April 29, 2013: Mon - Day 1 - Departure/Travel Day : Uneventful start under cloudy and rainy skies with temperatures in the low 50's. Greenville, IL 784mi
April 30, 2013: Tue - Day 2 - Finished the last leg to Oklahoma City under warm and sunny conditions, temperatures in the mid-80's. OKC 550m
May 1, 2013: Wed - Day 3 - T2 Orientation Day - Severe Storms - Breckenridge, TX: A dryline/cold front triple point low would be diving southeast into NW TX by late afternoon and are strategy would be to set up somewhere in northwest Texas ahead of any developing thunderstorms. We hung around the Haskell to Throckmorton area during the late afternoon waiting for a target storm. A persistent storm was on going to our north near Vernon that had prompted severe warnings and new radar returns were starting to show up south of there, so the plan would be to head north figuring we would intercept any new storm ahead of the CF/Dryline that would be moving southeast. We stopped just south of Seymour and watched a line of storms forming right over head and the winds of the surging cold front could be seen just off to our northwest. From there we went back south staying just ahead of the newly forming storms which were still moving southeast. We then cut southeast to Throckmorton and made a few stops east of Breckenridge to view the storms and lightning off to our west. We had some nice colors and a decent lightning show just after sunset, but the storms were now moving southward. We ended the night in Eastland, TX. 475m
May 2, 2013: Thu - Day 4 - T2 D1 - No Storms - Big Bend N.P. TX: We woke up in Eastland TX to the coldest temperatures I can ever remember since chasing in the plains. It was cloudy, cold (43F), with winds gusting to 40mph. The CF from hell had blasted thru and swept everything clean to the Gulf of Mexico. My target for today was easy...head for the warmth, and that meant go south. We drove 466 miles to Big Bend N.P. but even there it was still very windy with unseasonably cold temperatures hovering in the 50's. The wind howled all night but by the next morning it was clear, calm, and warming up nicely. Big Bend Resort and Adventures Hotel - 466 miles.
May 3, 2013: Fri - Day 5 - T2 D2 - No Storms - Big Bend N.P. TX: The entire day was spent exploring the main roads of the park taking plenty of photo stops along the way. During the mid-afternoon we all took a hike to the Boquillas Canyon located at the far eastern border of the park. As the afternoon sun sank lower the shadows and colors of the mountains and canyons enhanced our views as we drifted back west toward Terlinqua. After a late dinner we drove about 20 miles back into the park to do a little night sky photography. The Zodiacal Light was still visible to our WNW, but thin cirrus clouds hampered our overall view of the star filled sky. Still a far cry from the light-polluted skies back home. All in all a fun day despite the lack of storms. Terlinqua, TX 206 miles.
May 4, 2013: Sat - Day 6 - T2 D3 - No Storms - Big Bend S.P. - McDonald Observatory: Another day with no chance of storms anywhere on the plains. We decided to start heading north towards where we believe storms may first occur in the next few days. Heading WNW thru Big Bend S.P, which is the companion park to Big Bend N.P., we again took in several impressive photo ops along the way including a short hike in a slot canyon. We then headed north thru Marfa, to Fort Davis, and then west to the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains. We spent some time inside the main observatory and marveled at the massive telescope housed within. We ended our day at a decent hour in Van Horn, TX. 250 miles.
May 5, 2013: Sun - Day 7 - T2 D4 - No Storms - White Sands N.P. NM: With no storms to chase anywhere on the plains the scenic tour continues. We headed north from Van Horn through Guadeloupe Pass and then had a BBQ lunch in Carlsbad, NM. After a brief stop in Roswell, we headed west to Alamogordo to visit White Sands N.P. for the evening hours. Appx 300 miles driven.
May 6, 2013: Mon - Day 8 - T2 D5 - Severe Warned Storm - Northeast NM: Not a whole lot to write home about but we at least got to see a storm today, and one that briefly became severe warned. Today was more of a positioning day with a maybe seeing a weak storm day, so the bit of structure and some close CG's were certainly an added bonus. We intercepted the northern storm of a line of broken cells that stretched south from about Logan, NM. We were able to get ahead of the line near the TX/NM border via I-40 but these storms soon weakened as a much stronger cell became dominate well to our south. There was clear air behind our weakening storms so we went back west to get a view from the other side. Finished the day in Clayton, NM in hopes of being in better position for tomorrow. 527m on the odometer.
May 7, 2013: Tue - Day 9 - T2 D6 - Supercell - Western Kansas: We finally had a real storm to chase today from approximately the Scott City to Ness City area. By early afternoon models continued to indicate the best moisture pooling and CAPE values were located across northwestern Kansas. Traveling north from Liberal the Dryline was located not too far to our west and satellite imagery indicated bubbling Cu about 60 - 100 miles NNW of our location. As we continued north towards Scott City we watched an area of percolating cloud towers struggle to break the CAP. We stopped briefly in Scott City but headed east as these towers drifted east ahead of the Dryline. We hung around a particular aromatic location north of a feed lot need Shields on highway 4 and watched a much more promising area of convection form to our southwest. We were soon joined by Bill Reid and his crew and we all agreed to move farther east where the air was more breathable. The convection to our southwest was getting more vigorous as it moved in our direction and there was now a nice tower or two directly off to our east. The storm that was building to our southwest was the most promising however and soon had reports of quarter size hail. We dove south thru a bit of the core but only experience some nickel size hail. Once ahead of the updraft base we stopped several times on our way east via mostly a gridded unpaved road network. The base was large and well defined with an occasional clear slot evident in the "backwards C" area. Areas of rotation could also clearly be seen from time to time. There was very strong inflow gusting from the southeast but unfortunately the air was very cool, around 72/51. None-the-less, the storm was a beauty and gave us plenty of photo ops until well after sunset. 477m Dodge City, KS.
