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.