Saturday, July 28, 2012

2012 Season Summary

Last year, as I was finishing up the paperwork to join the Navy, I wondered if 2011 would be my last tornadoes for a while. It was a big risk, but a risk I was willing to take to reinvent my life and career. As it turned out, I didn't miss much.

I pulled 6 tornadoes in 2012 - not 20+ like 2011, but considering how slow the year was, I'm not complaining. 5 of those were on the biggest day of the year - April 14th, and all in NW OK. Much has been said of the epic footage that so many chasers got that day...for me, April 14th stands out as the best chase day of my career - not only because we saw an incredible multiple vortex tornado morph into a beautifully cut cone, but also because of the time schedule I was able to pull that chase off in - leaving Pensacola at 5 PM on Friday, driving through the night with only an hour of sleep caught in a Pizza Hut parking lot in Dallas, and then non-stop chasing/driving until I finally crashed at 1 AM Sunday.

The other tornado I saw was a quick drop on what was definitely the most disappointing day of the year - April 27th. It really was pure luck that we saw it...I just happened to be looking back to our northwest as we raced eastward to stay in the inordinately narrow warm sector.

Other highlights...Incredible supercells back to back days in MN that rode the warm fronts May 1st/2nd.

A freak IL boundary day where storms that looked terrible on radar spun up insane rotation and a lightning show for the ages.

A gorgeous LP supercell in North Texas with inflow winds so strong it created a dust storm. 

As far as goals I accomplished for the year...I really hit the books hard, working on improving my forecasting knowledge. It's paid off quite handsomely, but I still have a long way to go. Finally met Jonathan Williamson and Jennifer Brindley...a couple of great chasers/photographers, as well as some of the greatest people you'll ever meet. I also saw 2 tornadoes at once during daylight for the first time ever, as well as a cleanly cut, very large stoveipe - always wanted too see one of those. 

As for next year? Now that I'm settled into my job, I'll be able to take about a month off next spring, and dedicate it to chasing. I've never been able to say that before. And I'm insanely excited for it. This was the year to have scheduling/work conflicts - next year, the Plains are mine. Plus, I added a permanent chase partner to the wife, Ellie.

In short, estimated 14,000 miles chasing, including 2,470 on April 14th (personal record!), 6 tornadoes, and unless something pops up, that's a wrap on 2012!

Below are a couple shots I never got around to posting...I was out with Williamson on May 1st/2nd, and he had some great shots! These are from May 2nd.

The storm starting to get its' act together...note the inflow tail/developing wall cloud just left of center. 

A ground-scraping wall cloud with evident RFD cut sweeping in. 

Buoyant RFD creates an other-worldly gust front on the southern edge of the supercell. 

See you in 2013!