Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 storm season...

I'm still in Pensacola, finishing up the simulators for my FAA ATC certs, and debating on whether or not I should go to flight school. AFA chasing is concerned, I'm picking up a VW Jetta (TDI, manual 5-speed) from my dad, and I'll be chasing in that this spring...looks like I'll be getting a break in March to take 2-3 weeks, depending on if I get stationed state-side or overseas. Not sure how ramped up the season will be by then, but, hey, considering I was planning on giving this season a pass anyway, it'll be good to get out under the meso again. Creston was March 22nd...and, every few years there's a nice March outbreak in Texas...definitely due down there!

I've finally gotten around to upgrading my equipment, as well...DSLR camera, HD camcorder, Motorola Xoom tablet as a backup radar/data source, and I'm running my data through Verizon this year...4G LTE FTW. Of course, all that's in addition to the equipment I already had...need to pick up a tripod, and get the Jetta set up when I get back to IL...just about ready to roll.

Definitely don't plan on having anywhere as near as good a year as I did last year, seeing as I'll only have 2 weeks, but, at the same time, the experience I gained last year was invaluable...especially afa forecasting is concerned. Plus, it only takes one good day to make a season...I'd have taken the November 7th outbreak in OK over anything I've ever been on. 

At any rate, I can generally find a way to turn things epic, somehow...should be a fun ride! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cameo in Storm Chasers!

Got a shot of myself and Mike Brady on the last episode of Storm Chasers...check it out! You can see the Prius we were in at about 17:20 in...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Timelapse of Canton Lake, OK tornado.

Currently sitting in Pensacola, FL...waiting for waterspouts. Mostly. Anyway, Mike came out with a pretty sweet timelapse of the Canton/Canton Lake tornado that we intercepted May it is!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

One more tor!

Added one more tornado to my 2011 count - a short-lived, non-condensed elephant trunk near Hovan, South Dakota yesterday! Got a brief video capture of it...should have it up before I leave!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Footage on National Geographic!

Just found out that our footage from the St Louis tornadoes April 22nd made it onto the National Geographic special Tornado Swarm 2011! Check it out!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

An update to explain why I won't be explaining anything for a very long time. This title is ridiculously long. Seriously, who does this?


I ship off to Navy basic training August 3rd. Contract signed, all hoops jumped through...time to head out. So, for now, my chasing career is over.

I'll probably be able to get out at some point next year...should be done with A school sometime in January, so...maybe eligible for some leave in June, or, at least, that's what I'm hoping. If not, 2011 was a year for the ages anyway, I suppose...

I'll leave you with a list of my top 5 tornadoes of the year:

1. Canton, OK (Big surprise)
4. Stovepipe in IA April 9th (no video)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Quick summary...

Looks like the chase season is quickly drawing to a's a summary!

March 22nd: Creston, IA tornado

March 26th: AL/MS bust, but a bust with an amazingly wrapped meso.And Risley yelling a lot. If you haven't chased with Ris, you haven't lived. 100% serious.

April 3rd: Couple of supercells/rotating wall clouds in IA...also my only speeding ticket of the season.

April 9th: 10 tornadoes in Iowa, including at least two separate times with 2 tornadoes on the ground at once.

April 10th: Crappy chase in WI...terrain cost us views of several tornadoes. Basehunters got them, though.

April 15th: Cold-core setup in IL yields a couple of funnels and cool structure.

April 19th: Never happened.

April 22nd: Chased the STL supercell/tornado from Jefferson City through STL, got a brief glimpse of the tornado over New Melle, and documented damage at the airport afterwards.

May 7th: 4 non-condensated tornadoes in eastern IL...quick spin-ups, but we were really stinking close.

May 11th: Got stuck in Kansas for either a week or a year and one week. Still not sure which.

May 22nd: Iowa crapshoot while Basehunters stole the show again.

May 24th: Canton, OK tornado. Which will probably be the best tornado of my life.

