I left Wisconsin Sunday night with the idea that Monday was a marginal
chase at best--although those often are the most enjoyable chases. Hand
analysis and the ETA were showing a short wave trough moving northeast
across Nebraska, with a band 50kt 500mb winds. A surface low would push
east northeast across Nebraska late in the day, with resulting helicities
between 200-300. While good surface heating was progged, a stratus cover
in the southcentral parts of Nebraska was slow to clear, limiting CAPE
somewhat. My target was Hastings and storms went up to the west and
NW after 5pm. I ignored the storm up in Sherman County and the big
multicelled garbage that went up south and southeast of Hastings and
which then simply collapsed.
A line of highbased supercells
went up from Buffalo into Kearney
County that were not very impressive at first. Soft towers, upshear
tilted updrafts, flat rainfree bases, and modest cores which developed
on a WSW line from the Sherman County storm. I picked up my storn NW
of Hastings and followed it NE as it slowly intensified, staying well east
on US 281, taking a number of backroads to the east of Grand Island as
it approached the city. I was about 7 miles east of Cairo when the
tornado warning was issued for that location. The RFB was visible but
showed no lowerings and no low-level rotation that I could see. I stayed
in sight of this feature as a RFD gust front developed and swept to
the east with a smooth leading edge and a picture-perfect ragged
underside. From visual and reports I was receiving, this cell was
merging with cells to the north while going HP and producing larger
and larger hail--largest to the size of baseballs.
I went south on NE 14 to view the overall structure
and to see what
was developing to the SW. The storm to the north had an impressive
backsheared anvil and was pushing up new backbuilding towers about
every 15 minutes. Other weaker storms were trying to fire on the
flanking line but the big HP beast seemed to be sucking them dry.
It's just after 8:30 and I'm thinking about hanging it up when a
tornado warning is issued for a storm to my SW. Huh? I can only see
a precip core which does not look very impressive. Oh well, the chase
isn't over 'til you can't see. I headed south on 14 into an intense
hail core to the size of golfballs. As I clear the core, I can see
a beautiful barrel-shaped updraft and a dark, churning inflow band
curving to the SW. Behind this was a second inflow band hanging off
the back of the tower that seems alive. Cloud matter cascaded down
the back from the RFD and twisted into the inflow producing some
fascinating rotations and a brief funnel. It was a marvellous end
to the chase and now, the new chaser has its first hail dents.
I started the day in Topeka after a bust afternoon in SW Kansas.
looked only marginal for supercells on Friday but it was interesting
because the dynamics were quite strong. A negative-tilt shortwave
would push across central Iowa (it tracked further west than progged)
with a 60-70 knot speed max at 500mb. Dewpoints around 70F and 80F
surface temps might yield CAPE values as high as 3000-3500 j/kg. Against
a big supercell day was nearly unidirectional wind profiles. However, I saw
better possibilities for directional shear in eastern Iowa where mid-upper
level winds were a bit more westerly and surface winds would tend to
back more as the low moved NE.
I planned a full analysis in the morning but raced out of Topeka
of an awesome bow-mesosystem feeling it would be a mistake getting behind
it. I figured to do the analysis on the road but my laptop would not connect
at the places I stopped so I was left with the DTN weather centers, some
surface data I managed to download on my cell phone, and the brief look I
took at the 9Z RUC at 7am. From that, I felt convection would refire on the
outflow boundary in eastern Iowa, probably between Mason City and Iowa
City where I expected the nose of the 500mb jet to cross about 21Z. So I
went to Waterloo--about fifty miles off the mark.
Visibility was 2 miles at best in any direction and I asked myself
times while I was bothering. The storms would be racing to the NE, I
wouldn't likely see them go up and I certainly would see very little
structure. Further, a stratocumulus deck was limiting surface heating.
At 20Z, the midlevel dry slot moved over Waterloo clearing the skies but
not to much avail. The view was still very murky but at least the chances
for good convection had improved. Storms began firing where I expected
but I was more intrigued by storms that went up in Wapello County. Just
a hunch, but I felt these were the storms to chase so I rushed down to
Cedar Rapids and east on 30 trying to judge the best intercept but
avoiding I80 and Iowa City. It was Friday and traffic was heavy. I cut
south on IA 1, mistake, traffic is crawling, and the tornado is now on the
ground. Go back to US 30, debris is falling and we're crawling...people
seem oblivious to the vegetation falling from the sky! If I can just far
enough east, I can stop and watch whatever go by. TV shows beautiful
hook echo. Start down IA 38 to Tipton but again turn around because
the meso is going to beat me there. Have to make a quick gas stop at
Clarence and things get eerie. There is constant growl of thunder directly
overhead, man, the meso is just SW and I can see nothing, no wait, it gets
lighter to the southwest, there's a lowering but no way to tell if it's
rotating. It just goes clipping by like a ghost ship in the haze. I cut north
through Oxford Mills/Jct to Wyoming. The sky breaks to the west and
the main flanking tower is visible in outline. Crazy rotation beneath it,
scud spinning, going vertical, a funnel forms--suddenly the road splits,
one goes west out of the storm, the one I need says "No Outlet"! Shit!
I backtrack but know that cell is history. A possible tornado is reported
at Massillon (at this point, there are three mesos clipping northeast) so
I go to Maquoketa with a good chance for intercept but the inflow area
is a hazy mess, I see nothing of note. One last chance north as a funnel
is seen at Canton--I can reach it on US 61. Now I finally see some
structure. I'm just south of the meso and a rearflank gust front is
developing. Nice laminar inflow with the RFD cascading down behind
--it's quite beautiful with oodles of motion but very little visible rotation.
It continues NE while I'm forced to cross the river further north at
Dubuque. This chase is over.
