Tuesday, May 27, 2003
I'm spending a few more days with friends in the DFW area before heading back to Indiana for the rest of the summer. Right now I'm in Cleburne, at a public library which blocks access to newsgroups, so I'm unable to keep up with much of the lament of my chaser pals. But I can hear their cries in the ether--haha. Yes, the season ended as violently and abruptly as it began, strangely enough, and stranded many chasers who have only arrived for their yearly vacations in the last few days. My last check of medium range models shows very little hope for the next several days. For me, it's a signal that the time for fun is over. I expect to see a few more people tomorrow afternoon and evening, then begin the push for Bloomington on Thursday, perhaps.
Friday, May 23, 2003
Hays, Kansas--I'm in Hays, Kansas this morning where the Toyota dealer told me nothing is wrong with my truck. A high-pitched metallic grinding sound came from the chassis last night in the Goodland, Kansas Wal-Mart parking lot, so I got up at 5:00 AM and drove the 120 miles to Hays thinking my chase season might be over. They couldn't duplicate the sound or find anything out of order.
Today's setup is another mesoscale mystery, this time with extensive cloud cover over most of Western Kansas. I'm banking on high terrain and some fair dewpoints in extreme Eastern Colorado, and a small boundary I analyzed on the Goodland radar, which looks to be pushing east of Limon right now. I'm heading for the Colorado county just west of Goodland to see if I can catch up with the gang and/or catch some upslope storms.
Yesterday we saw some amazing cumulus structure, several with mesocyclonic and polished, LP appearances, but with updrafts blown completely vertical venhilating from the flying saucer, stacked plate bases. I've never seen features quite like these and am anxious to post the pictures later tonight.
Thursday, May 22, 2003
Guymon, Oklahoma--We're scouring data in the Guymon public library, eyeing an area from NW Kansas to Eastern Colorado for severe storms later in the day. The pattern now is harder to forecast, but probably more rewarding as dozens of chasers have planted themselves at home in mourning for the lack of constant outbreaks or in fear of computer models. Meanwhile, nearly 1500 j/kg CAPE values and marginally supportive shear profiles could reward the persistent up here in the high terrain. Or we could bust. Ha!
Yesterday was a remarkable travel day. We visited the Texas Panhandle ghostown of Moteebie where a local man named Dale Corcoran told us stories of the still-standing first panhandle jail, and how a tornado in 1897 destroyed the thriving town of Moteebie, which at the time was the largest city in the area with stagecoach lines arriving from around the plains. We toured the jail, a few other buildings, and hung out with a very tame and curious deer with a large red tag marked "210" in his ear. Later, we visited a graveyard south of the ghostown where Dale told us stories about dozens of people at rest there, including his great-grandfather, a man with such a stunning life story that I'll keep it from the prying imaginations of my writerly friends. Haha. Stay tuned for more on that.
Dale Corcoran is a remarkable man himself, retired from working oil rigs, we guessed, who took up maintaining the old graveyard and jail as a way to keep himself occupied. Still with a strong handshake and hearty laugh in his late 60's, he wore a cutoff white t-shirt and had a burn mark on the tip of his index fingers from decades of getting the last drag off every cigarette. His skin was a permanent sunned leather. He laughed about our interest in the place but answered every question in a detailed and thoughtful drawl, hypnotizing us with his memory of dates and people dead for fifty and sixty years. When we finished, he led us back through town in his white pickup truck and stopped at his small house, where he lives with his fifth wife. There's no place like the Texas Panhandle.
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
The gang is bound for Southwest Kansas this morning, looking for two days of chasing despite the dire predictions of model worshippers everywhere. We hardly have time to photograph all the supercells for the constant strem of cellphone calls describing the extent and power of the upper level ridge. Call us crazy. Currently looking at this area of Kansas and Colorado for two days of chasing and possibly into the weekend. Stay tuned.
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
McKinney, Texas-- We're at Steve Miller's house in McKinney watching video and talking about going to IHOP or Cracker Barrel. Very disappointed that SPC dropped the slight risk in NM tomorrow, so it looks like we'll stick around here tonight and head west in the morning.