May 25th: Ellsinore, MO tornado.

June 20th: 3 tornadoes in NE, with one only 100 yards away.

And...there was a Nebraska bust in there somewhere. Forgot the date, though.

So, 21 tornadoes, 7 tornado days, a catastrophic car failure, almost got shot at in MS because of homogenized cream, and...just mostly epic. Lots of lessons learned, lots of friends made, and already counting down to next year!

Updated stats for 2011...

Updated numbers...

21 chases
21 tornadoes
8 tornado days
Over 13,000 miles

I've been in 10 states, and chased 9 of them:

Illinois (4 tornadoes)
Iowa (11 tornadoes)
Nebraska (3 tornadoes)
Oklahoma (1 tornado)
Tennessee (just passed through)
Missouri (2 tornadoes)

Chase Log - 6-20-2011

Incredible chase day with my friend Roman Totten - ended up with 3 tornadoes, (bringing my total for the year to 21!), and were within a hundred yards of a beautiful cone south of Elm Creek, Nebraska.

Left Peoria at 5 AM on 1.5 hours of sleep after spending the night before at Wrigley Field watching the Cubs get embarrassed by the Yankees, and drove to around York, NE. Once there, we re-evaluated data, and kept watching a beautiful supercell on the backside of the low in NC Kansas.

To our surprise, a PDS (Particularly Dangerous Situation) tornado watch was issued for our area...surprising because these types of watches are normally saved for high risk days. I wish I had time to do some synopsis of the environments for these chase days, but that'll have to wait for winter...

We kept heading SW towards the storm in NC Kansas, as reports started to stream out of multiple large tornadoes on the ground at once. As we got close enough to see the storms' structure, I decided to target the storm developing off of the first storms' outflow boundary. This proved to be the best decision I would make all we kept up with the storm heading north to the I-80 corridor, an area of rotation became apparent, and a beautiful tornado dropped!

Big day for me already, as this was the closest I'd ever been to a tornado of this size, but we followed it up with a long-distance sighting of a gorgeous elephant trunk tornado, and then a short lived rope (that we didn't get video of) to end the day!

Didn't get back home until a tad before 5 AM - almost 24 hours straight. Work the next day was absolute torture, but for what was probably the last chase of the season, it was well worth it. Sucks to have missed the epic tornadoes near our original target of York, but it worked out just fine.

Chase Log - 5-25-2011

Second day of an epic chasecation with Brady...this time ending in our intercept of the Ellsinore, MO wedge!

We stayed in Springfield, MO the night before, and after we had grabbed breakfast and ingested the morning data runs, decided to head east to around Poplar Bluff, MO.

It was another high risk day, another day with insane parameters for tornadic development. We sat most of the day in Poplar Bluff, waiting for initiation. Bands of storms with tornado warnings developed as the low pushed further NE, but we sat tight...until a storm started to rotate right on the AR/MO border. As the storm held together, we pushed NW on highway 60 to intercept.

As we neared the storm, we noticed a large lowering about 3 miles ahead of us. Brady pulled the car to the side of the road, and we hiked up the side of a huge embankment...had to be at least 150 feet up. As we got to the top, it became apparent that there was a large tornado in progress!

We raced back down the hill, and tried to get as close to the tornado crossing the highway as we could...we were about a mile away when it crossed. We came across the damage path about a minute afterwards, and noted pretty extensive the Canton tornado the day before, this would be rated an EF-3, and about 1 mile wide at it's widest point.

Something that I'll never forget...the air smelled like pine. Not pine like I had ever smelled before, but the fresh smell of hundreds of pine trees that had just been snapped. Eerie, and incredible.

We tried to chase the storm through the national forest, but were blocked by trees knocked down by the tornado, which effectively ended our chase. We headed for a well-earned steak dinner in Cape Giraudoux, and then home.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Amazing shot of my Canton, OK tornado intercept!