May 8, 2013: Wed - Day 10 - T2 D7 - Supercell - Southwestern Kansas: After a leisurely lunch in Dodge City we drifted east of town to get a better view of the sky and wait for the first storms to initiate. We didn't have to wait long as the first storms were already moving in from Colorado and New Mexico and a severe watch box was soon issued for the counties just to our west. One storm looked tempting near Boise City in the Oklahoma Panhandle but we could see a line of bubbling Cu to our west that was arcing to our southeast. We hung around in Minneola for about an hour until a promising storm began to form about 30 miles to our south. We could only see the base along with a CG or two beneath the intervening convection, but GRLevel was showing it to have the highest cloud tops in the region. We dropped south to where 160 turns east to Ashland and had a good view of the round updraft base and it had no competition to its south! We continued east to Sitka where we met up with Bill Reid and his crew and then dropped south on highway 183. From there we had a great views of the rotating structure which was now to our west.
The storm was moving mostly east into a road void between highway 160 and highway 64 well to our south. At this point the storm had dumped a large area of precipitation off to our northwest and the structure wasn't looking as good. We hoped it would reorganize as we headed back north to 160 east to stay with the storm. We briefly got ahead of the core when we approached Medicine lodge and had some decent views of a blocky wall cloud to our immediate south. We then dove south on highway 281 but by now the storm had weakened considerably. A much larger cell drew our attention to the south, but by now it was getting rather dark and lightning became the main focus of our attention. After catching a few keepers, we continued south through Alva and then east to Woodward for the night. 437m.
May 9, 2013: Thu - Day 11 - T2 D8 - Supercells - Central Texas: Even though early morning convection had occurred in central Texas, clearing skies were moving in from the west and this would help destabilize the atmosphere for afternoon storms. Our best hope to see supercells on this day would be to head south to somewhere between the Abilene to San Angelo area where the RUC model indicated instability would be maximized and clearing skies had already taken place. A severe watch box had been issued for the ongoing early convection farther east and by the time we crossed the Red River new storms had already begun to form on the western edge of this watch box. A couple of these became severe warned as we approached the Abilene area and we needed to get south ASAP! We cut southeast on highway 84 towards Coleman and then south on Highway 283 towards Brady. We caught up with the storm and Bill Reid and his crew north of Brady and the structure began to look really good for awhile. But as soon as we got in good position the storm quickly started to fall apart as a new severe storm became dominant about 30 miles to our southwest. The image below is of the first storm before it totally fell apart.
We then turned our attention to the southern cell and caught up with that one near the town of Mason. North of town we cleared the inflow bands and had a great view of the updraft to our northwest. The storm was now heading southeast towards Mason where we cut west for a better look. We got decent views of the base structure but not much else as hills and trees really started to obscure our view of this storm. We dove south of Mason on highway 87 and had a few semi-decent views back to our northwest of this approaching storm. We were losing our light as the storm tracked straight down highway 87 towards us and the town of Fredericksburg. From this point on we had no farther views of this storm and had no other road options. We headed for town hoping to find shelter from the approaching hail. As we reached town the storm became tornado warned and GRLevel3 showed an area of tight rotation and a possible tornado that would very likely hit Fredericksburg. We waited for Bill and his gang in town, and then we all agreed that the best course of action would be to head a little south of town to avoid any possible tornado. We found shelter for the vans, but only experienced small hail at our location as the heaviest hail and area of circulation passed off a little to our northeast as the storm began to weaken. 500 + miles today.
May 10, 2013: Fri - Day 12 - T2 D9 - Severe Storms - South Texas: Today we were hoping for big Supercells coming off the high terrain of Mexico and entering the U.S. between Del Rio and Eagle Pass. By mid-afternoon we had a couple of good looking cells on radar doing just that, but unfortunately by the time the reached the border each one quickly died out. We then turned our attention to a somewhat disorganized line of storms sprawled out east to west along the cold front about 50 miles to our north. One of the connected cells on the western edge of this line was rather large so we headed north towards that one from Crystal City via highway 63. This southeastward moving storm was looking more promising as we entered La Pryor so we cut east on 57 to get a closer look. A few miles down the road we could see a couple of mini-haboobs to our north and it wasn't long before a large wall of dust caught up to us on the way to Batesville. I was able to get some dash video of this impressive feature but there was no time to stop for photos as the hail core was nipping at our tails. We then dove south and east on highway 117 to just barely keep ahead of this big hail and wind maker and could only stop very briefly a couple of times to get a better look at what was behind us. The storm overtook us to the north of the road and we ended the chase north on road 1581 as we watched the storm race off to our east. 537 miles, San Antonio, TX.
May 11, 2013: Sat - Day 13 - T2 D10 Final - No Storms: Fortunately, there were no storms to chase today because we had a long ride ahead of us to get back to OKC. We stopped by the Czech Stop along the way in West, TX for some kolaches per Martin's suggestion and then did a brief damage survey of the homes impacted by the recent fertilizer plant explosion a few blocks away. We did encounter some weak storms along I-35 about 50 miles south of OKC, but not much worthwhile photo wise as these were all in north winds. Oklahoma City, OK 474 miles.
May 12, 2013: Sun - Day 14 - Changeover Day - No Storms: An uneventful day cleaning and preparing the vans for the next tour and getting some needed rest. For once, there were no major severe storm events to be missed while we were tethered to our base city between tours.
May 13, 2013: Mon - Day 15 - T3/3B Orientation Day - No Storms: After a leisurely lunch at a small cafe in Sayre, OK we continued southwest towards a possible Day 2 & 3 target area. Along the way we stopped in Erick and Hollis OK as well as Kirkland TX for a few photo ops of old cars and buildings. After an obligatory visit to the old "Bridge of Doom" west of Hollis (which is being replaced with a new modern bridge) we headed to Childress for dinner and an early night. An easy 242 miles.