Total chase distance for week: 2579 miles
June 13th: A strong short-wave trough ejecting out of the Rockies,
cyclogenesis, and strong mid/upper level jets suggested supercells in a
narrow band in N Kansas by late afternoon. The 36hr ETA handled the
system quite well but all later model runs seemed in complete disarray.
Thus we relied on 0z soundings, profiler data, vis and wv satellite
images to arrive at a target area on US 183 between Alma NE, and Stockton
KS. We reached Alma at 3:30 for a look at new surface data, though it was
probably unneccesary. The sky was already confirming our forecast. Weak
towers were forming on the dryline and fizzling, and just SW, at what
we concluded was just E of the intersecting dryline/warm front was a
billowing mound of congestus. We had earlier watched this grow from small
cu, so had the pleasure of observing the entire lifecycle of this great
Once the tower glaciated, new updraft growth was phenomenal--explosive
may be overused--but this cell soon looked like an atom bomb explosion.
Rock hard tower, massive new updrafts, a thick meaty cumuliform anvil
with great gnarled knuckles. At one point, the updraft was ejecting cloud
debris upshear out of the tower. We drove S to Philipsburg and east on
US 36. Just E of there, we found recent 3/4 inch (4:35) hail scattered
on the ground. As the cell moved ENE and then E, mounds of congestus
billowed up on the S flank and were then drawn in and consumed by this
insatiable monster. Updraft rotation was evident early and grew more
pronounced with various bandings in the updraft. It looked LPish early
but then assumed a more classical appearance. We followed E on US36
and various gravel roads as this storm produced an succession of RFD
clear slots and meso occlusions. Inflow at times across Smith and Jewel
Counties was intense, raising huge clouds of dust that raced into the
updraft at an estimated 40-50 mph. At KS28, we drove north and then east
at Burr Oak on a succession of gravel and asphalt roads parallel to US36.
The updraft base was beautifully sculpted and we were convinced it would
tornado at any moment. But each clear slot/occlusion produced only plumes
of dust from the RFD and one *possibly* tornadic spinup NE of Burr Oak.
By US81, the storm and updraft seemed to lose definition, so we dropped
to US36, but the apparent weakening ws brief as the storm produced a new
surging RFD that signaled the transition to HP. We again cut N, then
E along the Nebraska border on gravel but we were stuck on the S flank
of the RFD and the storm was moving fast enough and road options were
such that we could not cut ahead to peak into the notch where any
tornadoes might be located. The storm nevertheless produced a substantial
number of anvil CGs and impressive inflow bands and beavers tails. The
storm weakened at dusk as other storms fired in the near vicinity
giving us a great light show on our trip to St Joseph.
The same short-wave trough and low pushing east through N MO
afternoon. We drove E on I70 just ahead of the cool front and N of the
warm front. Cumulus continually fired on these boundaries and died, but
this agitated area we decided would figure prominently in the convection
later. By STL, the good CAPE to the W seemed threatened by grunge
stratus, but this quickly burned off to the north and east ahead of us.
Storms had fired to the north but were low-topped and weak looking
with soft towers and only occasional backshearing. To the SE, a great
mound of a storm went up in Randolph Co but looked weak and multicellular.
The updrafts tilted downshear and seemed to glaciate reluctantly. We were
quite amazed when a TOR was issued for this storm but ignored it regardless
based on the weak visual appearance. We essentually drifted slowly N on IL4,
watching towers fire and fizzle on the convergence boundary to the west,
convinced we would eventually be rewarded for our patience.
Around 5pm, we made a pitstop in Gillespie just as a tower
to the SW went
nuclear. In fact, we never really saw the tower but the anvil had a distinctive
severe look: round and thick and expanding rapidly. We drifted back S, looking
to slip around the core to the right rear flank as a TOR was issued for our
storm. Although NWR reported a NE motion at 30mph, the storm quickly
turned right to due E. Soon the core was bearing down on us so we drifted
south along the long inflow base, turning east at Staunton and the south on
I55. A mile up the road, the inflow base, evolving to a shelf cloud, started to
surging east--driven by outflow--bowed rapidly east just south of us and began
to wrap up on itself! We pulled over and watched in awe as this *quickly*
produced a bowl shaped lowering and a brief tornado 300 yards to our south.
It just as quickly rain-wrapped and we had to rush south to avoid the RFD
bearing down on us. We put ourselves on the southeast flank from IL127
south of Sorrento and along I70 to Vandalia--very impressive appearance,
a veritable mothership. At Vandalia, we had to push ahead and get home.
Sunday looked marginal for supercells and even more marginal for
in Wisconsin, but if you haven't chased for two months, even the slightest
of risk days suddenly looked appealing. Clouds from overnight convection
were slow to clear the east and northern parts of the state but clear they
did, allowing good surface heating, pushing temps to near 90 F across the
target area between Fond du Lac, Shawano, and Green Bay. Dewpoints were in
the low 70s F, and with steeper lapse rates moving in from the northwest,
afternoon CAPE values approached 4000 j/kg. There were ill-defined
disturbances in the largely zonal 500mb flow which was between 60-70 kts
as the gradient tightened around a low to the north. Surface convergence
was weak and there was a weak NE-SW surface trough but the real factor in
the afternoon proved to be a 90kt jet max at 300mb. The vertical motion
field associated with the left exit region of this feature moved over
northeast Wisconsin by 21z (4pm). So deep-layer shear was quite strong
though largely unidirectional.
By 2:30, developing cu fields were evident in central Wisconsin and
3pm, I could see the first towers developing to the northwest from my
backyard--nice to have the target area in your backyard once and awhile.