I'm still working on processing all of the images and chase log from our chases late May-June, but I found this picture of Mike Brady and I from Oklahoma, taken on May 24 of this year by the legendary Tony Laubach. We're sitting in the grey Prius...absolutely incredible. I've spent my entire life wanting a shot like actually get it is almost surreal.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nebraska Tornado Outbreak - 6-20-2011

Intercepted 3 tornadoes in Nebraska on the 20th...including a cone about 100 yards away!

I'll have chase logs up later!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Chase log - 5-24-2011

As early as the 20th, it was obvious that the 24th had the potential to be a huge day. Models were consistent in showing a strong dryline, high CAPE values, ample deep layer shear, beautiful SE surface backing winds, and high SRH (Storm relative helicity) values.

I chased with Mike Brady - we made our typical last-minute decision to play the setup, and left IL at about 5:30. Drove through a good chunk of the night to get to Emporia, Kansas. Holed up in a hotel there, checked the morning data/model runs, and decided to head south to around Enid, OK.

Stopped in Enid for lunch/oil change, and then decided to head a bit SW. Got to around Okeene, as we noticed initiation beginning. As we started to get in position for an intercept on the northern-most, dominant cell...we lost data. Completely.

Over the next half hour, I made a couple calls to fellow chaser Dr. Tom Williams for nowcast updates, as we got in closer to our storm. As we dropped to the SE side of the storm, a beautiful rain-free base became evident, with a fairly decent wall cloud.

As we tracked the storm NE, the first wall cloud dissipated, and a second one formed rather quickly. As we got closer to Canton, OK, rotation started to really ramp up and tighten.

We wanted to stay just on the east side of Canton Lake, and were heading down to highway 58A when we discovered that it was closed. We headed back up the hill to go through Canton, but decided to pull in at the Feather Wind Casino and see if it would drop a tornado right there. The wall cloud was fairly bland, but the scud wisps were rotating violently.

Within 30 seconds or so, 200 yards in front of us, a needle funnel started coming down, and a few surface vortices became apparent.

Through the next couple minutes, it was touch and go as to whether the tornado would stick around...the funnel kept retreating into the burgeoning wall cloud, as the surface vortices danced under the meso...

Then, as the wall cloud almost became a collar, the tornado started to grow - rapidly. It would reach widths upwards of 3/4 of a mile as it roared NNE through a mobile home park on the south side of Canton Lake, and then across the lake. This was the last still of the tornado that I got before the camera died...a true Oklahoma monster.

We sat into the parking lot of the casino until the tornado started to occlude into the wrapping rain curtains, then we left and headed east. We spent the rest of the day try to reposition to get another tornado, but didn't have any luck...still, the video/pictures that we captured made it a chase for the ages. Best tornado of my career, and just an absolutely amazing monster.

And, the chase wasn't over...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

End of May summary...


It's been an amazing year so far. I haven't had time to figure out all the numbers, but my rough figures (since March 22nd) are:

20 chases
18 tornadoes
7 tornado days
Over 12,000 miles

I've been in 10 states, and chased 9 of them:

Illinois (4 tornadoes)
Iowa (11 tornadoes)
Oklahoma (1 tornado)
Tennessee (just passed through)
Missouri (2 tornadoes)

We've had video on CNN, ABC, CBS, and The Weather Channel. I've stopped cars on the interstate from driving into a tornado, and I've checked houses to see if people were injured minutes after a tornado hit. I've driven through some of the worst conditions imaginable, seen (and been hit by) hail up to and a little larger than baseballs. I've seen tornadoes up to a mile wide. I've been 200 yards from a violent EF-3, and been hit by a weaker tornado.

If there's a year I've been waiting for all my life, this is it. And, I needed to make this one count...I may not be able to be out at all next year, depending on how things progress with the Navy. But, for's been epic. And, here comes June.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ellsinore, MO wedge tornado

Wrapped up our chasing for the week with a 1/2 to 1 mile wide wedge tornado that passed about a mile in front of us on US Highway 60, just west of Ellsinore, MO.

