards wide
1.25 miles long
7.25 miles south of Wellington (160 degrees)
May 1, 2012: Tue - Day 4 - Travel/Prep Day - OKC: Thankfully, the atmosphere was capped on this day and no storms were missed while traveling to OKC in preparation for the start of Tour 2. Oklahoma City - 150mi
May 2, 2012: Wed - Day 5 - T2 Orientation Day - Supercells E-Central Nebraska: The chase strategy for today was relatively simple---get north as fast as possible after picking up the new group for the best chance of seeing a severe storm in the slight/moderate risk area along and north of the Kansas/Nebraska border. Fortunately, warm air aloft would suppress thunderstorm development until late in the day. I figured by the time we reached Nebraska we would likely have a target storm in view. At about 7pm CDT we stopped in York and watched some towers go up to our west and northwest before continuing north. We stopped again about 20 minutes later to watch three strengthening storms to our west, and the center one was now severe warned.
We continued north on 81 and cut west towards the storms on highway 92. We had a good view of the storms along the way and could see the base of the now severe-warned and dominant storm to our northwest from a point a little east of Archer, NE. A smallish wall cloud soon become a rather large and blocky as it extended about two-thirds of the way to the ground. At the same time we could see an impressive supercell about 60 miles to our south in Kansas that had a severe warning.
We then continued north to get closer to storm's base and stopped again to watch for any signs of rotation. The storm was obviously rotating, but we could not see any rotation in any of the wall clouds that developed. By this time it was getting dark (8:30 pm CDT) so we headed northeast with this cell in hopes of getting some lightning. Another storm to our south put on a nice, but very brief display as the northern storm fizzled. We got into Columbus at 10 pm to grab a bite to eat before calling it a day. Overall, not a bad day as things turned out pretty much as I expected. Columbus, NE 500m
May 3, 2012: Thu - Day 6 - T2 D1 - Severe Storms South Central Nebraska: Today's target was not well defined as there simply was no clear cut focusing mechanism for where storms might initiate and quickly become severe. I considered northwest Missouri somewhere along highway 36 for late day storms but that area would put us farther away from the Day 2's risk area. I drifted south from Columbus taking our time with a Wal-Mart stop and a relaxed lunch soon thereafter. We then continued south towards Beatrice in hopes of storms forming to our west, and that is exactly what happened. Two storms initiated south of Holdrege about 100 miles to our west and we cautiously proceeded west on highway 136 in case something bigger went up back to our east. These storms formed near Holdrege along a trough axis and an area of weak converging winds could be seen funneling into the storms on surface maps. At about the same time we committed to these storms a mesoscale discussion was issued for our area with these storms being on the western edge of that discussion. Reports of up to 4" hail were included in the warnings and we could see the stout updrafts from about 30 miles away. Unfortunately by the time we arrived on the scene just south of Franklin, NE both storms had weakened and soon died a most unflattering death. New towers then beckoned off to our north.
While heading north from Franklin a stout tower soon exploded into a full fledged Cb! This cell and another one to its northeast sat just north of the Grand Island area. When I say sat, that is exactly what they did as though they were waiting for us. In fact, the storms began to back build a bit and the warnings indicated they were moving 10mph to the WEST! We stopped just north of Wood River for a photo op.
The sun was getting low and I opted to get a little closer in hopes of getting some dramatic sunset colors illuminating the updraft tower. Low clouds began streaming in from the south and we had to drive west about 10 miles in order to get some views of the tower which was nearly overhead at this point. As the sun set the skies opened up a bit and we were able to view the entire updraft, but by this time it had weakened considerable. Still, the views were nice and it was a good way to end a day...especially since they wasn't much else happening within a couple hundred miles. Central City, NE 409m.
May 4, 2012: Fri - Day 7 - T2 D2 - Supercells - Central Nebraska: My original target near Bassett wasn't a bad idea, but clouds associated with elevated convection in SD persisted over the area until early afternoon. We had lunch in O'Neill then headed west towards some developing convection near Bassett. I let it pass to our east hoping for better stuff to form to our west, but it soon became apparent that this cell would likely become severe. Another storm had formed to its east and was already severe warned. It was only 2pm, so I had to decide to head after these storms as they could become the main show, or hang tough until later in the day in hopes of better and more isolated storms developing. I choose the former option figuring it wouldn't be too difficult to head back west later for any eastward moving storms. We were able to get south and ahead of this storm near the Niobrara River crossing into SD, but the storm was not all that interesting and was ingesting cool regurgitated ENE winds. A call from Martin Lisius alerted me to a developing Cu field along an outflow boundary near Ord and that area had SE surface winds. We blasted back thru O'Neill and then south on 281 in hopes of getting in front of a tornado warned storm near Burwell. My best route south to this storm would put me right into the core, so I opted to approach from the east. Fortunately, a new storm intensified in front of the now weakening Burwell storm and we had a perfect approach via highway 91 thru Ericson. We had quite a show for about 20 minutes as the storm tried its best to tornado with a tightened wall cloud, RFD clear slot, and several small funnel clouds.