They looked fairly erect but soft. Shortly after 3, SPC issued a yellow
box for most of eastern Wisconsin. We drove north on US41, watching this
rather mediocre-looking storm slowly blossom. Each successive updraft was
a bit crisper than the last, and the anvil developed more of a thick
cumuliform appearance that I associate with supercells. As we passed
Neenah, a new storm went up directly behind the first (to the west) and
this storm had a rock hard tower and a thick backshearing anvil. It was
beautiful. And quickly came the T-storm warnings from the Waupaca area,
followed just as quickly by TOR warnings. We were at US45/US10 west of
Appleton when the core of the first storm bore down on us behind a long
shelfcloud. There was an elongated rainfree flanking/inflow base just
south of what was obviously a wide swath of hail. We beat a hasty retreat
to the east. While we wanted a look at the second storm, we had to get
around the north side of Lake Winnebago before the core cut off our
escape. As we crossed Little Lake Butte des Morts on US 441 I saw what
first looked like a gustnado crossing the water, but it bore east and
grew larger--a perfectly circular whirl--and then saw the corresponding
cloud base rotation, a thin needle funnel barely protruding from the
clouds. It never did develop a condensation funnel but was a fascinating
sight nevertheless. That brief weak tornado was the best we would see
this day. The ride around the lake on US10/114 was rough as the core
continued to bear down on us and the RFD slammed by as the storm grew
more outflow dominant.
We stopped near Chilton amidst a three-ring circus--cars stopped
over the place looking for tornadoes--a familiar sight these days. The
second storm swept across the north end of the lake, a classic supercell
with long trailing flanking line but absolutely zero low-level rotation.
There was lots of suggestive scud and inflow cigars that prompted false
alarms. We stayed with it until Lake Michigan, the retreating cell a
beautiful sight in the late afternoon sun.
All this time, in the breaks between the two cells, I could see another
cell going up far to the north, at least 100 miles away--visibility
was that good. Didn't look like much at first but when we broke away
from the second cell and cut west it had turned into a massive classic
supercell with a huge overshooting top, a real bomb. Then the reports
came in of the waterspout and subsequent tornado.
For those of you who may have missed hearing about this storm due
the ridiculous amount of coverage afforded to a hurricane which was
going nowhere at that moment, this cell produced a waterspout that
crossed the Bay of Green Bay. It then touched down south of Egg
Harbor (after a meso occlusion perhaps) in Door County and traveled
for two miles with a path that was a half mile wide in places. I've
only seen tidbits of video, but it looked like a large stovepipe
hose, even in the waterspout stage. The radar signature was also
classic with a well-defined pendant echo. NWS gave it an F3 today.
We consoled ourselves that it wasn't a chasable storm and it wasn't.
Just look at a map. The storm formed well west of the Bay and any
chase there would've meant a long detour through Green Bay. And no
one would bet a chase on a tornadic supercell crossing that thin
strip of land in Door County and producing! Especially when the
directional shear was almost non-existant. Chasing always seems
a bit more frustrating when a nearby cell produces a tornado and the
one you chase doesn't, but at this point, we were just happy to see
supercells after such a long drought.
Chase distance: about 180 miles
An October chase always has a hint of desperation about it.
grow short and you know soon the equipment has to be packed away as you
enter the long cold season known to most as winter. To chasers, it's the
season without supercells. All my previous late season chases have netted
low-topped, fast moving squall lines which can be fun but are no substitute
for rotating convection. I missed the Oklahoma Octoberfest due to other
committments so I was doubly determined to chase this weekend even with
the slightest of risk. The models all agreed a hefty trough would either
plough or shear out through the central plains over the weekend, with a
deep surface low and a strong low-level jet to pump the moisture northwards,
so by Wednesday, eastern Nebraska looked great for chasing. But models are
models and only time would tell how this system would play out.
By Thursday, after analyzing the 48 and 36 hour ETA and AVN, I saw
reasonable possibility of supercells between Garden City and North Platte
on Friday afternoon. As the trough moved east, accompanied by several
shortwave troughs, heights would fall and a 70 knot 500 mb speed max
would rotate around the base and eject northeastward over a 40-50 knot
low-level jet. The dynamics were very good with potential helicities
around 400. A mid-level dry punch would clear skies by afternoon, but
since the trough would likely maintain a positive-tilt through Friday
night, the best lapse rates would likely lag behind the best dynamics.
So CAPE was the weak link in my supercell forecast. Nevertheless, with
a bit of luck and insolation the progged CAPES could likely be tweaked
from the progged 900 to 1500 j/kg, the imaginary line that makes *real*
supercells possible. It was enough to justify a chase so I loaded the
van and headed west to Des Moines for the night. More than once, a
nagging voice in my head urged me to turn around, that this chase was
a complete waste of time. The 36 hour ETA and SPC Day 2 are prone to
significant errors. Occasionally, I've blown off what looked like feeble
chase days only to learn the next day a MDT Risk has been posted and is
too far away--and this of course has worked both ways. It would be easier
to stay put and plan a chase closer to home on Saturday which also looked
like a chase day (as it turned out, Saturday was a bust). But I really
wanted this chase so I shrugged off my doubts.
In Des Moines, I checked the 24 hour ETA, but little had changed.
dynamics were there but instability was weak. The morning forecast started
with a review and plot of the ETA, then a look at the 9Z RUC2 which was
more optimistic on CAPE but showing more of a SSW 500mb flow and a
consequent weakening of directional shear. But with an analysis of the
12Z soundings, I disregarded that part of the RUC2. Actual flow remained
more southwesterly, though it now seemed the best shear will be a bit
further south, with better lapse rates intruding from the northwest,
based on actual and forecast soundings (figuring forward 9-10 hours).