May 14, 2013: Tue - Day 16 - T3/3B Day 1 - Strong/Severe Storms SW TX: Parts of the Stockton and Edwards Plateau appeared to be the best target for today as southwesterly flow aloft over southeasterly flow at the surface was combined with enough instability to get few strong to severe storms going. Moisture return was still somewhat anemic with dew points hovering around the 50 degree mark throughout the region. The first radar returns showed up as we were traveling west on I-20 with one small but dominate cell persisting near Fort Stockton. We plotted a course towards this cell by heading south on 349 from Midland. We stopped about half way to Rankin to look west at the storm but there wasn't a whole lot going on at the time. We then circumnavigated farm to market roads to the east and south before eventually turning our attention to a more interesting storm about 30 miles to our southwest. We headed west on highway 67 from Big Lake towards this cell but I wanted to get one more look at the cell we abandoned to our north. I took FM1555 north out of Texon and stopped once to watch the hail core and a bit of structure on the back side of the storm as it drifted off to our northeast.
We then dropped south to Rankin and headed back west towards the western storm that was near McCamey. We stopped about 3 miles east of the storm to shoot the developing shelf cloud structure before heading back east to stay in front of the storm and get more views of the shelf cloud. Several stops were make near Rankin, Texon, and Big Lake to look back at the awesome colors and structure of the leading edge of this storm. The road headed ESE once we left Big Lake and the storm was moving ENE, so the views were not as good as we continued east. We tried for lightning a few times in the fading light, but were hindered by either obstructed views when the lightning was decent or anemic displays when the views were good. A lot of miles today --- 636 miles, Abilene, TX.
May 15, 2013: Wed - Day 17 - T3/3B Day 2 - Tornado - Millsap, TX: After having a nice lunch in Albany our thoughts were like many others, hang close to the best southeasterly flow near the Dryline somewhere in NW TX. We were already in a good position but moved a little farther to our northwest to hang out and wait for something to happen. We hung out around some old grain silos near Tuxedo northeast of Hamlin. We had some towers percolating to our immediate southwest as we watched the radar trends for a NW/SE oriented grungy looking line of cells moving eastward across the Texas Panhandle about 50 miles to our west. We were practically underneath the convection to our southwest as it developed a rain core so we dropped south and then east to stick with this cell to see what would happen. It put up some nice towers and an anvil but never really got going as we followed it east for about an hour. The storm was ingesting SSW winds and the only SE winds were in the counties to our northwest. The grungy line moving in from the PH to our west didn't inspire much hope either, although the lead cell held some promise of becoming severe. Meanwhile we could see hard convection taking place about 70 miles or so to our east. These looked tempting as it was now late afternoon and a decision would have to made soon whether to commit to these developing cells that were moving away from us or hang tough in our original target area. We continued east while Bill, Chris, and I talked over various possibilities all the while being drawn to those hard towers to our east like bugs to a light bulb.. The towers soon became severe storms and a MD was issued just to our east and was being monitored for a tornado watch box. We were now fully committed to head east as a broken line of strong to severe storms stretched in front of us from the Red River southward to Brown County Texas. They all looked good but the one directly in front of us would be the "easiest" to intercept and was tracking straight east along highway 180. Of course, there are a lot of twists and turns along highway so it would take us some time to catch up with the rear of this supercell which continued to exhibit signs of a developing tornado on radar.
As we entered Mineral Wells the town was littered with lots of big hail, mostly baseball to softball size with some sitting inside the broken out windows of cars! A couple miles east of town we cut south to the town of Millsap. We could see the back edge of the supercell which had a large white cone shaped cloud extended nearly to ground level. There was rapid rising motion within this cloud and rotation could be seen in the upper portions which were located nearly overhead. We stopped just east of town to watch this feature as it became more laminar in shape.
We then scouted a bit west and turned south at the town's post office to get a better look when suddenly a large cone-shaped tornado appeared to our immediate west! We quickly stopped the van as we had a rare clear view to our west and watch the intense motion of wrapping rain curtains encircling the tornado. We were about 1 mile from the tornado, maybe less, and we could easily hear the "waterfall" sound as strong inflow pushed against our backs. We were either in or very close to the outer circulation at this point. Debris began floating in the air and circulating around with the rain curtains as the tornado slowly moved to the north or northwest, which I thought was a bit strange. We filmed the tornado from about 7:10pm CDT until about 7:17pm from this location before it moved off to our north behind some trees. We then headed north and east and could see the rope out stage overhead. By this time all three vans were separated and it was every "van" for itself! We soon joined up though and then headed south and east in an attempt to stay with this storm and any new tornado. We backed out of the core along I-20 and then dropped south out of the precipitation for a good look at the storm off to our east before once again trying to get closer. We again caught up with the storm on highway 171 near Cresson but by this time it was getting dark and we could not identify another tornado. We held up in town and experienced hail to the size of quarters or larger as a new hail core developed nearly overhead. Fortunately, we found rooms right in town and didn't have to move far after a very exhilarating day! 262miles, Cresson, TX. Below images taken just south of the Millsap post office building.