We then headed east and south with this storm for awhile but it had given us its best. New storms were forming back to our west again near Burwell and one in particular looked promising. This became our next target storm, but as we again approached via highway 91 thru Ericson the storm began to turn hard southeast. So, back east to 281 and then south far enough to view this approaching storm. We stopped near Greeley for our first good look of the still somewhat distant structure.
We then continued south on 281 and had a great view of the approaching updraft structure off to our west. We stopped again near the intersection of 281 and 22 south of Greeley for some closer views, and then found a high spot a little farther east to get our final views as the storm drifted to our southeast at sunset. We enjoyed a bit of lightning from this storm and others on our way back north to O'Neill. Overall a very good day for supercell structure! O'Neill 541m
May 5, 2012: Sat - Day 8 - T2 D3 Northeast to Central Nebraska Bustola: An agonizing day watching what could have been my best day out here thus far go down the tubes. We started out in perfect position in O'Neill, NE under foggy conditions with light drizzle. By early afternoon there was no change due to the cool outflow boundary to our north winning out over the warm southeasterly flow from the south. We opted to head a bit south and east to get into sunny skies below the warm front that had pushed into far northeastern Nebraska. We waited and then we waited some more. Nothing but a few anemic Cu fields developed over our target region. By 6pm a new Cu field had developed about an hour or so to our southwest and I somewhat reluctantly gave up on our area seeing a storm before nightfall. Unfortunately the southern play had issues as well and the towers collapsed and no storms had formed within the tornado watch box by 9pm CDT. Tomorrow we need to decide on playing the surging cold front in far Eastern Kansas or head for possible supercells in far southwest Texas. Kearney, NE 291m
May 6, 2012: Sun - Day 9 - T2 D4 Positioning Day South: A dive south to get ahead of the surging cold front that was now sweeping across the central plains. I decided to blow off the risk of severe storms in southeastern Kansas in favor of positioning for what looks to be higher quality and more isolated storms much farther south in southwest Texas on Day 2. We drove from Kearney, Nebraska south to Childress, Texas and enjoyed a nice steak dinner and an early evening for a change. CDS - 521m
May 7, 2012: Mon - Day 10 - T2 D5 West Texas Storms: We arrived at my target area in Big Lake by noon and storms were already initiating all around us...waaay too early! We grabbed a bite to eat and tried to figure out the best play for this early hour. The strongest cell was just off to our east so we headed in that direction. Numerous other storms were forming and merging and we soon had a large complex of storms heading towards San Angelo. Roads options were poor and the only quick way to stay with this storm was a gravel/dirt road that meandered about 12 miles to the northeast to the town of Knickerbocker. The main rain core was off to our north, but a small cell formed behind us and began pelting us with moderate rain. We were doing okay until we came to a narrow dip in the road that led thru a stream. I couldn't tell how deep it was, so I waded across to find out---I didn't want to turn around and deal with a slick and muddy roadway. Fortunately the water was just deep enough to allow the van to cross safely so I waved Tank to come on thru. We then turned south to have a look at the storm that was nipping at our heals and could see plenty of CG activity, but not much else. Heading west towards storms that might form later looked like the best option at this point, and a new Mesoscale Discussion for that area convinced me to get moving about 150 miles to our northwest. Several good looking cells formed farther north in NM, and one promising one was moving east just south of the NM border. This one became our target storm and after an hour we had a visual, and it didn't look all that good. We continued on and intercepted the high-based decaying cell a few miles north of Pecos, TX.
We met up with Bill Reid and his crew at this point and we didn't have a whole lot of options as to what to do next. Some new towering Cu went up just to our south, so we monitored those while driving east thru Mentone and then on to Kermit. Bill eventually took his group north towards a right moving cell about 60 miles away and I took my group south towards Fort Stockton in hopes of getting a light show from storms that had formed to our west and southwest. We had a little lightning off to our west after we arrived at our hotel, but nothing worth going after. We at least saw storms today, but hardly worth the effort given all the driving. Fort Stockton 743m.