Visible and water vapor loops showed the clearing in eastern Colorado
moving slowly east so afternoon insolation looked good. Surface analysis
revealed the low center in northeast Colorado, with high 60 dewpoints in
Oklahoma, mid-60 dewpoints in Kansas, and approaching 60 in southern
Nebraska. The RUC2 and ETA seemed to be way low on afternoon surface
temps--I thought mid 70s were possible and therefore CAPE better than
progged. The target area looked like a narrow swath in northwest Kansas
up to McCook, Nebraska. I made Hill City, Kansas my target and headed
west on I80. It was 9:30 am.
Around 2:00 pm, I was at a confidence low-point with many hours behind
and many hours ahead of me. Skies had been dreary forever--unending grunge
with occasional rain. Is it sunny *anywhere*? Time for an update. I stopped
at the Bosselman truckstop south of Grand Island which has a phone booth
with a data port, but for whatever reason, I couldn't connect to my
Earthlink account. Then I noticed they have a Internet booth. With a
credit card I can log on and did. It was slow but I could at least view
a visible satellite image. Western Kansas was clearing but up near
Goodland, it looked like a squall line was developing on the dryline.
That was not what I wanted to see. But from experience, I knew there
was a chance of supercells ahead of this line so I pressed on, leaving
I80 at Kearney, heading south (not that I would have turned back at
this point--as I often tell people: you never know what you're gonna
get until you get it. Sounds trite, but for chasing, it's dead true).
Also, based on the current dryline position, I revised my target area
to about thirty miles west of Hill City, then followed NE44 to US6 to
About 3 pm I entered the sunny skies of the mid-level dry slot and
the visible signs of shear that every chaser loves to see. Low tattered
clouds, about 300 ft AGL pushing to the northwest while above that, at
about 3000 ft AGL, cumulus were racing to the northeast. But that is
about all the directional shear there was, because above that, the winds
were pretty much unidirectional. That wasn't neccesarily a problem because
the speed shear was still quite impressive.
There were severe storms to the west, around McCook (picked up on
but I decided to stick with the target area west of Hill City. As always,
once I hit the sunshine, my hopes for a great chase improve, plus things
were warming up nicely. It was 76F at Hill City, well above the ETA progs
for northwest Kansas. I turned west on KS383 (3:18), seeing nothing but weak
cumulus and the distant anvil debris of the squall line to the west. I'm
in a better mood now. There's something about the vast spaces out west
that I find renewing: cruising along in the bright sunshine, wind in my
hair, tattered cumulus sailing weightlessly overhead. It's an intangible
part of chasing that keeps bringing me back. Best of all, it was October
and I was still out here.
Heading southwest out of Norton (3:36), I saw a "real" tower go up
and glaciate. The anvil was thick and round with small mammatus but the
inflow looked weak as did the developing rain core. I just sat and
watched for maybe ten or fifteen minutes and decided that this cell was
going to choke and was not my storm for the day. So I continued west on
KS383 going through the rain core (4:04)--wait a minute, the rain drops
were huge! Whether a valid observation point or not, I always feel this
to be a sign of a strong healthy updraft so I pulled over at Dresden and
could now see why the inflow on the southeast flank looked so weak. The
main updraft was trailing to the southwest. It looked very healthy with
a flat rainfree area and broken trailing flanking clouds. Then the base
began sucking up scud at a good pace producing a lowering that was
suggestive but not rotating. Alright, so this *is* my storm. I turned
back to the northeast and gave chase (4:13).
First severe warning issued at 4:16.
Driving through Jennings, the road was first covered with small hail
and then with lots of water--this small cell had put down buckets of rain
in a short period of time. There was supposed to be a gravel road north
here--I missed it--but by the time I reached Clayton, I knew I should
head north. Quick glance at the Delorme shows several local roads, one
which took me to US 36 and east to Reager (one building, I would have
missed the turn but for the railroad crossing indicated on the map)
where I turned north again. The storm now had a long flat rainfree base
and trailing flanking line and had evolved into an LP-classic hybrid
(loosely) with the forward flank core quite far to the north. Through
most of the lifecycle of this storm, it defied any attempt to neat
categorization. Only the edge of the anvil was visible on the edge of
the sheared tower with no backshearing evident. Nevertheless, a lowering
had developed and was rotating (4:44). A well-defined RFD clear slot
soon developed and wrapped around the lowering followed by rain as the
mesocyclone occluded. Curiously, no tornado warning was issued so I
could only assume the rotation was weak with insufficient shear to alarm
whoever was watching the Doppler.
The storm then seemed to weaken and I ran out of decent north-south
roads. The only roads were dirt and I was being overrun by the wrapping
rain core, so I was forced back south since dirt roads and a heavy rain
are a disasterous combination. Was the storm weakening? Becoming outflow
dominant as it moved into more stable air over Nebraska where there had
been less insolation? I wasn't sure. Further, I knew there was another
severe storm to the southeast I could easily intercept. What to do? I
went south to US36 and east to Norton to get a better view of both
storms (often the perspective improves with a little distance).
Approaching Norton, I couldn't see much of the storm to my south
than a raggeddy anvil, but now that I could see the full extent of the
storm I was chasing, I knew it was still my storm. The flanking line
arced northeast into a rolling updraft, up to a somewhat backsheared
anvil, and a multi-domed overshooting top. It was a magnificent sight.
To the southwest, an LP cell had gone up along the edge of the main storm
outflow and which followed along for the next hour so (until I lost
sight of it later near Loomis). I had thought about filling the tank
in Norton, but with a half tank left I decided not. This turned out to
be careless timesaver--one I normally would not make, usually fanatical
about keeping the tank at least half full. Of course, this will figure
My only concern now was US283. I remembered a sign in Norton about
detour but I managed to raise a trucker on the CB who assured me I could
go north as far as NE89. That was enough so I raced north (5:22), then
east, then north again on NE46 with a good view of the updraft base
which remained flat and rather featureless. Surface winds at this point
were strong and gusty, and the storm inflow at about 3000 ft AGL was a
broad steady stream of flat dark cumulus racing into the main tower.