Will work on chase logs as time permits!

Violent Canton, OK tornado - 5-24-2011

Captured a large tornado in Canton, OK yesterday...touched down 200 yards in front of us, and transitioned from a multi-vortex into a wedge right in front of us! Absolutely chase of my career to date.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Illinois tornadoes, 5-7-2011

Sleeper day ended up verifying nicely, as we got at least 3 or 4 brief non-condensated tornadoes in east-central IL, all at very close range! Check out our video below...we couldn't get all of the tornadoes on video, as they were dancing around us for a while.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chase Log - 4-22-2011

Incredible day, chasing a beastly tornadic supercell in the St. Louis metro area. Challenging, and also the closest I've come to dying on a chase to date.

Headed to Colchester, IL, to meet up with Jesse. Also had Dr Tom Williams from WIU, and Eric Apel along for the ride. Targeted Kingdom City, MO, initially. Got there, sat for about an hour, and our storm popped up west of Jefferson City, MO - just where we had forecasted. Let it become more organized, and intercepted just north of Jeff City. Large recycling rotating wall cloud became apparent, with the biggest beaver's tail/inflow jet I've ever seen. Chased this through central MO, staying right in the hook echo for most of the time...met up with fellow chaser Nick Nolte as well. Passed Reed and the Dominator before we got back on I-70. Noted strong rotation, and strengthening inflow, but no tornadoes - yet. Once on I-70, encountered 2-2.5 inch hail, and easily 60+ MPH winds. Started getting reports that a tornado was on the ground as we got out of the rain core, and realized that this was probably true once we got out, and got slammed with a 70 MPH inflow jet.

Pulled over as the tornado was crossing I-64 after affecting Dardeene Prairie, and nearly got hit by a semi while stopping traffic. Streamed the circulation crossing the interstate live on the Weather Channel, while Jesse conducted a live phone interview. Kept on the storm through St. Louis metro, noted power flashes as the tornado hit Lambert airport, and, after the tornado had lifted, went back to the airport to help out/document damage. Conducted another live stream/interview with TWC while streaming the image of the bus up on the concrete ledge, and then went back to Colchester for the night.

All in all, definitely the most intense chase of my career to date...chasing a rain-wrapped EF-4 tornado in a major metro area with power flashes and a debris ball is about as crazy as it gets. Ended up with about 800 miles, and got to bed at 4 AM.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

INSANE video from St. Louis tornadoes...

First, the tornado as it crosses the interstate 150-200 yards in front of us...heavily rain-wrapped, but you can just barely see a funnel...then, a large wall cloud, power flashes over St. Louis Metro as the tornado hit the airport, and then damage at Lambert International airport, as we were able to go back to the airport and get great footage of some incredible damage.

Chase logs to's 4 AM, I just got back to Jesse's house, been driving for 18 hours straight, and I need to get some sleep. Our video may be on all major networks tomorrow morning...still waiting to hear back on that.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chase Log - 4/19/2011

Worst chase of my career to date.

Chased with Jesse Risley and Kevin Crawmer. Started out in Springfield, headed SE to Vandalia. Started heading NW when an isolated cell took a right turn, started riding the warm front, and producing tornadoes. Caught this cell just west of Carrollton, IL, lost data, and found out too late that storms had popped ahead of it. raced east to get on the new storms, and missed a view of two beautiful, large cone tornadoes by a combined distance of about 8 miles. Incredibly frustrating. Still, good to have these days every once in a while, I suppose...makes it sweeter when you do get something.

Possible redemption tomorrow...probably chasing southern IL again.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chase Log - 4-15-2011

Chased a local cold-core setup with Jesse Risley...ended up with a couple of nice rotating wall clouds/funnels, and a storm that tried to put a tornado down right on top of us a bit south of Springfield, IL...just couldn't get it done. Pretty crazy...insane rotation and a nice funnel, literally right over us...could feel the surface winds changing and rotating as it passed overhead. Also saw some golf-ball sized hail. Hopefully we'll have video edited at some point...I'll post it when I can.