May 8, 2012: Tue - Day 11 - T2 D6 Southern NM Storms: The upslope play along the higher terrain in far west Texas and southern New Mexico seemed our best bet for seeing a severe storm today. By the time we reached El Paso the murky skies gave way to nice blue skies with building cumulus clouds and a few storms had already developed farther west and northwest in NM.
We headed towards a more isolated cell near Deming, NM that was prompting severe warnings. We got a glimpse or two of this storm on our way west, but anvils from new storms to the south began to obscure our view. We cut north and east out of Deming and stopped on occasion near Nutt to take in a few mildly interesting stormscapes before continuing our journey northeast towards the only nearby cell that was marginally severe.
As we followed our storm north we came across several areas that were covered with hail, which gave a winter-like scene to the normally parched terrain. We stopped in the town of Hatch to take a closer look at the hail that had accumulated shortly before our arrival. Folks were out with there shovels clearing their walks as though they were just hit by a snowstorm.
By now the storms had merged into a big messy rainstorm, and other than an occasional lightning bolt there wasn't much else to see...it was time to call it a day. Alamogordo, NM 512m
May 9, 2012: Wed - Day 12 - T2 D7 Southern NM -West TX Storms: A weak upslope was again in play today, but with no clear focusing mechanism storms would once again be slow moving and weak. We hung out at the White Sand Dunes National Monument until noon time and then headed south towards some weak storms that were drifting north. It wasn't long before large anvil canopies blanketed the sky and blocked our view of any towering updrafts. We more or less continued south and east towards our Day 2 target but didn't see much storm activity other than a few weak storms and a few lightning bolts along the way. At least the scenic terrain took away some of the boredom. Fort Stockton, TX 413m
May 10, 2012: Thu - Day 13 - T2 D8 Supercells - Encinal / Laredo, TX: There were two south Texas plays for today, one would be to wait for a second round of severe storms coming in from Mexico in the Del Rio to Eagle Pass area later in the day, and the other was to get south of the boundary and ongoing tornado warned storms farther to our south and northeast of Laredo. We had lunch in Del Rio and then met up with Bill Reid and crew to discuss our options. At first it appeared the best bet was to wait for what could be a good show later on, but low clouds and ongoing convection were really messing up our area for later in the day. Those storms to our south continued to form in the same general area prompting severe and tornado warnings. It wasn't long before we headed south. We met up with boundary south of Carrizo Springs and watched TCu forming overhead and to our east. We plotted a course east along highway 44 and but the updrafts started to look weak and it appeared we were chasing a skinny tail end of the convection. Meanwhile a couple of impressive supercells had formed about 100 miles to our west over Mexico, and those were likely the storms of the day...or so we hoped. We headed back west on highway 44 and then a little south of Encinal to wait for a large cell that was moving in our direction. A smaller storm headed north and was ingested into our cell, and eventually we had one big storm that at one point had a nice hook echo and tight couplet showing up on GRLevel radar. By this time new storms had also formed back to our east, right about at the point we had turned around an hour ago and these too became tornado warned. First image below is looking west, second image is looking east.
We watched suspicious lowerings beneath our approaching storm to the west but it was just too far away to see what was really going on. The storm was moving to the right and we had to drop south to avoid the approaching core coming in from the north. We blasted down highway 83 to the interstate leading to Laredo and made a few quick photo stops along the way.
After looping to the east around Laredo we headed northeast via highway 59 towards Freer. The storm we were on was now well to our north but it didn't take us to long to catch up to the core which would be crossing the highway in front of us. Other than some interesting cloud formations along the way there wasn't a whole lot to see and it was now after sunset. Bill headed east with his group and I headed back west in hopes of seeing some late day updrafts and lightning from behind the storms. But first a new cell formed immediately to our west and gave us a bit of nickel size hail, but mostly heavy wind swept rain. We stopped about 10 miles east of Laredo to see the towers back to our east, but low clouds quickly filled in and blocked our view. We headed a little closer to town and were able to watch some distant CG's from new storms off to our southwest. The view east was rather nice as well with the distant cloud towers being illuminated by lightning beneath a star filled sky. No tornado but not a bad day chasing storms. Laredo, TX 516m
May 11, 2012: Fri - Day 14 - T2 D9 Pretty Convection - San Antonio to Austin TX: There wasn't a huge risk of severe storms today, but we did have a decent chance at seeing some storm activity in the vicinity of the San Antonio area or farther east. We drifted in that direction, had our windshield smashed by a large airborne rock, and then had lunch in Beeville. We then continued north towards some weak radar returns to the north of SAT and started to see Towering Cu as we approached New Braunfels. We headed north on highway 281 to get our first look at some towers off to our north, but finding a place to park with good visibility was quite a challenge. The following image was looking to the northeast, somewhere near Blanco I believe.