As I turned east on US6, a new lowering began to develop with lots of
suggestive hanging scud fingers but I was not convinced any were tornadic.
First tornado warning issued at 6:12.
Nevertheless, as I approached Atlanta, a tornado warning was issued
my storm based on a spotter report of a tornado southwest of Loomis (6:12).
I had a good view in that direction but did not see a tornado. I turned
north on a gravel road and then northwest on NE23. A well-defined RFD/clear
slot began slicing around the rear flank of the updraft and lowering.
At this point, I was feeling good about the chase and then the low-fuel
warning light went on. Damn. I've got thirty to forty miles left before
I run out of gas.
Just east of Loomis I turned north again on an unmarked road and
as the RFD continued cutting around the east flank, growing wider and
more impressive each minute around a clearly rotating wall cloud (6:21).
Tornadogenesis seemed imminent and at 6:23 a funnel developed, faltered
and grew more pronounced, followed by a debris cloud at 6:25. I had a
tornado! But it was short-lived and quickly dissipated. I was elated
but hopeful there was more to come. Too many chases this year had produced
brief spin-ups and weak tornadoes (a dozen, give or take a few), garbage
tornadoes that defy picture taking and are only rarely photogenic anyway.
That mesocyclone temporarily rain-wrapped but moments later (6:30), a
second tornado appeared for about 30 seconds and then rain-wrapped again.
As I continued north, I drew quite close to the outer rain curtains and
could almost "feel" the tornado within. It was an eerie sensation.
The gas situation was becoming critical, so I drove east and then
when I reached US183, knowing I could reach the I80 interchange a few
minutes ahead of the storm and rain-wrapped meso. I stopped at the gas
station at the northwest corner of the interchange, checked my pocket
quick and pumped five bucks worth of gas so I didn't have to worry about
change. Several people approached. They asked if I was a stormchaser,
but I didn't want to get into the long silly discussion that often
follows that question.
I ran in and dropped the five on the counter. They're talking about
warning and the cashier wondered what to do. I suggested she take the
warning very seriously. The people are waiting by my van when I return.
They asked if they were safe there and I said no, but I wasn't sure they
believed me. I then explained that I saw a tornado which became wrapped
in rain and I thought there was a definite danger. Now they seemed to buy
it and started moving their passengers indoors. I hoped the station has a
good plan for these situations. Leaving, I wondered if I could have handled
the situation better, but I didn't know, there'd be time to figure that
out later. At that point, with road choices, scanning the skies and
interpreting what I was seeing, the gas situation, managing the videocam,
stopping for photos, minutes seemed compressed into seconds. I wasn't
fully prepared for the barrage of questions. Later, I decided that
apprising them of the risk was the best I could do. There wasn't
time for anything else and to hang around could have left me in an
exposed and dangerous location.
I hopped on I80 wanting to make the Odessa exit and then head north
the next mesocyclone evolution and possible tornado, but just a few miles
east I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw a fairly large cone-shaped
tornado emerging from behind some trees! I pulled over then and there,
far over on the shoulder. Wow! It was crossing I80. Video camera! Where's
the battery? I couldn't find the battery! It had fallen from the shelf I
kept it on for safe-keeping (@#*&%). To hell with the battery! I quickly
jerked the cables out and pulled as much of the AC adapter wire as I could
out the door. It was enough. (The manual focus was preset) The tape was
rolling. (6:47) It was amazing! I took a couple of minutes of video but
I wanted stills as well. I quick set up a tripod (given the light, I was
shooting half-second exposures on 200ASA film) and then I stood there
awed--as always by this bizarre spectacle of nature. The tornado was
partially rain-wrapped and dissipated in a graceful pirouette over the
next five minutes (to 6:52).
I sensed this storm might have another tornado in it yet so I turned
north at the Odessa onto a road that was not on my map. A few miles north,
I had a new funnel cloud churning northeast off my west flank, a ghostly
black in the failing light of dusk (7:02). I pulled over and set up the
video camera as this apparition slowly spun across the sky for the next
six minutes. This was a quiet peaceful moment. The main chase was over
and darkness was closing in. This dancing tendril of cloud seemed too
fragile to do any harm. The thrill of the chase often seems to be
everything, but long after the chase is over, it's often these moments
I remember best. I followed a bit longer and stopped, ready to hang it
up. Another van pulled up and a couple of chasers hopped out--Brian
Hartmann and his partner from Kearney. We exchanged a couple minutes
of excited talk about the storm and then I headed east, driving through
rain most of the way, often the chaser's curse on the ride home.
I reached Des Moines at 11:40 after 14 hours on the road. I dined
Applebees and fell into bed exhausted at my motel across the road.
After an analysis the following morning of the approaching system,
I decided widespread clouds would prevent afternoon heating and that
there was no chase to be had today. Now I was glad I hadn't banked my
last chasing weekend on this one day. Six more hours and I was home in
time to take my sweetest out for Sweetest Day.