I'd go more in-depth into everything, but I'm in the middle of working extra hours/immersing myself in tomorrow's (4/19) setup...potential for a few significant tornadoes exists over MO/IL if the morning convection can clear out...stay tuned!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Southern IL later today...

Heading out at noon for southern IL - targeting between I-70 and I-72. Marginal cold-core low setup could yield a few tornadoes, and it's close enough to home to gamble on enough instability materializing to pop up a few supercells.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Iowa Tornado Outbreak - 04-09-2011

Incredible cyclical tornadic supercell over western and northern Iowa Saturday afternoon and evening...we're still reviewing video to determine how many tornadoes we actually saw. We know for sure that we saw at least 10, with possibly more than that.

To set the became increasingly obvious throughout the day on Saturday that there was a significant threat of tornadoes - and that any tornadoes that did develop could be strong. Mike Brady, Roman Totten, and I left Peoria at 6 AM, targeting Onawa, IA.

A low pressure center over western NE was forecast to move northeast, and deepen throughout the day. Backed SE surface winds intensified ahead of the low, and brought unseasonably warm, moist air north into IA/NE. Record to near-record temperatures reached the upper 80's, with dewpoints just below 70 by 4 PM. This created a very unstable convective environment, with surface based CAPE reaching well in excess of 3000 j/kg by 21Z (4 PM CDT). The wind fields near the warm front/triple point in western Iowa were extremely favorable for tornadic development, with Surface-3 KM Storm Relative Helicity of 391 m2/s2 (per OAX 21Z sounding). Hodographs were large, and curved clockwise, as clearly shown by the aforementioned sounding.

A few blips started to appear on radar before 5 PM, and one started to become dominant. It started moving northeast, but as the mesocyclone's rotation increased, it began to turn right, and slowing down. By the time the storm crossed the river, it was moving ENE at 35 MPH.

We moved east of Onawa, and parked up under the meso. After getting hit with golf-ball sized hail for a bit, and seeing several funnels, the rotation and motion under the meso started to ramp up rapidly. A small, non-condensated tornado touched down briefly about 200 feet down the road, and dissipated after about 30-45 seconds.

We raced east after the tornado had lifted, and tried to navigate some terrible terrain/soupy dirt roads as fast as we could. We missed the 3/4 mile wide tornado that struck the town of Mapleton (video from my friends Skip Talbot and Mike Boik), and entered the town minutes after the tornado went through. After a quick stop to make sure that people were ok, we got through, and continued after the beastly supercell.

The inflow into the storm at this point was incredible - easily 50 MPH, backed to the SE. This continued for about the next 5 hours...when inflow into a storm is that strong, it's not a matter of if it'll put a tor down. but when.

As we got east of Mapleton, we noticed that a new wall cloud was developing outside the rain curtain. Then, the fun began...

Tornadoes just started dropping. One, after another, after another. Beautiful stovepipes. A multiple-vortex. Several ropes. Power flashes. We found tornadoes in our video that we didn't even notice that night because we were focused on bigger tornadoes elsewhere. And, we were on what could be the largest tornado in recorded history - a final number hasn't come in yet, but the path width was measured between 2 and 3 miles wide. Here's some of our video still captures...

Most of these tornadoes were between a quarter and half mile wide at some point in their life cycle, and EF-2 to EF-3 in strength - they would drop, strengthen, and then either become rain-wrapped, or get ingested by the 3 mile monster.

After about 5-6 hours of dropping tornadoes, the storm weakened, and we drove to Mason City, IA for the night. An absolutely incredible storm, and an absolutely unreal night.

#1 lesson learned...backed SE winds can do anything.

