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...