Last night, a large thundershower approached McKinney from the north at about 2:30 AM. Of course, we hadn't gone to bed yet and so we grabbed the cameras. We jogged down the street and filmed lightning from an open area at the end of the cul-de-sac. We heard the drumming sound of rain approaching and the first few drops served as a warning for the deluge seconds later. Five stormchasers beat it down the road in the pouring rain, cameras tucked under t-shirts, back to the refuge of Steve's garage. A wild night and thus the late posts today.
McKinney, Texas--Steve Miller and I along with the Weathervine gang chased a beautiful supercell from near Duncan, Oklahoma to near Ardmore today. The storm wrapped up with silver laminar banding in the lower and mid-levels and displayed several wall clouds and long tail clouds and inflow bands. Today's setup was very unusual in that the cold front produced a vanguard windshift line, oriented north to south, which acted as a convergence axis in much the same way as a dryline. Also, with mid-level flow oriented perpendicular to the boundary, storms moved off the front and did not seed other cells along the forcing. The deep cold air was well behind the windshift, and from what I understand about people who studied the models extensively this morning, the mesoscale environment developed much differently than progged. We enjoyed this backlit suerpcell for several hours as it generated tornado warnings in Stephens, Jefferson, and Carter Counties.
Later, another supercell developed to the west and we intercepted it just north of the Red River in Love County. This storm had a large bell shaped mesocyclone and was also visually impressive for some time. Will post photos later, and I may have an AVI clip of the two simultaneous tornados on Thursday in the Texas panhandle. Right now, we're facing at least tomorrow afternoon down until we reposition to West Texas for Wednesday or later in the week.
Monday, May 19, 2003
patrolling the front range of Eastern Colorado for the
chance of low precipitation supercells generated by
orographic lifting in the elevated terrain ahead of
the Rocky Mountains. Today's setup is marginal, but
with a polar front sweeping south through the plains
this upcoming week, we're taking our chances where we
find them. We plan to meet with the Weathervine team
around Lamar and reposition from there.
Thursday, May 15, 2003
Lubbock, Texas--Watching a very powerful mid-level impulse churn towards the Texas panhandle right now where a juiced boundary layer awaits. I have no doubt that some storms will have tornadoes; the question is whether or not we'll see them or be on the right storm. We're gonna try. Our target at the moment is from Dimmit to Hereford, Texas, eding north along with the front. We expect long-lived supercells to travel east or just north of due east, so we could chase them right along the I-40 corridor into Oklahoma later today. We'll see.
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Lubbock, Texas--Big event on tap for tomorrow. Dr. P, if you're reading this, call my cell phone. I plan to call you in the morning; we just arrived. Tomorrow, playing the triple point whereever it sets up. More in the morning.
Steve and I wait in the Seymour library watching convergence along the Red River as the outflow boundary slides south. We're nervous about the cap, weak mid-level winds, and other mesoscale vagaries. We're excited about the backed flow along the boundary and the Day 2--haha. Tomorrow looks like a big event out near LBB. Edwards's new outlook upgrades the language for the event.
Lawton, Oklahoma--Steve Miller and I are in Lawton, Oklahoma this morning, the town that supports Fort Sill, known to the US Army as the home of the field artillery. No cannon fire to report here but hopefully severe storms will thunder up and down the dryline this afternoon where the warm front and dryline intersect near a developing surface low north of Abilene. Our setup today is highly conditional and depends much on deep layer shear and airmass recovery, which this morning looks fair at least.
Yesterday was an old fashioned cap bust in Northern Oklahoma. We played the intersection of the dryline and a large outflow boundary sliding southwestward from a large cold pool generated by an early morning MCS in Eastern Oklahoma. Eric Nguyenand Scott Currens waited out in the sun with us as we made jokes about Weather Channel commercials and threw rocks at signs. Later we encountered Roger Hill and the Cloud 9 Tour groups at a great Chinese Buffett in Enid, Oklahoma. On our way to Lawton last night we saw several DOW trucks parked on the of the road in Kingfisher, their crews enjoying a meal at the humble looking City Cafe downtown.
Tomorrow we expect a serious day of severe weather in West Texas. Lubbock may be under the gun, caught between the dryline to the west (maybe) and an approaching strong upper level vorticity maxima, currently off the coast of California.