Total chase distance: 1805 miles (for about 9 minutes of tornado
-- Don and Jennie Lloyd Fond du Lac, Wisconsin Chase images/reports: http://www.wx-fx.com
Gilbert, I'm submitting my 1998 chase summary for the SCH reports page. Here it is: 1998 SUMMARY BY Shane Adams My 1998, like many others', SUCKED. Two tornadoes all season...one in Illinois on April 15 and the other near Perry, Ok. on October 4th. Everything in between was a total nightmare. I set new standards for bad luck and misfortune, with everything from busting all season ( though we had a DEPENDABLE car), to LOSING that car to mechanical failure on a May 23 chase in Kansas ( God, I really HATE Kansas) that cost us a chance at the 15 or so tornadoes that struck Northern Oklahoma the next day. But, it gets better......(or worse?) I missed the June 13th OKC Metro outbreak because I was promised to appear at a close friend's wedding reception....they're still happily married, but I STILL haven't quite gotten over that one. Five days prior, I chased all over the Metro, engaging three rotating storms, but none produced the elusive tornado. Oh well, a few lean years here and there I guess are good character-builders. Anyway, enough about the crap....let's discuss the few bright spots. We were rewarded early into the season with a brief weak tornado north of Coulterville, Illinois, which was even sweeter, considering the fact we were on our longest chase ever, 1436 miles. Not to mention it was my personal closest-ever encounter with a tornado (less than a mile.) It was also new chaser Dwain Warner's first tornado. On October 4th, Matt Sellers and I were lucky enough to see a huge tornado, given the fact we had spent most of that early afternoon chasing crap in southern Kansas ( have I mentioned I hate Kansas?) We came upon the twin supercells leaving Payne county for Noble county shortly before 6:45pm, and after punching through the north storm, ran right into the south storm, which was spitting out a quarter-mile-wide column 4 miles southeast of us. It was by far the most impressive tornado of my career, but even this was bittersweet: NONE of our pictures came out; and I was, for the first and only time in my chasing career, WITHOUT CAMCORDER. damn. But it's all over now. The 1999 season has already yielded us tornado number one, so I think last year's horrific luck is done. I'll let you know in December......Shane Adams Sincerely, Shane Z. Adams
Virginia Chase 6/15/98 (Wall Cloud, Tornado Warning, Funnel, Hail)
William T. Hark
Yes, one can chase in Virginia! As of late Sunday night, I realized that Monday was going to be a good Virginia chase day. A surface low was moving eastward from the Western Ohio Valley with a cold front stretching from western Kentucky to central Texas. Dewpoints were expected to be high and there would be steep lapse rates. There was a Day 2 MDT risk which was expanded to cover most of Virginia on Monday, 6/15/98. CAPES above 3000J/KG were expected and "favorable shear profiles for severe thunderstorms and possible supercells/tornadoes."
Chaseday: I had my gear already prepared when I left for work on Monday in Charlottesville. (Get your atlas if not familiar with VA.) I knew that there would be almost no CAP and convection would start early. I had a research patient in the early afternoon and knew I would be delayed. By 1PM, the mostly clear skies were covered with low Cu and temperatures and dewpoints were quickly increasing. A severe thunderstorm watch was issued for west central VA including Charlottesville. It was a race against time. During a break, I checked the models and surface conditions to pick a target area. The highest CAPES were forecast by both the RUC2 and ETA to be in SE Virginia (Emporia and west to Norfolk). Upper levels were not great but the highest winds were forecast to be along the VA-NC border, especially the 500mb on the RUC2. Both models showed high storm-relative helicities in SE Virginia >200 (>400 on the Eta) (Emporia and East.)Unfortunately, central and SE Virginia do not have stations that send up weather balloons so I had no Skew-T's to help me. Upper level maps did suggest a jet max that went through central VA around Richmond if one extrapolated. By about 3:00, towers were visible in the distance and the Cu was decreasing in the Charlottesville area. Gotta leave quick! At a 3:45 I was able to leave. A final check revealed a severe thunderstorm warning for western Fluvanna county. Surface analysis showed dewpoints in the low 70's for SC and SE Virginia. Temps in the low 80's. No moisture convergences in Virginia on DuPage's 18Z analysis. The most recent radar showed a storm to the SW of Charlottesville at 3PM. The visible showed storms developing in a line from SE of Charlottesville to the SW and also some to the North. The whole central and eastern Va was under a severe storm watch.
I left my apartment at 4:30 PM on I-64. My goal was to eventually head South and get ahead of the storms to the Southwest which would move into a favorable environment. To my SE, there was a large storm which I would have to pass through since the road also went to the SE. Visibility was great with mostly clear skies and easy to see towers. (Better than my experience in Tx and Ok this year.) The storm was crisp but appeared somewhat multicellular and I figured the more severe/ possible tornadic storms would be in South-Central Va. I had two choices, go through the storm and head to Richmond (60mi) then South on I-95. Otherwise, I could turn South on 522, miss the visible storm and possibly get caught west of the storms to the South on poor roads. At5PM, I pulled off on 522 to consider my options. I was already in some rain and CGs from the closest storm. I was still too far to get NWS radio. I checked my portable Casio TV for the Richmond stations to see a weather update with radar but there had been a shooting in a school and all the coverage was devoted to it. They were blowing off the weather with a large storm headed toward the northern part of Richmond. I gave up and headed into the storm toward Richmond on I-64. By 5:18, I had to pull over in a rest stop because of heavy rain in Goochland Co. Then I heard there was a tornado warning issued for Eastern Goochland County for a Doppler indicated tornado. That's Me! After a few minutes, I continued to the SE on I-64. Visibility was terrible because of the rain though I did see a nice rainbow ahead of me. The storm was going East at 30 miles per hour and I figured the main part had passed to my North. At 5:30, I turned onto 295 which goes East and then around the Eastside of Richmond, bypassing the city and heading South. It connects with I-95 South of the city. It bypasses the downtown traffic and would put me in position to view this storm and then go South. I was slowed by large numbers of people taking shelter under overpasses. They partially blocked Interstate 64. The area was still under a tornado warning. By 5:50, I was heading East on 295and was expecting the rain to stop. Visibility was still poor. Suddenly, the rain worsened and became mixed with hail. The pieces were initially pea sized, then increased to a few nickel sized. Large for Virginia. The wind increased, shifted suddenly to the East and I was worried. The storm may have right turned or I might have miscalculated the core's position. There was still a tornado warning in effect. I looked around and there was no cover and no exits. I cursed my stupidity. I should know better. I figured if things got worse, I'd pull over and bail in the nearest ditch. Then, the rain stopped and I was outside of the storm. I watched it for a while on 156, then continued South on I-295. At one point, I saw a wall cloud under the ?main updraft. It was not rotating though there may have been a brief funnel on the edge of it. By the time I got the video camera on it, the ?funnel had vanished. In Virginia, it'shard to find good safe places to pull off. At this point, the storm seemed to be weakening and was going into an area with a poor road network and many rivers and swamps. I headed South to intercept a storm that looked good on radar and was in my original target area. Finally, the TV stations were broadcasting weather updates. The storm was east of Brunswick County heading East toward Emporia, Virginia. As I got closer the storm seemed to be backbuilding a little but clearly I would have to turn East to catch it. A large CG arched away from the back of the storm and into a clear area. Anyone who was in the target area of the CG would have had clear skies overhead and would have thought the storm had past. By 7:10 PM, I had turned East on 58 near Emporia. The storm was already about 20 miles to my East. Unfortunately, by 7:45 the storm was more South, it was beginning to fall apart and there were no good road options. I did see this weird little funnel hanging off a high-based Cu to the ENE of the storm. The CU was completely separate from the storm. It lasted for about a minute and vanished. At this point, I broke off the chase and headed home. I was treated to a couple more storms at night which provided a nice lightning show and a distant transformer explosion.