Here's our video from damage in Mapleton, and some more stills from the tornadoes...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Never understood how people could forget how many tornadoes they saw until tonight. Saw at least 8 tornadoes, including 2 on the ground at one time, a multiple vortex, and an unbelievable cone/stovepipe. Got video, not sure how it'll turn out since it was all after dark. Prayers go out to people affected - these were large tornadoes that caused major damage.

Tornado outbreaks possible today and tomorrow...

...and I'm leaving for N IA/S MN in 20 minutes. Chase partners Mike Brady and Roman Totten - the next two days have the potential to be absolutely incredible. Live stream at under either my name or Mike's.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chase Potential - Saturday/Sunday

Saturday is currently looking like the first major tornado threat of the year. Still tough to lock down the details, due to timing differences between the models, but it looks like the target area is centered over eastern IA/western IL/northern MO attm.

Storm motions are currently holding at 30 kts. CAPE is forecast to be over 3000 j/kg. EHI at the surface is over 4, with over 7 aloft. Shear may be veered from the SE, and is running at 60 kts. Hodographs are showing large, clockwise curvatures. Capping doesn't look to be an could be a huge day.

I'll be out in the field with Mike Brady...stay tuned for what could be a historic day!

Monday, April 4, 2011

4-3-11 Eastern IA/NW IL Wall Clouds/Hail

Tough forecast yesterday paid off big dividends with a couple of rotating wall clouds, and hail up to quarter size....amazing structure!

Because of my proximity to the chase zones of interest, I was able to stay at home in Peoria til a little after 3 PM. My main point of indecision was whether to target the triple point in NE IA/SE WI, or further south, along the cold front. I decided to go with the 4 KM WRF model, which showed decent initiation around 23-00Z (6-7 PM local time).

A bit before I hit Burlington, IA, the SPC issued an MD saying that a watch would be issued soon...based on this, I decided to head a bit further north than I had initially intended. I hit Mt Pleasant and blasted north as storms erupted, going from blips to massive supercells in under 20 minutes. I initially targeted the northernmost storm because of its proximity to the low pressure head.

About 10 miles out from the northernmost cell, near Iowa City, a large lowering became evident. As I got closer, medium rotation became evident, and the wall cycle several times. At one point, it tried to drop a funnel, but it wasn't meant to be.

I pulled off north of Iowa City, and let it go right over me. Absolutely fantastic motion, and it's always great to feel the winds changing at the surface under an area of rotation...ended up getting blasted by 35-40 MPH rear-flank downdraft, and, as the wall cloud became rain-wrapped and started to crumble, I decided to bail and head back south towards another supercell that was starting to show the makings of a hook.

I was able to get onto the southern storm, get onto the wall cloud (which was another beauty), and let that go right over me, as well. Got behind Mike Brady as the RFD blasted us, and ended up tailing him home...not before we core-punched a few hail cores, though. Best we got was a fairly heavy bout of quarters.

Navigation was pretty tricky without a co-pilot, but I managed to pull it off without too much of a problem. Also, I'll need to get a camera of some sort...taking pics with my phone while blasting down the interstate is a supreme pain.

Some good shots of the southern storm/second wall cloud from my friend Brandon can be seen here. Here's one of the shots of the wall cloud he took, not too long before I let it go overhead...

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Chase later today


Nice tor threat in my backyard...can't pass that up. Updates to follow!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

TX/OK/KS this weekend?

It's still a bit off, but Saturday/Sunday/Monday are starting to show some real potential for a significant severe weather outbreak, starting over the southern plains Sat/Sun, and transitioning to the Midwest/Ohio Valley on Monday. There is a possibility that the currently forecast high CINH values and somewhat unidirectional shear could limit the tornadic potential of the event, but, so far this year, the NAM has consistently over-forecast the CINH, and not gotten terribly close on the actual shear values...