Monday, May 12, 2003
Clinton, Oklahoma--Steve Miller and I are in position for storms firing along the dryline and warm front tomorrow. Our target area as of tonight is approximately Dodge City, Kansas to Woodward, Oklahoma. Here we go again!
Headed Back to Kansas
Sunday, May 11, 2003
Denton, Texas--Dave Fick and I chased the tornadic supercell in Oklahoma on Friday from near Rocky in the southwestern part of the state through the Oklahoma City metro area and up the turnpike through Tulsa county, until the storm weakened on radar. We estimate being engaged with this spectacular, cyclic supercell for almost
seven hours and over two hundred miles, during which it generated close to forty tornado warnings, I've been told. We stopped around 2:30 AM, dazed and delirious with adrenaline and exhaustion.
We believe the dry air in the lower levels in Southwestern Oklahoma, per the 18z OUN sounding Thursday and related to the veering low level flow earlier in the day, prevented the storm from dropping a tornado until it reached the then-recovered moisture axis closer to the metropolitan area.
The storm exhibited dramatic rotation and stunning features throughout its lifecycle, including the largest wall cloud and most impressive, stretching tailcloud I've ever witnessed. This occurred during the daytime and our imagery is quite good.
During the nighttime portion of the chase, we caught several lightning-assisted glimpses of the tornado as it moved through the eastern half of Oklahoma. During much of the chase through the metropolitan area, the storm was to my west, both as we went north along the western side of the city and then as we went east along the northern access. Thus I filmed using a window mount facing those directions and was unable to observe (mostly) what the camera was filming. Traffic was heavy.
I have yet to review the 90 or so minutes worth of video I shot during the entire event. I will coordinate my video timestamps with the GPS log and damage reports to specify what the imagery shows when. That job starts tomorrow.
Dave and I followed rural roads and Route 66 parallel to the turnpike to maintain our position relative to the storm as it moved along the interstate.
We continued to witness lowerings and upper halves or upper thirds of the tornado, our view of the base often blocked by the trees. However, as the storm caused damage at several points along our chase, we're confident that our captures reflect the tornado(s) at several stages during the storm's lifespan.
We came through Stroud minutes behind the tornado. We observed metal roofs, signs, and tree limbs down as well as power poles and some severe vehicle damage. the power was out and stunned residents wandered along the blackened sidewalks and into the rainy streets. Another meso was forming behind us, with the possibility of another tornado on the heels of the first. We told people to take cover.
The disheartening scene in Stroud reminded me of all the devastation and broken lives I drove away from this week, headed for the next target area.
About one mile south of the intersection of State Road 102 and I-44, we approached the outer circulation of the tornado: our winds suddenly erupting from the west carrying debris and unfamiliar sounds. We reversed course and did not come that close again. Obviously this was unintentional. As I understand was the case with Tim, Gene, and Karen, we believed the tornado was to our northeast when it was apparently to our due north, or perhaps reforming above us.
This storm constantly regenerated mesocylones and carried several simultaneous circulations. This would have been a difficult to monitor during the daytime; at night it was very hard.
I don't prefer night chasing or chasing in metro areas, but Dave and I had access to several sources of information about the location and movement of the storm and tornado. First, the OUN live updates gave critical timely information about the track of the tornado. Dave monitored a television in his car to view up to the minute radar imagery with street level mapping. We listened to spotters and other chasers, and last, but far from least, we had the excellent nowcasting services of Jeff Gammons.
Jeff has nowcasted for me all week, from Kansas City, through Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma chases. On Friday, Jeff stayed up with us all chase, and, in fact, gave us preliminary setup updates along the way to our target. His work was invaluable and I owe him barbecue at Clark's in Tioga, Texas, as well as a t-bone from the Ponder Steak House.
Perhaps the most dangerous moment of the chase came when a well-known chaser, in the company of a news van, passed a line of vehicles on a slick, two-lane highway going into a curve with traffic approaching from the opposite direction. This idiotic maneuver was performed at high speeds. None of us in the group appreciated this chaser's decision to put our lives at risk in the interest of his video sales. Please don't email me for the name.