No tornadoes, but a fun and educational chase. I am suprised that there were no tornado warnings issued for the storms to the South in my original target area while there was a Doppler indicated tornado on the Goochland storm. The models indicated better conditions in SE Virginia. But I guess one doesn't live by models alone. I think the Richmond storm was able to draw more energy since there was a larger gap to the north while the other storms had to compete for energy. News accounts describe rotating debris and funnel clouds associated with the Goochland Co storm but no confirmed tornado. If anyone was chasing in Virginia or was monitoring the storms, I would appreciate any thoughts on the Virginia storms including the possible tornadic one and my choice of target areas.
Photos of the wall cloud and funnel are on my storm photo page: http://www.geocities.com/~billhark/storm.html
William T. Hark
Billís Photo Page
May 23-25, 1998 Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas (beautiful lightning, wall cloud, hail, bust) William T. Hark May 23, 1998 I arrived in Dallas at 10AM for my first solo chase since my Cloud 9 experience last year. I had done a lot of reading and studying since and I felt I was ready to give it a try. Unfortunately, I would be doing the Gilbert's Budget method and be chasing without a laptop. I had checked data early that AM, but I would miss the morning soundings and models being in transit. Originally, I was predicting SE Kansas but it was looking more like NE Kansas/Missouri. I would have to quickly head North. I left the rental place by 11 and headed North. I stopped in Norman to find data and discovered all University and other libraries were closed for the Memorial Day weekend. The NWS was locked. I'm in trouble. I continued toward Tulsa and talked with Matt Crowther via cell phone. He was targeting NE of Topeka. I had a long way to go. (I was cursing my decision to save money and fly to Dallas instead of OKC or Wichita). I continued to Tulsa and obtained data from the NWS there. The staff was very friendly and provided me with the latest upper air data, radar images etc. (I bribed them with drinks!) It was obvious that the activity would not spread south enough for me to reach in time. OH well. It was looking like NW Oklahoma for the next day. May 24, 1998 I spent the morning looking through data at the Tulsa NWS. There was a weak trough moving out of the southern Rockies providing steep lapse rates and would also help support the deepening of a surface low west of the CDS. A frontal zone returning NWD ahead of the surface low would allow moist and unstable air to move into the area. Predicted CAPES would be about 3500 J/KG. There was a MDT risk issued for N and C Oklahoma and Southern Kansas. My target would be WOODWARD, OKLAHOMA or slightly to the West. I left Tulsa at 11:15AM and headed west on 64. There was a line of high based Cu which paralled I-64 near Tulsa. The sky cleared as I headed West. By 1PM, I was on route 60 near Rinqwood, W of Enid. There was a line of CU which stretched SW to NE across the road. There was strong SE winds. At 2PM, I was 10 miles East of Woodward. The line of Cu was following the road and was more defined to the NW. I talked with Charles Edwards of Cloud 9 who along with Jim Leonard, had just left Norman. They were also initially targeting Woodward. Matt Crowther was to my North toward Alva and said that Marty Feely was observing "converging Cu" near Liberal. I continued west and stopped in Laverne, Oklahoma. Of course, there were no open libraries to collect data and cell phone coverage was very poor. By now, the scattered CU was decreasing and according to my dewpoint monitor, the dewpoint had dropped from the mid 60's to about 60. I guess a weak dryline. (The main dryline was to the South and had already passed Amarillo). Here is where I made my mistake. My instincts told me to head East into greater moisture. I had no access to recent data but I heard there was development to the North and then tornado watch was issued for SW-SC Kansas. I decided to go North on 283, then E on 160, and N on 34 toward Bucklin Kansas. So far, there was no sign of development but haze was severely limiting visibility. In Bucklin, I heard there were storms already firing to the far North toward Rush and Ellis counties. That was too far and I figured there was better upper level support to the South. There was Cu visible everywhere and some anvil blow-off to the far North. I turned East toward Haviland, Kansas. There I observed a small tower forming to the East and a larger storm to the NW. To the South, there was a slight darkening but I couldn't tell if there was a storm because of haze. I called Dodge City NWS hoping to get a radar report. They were very busy but said everything was firing to my North and there was nothing South. I headed East to get a better view of the NW storm which was looking better. I stopped briefly at a hotel and they were nice enough to let me look at TWC radar. It was about 6:30PM. The storm to my NW looked like it was beginning to turn right. The tower to my West was breaking up a bit so I decided to chase the NW storm that would be heading toward Hutchinson. I would approach from the SW on 61 and be in good position. I called Charles to tell him about the development and he was on a storm near Alva. Matt Crowther, Steve Sponsler etc were west of Dodge City on a storm. By 7:15PM, I was near the storm heading NE on 61. It looked crisp but no visible rotation. It formed a nice wall cloud though no