We then turned our attention to a larger updraft forming just to our northwest and again struggled to find a high point with a good view. A few miles to our north we were able to get a good westward view of the updraft base and wall cloud area, and then later found another viewpoint looking to our northwest to see a well contrasted rain foot.
We continued north and then east to follow this convection and were soon treated to a full arch rainbow! The views to our east and southeast were nice as the low sun angle illuminated the numerous cloud towers against a bright blue sky.
Again we continued north after some new and stronger looking cells and made our final photo-op a few miles to the northwest of Austin. The traffic was horrible and once again it was nearly impossible to find a good viewpoint that was safe from traffic. We eventually found a quiet area on a hilltop in an area that was under construction for new homes. The first two images are looking to our NNE at a cell we had previously encountered, and the last image was looking south at a briefly severe-warned cell to the north of San Antonio. When these three images were taken they were the only two significant radar returns within a 120 mile radius. Temple, TX - 435m
May 12, 2012: Sat - Day 15 - T2 D10 Final - No Storms - Travel Day: Unfortunately, there was no threat of severe storms today nor even a reachable area of general thunder for us to chase. On our way back to OKC we took a side-journey to visit Mt Scott near Lawton, OK. We hung out there for awhile before driving the final hour and a half back to OKC and then had a leisurely dinner near the hotel. It was nice not to have to rush around eating fast food for a change. Although no tornadoes were observed by this tour, we did have a couple of excellent Supercell Days and only experienced three days without seeing any storms! 403 miles driven today which brought the total for this tour to 5316 miles.
May 13, 2012: Sun - Day 16 - T2 Departure / Van Prep Day: A day to clean up and prepare the vans and gear for the next tour, as well as rest up a bit. At least we wouldn't be missing a big severe weather outbreak for a change while changing over tours. OKC
May 14, 2012: Mon - Day 17 - T3E Arrival Day - Lightning Del Rio TX : I decided our best chance for seeing any type of storm today would be to head south as far as we could into Texas where there was still adequate moisture and instability. Given the overall slow weather pattern for severe and a relatively short tour I wanted to maximize every chance we had at seeing a storm. My plan was to get ahead of any southeastward moving MCS, possible shelf cloud or rogue storm near SJT and then continue south for perhaps a nice light show near Del Rio from storms coming out of Mexico. The plan worked, sort of. The bests storms and MCS activity occurred earlier in the day and much farther to our west and all we were left with was a bunch of crud with an occasional CG. However as we entered Del Rio we had a great view of a bunch of CG activity from a high point north of town! The problem was it was raining heavily and we had no luck at finding a good spot to park and watch the show. We could just barely see the sun setting so I figured we might get lucky and have some drier air moving in soon. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and by the time we had finished the rain let up a bit. We quickly dashed a little east of town to a high spot to take in the lightning show to our east. There were some beautiful CG's and crawlers at first but as time went by the activity diminished and moved farther away. Still, we were able to get a few keepers and a very colorful low cloud added to the drama, although it did obscure a lot of the best lightning. Del Rio, TX 543m
May 15, 2012: Tue - Day 18 - T3E D1 - Position Day : We blew off the idea of traveling another 4-5 hours deeper south into the tip of Texas for the prospects of marginally severe storms. Models continued to indicate severe storms would be possible later in the week somewhere in the central to northern plains region and until then we'd likely find some high-based orographically induced thunderstorm activity coming off the front range. Either way, that meant going north. We had some very pretty skies for the first few hours of our northward journey and stopped at one point to film a pileus cap forming on top of a TCu.