May 16, 2013: Thu - Day 18 - T3/3B Day 3 - No Storms - DFW to GLD: Today was mainly a position day north with some possibility of seeing a storm or two along the Dryline near the CO/KS border. We first did a drive-by damage survey in the Millsap area to see what the previous day's tornado had done. With one or two exceptions, most of the damage appeared minimal to well constructed homes although smaller outbuildings and sheds did not fair as well. Fences were also clogged with litter and metal debris in many places. The drive north was uneventful with the exception of one storm that died upon our approach near Elk City, KS and another tail end of convection near Goodland was also met without much fanfare. Other than the "obligatory" sunset/cloud colors photo stop no photos were taken. 683 miles, I think. GLD
May 17, 2013: Fri - Day 19 - T3/3B Day 4 - Supercells - Nebraska Sand Hills: Short: Intercepted first supercell north of Ellsworth after repositioning south from junky convection lined out to the north. Headed east to stick with this cell for more structure shots. Dropped south on farm road near Ashby to get out of core and film cell's structure as it drifted north and east, while new supercell captured our attention moving in from the southwest for more great structure shots! Positioned farther south and east until I found a flat basin nestled in the Sand Hills where we could film third supercell moving in from southwest with great structure and mammatus field. Every direction held photo ops, but many of these shots will have to wait until later. Finished up filming fantastic light show until well after sunset. Got caught in tiny, but viscous hail core heading east on 2 near Hyannis with quarter and larger hail and had to stop several times...antennae knocked off vans. Arrived late in Ogallala...488m. Image sampler below...
May 18, 2013: Sat - Day 20 - T3/3B Day 5 - Severe Storms - Western-Southwestern Kansas: Typical Moderate Risk chase day for me...high hopes of finding a tornado but ending with little to show for the efforts. We got on an early towering cumulus and drove right under it near Dighton, followed it east and stayed ahead of it as it became a thunderstorm. After much analyzing and consternation we all agreed to abandon this cell and continue south and east where better conditions should exist for a much bigger prize. Our original storm continued moving northeast, remained dominate on the south side of other convection and went on to produce a tornado. We circled the Coldwater, Greensburg, Pratt, and Medicine Lodge area hoping for a tail end storm to our southwest to become the main show but it never happened. Storms primarily remained outflow dominant before congealing into a bowing line segment. We finished the chase in Medicine Lodge and watched the southern edge of the "whales mouth" slide overhead. Between 500 and 600 miles driven, but what does it matter--really. Wichita, KS
May 19, 2013: Sun - Day 21 - T3/3B Day 6 - Tornado - Wichita, Kansas: No need for a lengthy chase summary for today. Like so many others we targeted an area a little south and east of Wichita for a good place to hang out waiting for storms to form off to our west. The fast 500mb flow would assure storms would initially move northeastward at a pretty good clip, and this combined with extreme instability and adequate shear would likely yield a few tornadoes right from the start. Like yesterday, we figured the late evening storms would have the most Tornadic potential but we weren't about to hang around once the first storm went up. We saw our first cloud top form on GRLevel in central Harper County by mid-afternoon and immediately plotted an intercept course. The VIL core quickly took on a "flying eagle" shape and soon a severe warning was issued...all in a matter of minutes! Fortunately we had a good road network and arrived a little northeast of the storm's base just to the west of Conway Springs. We were just getting ready to move when a big dusty whirl took shape not far to our south and a prominent cone shape funnel cloud could be seen overhead. No time for pictures of video as we had to get out of the way and head east to stay with this storm. The road network to follow this northeastward moving storm was not ideal and we missed some action as the tornado crossed the road behind us. Trees were also becoming problematic. The tornadic circulation was headed right into Wichita and we wanted no part of that...so we skirted south of town via some east/west roads. While doing this we got our best, and final look at the tornado off to our north near Viola, KS. It quickly took on a large and dark elephant trunk shape and we scurried to park the vans. I got about a minute of hand held video before switching to stills. I managed to snap off two or three quick shots just as the tornado roped out. We were somewhere a little southwest of Wichita at the time, best I recall. I'll need to check my camera's GPS data later. It wasn't even 4pm CDT and we still had plenty of storms to chase, but for all the effort over the next few hours we had had our best moments of the day. Meanwhile the discrete Supercells and big tornadoes occurred farther south in Oklahoma, whilst our storms remained mostly outflowish and with few exceptions linear in nature. 383 miles - Independence, KS
May 20, 2013: Mon - Day 22 - T3/3B Day 7 - Supercells - SC OK to N-TX: Another long and frustrating Moderate Risk Chase Day. We got on the initiation near Chickasha, first updraft collapsed but two others went on to very quickly become severe. We stuck with the north one for awhile until the southern one stole the show. We were in good position for about 10 minutes looking to our WSW waiting for something to drop out of the wall cloud area as another cell hidden behind the rain core to its southwest produced tornadoes near Duncan, I believe. It was around this time the devastating tornado rampaged through Moore, OK. We then continued south along with most every other known chaser and tour group on the planet as ever better looking storms developed to our south. We had another frustrating chase on our final storm while trying to find the best road network to get us into the best position, which included finding a river crossing towards St Joe, TX. One attempt put us dangerously close to the core and possible developing tornado and we had to back away and find another route south. Once we got in good position to view the storm no tornado developed, but we did get some decent views of the HP beast off to our north. Seems most every storm quickly became HP in nature today. Finished the day in Wichita Falls, TX. I think Woody told me 513 miles for the day.
May 21, 2013: Tue - Day 23 - T3/3B Day 8 - Severe Storms North Texas: We got an early start anticipating a very early show and found our first severe warned storm by late morning a little east of Throckmorton, but there wasn't anything to see. Storms were erupting along a NE/SW outflow boundary to our west and quickly became undercut and outflowish. Worse, they were imbedded in murk and no structure could be seen. We decided to continue south and then eventually east towards brighter skies and slightly more backed winds. At Eastland we had to decide whether to continue east to the DFW area or southeast towards Waco for the tail end storms later in the day. While heading west on I-20 an MD went up for the northeast corner of TX east of DFW, and the area was being monitored for storms that could quickly go tornadic. We continued to the east side of DFW but it soon became apparent the storms were messy, fast moving and out of reach. We blew off the day at this point and headed back to Wichita Falls for a early night. Some storms did initiate in the Waco area along the tail end of the line and had good signatures on radar for awhile. Other than a rotating wall cloud we saw no other reports about these severe warned storms. So, a 450 mile loop without a photo taken...but it is nice to get in early for a change and look forward to a real meal.
