Storm Chase USA

 

During the spring seasons of 2015 and 2016, I have been fortunate enough to be a guest storm chaser on Paul and the Netweather.tv storm chasing team.  The tours operate from the beginning of May until the end of June, covering the expansive American Midwest. They have an amazing track record of landing themselves on productive supercells, where lightning, large hailstones and tornadoes are a common sight throughout the tour. I will once again be joining Netweather and Weather Holidays to chase the 2017 Spring Storms.

 

This page documents my experiences as they happen and aims to be updated (hotel Wi-Fi permitting) during the tour. Netweather.tv livestreams the chase (again, data signal permitting) so you can see the tour in action.  Check out the livestream HERE.

 

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Total Tornado Count: 28

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Post-Chase Blues

Posted on 24th June, 2017

The post chase blues can be horrible. It can make you feel irritable and crabby, with a huge element of misery upon hearing people seeing a tornado or supercell when you're returning back to your normal day job. 

 

They arise from the sheer difference in lifestyle and way of living. The few weeks leading up to the chase are filled with excitement, anticipation of what you will see and experience and grouped with the relief that a break from normality is around the corner. You get to meet up with old friends and new friends alike - build lasting friendships bonded by the dangers and perils you experience as lightning rains down on you at all angles and hailstones write-off your windscreen. You are surrounded by people all day, every day. Having a great time and experiencing new things (even if the new thing is trying the 3 burger-meats in one, topped with a questionable relish). You basically eat, chase, sleep and repeat for 10-11 days - never knowing where you will rock up that evening. 

 

Burger from the Garage, Norman

Everything about home is different to the chase, even the ridiculous lunches

 

Then home hits. A relatively safe environment, with loving friends and family (without them right now it would be a little tricky! - they are very much appreciated). You see others living out their hobby, posting lightning pictures and recounting tales of tornado interceptions - living the lifestyle that you love, whilst having to work hard to pay for your next trip (which seems longer than a year away...) and to work off your belly that has developed from the lack of real exercise and the bombardment of calories and fats that every USA mouthful provides. It's a culture shock! It makes you feel sad!

 

Sad to be back

Post chase blues...how do we beat them?

 

This was the third year that I've battled through them. This year has been better as I have a girlfriend to keep me company (previous years of being single and living alone made the blues much worse!). I've found better ways of coping this year.  So for those returning from the States this weekend from the last week of feasible chasing, here are a few tips on beating the Post Chase Blues:

 

1) Enjoy your captures. Be it video, photo or stories.  You took them. You experienced them and they will bring a smile to your face. Just don't go through them all too soon! Make them last!

 

Enjoy your content!

Enjoy your content - relive your memories!

 

2) Wean yourself off of the junk food. Seriously I went cold turkey this year and started really craving a burger. Craving to the point that I felt sick.  Try throwing in some healthier alternatives as you go as well - your body will appreciate them.

 

Monte Cristo Sandwich..the most unhealthy sandwich in Dallas

This is not long-term health food. Slowly ween away from this and on to an 

apple or something!

 

3) Increase your activity slowly. Remember. 10-11 days sat in a car and eating rubbish isn't good for you, or your fitness. Don't expect to come home and be able to run a marathon - build it up slowly to avoid injury. But do exercise...we are all probably carrying a little more Burger King than we need right now!

 

Jason bin bag racing

Exercise - be it running or bin bag racing, do some! But build up slowly!

 

4) Family and friends. Mostly they will be pleased to see you. Spend time with them. Tell them about your adventures. Let them tell you about their adventures too!  They will make you feel better about not being out there chasing still. Trust me!

 

My family and friends have been a great help since being back

 

5) Take social media breaks. If you're missing chasing, the last thing you want is an update from Reed Timmer yelling that he is a small distance away from an EF4 tornado after losing his windshield to hail. That is the last thing you want.

 

Darn social media - I don't want to know about your tornado today...