By the time we reached the southern Texas Panhandle the clouds thinned out and the sky became severe clear. We were having a hard time finding some old houses to explore and film on the main highways but finally found what we were looking for along a lesser traveled road east of Channing, TX. An old farmstead offered plenty to keep our cameras busy right up until sunset. Dumas, TX 528m
May 16, 2012: Wed - Day 19 - T3E D2 - No Storms - NM/CO: High-base thunderstorms coming off the higher terrain somewhere along the I-25 corridor appeared to be our best chance for seeing a storm today, but a serious lack of moisture and the late arrival of an upper wave resulted in no storm activity. I measured dew points in the low 20's as we watched small cumulus towers bubble up and then quickly turn to hanging tendrils of virga during the late afternoon. The day wasn't a total loss though as our photo group had plenty of opportunities to photograph numerous ghost, or near ghost towns while we were waiting for something to happen. Our first stop of the day was Mount Dora in New Mexico...a little west of Clayton.
Next up was a brief stop in the tiny village of Folsom just south of the Colorado border.
Our final stop, and a lengthy one at that, was in the town of Model, Colorado. Although most of homes are abandoned and in various states of decay there are still 17 families living in or nearby this small hamlet. Trinidad, CO 267m
May 17, 2012: Thu - Day 20 - T3E D3 - High Based Storms - Eastern CO/NW KS: High-based non-severe thunderstorm activity was once again the best we could hope for on this day, but unlike the day before we had a tad more moisture to work with and we did end up seeing storms. We left Trinidad Colorado early enough to witness some pretty updrafts on our journey north along I-25. We stopped near Colorado Springs to take in the view looking north at some nice cloud towers above a field of wildflowers, figuring it wouldn't be too long before the skies got a bit messy. We then cut northeast to Limon and then a little farther east to Genoa to visit the "Tower" and bottle house.
By this time we had a few decent updrafts just off to our south and even witnessed our first CG of the day...things were starting to look better and it was still early afternoon. We got ahead of this activity as more high-base activity formed just to our east. We stopped near Seibert to take in the view back to our west and north, the skies were interesting and we got to enjoy a few more CG's.
An MCD was issued for the area just to our east and south and there were some new storm cells moving into that area from our south. The best play seemed to continue east on I-70 with the thought of dropping south at some point. By the time we reached the Kansas border one storm to our south looked promising and prompted a severe warning for wind and hail. I considered dropping south right away but figured I'd arrive too late and get behind this or any other northeastward moving storm cell. I continued east towards Colby and then dropped south at the Levant exit. As luck would have it the cell I was originally interested in weakened as a new cell got its act together just off to our west. We were in dry air at the time with little wind and could take our time enjoying the view and almost continuous thunder overhead. Another storm to our south was heading our way and began to kick up a could bit of outflow dust on the eastern horizon. Lightning activity was frequent, but had become widespread by this point. We had plenty of activity to keep our cameras busy.
We then followed this activity north and east and made our final film stop near the town of Rexford. We had seen a decent amount of lightning activity while driving but we were mostly in the rain at the time, but now that we had stopped and had no rain to contend with we had very little lightning left to shoot. I managed to capture one bolt of the only two or three that occurred. We called it quits after about 20 minutes and then headed back to Colby for a sit down meal prior to heading to our motel. Colby, KS. 423m
May 18, 2012: Fri - Day 21 - T3E D4 - High Based Storms - Night Lightning - Western NE: Today's setup was very similar to yesterday's in that mainly high-based non-severe storms would be the main activity expected across a good part of the plains. It appeared that the western/southwestern NE area looked as good as anywhere and that area would keep us closer to our Day 2 target to our south. We encountered our first high-based gusty storm near Court House Rock a little south of Bridgeport, NE. The storm was moving mainly north and was blowing a lot of dust around mostly to our east. A brief but distinct tight circulation of dust rose from the ground up and formed a condensation-like tube about a third of the way to cloud base level about three hundred yards to our east. This may have been a brief landspout, but by the time I grabbed my video camera most of the action was gone. We followed this cell back north through Bridgeport before letting it go.
We encountered another and somewhat stronger cell on our way back to Ogallala and had a great view to the north over Lake McConaughy, but unfortunately most of the bolts were a bit distant or imbedded in the rain core and I had no luck capturing lightning whatsoever. While doing a "grab and go" meal in Ogallala I felt a stout warm southeasterly wind fueling some new storm activity off to our west. It was about 9pm and rather dark by this time, but felt it might be worth the effort to drift a few miles south for some nice lightning activity. The plan worked great as one of the cells soon took on supercell structure which was revealed by the almost continuous in-cloud lightning.