May 22, 2013: Wed - Day 24 - T3/3B Day 9 - Relax/Position Day: After washing the vans and having a leisurely BBQ lunch in Wichita Falls we decided to drift west towards our Day 2 target area in the Texas Panhandle. We stopped to film an old farmstead near the town of Tell, Texas and then spent some time roaming around in Turkey, Texas. There was an very slight chance that a storm could initiate on the higher terrain of the Panhandle Caprock, but only small cu formed in a weak area of converging winds...not enough moisture for anything more. 242 miles, Plainview, TX.
May 23, 2013: Thu - Day 25 - T3/3B Day 10 - Final - Floydada Duster: We woke up in good position in Plainview for the small moderate risk of severe storms just to our east. A warm front stretch NW/SE just to our east with winds converging from the south towards Floyd County by late morning and with easterly winds just north of the front. Additionally, an outflow boundary was moving in from the east from an earlier MCS over central Oklahoma. There wasn't much to do but hang out, have lunch, and wait for the towers to form a little to our east. On cue, towers went up just as we finished lunch and the chase was on. A short jog east to Floydada revealed we were at ground zero with large towers going up directly over head and with a storm initiating a mile or two to our northeast. We quickly positioned north and east and observed multiple land spouts and gustnadoes along the way. The storm rapidly became severe warned, and then tornado warned...it was the only storm in Texas at the time and it was practically sitting still! Hail began to fall and blocked our way east, so we headed back south to reposition in front of this slowly southward moving storm. Near Floydada we observed a cylindrical white funnel with lots of tight blowing dust beneath...possible tornado, but by now the storm was also beginning to become outflow dominate and began pushing huge amounts of red dust southward. Once we distanced ourselves far enough south we could look back north at a red haboob that was pushing south. We continued this stop and go pattern for awhile but it became apparent that this storm was likely not to produce a tornado, and if it did it would be shrouded in dust and rain. We then headed north towards Amarillo where conditions looked better for tornadic development later in the day, but what storms did form in that area were totally uninteresting and died rather quickly. We cut our losses and headed to McClean, TX for a nice steak dinner and then on to Shamrock for the night. A fun day for ahwile! 392 miles.
May 24, 2013: Fri - Day 26 - T3/3B Departure Day - OKC: We made in back to OKC by noon-time and took the rest of the afternoon accomplish the usual cleaning and servicing of the vans while many of the guests volunteered for relief work in Moore, OK. No storms nearby, but there was a slight risk in NW KS / NE CO / SW NE that resulted in a severe watch box and several discrete supercells. So, we missed out on that but the upcoming pattern for T4 does look promising. 164 miles today.
May 25, 2013: Sat - Day 27 - T4/4B Doswell - Orientation Day - Weak Storms - Hazard, NE: Today was both a positioning day north as well as one in which to see some late day storm action, and in that regard both missions were accomplished. We were hoping for more robust storm action along an NW/SE stationary boundary draped across eastern Nebraska, but nothing could ever get going no doubt because of a strong capping inversion. By late afternoon severe storms had formed much farther west in SW NE, and new development was likely farther eastward. We kept our eye on cloud tops and radar returns and spotted some small blips that were about 70 - 80 miles to our west. We headed in that direction and an MD was issued for that area shortly thereafter. Sky conditions were rather murky, so it took us a while to actually see the dark towers as we headed west on highway 2. The closest cell had an interesting LP'ish look, but it was clearly a "left moving storm" with the updraft area on the north side of the storm. We found a decent film spot from a high point somewhere north of Hazard I believe, and set up to watch the storm cell shrivel to our north. The sun was setting, so the show wasn't over yet. The dying storm and the surrounding sky began to light up with colors as a cell to our west began to pulse with new CG activity. We headed a little closer to that cell and raced up a hill for a flat view to our west to watch the final show of the day. The colors were awesome and the storm was spitting out some nice CG's from near the top of updraft into the clear air. Unfortunately, the show was very brief and most of the beautiful CG's missed my camera's lens before I had time to fully set up. A long day with 616 miles driven, but at least not all in vain. Grand Island, NE.
