Cyclone Road


Saturday, July 26, 2014

7 June 2014: In and around Caprock Canyon State park, this was the best chase since April, with a photogenic storm that almost produced a tornado near the canyon, and later a decayed updraft twisting off the backside of the cell like a tail.

11 May 2014: This was as far north as I made it in 2014 (at least so far). Chased with Bob and Rachel Fritchie. Obviously, no tornadoes. This was a theme in 2014 (so far).

Monday, July 21, 2014

13 April 2014: I drove out to Jacksboro, Texas from Denton and didn't see much. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

3 April 2014: After teaching workshop, I dashed out to find the first of two severe storms west of Denton. The initial supercell produced softball hail along a wide swath north of the University Drive (Highway 380), damaging my own house such that I required a new roof, like hundreds of my neighbors. I chased that storm until Lake Lewisville and lousy vectors caused me to turn back and head for the second one. This one showed a strong velocity couplet for a few scans and seemed determined to produce a tornado as it crossed I-35 toward Denton from Krum. I stayed north of the meso following Loop 288 east and saw the wall cloud wrap in rain over the UNT campus. The storm produced tornadoes near Princeton later.

30 May 2013: Chased in south central Oklahoma. Drove solo. Met up with Bob and pursued storm from near Chickasha with big wall cloud to near I 35 at Purcell. Several attempted tornadoes but none successful, outflow dominant storm. Drop south toward Duncan storm for very photogenic, KH waves. Also ran into Ian Livingston, James Hyde, and Mark Ellinwood again. again.  Dropped to next storm, with the smallest tornado warning ever, a skinny updraft with a wall cloud, where chatted with Aaron Dooley and Eric Byrnes.

23 May 2013: chased Turkey, Texas and met up with Ian and crew. Severe wind event north of Jayton, Texas; perhaps found myself in the outer edge of a circulation. Took cover in a steel reinforced rodeo roof at Girard.

20 May 2013: Saw two tornadoes near Duncan Oklahoma, very close to the first tornado, and a distant view of the second. Elected not to chase storm approaching Moore, Oklahoma because of my strong aversion to metro areas during tornadic events. No regrets. 

May 2013: Near Rozel, Kansas, watched three tornadoes with first-time chase partner Trey Price from Denton. Also joined by Ian Livingston, Mark Ellinwood, and James Hyde from the Washington, DC area on the first day of their 2013 vacation.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Chase Day 8 MAY 2013

Hoped to stay in Texas for this one, but dewpoint spreads drove me to Altus and then Mangum, Oklahoma and finally west into the eastern Texas Panhandle to this storm, south of Memphis. Later shot the backside of a storm farther south, around Snyder.

Chase day 15 APRIL 2013

I left from school without any gear but the iPhone, drove west and caught this storm somewhere near Throckmorten maybe. I don't know. I don't feel compelled to research these chase accounts so exhaustively anymore when it's a low end event. This was very low end. The photo below looks like the storm is producing a tornado, but it's not. That's scud, driven by outflow.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Chase day 30 MAY 2012: North Texas

What I remember about this was playing around with highest possible ISO settings on the new camera, more or less after sunset. The Mark ii still rendered some color.

Chase day 29 MAY 2012 - Southwest to Central Oklahoma

Chase day 28 MAY 2012

Chase day 27 MAY 2012

In late May some friends came to the plains and we drove around in search of better storms. With Jason Foster, Ian Livingston, and Mark Ellinwood, I intercepted this storm along the cold front on 27 May 2012. In this image, Ian and Jason are in the foreground.

Chase day 14 APRIL 2012

April 14th was a big day with people chasing all over the place. This is the best image I captured that day, a funnel that was fully extended seconds before, but I was driving fast. That's my primary memory of that day, driving fast all over the place. This image and the next serve only to prove I did in fact participate in storm chasing activities, albeit poorly.

Chase day 13 APRIL 2012

I chased April 13th and 14th somehow, somewhere, probably nearby on the first day and then in Oklahoma on the "big day," which was, for me, a big disappointment. Here's a few from the 13th (the day before the day):

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

18 March 2012: Willow, Oklahoma tornadoes & structure

Scott Currens, Bob Fritchie and I converged on the Shamrock, Texas Taco Bell, and tried the Doritos Locos Tacos while monitoring radar on our phones.

When it was clear our target area had mixed out via an elevated dryline, we drove south and intercepted what we'd called the "Childress storm" three miles southeast of Hollis, Oklahoma a few miles north of the Red River. The storm intensified as we approached, but in person looked initially high-based and benign. It looked like an outflow dominant cell struggling with the high dewpoint depressions of its environment, a ragged updraft region and weak convergence. But soon, the first serious wall cloud emerged, and an impressive tail cloud formed as scud collected around a circulation before it crossed our N/S county road. We pursued the storm into Hollis and turned north on 30. Near the airport, we observed the second of many occlusions, this time with more promising signs of tornadogenesis, but the pristine green fields and lack of power poles or wires was too ideal a foreground, I guess. 

At McKnight, we made the fateful turn east on E1550, a perfectly fine and well-paved road but without any northern options that didn't terminate at the river. We were stuck driving east. We fell behind, but in doing so we noticed the incredible structure of the supercell. The farther we went, the better it looked.

Taken about 10 miles east of McKnight

This was quite a sight, a seemingly low-topped cell with the stable-layer, polished sheen on deeply grooved stacks. Though we were well to the south and east, far out of position for tornado-viewing, we didn't mind. As Scott Currens said later, "Being stuck on that eastbound road was the best thing that happened." At that point I considered the tornado potential marginal at best--not the last wrong analysis of this persistent little storm. But when it reached the higher theta-e air in southwestern Oklahoma, and the more supportive shear arrived, the show was about to begin.

During the last few miles of our journey to SR 34, the rotational signature on radar increased sharply and a wall cloud emerged in the distance. This was a large, dark blocky wall cloud, the kind that produce tornadoes you can't see when you're more than five miles away. We were probably ten to twelve miles south at this point. Finally we turned north on 34. Somewhere along the way we may have seen the first tornado near Reed, but I wasn't able to shoot it.

We were parked near the fork of 283 and 34, one mile north of Willow, when the elephant trunk tornado descended.

Taken 1m north of Willow, Oklahoma, 0030z

This funnel dissipated but the same circulation produced another fully condensed funnel seven to ten minutes later.

Taken three miles north of Willow about 0038z.

A great March chase with Bob and Scott, a reasonable distance traveled and an unforgettable storm. While it wasn't my first chase of the year (An extended reconnaissance to Lubbock two days earlier isn't worth writing about) it was a gratifying start to the season's opening schedule.

Friday, November 11, 2011

This is a link to the preliminary report from Norman's National Weather Service office on the tornadoes last week. I have used their early tornado track map to impose my own path during the chase, recreated from my GPS log. Click the map to enlarge.

The red circles indicate major stopping points, of which there are too many. I couldn't quit shooting the Frederick-Tipton tornado (Tornado #1 on the map) because it was doing so many cool things: changing shapes, orientations, and posing behind some very cool foregrounds. Over and over I told myself I'd crop the shots, since I was pretty far away at the beginning.

It's always a struggle to choose whether to keep shooting, since the tornado could dissipate any moment, or put the camera down for five minutes and blast west (blast being a relative term on the muddy Oklahoma backroads) another three miles to get closer. As it is, if I'd gone farther west in the beginning, I wouldn't have found myself directly between both the dying Tipton cone and the rapidly forming soon-to-be Manitou tornado. (Tornado #2 on the map). I eventually caught up fully to the Manitou-nado, meeting it at its dissipation point over Highway 183.

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