Dave and I chased today as well in Eastern Oklahoma, with no success. But as we were on the road again, I have yet to transfer any imagery or begin reviewing the GPS log. I expect the full chase report will take several days. My digital stills I can post tomorrow. I don't have firewire with me and will take my tape to a friend's house here in Texas to upload captures. I'm hoping to get the captures up by Tuesday night.
It was easily the most grueling and exhilarating chase of my career. When we realized the storm had weakened east of Tulsa, we celebrated. We intended to stop soon and believed the devastation and loss of life behind us far greater than what it was. We understood a major catastrophe had occurred on the Interstate, and that does not appear to be the case. We're grateful.
Congratulations to the chasers who had success this week. More importantly, congratulations to the Storm Prediction Center, local NWS offices, broadcast media,and storm spotters who worked hard to keep people safe. Imagine what an outbreak of tornadoes the magnitude of this one would have done forty or fifty years ago!
The integrated warning system has performed brilliantly. Also as importantly, people reacted to the information they received, taking shelter and saving themselves--the one thing that none of us can do for them.
Let's hope next week takes us back west of I-35 and into open rural areas.
Saturday, May 10, 2003
Long-Track Tornado Chase Across Oklahoma: 5/8/2003 Report
Friday, May 09, 2003
St. Joseph, Missouri--I hate to say that it looks like another round of severe storms along the dryline this afternoon in Oklahoma. We're heading south on 35 from Kansas City, and will go as south as necessary. An upper level disturbance associated with a closed low aloft is headed for the plains, and the boundary layer in the eastern half of Oklahoma is still juiced, with seventy degree dewpoints common. No specific target to name for now, but perhaps about halfway between OKC and the Kansas state line on I-35. No time to check messages or even do much beyond rudimentary forecasting. Time to hit the road again.
Thursday, May 08, 2003
St. Joseph, Missouri--Today's chase along the foggy and grungy warm front was the most frustrating day of the vacation. Between the proxmimity of Indiana and my dissipating chase budget, I'm reminded of the old saying about too much of a good thing. Today Dave Fick, Scott Eubanks, and I chased at least three supercells, all with tornado warnings, none of which produced for us.
Scott and I turned on a dirt road near Clyde, Kansas and found ourselves sliding on a very slippery mud road. I spent thirty minutes going one-half mile and Scott wasn't so lucky, requiring a tractor to drag his Durango from the ditch. I could recite the GPS log to recount the day, but why bother? We went from around Clay Center and chased for several hours all the way to near St. Joseph. I'm tired and frustrated. Here's the only decent image of the day.
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
I like the area around or south of Concordia, Kansas tomorrow, perhaps more south if the warm front stalls, or more west if the system slows overall, as the ETA seems to trend. I'll leave early in the morning around 8:00 AM.
today. I plan to drive only to breakfast and a grocery store, then
return to my room to post pictures and my chase report from
yesterday, and do some reading. I may even break out some work of
my own and see if I still know how to write. After marathon mileage
(nearly 3000 so far) each day since last Friday, I'm ready for a day
like today, with a setup so marginal and far away that it doesn't
makes sense to lose position for the next day.
I may even take a nap.
I haven't looked at targeting for tomorrow, but I always hear it
described in the same general area, so I guess the models are
consistent. If it makes meteorological sense, I'd like to stay
south of the KC metro area, but who knows what will happen?
Okay, I'm checked in here for another day and I'm headed out to find
a *decent* cup of coffee for once on this trip. Chase Season 2003
Carthage, Missouri--Chased three supercells in Western and West Central Missouri on Tuesday (5-6), all with strong and photogenic wallclouds and other features. May have spotted the Bolivar tornado from a great distance. Started around Fort Scott, Kansas and finally quit northeast of Kansas City near dark. Will post a longer report tomorrow night. Looks like a Western Oklahoma target tomorrow, though the setup is highly conditional.
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
round of major storms this afternoon as the BL is
primed out the wazoo today--more CAPE than Sunday's
storms. Low level shear not as favorable for
tornadoes, but pretty close.
Dave and I may meet up in TUL if time allows, likely
not, however. He'll probably get the southern quarter
of activity as TUL expects the dryline to light up
this afternoon as well. This shift of targets was a
little unexpected, and a good example of why it pays
to be up here already. Yesterday, I expected to
drive to the Oklahoma panhandle today. Things change
I hope I get to SEE North Texas sometime this month!