May 26, 2013: Sun - Day 28 - T4/4B Doswell - Day 1 - Sculpted LP Supercell - Custer County, NE: After hours of hanging around our target area near North Platte we were beginning to think me might be in for a "CAP bust" as early evening approached. We were in a good area with converging surface winds and ample moisture but with the negative of a strong capping inversion present. An MD was issued for our area with a probable watch forthcoming, so all we had to do is wait...and then wait some more. From a high point south of North Platte we finally spotted some dinky towers going up about 40 to 50 miles to our east. The line of small cu we had been watching to our north was looking worse with time so it was time to head east. The first tower to our east died out rather quickly, but new ones began to perculate from a small strato-cu field to our east and north. One tower starting to take off just to our north and began to gobble up all the other nearby cu field, and just like that we had a developing storm to target. We continued east on I-80 and cut north at Lexington, I believe. We then continued east a bit and eventually north on highway 183 to position this northeastward moving storm to our northwest. From here on out we had fantastic views of this sculpted beauty which looked better and better with each passing minute. After stopping once or twice while going north we then cut east on highway 92 from Ansley and again stopped for a prolonged photo-op just east of town as we looked back to our northwest. We then continued east and then north on a gravel road just as we crossed the county line into Valley County. The storm was still in Custer County and moving slowly to the northeast at 20mph. From a high point with a sweeping view we watched this storm put on a great structure and lightning show off to our west and eventually north until well after sunset. An amazing storm and one of the top LP structure storms for me. Cozad, NE 405 miles
May 27, 2013: Mon - Day 29 - T4/4B Doswell - Day 2 - HP Supercell - Spin Up - Smith Center - Jewell KS: We spent a good part of the afternoon in Stockton having lunch and hanging out waiting for storm initiation to take place. We felt we were in a good place on the western edge of a relatively small moderate risk, and we were centered in an area of excellent surface wind convergence a little northeast of the surface low...and right near the nose of the Theta-E ridge, so it was just a matter of time before something happened. Towers began to go up to our north so we headed in that direction and soon had a storm to target. This storm was situated on the southern flank of other storms to its north, a pattern that continued for the rest of the day. There were other weaker storms to the south, but they either got gobbled up by our storm or remained far enough south as to not interfere. Our primary chase was east along highway 36 from Phillipsburg, with a few jogs on dirt roads at times barely beating the southern edge of the heavy rain and hail core. This storm just could not seem to control its outflow for most of its life cycle. We stopped just west of Smith Center when a dusty spin up appeared to our north below a wall cloud...I may have got some brief video but only a couple of stills after the fact (reflected in the first image below). We then continued east and tried to get closer on a dirt road network, but road conditions rapidly deteriorated and I wasn't really interested in risking getting stuck or slammed by large hail just to our north for the sake of bagging a low contrast rain wrapped tornado. Apparently some took the risk and found their tornado, however. The rest of the evening was spent staying ahead of the HP structure to our north, which yielded a few photo ops towards sunset. Overall, other than the pretty shelf cloud structure after sunset the day was sort of a dud for me with the excitement and photogenic meter remaining at low level for most of the day. Salina KS 300 + miles
May 28, 2013: Tue - Day 30 - T4/4B Doswell - Day 3 - Structure Beauty - Northeast Colorado: There were multiple targets to choose from today including a high plains setup for northeast Colorado that proved to hard to resist. Upslope flow combined with adequate moisture would assure at least a couple of structured supercells across the far northeast corner of the state. Other targets looked tempting as well in Kansas, and as it turned out we could have just hung out at our hotel in Salina until late afternoon for a long lasting wedge tornado just a few miles to our north. Oh well, as a "storm" chaser I was not disappointed nor were any of the guests after seeing one of the most amazing supercell structures of my chase career. The details will have to wait, but we photographed this supercell from its early stages during the early evening from near Haxton, CO to east of Julesburg after sunset and got to see this storm in all its marvelous glory from the east as well as from the west. Although tornado warned, it never looked really close to producing a tornado, but it didn't matter as the structure stole the show. OGA 513 miles.
May 29, 2013: Wed - Day 31 - T4/4B Doswell - Day 4 - Messy Storms - NW KS / SW-SC NE: Yet another moderate risk day that ended up being a big disappointment. There were two or three target areas spread out across NE/KS/OK and the TX Panhandle regions, each with its on set of positives and negatives. We chose the northern target primarily in NW KS and SW NE since we were a lot closer and the area had decent backed winds, good flow aloft, and plenty of moisture available. But storms went up rather early, as they did simultaneously in the other regions as well. Too many storms too early which almost always results in less than desirable storms to chase. After seemingly going in circles for hours trying to find the "next" best storm, we ended up near the town of Elba in central NE chasing a storm that looked like it might tornado as it was in a prime area of converging winds ahead of the cold front. Although a tornado warning was issued for this storm based on a "law enforcement" report, we saw no evidence that a tornado was possible. We took a few quick images of this storm as it was being overtaken by the gust front moving in from the west before calling it a day and heading for dinner. Hastings, NE 513 long miles.
May 30, 2013: Thu - Day 32 - T4/4B Doswell - Day 5 - Supercells - South Central Oklahoma: The setup for supercells and possible tornadoes looked promising across much of central Oklahoma for today with yet another moderate risk in place, but we had a long drive south from Nebraska and risked missing any early storms that initiated. By mid-afternoon storms erupted along an NE/SW outflow boundary near the Oklahoma/Kansas border and these storms quickly became severe. We drove past the tail edge of this convection and continued south past OKC to south central OK where a couple of isolated cells looked much more enticing. Eventually we picked out one of these southern cells to the west of Pauls Valley. A left moving cell slammed into ours and messed things up for awhile, but soon two hook echoes appeared as the storm started to reorganize. We headed for the eastern most "hook" via highway 7 towards Hennepin and were soon treated with a beautifully sculpted classic supercell to our west-northwest. We had an excellent view of this storm from near Ratliff City before dropping south to watch the second hook area come into view. This one wasn't near as photogenic, as we were in light to moderate rain, but had a good view to the west under the updraft base. After it became apparent a tornado wasn't likely, we dropped farther south after a couple more cells that were located just to the north and south of the Red River. Our final best view occurred looking back to our east near the town of Courtney of a tilted and twisted supercell that slowly decayed near sunset. Appx 600 miles driven. Ardmore, OK.
May 31, 2013: Fri - Day 33 - T4/4B Doswell - Day 6 Final - El Reno / Union City Tornadoes: What a day! Yet another moderate risk with the chance of strong to violent tornadoes in central Oklahoma including the areas hit by recent tornadoes. We headed west and north from Ardmore to an initial target in the Anadarko/Chickasha region which would be east of the Dryline where winds would likely back and converge later in the day. Moisture was no problem as dewpoints were well into the 70's and mixing ratios were nearly off the chart near 20 g/kg. The CAP was just strong enough so that early storms were unlikely, so all we had to do was wait near the target area and hope that the winds would back enough by late afternoon and give just enough low-level shear to produce tornadoes.