Still working on forecasts and targets, but there is a distinct possibility that I'll be out in the field this weekend.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wall Cloud Video from March 26th

Here's some video that my passenger, Jesse Risley, took while we were on the Birmingham, AL supercell. Also, check out his synopsis of the event at

And, for good measure, here's a shot from some local showing how easy it was to assume that there was a tornado on the ground...between the terrain, the rotation, and how large the lowering was insane.

(Photo credit to Fox 6 - WBRC Birmingham)

Chase Report - March 26, 2011

Incredible chase yesterday...ended up chasing what was reported as a large wedge tornado just east of Birmingham, Alabama after dark with Mike Brady and Jesse Risley ( Still working on verifying these reports - at this point, it looks like the spotters that reported the tornado may have been seeing things, but I'll wait til the damage surveys come in to make a call on that.

Looked like an early show - tornado watch was issued for portions of Alabama and Georgia, and we started booking east to catch up with the cells that were popping. Got on a tornado warned cell in Fayette County, AL, but it moved north of the warm front and petered out fairly quickly. Ended up getting stuck in traffic around Birmingham while trying to drop down to a set of southern storms that looked extremely impressive, and decided to head back west. Saw a nice wall cloud while getting out of Birmingham, but at that point, we were thinking that we might have busted.

We got back into northern Mississippi, and sat in Columbus for a bit. After about half an hour, we noticed a nice updraft tower going up in the warm sector south of the warm front, and decided to go after it.

Best. Decision. Ever.

As soon as we got close to the storm, a huge wall cloud was evident. Over the next three hours, we raced east, staying just ahead or just behind the rotation. The storm was a classic supercell, that just kept recycling the rotation...the wall cloud would disappear every once in a while, but come back quickly, even bigger than before.

As darkness fell, we decided to stay on the wall was still exhibiting strong rotation, and, at one point, the RFD (rear-flank downdraft) slot was directly above us. The lightening was absolutely incredible - we're pretty sure it hit a transformer at one point.

At about 9:30 local time, we decided to head for a few miles down the road and changed our minds. Flipped a quick uie, and raced SE to get back in was about this time that we started receiving reports of a large wedge tornado near Jasper, AL.

As we caught up to the wall cloud, it was obvious that the wall cloud had recycled again - it was huge, and had a beautiful lowering. At one point, it looked like there was a nice tornado on the ground, but with the trees and darkness, it was difficult to tell for sure. If there was a tornado on the ground, it definitely wasn't as big as the reports were - we were right next to the wall cloud, and had a pretty good view at times.

Ended up core-punching a nice severe storm on the way home - got half-dollar sized hail out of that, and stopped in Memphis for the night.

The adrenaline and tension from chasing a huge wall cloud/funnel/reported wedge tornado at night in the terrain around Birmingham was incredible. The structure on the mesocyclone was fantastic, and, all in all, we ended up with a great chase.

Here's the first video we have...of the wall cloud/updraft/mesocyclone fairly early on in its life cycle. You can see the strong rotation and great upward motion, as well as a funnel about a third of the way through...hope to have video from the more impressive stage of the storm soon!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Chase today!

I just got to my hotel in Mississippi, just south of Memphis...didn't plan on coming down, but decided that the setup for later today was way too juicy to pass up...Going to be playing whatever storms pop along the warm front in MS - I'd be extremely surprised if there isn't at least one strong, long-track tornado. EHI values are over 6, CAPE is 2500 j/kg, shear is running at 50 kts, and the storm motions are only 20-25 knots...should be a great day!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Creston, IA Tornado and Video

Wow. Incredible chase day in Iowa, culminating with a beautiful tornado just west of Creston, Iowa.

Chasing isn't really what people think. Chasing is 95% forecasting, driving to target, revising forecasts, and staying just ahead of storms until the opportune moment. Often, failure is as thin as being 5 minutes too late.

Yesterday, there was about a 20 square mile patch of Iowa, that, for 3 minutes, was the site of a photogenic tornado - the only photogenic tornado of the day. 20 square miles. 3 minutes. That's the difference between success and failure.