Another cell then formed to our southwest and began putting on a nice CG show, distant at first but then much better as the storm approached our position. We enjoyed a rather intense display of CG's for about 20 minutes and just like that the show was over! All in all this late evening lightning show was the highlight of our day. North Platte, NE 477m
May 19, 2012: Sat - Day 22 - T3E D5 - Tornadic Storms - South Central Kansas: We had two targets to consider today, the closer one somewhere in central Kansas where severe storms looked to be a sure bet ahead of the cold front and the other farther south in NW Oklahoma for more isolated activity near the dryline. We hung around a bit in Hoisington and watched the clouds bubble up overhead at about the same time an MD was issued for central KS. It was decision time, stick here for the storms that was sure to happen within the hour or go for what might be a more isolated and perhaps photogenic. storm a couple of hours to our south. I drifted south 11 miles to Great Bend for a fuel stop pondering what I wanted to do. We could see a rapidly growing anvil just to our southwest while fueling up and figured we would soon be targeting this northeastward moving cell since it would be an easy intercept. There were two cells to our southwest with the stronger of the two on the southern end. We dropped south a few miles and then east to stay outside the core and to get a better look at the structure to our southwest. We then continued this routine for the next hour or so as new cells began to develop to the south of the original convection and then become the main area of interest.
A little west of Pretty Prairie where the last image above was taken we could clearly see a tight area of cloud base circulation nearly overhead. The base was rather high though and we started to get hit with some quarter size hail that was wrapping around the core from our north. We dropped south to get out of the hail and stopped again a short while later to the north of Varner to photograph a thin rope like funnel off to our west. The funnel briefly extended fully to the ground and latest roughly a minute or so before disappearing (first image below taken on wide angle lens). We dropped south a short distance to Varner and photographed another funnel to our west that also briefly extended to the ground. This skinny tornado was a bit closer and had better contrast and lasted between two and three minutes.
We again continued south and east and were between Kingman and Norwich when we spotted another tornado off to our west-southwest. This tornado was a bit distant, perhaps 6 - 8 miles, and the contrast was poor from our vantage point, but we were able to watch and film this tornado for 16 minutes! During most of its life cycle it appeared to be a dusty stovepipe but occasionally morphed into a truncated cone with a big dust whirl on the ground before connecting into a fat dusty stovepipe again. We were starting to get hit with heavy rain and the tornado had all but faded out, but a cone-shaped funnel was still visible as we dropped south, I am estimating that we had sight of this tornado for nearly 20 minutes in all. The following images were taken between 6:17 and 6:32pm CDT.
We made another film stop or two farther south and east but kept getting chased by rain and small hail. The storm was looking rather messy on radar by this point and it was getting dark. We made one final film stop east of Conway Springs before heading into Wichita for the night. A very good day for sure, but could have been even better had we been positioned closer to that long lasting tornado. ICT 447m
May 20, 2012: Sun - Day 23 - T3E D6 Final - Severe Storms & Solar Eclipse - Northwest Texas: The best low-level convergence along the nearly stationary boundary today pointed to far southwest OK and northwest Texas. By mid-afternoon we had reached Altus and noticed towering Cu forming not too far to our south. Soon a large Cb exploded and the chase was on. We stopped to film the updraft towers looking to our south a from a point several miles south of Altus, then plotted a course to near Electra to get ahead of the eastward moving storm. This storm and another nearby one quickly turned hard southeast and we couldn't get ahead of the hail cores so we bailed and went back north where the views were prettier. A few miles north of Electra we filmed a full arch rainbow and took in some nice stormy scenes above sun-bleached wheat fields that had recently been cut. We then turned our sights on another storm well to our west near Guthrie but by the time we got close that storm had died. Some new towers starting going up to our north but these soon faded as well.
We drifted a little farther west towards Guthrie and starting thinking about viewing the annular solar eclipse that would be in full swing near sunset. The best viewing for this would have been much farther west, but figured we would at least be able to see something. Fortunately I had remembered to bring a couple of pairs of solar eclipse glasses just in case we had an opportunity to view this event, and "Tank" brought his 400 neutral density filter in hopes of getting a few images. Soon, we were all clamoring to use his filter as the images were coming out very well. As the sun got lower we no longer needed the filter and began experimenting with various exposures. We were like a bunch of kids showing off our best captures to each other and having a ball as the sun set with just enough pretty clouds to make the shots all that much more interesting. Not a bad day at all for the final day of this tour. Wichita Falls, TX 662m