We watched an area of enhanced cumulus grow to our north and positioned ourselves north to the Cogar to Minco area, and waited. By late afternoon GRLevel was showing cloud tops growing not too far to our west and northwest, which we could soon see visually. These towers underwent explosive growth as we headed north and then west a bit from El Reno on I-40 towards the southern cell which was now loosely connected to two other cells to its north. We got off I-40 a few miles west of El Reno and stopped to watch the rain free base of these storms to our west. The southern cell directly to our west showed promise as the northern cells filled in quickly with precipitation and started throwing it our way. We dropped south on a gravel road crossing over I-40 before heading a little west to set up and watch the southern flank and updraft base of our southern storm off to our west. It wasn't long before a lot of chaotic cloud motion was occurring under the base, and broad rotation became quite apparent. This rotation started to tighten up and lower dramatically not too far to our north-north west and we soon had wisps of white condensation funnels reaching towards the ground...the whole lowered cloud mass was rotating wildly and it was just a matter of moments before a series of full fledged condensations funnels snaked to the ground. The lighting was perfect as these pure white funnels were contrasted against the deep green precipitation background directly to our north. The cloud motions and condensations funnels were not only chaotic, they were rather hypnotizing...and they were coming our way! Rain curtains began to rapidly wrap around us from the west and north as we were being slammed with strong gusts of inflow pushing against our backs. It was time to leave! The condensations funnels were now almost on top of us as we piled into the vans with some folks left standing and fixated on the wild scene. After much shouting and horn blowing against the roaring wind we got everyone into the vans and blasted south, along with others careening their vehicles in every direction imaginably trying to get turned around and the hell out of there---fast! By now the wind swept rain was blinding as the crazily swaying trees on both sides of the road looked like they might soon be pulled out of the ground. I was helping keep my driver on track and pointed safely where we had to go when I glanced back to my north out the passenger side door and pretty well knew what I would see...the large and looming mass of an incredibly close tornado bearing down on us, maybe only a few hundred yards away---we needed to get south and find an east option fast. Another glance at GRLevel showed a wildly hooked signature of this storm in 0.5 base reflectivity, and we were definitely in the hook. Fortunately we got just far enough south fast enough so that the circulation crossed the road behind us and was now located just off to our north as we blasted east on a gravel road. The tornado was still very close to our north and mostly wrapped into the rain core, so it was difficult to see, especially from the passenger side of the vans. Radar was showing the circulation area now moving more eastward so we continued to do the same. Driving conditions were still bad and we were still being pummeled with strong gusty winds and blinding rain at times. Near Union City we stopped briefly and got out of the vans to watch a wedge tornado taking shape about a mile and a half to our north-northeast. The tornado had definitely turned back to the north of its previous track! We were now at safer distant and were able to take some quick images and video before jumping back in the vans and get closer once again.
From this point forward the 60,000 foot cloud tops made nightfall come early, even though it was still only about 7pm. Traffic became a major issue once we got closer to the Oklahoma City as did the viewing opportunities to our north through the trees and buildings. We probably should have bailed south at this point to give it up, but we continued east trying to keep up with this storm which put us into a nightmare scenario of traffic jams. We started out okay on I-40, but I-44 south was jammed with stopped vehicles trying to get south and I-44 was strangely blocked by police! Eventually a few miles east of I-35 traffic virtually stopped on I-40 with both lanes grid-locked as folks tried to escape any tornadoes coming into OKC. We got off the interstate onto a south option which seemingly took forever in itself with a long line in front of us trying to do the same. Then the real traffic jams began no matter which way we tried to go...especially south and east options, to the point where folks starting driving east in the west bound lanes regardless of oncoming traffic---and that lane too then became jammed. All this time possible tornadoes were heading in our direction on an ESE path only 5-9 miles behind us, not too comforting when one is only traveling at a snails pace. After much consternation in figuring out the best routes, we all agreed to head back north of the oncoming circulation areas into the core of the storm itself, which of course no one else was interested in doing since they were running away from the storm. This gave us an unimpeded and quick escape route north into what was now fortunately becoming a weaker area of hail, but still very heavy rain. We jumped back onto I-40 and soon found a much needed pit stop at a truck stop that was jammed with folks milling around watching the latest weather coverage on overhead TV's. I split from the group at that point and headed back west to our hotel for the night in OKC, and possibly the only hotel that had rooms within 50 miles of OKC. A training line of thunderstorms kept me awake most of the night, but we lucked out and were able to not lose our electric power in the hotel. Our base hotel less than a mile away had several power poles down and blocking the entrance to the hotel and had been without electricity all night. Although there were large sheets of metal wrapped around the poles in the parking lot amid lots of broken car glass my vehicle somehow exscaped unscathed. What an incredible day to end an incredible week of great storms! Unfortunately, the next day we learned of the loss of lives that had occurred with this tornado which sadly included those of our chase colleagues Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and chase partner Carl Young.
Here is the link to Chris Gullikson's awesome video that was taken with his GoPro camera facing rearward and mounted to the roof of one of our vans as we blasted south and east. The "El Reno" tornado is now rated EF-5. We stopped seven miles west of U.S. 81 on Reno Rd W, and a new meso/multi-vortex tornado rapidly ramped up no more than a mile or two to our NNW, and began to move towards the southeast, chasing us south. Later, we had a decent view of the 2-mile-wide-plus stage of the tornado to our NNE, from U.S. 81, about 5.5 miles south of I-40.
Here is a chase route map courtesy of David Hoadley that indicates the routes various chasers traveled in relationship to the path of the EF-5 2.6 mile wide El Reno tornado on May 31st. The Red Line marked "WR 6:00" that starts near the left center of the map indicates where we first filmed the tornadoes and then follows our path south, east, north and then east again as indicated on the video above.
June 1, 2013: Sat - Day 34 - Travel Day OKC - Castle Rock, CO: After taking care of the usual van service and saying goodbye to the guests it was time to take a little break from chasing. Fortunately, my vehicle incurred no major storm damage from the previous nights storms. Several power poles were snapped near the hotel, and the parking lot had large pieces of sheet metal wrapped around light stands. Others were not so lucky as there was plenty of broken vehicle glass strewn throughout the parking lot. Arrived at my son's house in Castle Rock by late evening with 671 miles added to the odometer.