rotation. I watched it for awhile. Suddenly, it died. Ahhh! At this point I realized I was suckered by this nice storm. I was too far North and in addition, a core of another and obviously non-tornadic storm was blocking my way South. I think it was also too close and affecting my storm. Then, I heard the warnings for the storms in Kingman and Sedgewick County. Charles with Cloud 9 Tours and others saw a nice tornado near Medford, Oklahoma at that time. When the core to my South passed, I headed toward Pratt. It was getting dark so I stopped for dinner. There I experienced some pea sized hail. I headed toward Wichita and South on I-35 toward Norman. I saw the best display of lighting I've ever seen including ground-cloud strikes. The trip in Northern Oklahoma was a bit hairy with tornado warnings to my East and West. At about 12:30 AM, I was East of Enid and the wind suddenly changed direction to the East and stopped. With tornado warnings for my area, I decided to quickly head south instead of watching the CG's. May 25, 1998 I headed south from Norman in a large caravan of chasers including Charles Edwards of Cloud 9, Jim Leonard, Matt Biddle, Al Pietrycha, R. J. Evans and National Geographic. The target was Witchita Falls, Tx. South of Lawton, there was some clearing but the visibility was terrible. We stopped in Witchita Falls to gather more data. There, John Monteverdi joined our convergence. Although a watch box was issued for us, nothing happened. It was a lot of fun and we spent the afternoon socializing, complaining about the bad weather, smoky skies and enjoying eating nasty food. >From May 26 to the end of the week. I headed west to do some hiking. Nothing really developed in Western Texas near Amarillo. By now most of the activity had shifted too far North and I soon had to leave from Dallas. My thanks to Matt Crowther, Charles Edwards and Jim Leonard for help with data along the NWS of Amarillo and Tulsa. I mainly busted but it was a great learning experience and I got to see old friends. The scenery is beautiful and I took some nice pictures. Learning points: There are no libraries open over Memorial day weekend for data gathering. I doubt a laptop would have improved my success but it would have lessened my dependence on other sources. Cell phone coverage in NW Oklahoma is pretty bad and payphones are rare. William T. Hark Billís Photo Page http://www.geocities.com/~billhark
Hello Gilbert, Here is my chase account from the Norton county KS (Almena) tornado: I decided to head for the dryline bulge east of Goodland. Temps and dews were in the 80s/uppers 60s east of the dryline, with the winds starting to back. Good shear and hopes were high. When I left Denver at 1:30 pm MDT, skies were clear with a sw wind of 20 and a Td of 28. Bone dry. As I headed east on US 36 I noticed a lone tcu forming along the dryline in western KS. Time 4 PM. This is where I started my video rolling. As I approached the KS border near St Francis, the tcu had now become a young cb, with the infant anvil starting to spread ne from the updraft. A friend at NCAR was providing me NOWCAST support and said that this buildup was the only game in town. Sure makes it easy doesn't it?? As I continued on US 36 near Atwood, the storm had a nice backsheared anvil with an overshooting top. The Td jumped from a meager 48 to 66 in a 3 mile stretch!!! Still videoing the storm. Approximately 15 miles west of the town of Norton, NWS GLD issued SVR for the cell. Good sign, as the storm continued to move n/ne at 35 towards Norton. Five miles west of Norton, the west flank produced a funnel cloud and a weak landspout. Time was 5:30 PM CDT and I was still videoing. When I approached Norton, I could see a nice lowering just to my east, that had very much motion to it. The storm now had taken a more easterly track at 15. Time now was nearing 6 PM. As I headed east from town, the tornado sirens went off. The area directly next to the highway to the north was showing significant rotation in the wall cloud. Several small funnels appeared and disappeared as the wall cloud continued to rotate rapidly. I clocked inflow winds from the se at 34, with the temp of 86, and dew of 74. A clear slot was starting to form to the west of the wall cloud as the rotation intensified. Still videoing. Almost as soon as it started wrapping in rain and tennis ball sized hail, a multivortex tornado (3 vortices) formed with all 3 vortices rotating rapidly around each other about 300 yards to my northwest. I was now near KS 383 approaching Almena. Soon the tornado grew to a large wedge that just missed the town of Almena. I was on a hill about 1/2 mile from the tornado and could hear the sirens blaring in Almena and see the complete tornado, now about 1/4 mile wide wedge just to my northwest with a nice debris cloud. The clear slot was absolutely gorgeous as the RFD reached me and the tornado started to stretch out, soon taking on a cone shaped white appearance from my viewpoint. Finally, nearly 40 minutes after the multivortex tornado appeared, it dissipated and roped out. I went back north of the highway to find the damage path and found many trees flattened and fields blasted by this large tornado. All in all, my video captured the storm from its tcu stage, through development and dissipation, including the nearly 40 minute tornadic episode, and came out absolutely incredible. Can't wait to get the three rolls of slides back on Thurs. One of the top 3 tornadoes I've ever witnessed, especially due to the closeness and appearance to me. Roger Hill, Denver