Forecasts had been looking great for some time before yesterday morning, and I decided to go into work a bit before 5 AM to get some time in before leaving at 9. I met up with Mike Brady (, and we headed west.

Main concern was a strong capping inversion at 800 mb that could've limited convective development until too late in the day, as well as limited moisture returns. However, with the wind fields looking fantastic, strong shear, large curved hodographs, sufficient CAPE (above 1500 J/kg), and a dryline/warmfront convergence zone to play with, we decided that it was worth a shot. Mike's original target was Red Oak, IA, while mine was Osceola, IA.

We met up with several chasers at a truck stop just east of the Nebraska border, east of Nebraska City. Cells were already popping, and moving across the river at 60 mph. We started retreating northeast, trying to stay ahead of the storms.

As the line of storms started blowing up, we noticed that as soon as they hit the warm front, they would become tornadic for a while, then weaken. The first storm we got on definitely did so...we spent about 20 minutes less than a mile in front of what turned out to be a nearly mile wide EF2 tornado - that we couldn't see. Classic HP supercell, and the rain/hail wrapping left the tornado completely invisible. If you've never driven through a town with the tornado sirens screaming, and a monster area of rotation behind haven't lived.

We gave up on that cell when we noticed the next cell to the south becoming soon as we got to the town of Creston, a nice area of circulation became apparent. We watched this area for a few minutes, then decided to head east to stay ahead of the cell. About 300 feet down the road, we heard Brandon Sullivan ( screaming into the radio..."Funnel over Creston! Cone funnel over Creston!" I looked in my rear-view mirror, and, sure enough, a beautiful funnel was sitting right behind us. I flipped a uie, got to the side of the road, and Mike filmed the tor from the shoulder.

That was the last gasp for the became outflow dominant and linear soon after that. We got on another cell, saw a nice wall cloud and funnels, and then went and got our celebratory steak dinner at the casino north of Osceola.

All in all, it was a huge success. Both Mike and I forecast the location of a tornado within 20 miles or so, got in great position, and got great footage. We also were able to sell the footage to Good Morning America, the Today Show, and CBS...also would've sold our live stream to the Weather Channel, but we lost data connection.

And, it's only March...just wait til May!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A few pictures...

...from a couple of late chases last year. First, two shots taken on September 13th, of a decent shelf cloud around Banner Marsh south of Peoria...

And, a few shots from up around Princeton, IL, on November 22nd...this was the day of the EF-2 tornado in the Rockford area...woulda liked to be up there for that, but I couldn't make it in time. Still, got a nice roll cloud on the front, and a couple decent wall cloud shots afterwards...tough catch, as the storms were moving over 55 MPH, but pretty good for November.

Looking forward to the next week...I may be out in the field Sunday and/or Tuesday. Blaze of glory, baby...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Currently gearing up for 2011 chasing...I'll most likely be chasing only through mid-June, but I'm really looking forward to getting out into Oklahoma/Kansas/Nebraska this year - due to budget/time constraints last year, I wasn't able to chase much until July, and had to stay fairly local.

I did get a new chase vehicle - a 2001 Subaru Forester, 5-speed AWD. Still working on getting it set up and ready for chasing - I'm not terribly good at the wiring part of things, but it's coming along. Got the laptop mount, ham radio, and GPS units installed, and working on getting my stereo system integrated with Bluetooth for calls.

Most of my chases this year will probably be with my friend Mike Brady (, as David got a new job, and his hours aren't as flexible as they were last year. Mike's a great chaser - he's the guy that took me on my first chase back in 2008, and we've been good friends ever since.

Anyway, I feel pretty good about the upcoming season - I felt like I gained a lot of experience with my chases late last year, and with my forecasting study over the winter, I should be able to play things better this year. That combined with actually having dependable transportation and internet...yeah. Anyway, time to nut up or shut up.