June 2, 2013: Sun - Day 35 - Castle Rock, CO: Day to relax...
June 3, 2013: Mon - Day 36 - Severe Storms - SW KS - OK PH: My target for today was southwest Kansas southward into the OK Panhandle. My goal was simple, to relax and attempt to capture some stormy farmstead scenes near sunset. By the time I reached Lamar, CO numerous towers were already going up just to my south, but were very high-based due to the large temperature-dewpoint spreads. I headed east into Kansas and soon after crossing the border the first towers turned into thunderstorms almost overhead. These were still high-based and not very photogenic, but I continued eastward with these storms for the next hour or two. I stopped briefly in Meade to decide what I wanted to do and noticed a beefier storm developing back to my southwest towards Liberal. I headed in that direction and was greeting by a series of positive lighting bolts coming out of the anvil of this storm. I then headed farther west to the rear of the precipitation core and held up on a dirt road for awhile. I was watching a lightning ignited grass fire to my west when I was suddenly blasted by strong outflow from my east. Hundreds and hundreds of tumbleweeds began racing across the prairie and I had fun trying to video these for awhile until I was pelted by quarter size hail. I then moved farther east and watched the storm from behind. It was now early evening and it was time to find some old buildings to shoot against a stormy sky. I found one old farmstead near Baker in the Oklahoma Panhandle and then another near Turpin. I stuck with the Turpin farmstead until after sunset having a ball shooting dozens of images. I was just heading back to my hotel in Liberal when I got a call from Bob C. and crew that they had a van stuck in the mud. He was about 15 miles south of me and I was able to locate him on the spotter net, but by the time I arrived a local rancher was in the process of pulling them out, thankfully. 492 miles - Liberal, KS.
June 4, 2013: Tue - Day 37 - Dusty Supercells - SE CO - OK/TX PH: Today's target was obvious for me, head to the high plains of southeast Colorado and wait for late day storms to initiate close to the front range and drift eastward. Dewpoints were mostly in the low 50's and winds would back to the east by late afternoon just northeast of a surface low over far northeastern NM. I found my first storm just west of Campo, CO. While I was watching this storm attempt to form a nice base a brief non-mesocyclonic tornado (aka "landspout") formed about 5 miles to my west. A dust whirl formed first and this was followed by a pencil thin condensation tube that extended upward to the cloud base, unfortunately by the time I zoomed and focused my video camera the show had ended. After that this storm began going downhill fast and I set my sights on a much stronger storm about 100 miles to my northwest. I approached this storm via a series of gravel roads and intercepted the storm just as it was tornado warned near Dora, CO. The storm was very dark and there wasn't much structure to the storm's base directly to my west. GRLevel indicated a disorganized storm base that was moving mainly southeastward. I continued east and then south while stopping every so often to look back at the storm. As I got closer to Pritchett the storm began pushing out a lot of outflow and tons of blowing dust. I grabbed several images and a bit of video before blasting east towards Springfield. I took one last photo stop just west of Springfield as the gust front approached and then cut south on 287.
A mile or so south of Springfield I encountered a wall of dust blasting in from the northwest which turned the day into night. Thousands and thousands of tumbleweeds battered the west side of my vehicle by gusts of winds that topped 70mph at times. This pummeling continued unabated for the next 25 minutes until I got south of Campo...the longest continuous stretch of blowing dust I have ever encountered! As the dust began to clear I started to get a glimpse of an updraft tower that was showing up on radar about 20 miles to my south near Boise City. This would be the third supercell encounter of the day, and the best one for sure! Just north of Boise City I was able to get a good look at the base, which was quite high and exhibited a "cinnamon swirl" base. I wanted to get on the south side of this thing, which would likely mean driving through some hail, even though no precipitation was visible as is usually the case with an LP supercell. Just south of Boise City I encountered up to golf ball size hail and prayed that the windshield would hold. I had to drive about 8 miles to fully clear the hail before stopping and looking back at the storm. The structure was awesome, but it was also transitioning from an LP into something more classic. I continued south on 287 taking numerous film stops along the way while looking back to my north, then northeast, and later more easterly. I passed Bob C. and crew at one point north of Kerrick, TX I believe. It was now well after sunset but the structure was too good to pass up, I bumped up the ISO to 2500---held as steady as I could and continued snapping images all the way south to Statford, TX. I fun chase day for sure! Dumas, TX with hundreds of miles driven as usual.
June 5, 2013: Wed - Day 38 Final Chase Day - Junky Storms - NM: Well, I should have quit on a good note yesterday, but the chance of one more supercell day somewhere in NM or the Texas Panhandle was just too hard to resist. I drove all the way west to Clines Corners via I-40 in hopes of intercepting the southern most cell moving off the higher terrain slowly to the southeast. A little north of Clines Corners the view to my north was less than stunning, a rain free base without much structure and a heavy rain shield off to the east. By late afternoon this storm was already beginning to congeal with the ones to its north and a messy MCS would soon be at hand. A much stronger and somewhat isolated cell was moving southeastward from Mosquero, but I simply didn't feel like going all out for an intercept for yet another dusty outflowish mess with perhaps a bit of awesome structure on the front end. I saw at least one hapless tour director (not Tempest) valiantly diving south for hours in front of this thing, no thanks...had enough of that noise. Instead, I hung back and took a few images in the ghost town of Cuervo, east of Santa Rosa...thanks to the advice of Richard "Tank" Dickson. The sky was a dusty red as the area was rapidly being overtaken with dusty red outflow, and as soon as I snapped my pictures heavy rain began to pelt the town. I could have been half way home by now, but had an isolated supercell or two showed up on radar when I was 700 miles east I could have never forgiven myself...not to mention I would never have gotten those painterly images in Cuervo which helped salvage the day! Many, many miles driven - Amarillo, TX. The end of yet another chase season with some of my most memorable storms ever!