LOL! I really want to.
Off to SGF,
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The New Yahoo! Search - Faster. Easier. Bingo.
Monday, May 05, 2003
Ottawa, Kansas--Spending the night southwest of Kansas City after another long day of chasing with Jeff Lawson, Scott Eubanks, and Brian Fant in the high risk area in northeast Kansas and Western Missouri.
We had three or four distinct events. First, Jeff and I may have seen a tornado near Platte City in the Northwest Quadrant of Kansas City, Missouri.
Later, we saw the outer edge of circulation as a tornado formed in downtown Liberty, Missouri, where large debris floated through the air in a strangely dim light with rotating rain curtains and screaming inflow behind us. We bailed out of the approaching tornado and raced it up State Road 69 toward Excelsior Springs where we saw the somewhat rain-wrapped wedge grind from the south toward a Wal-Mart near the edge of town. When the precip was too heavy to stay, we continued up the highway and witnessed a very small, non-violent (and therefore not meeting the classical definition of a tornado) circulation which crossed the road near Wood Heights.
Unfortunately, these storms and tornadoes peeked in and out so quickly and in such hilly terrain that our video isn't even close to what chasers saw in Kansas City proper or, apparently Southeastern Kansas. But the experience of being in the outer circulation of a developing large tornado was surreal enough to more than make up for the lack of glorious footage. I may have images of the Wal-Mart wedge that are *decent,* but after three straight days of driving constantly, I'm in no condition to upload them. In the morning, I'll post them.
A huge thanks to Jeff Gammons for great nowcasting, staying on the phone with us constantly as we skirted the edge of the tornadic storm moving through North Central KC metro. Also, Rob Hall made himself available, too. Thanks to both. Congratulations to all my friends who had success the last two days: Shane, Scott Currens, Chris Sokol, and many others.
Yesterday we chased the left split because, like Sam, we expected the storm would interact with the warm front and a north/south boundary we analyzed near Vernon. What we found was, of course, an inverted backwards thunderstorm that never got its act together for us, while the Haskell storm apparently sat and spun deep into the core of the earth.
Tomorrow looks like a much-needed down day, and we won't be doing much driving. Tuesday, we'll head south to position for Wednesday.
Sunday, May 04, 2003
like good reasons at the time; only saw brief
Very short of time this morning. We're in Winfield,
Kansas (myself, Brian F, Scott E, and Jeff Lawson) and
we're headed for the Topeka area for initiation.
Best of luck to all. Be safe.
Saturday, May 03, 2003
and has reverted to a RUC-based forecast. In this case it might not
be a bad idea. New RUC shows the warm front stalled and kinked in
the E Texas Panhandle, where it *sort of* intersects a lackluster
dryline which doesn't surge because of the delayed surface
In fact if we didn't have the warm front, we'd have surface flow
parallel to the dryline, yielding zilcho convergence and a
guaranteed cap bust. But the warm front is there (on the model, and
that jives with obs) and backs the winds at 0Z in a very localized
area around Shamrock. The RUC does a nice job depitcing the
reaction of surface winds to a boundary like that in a small area,
particularly since it is flow somewhat deviant from the wider scale
Anyway, looking at a tour of soundings everywhere else, it's cap
city, and I mean some big ones. FWD is hugely capped, as is OUN and
DDC. DDC has a great vertical shear profile, but if they don't get
some dewpoints AND the warm front, they'll never break that cap. As
for the metroplex, the cap is even bigger. If the warm front stalls
along the river, then who knows? If not, I just don't see it given
the 12Z sounding this morning. It might take a convective temp of
100F to pop that thing today.
The plume of moisture moving into the Panhandle that Edwards
described is evident on the new surface obs, just like the short
wave ridging aloft (drat!) is visible on the vapor loop. This is a
super complicated pattern, but I know one thing: I'm too far north.
I'm bolting southwest and may check data again around noon.
Right now I think I'm heading more in the Shamrock direction.
Amos in Winfield, KS
Friday, May 02, 2003
Back In The Alley
Chase Vacation Begins
Thursday, May 01, 2003
May Is Here!