 

6) Avoid the SPC Convective Outlook like the plague. Sure, it's natural on tour to see what the SPC are saying. But whatever the outlook...it's nigh on impossible to chase it from the UK (unless you feel up for virtual chasing...)

 

Give it a rest...for a bit. This is unchaseable from the UK. Trust me, i

t hurts seeing this when I am in Bristol

 

7) Plan the occasional virtual chase. Usually this is good towards the end of the blues and you have had a few weeks to recover from them. Allow yourself to monitor the SPC and social media and get your chase on. 

 

8) Meet-ups. You've formed a bond with many chasers. Stay in touch. Give them the support from the post-chase blues that they may be feeling too. Meet up! I've met up with Olly and Adam since being back and we give each other the boosts we need to keep going...and it is the other chasers that will encourage you to ditch the blues and get excited for the chase next year...because...it's now less than 11 months away...

 

Chaser meet-ups, recount and relive your memories! (Photo Credit: Adam Simpkins)

What are your tips on beating the post-chase blues?  Feel free to comment below. 

 

 

 

Day 10: Misery in Missouri

Posted on 2nd June, 2017

I can only apologise for the delay in writing my final blog post relating to the 2017 Netweather Tour 2 stom chase - the last day did kind of feel a little flat and with the HUGE distance we had covered in the space of a day (coupled with the late finish) did mean I was too exhausted and had no time to publish the last day's chase. But fear not, I am home now and recovering from mild jet-lag, so have some time to pull together some memories of the chase day!

 

After a great night's sleep in the Red Roof Inn in Park City (Wichita), we were well recovered for the drive to east Kansas for the marginal risk that was forecast for the area.  Conditions were once again poor for tornadoes, but we were hoping to see some structure, a bit of hail and some great lightning.  The storm risk was welcomed after a fair few down days and we hoped for some final memories to be created before we had the long slog south and for our return flights. 

 

Back seat chasers - Ian, Lee and Jason

Back-seat chasers - Ian, Lee and Jason

 

Emporia in eastern Kansas was our first stop - where we indulged in top quality food and on-site produced beer at Radius Brewing Company.  The venue was quite close to our target area and as such we could enjoy a decent sit-down meal (as opposed to a grab-and-go fast food lunch).  Radius Brewing Company is a microbrewery, which produces its own beer, as well as a top-notch restaurant, serving high quality food. I enjoyed a pint of William Allen wheat ale that helped wash down a superb "Meat Eater" pizza (with extra jalapeños). I have to say, it was one of the best meals had all tour!

 

A refreshing pint of William Allen Wheat Ale

 

Being so close to the target area meant a little time could be spent relaxing before initiation. Initiation did not take long however, and we soon started heading east towards some early storms. We aimed to stop off in Neosho Rapids to await development and for Paul to plot the next move. Unfortunately the residents and the town sheriff was there to ask if we were lost...and also pretty much escort us away from town. It was a little creepy and I don't think we will be going through there again...

 

Thankfully, things were looking better on the storm front and the chase resumed. The storms were slowly intensifying, but still not supercells. It wasn't long before a close CG struck the roadside beside us (dazzling as it was so close) and an almost instantaneous rumble of thunder. The storms were also precipitating nicely. 

 

Wall of rain from a close storm

Heavy rain towards our east

 

The storm closest to us continues to rain CGs, many close around us. We are pretty certain one strike had hit a radio mast in front of us, as well as one hitting the trees nearby. The storms continued east and it wasn't long before we had crossed the state line and entered Missouri.  We immediately entered the town of Drexel, which seemed a classic, small American town.

 

Drexel, the view from my car seat

Driving through Drexel, Missouri

 

A little further down the road, we parked up and watched the storm pass over. We had saw plenty of lightning passing over and even some large raindrops as the storm passed over. Sadly, I stayed in the car for most of our time in Missouri as the pollen count was through the roof, triggering some severe hayfever! With my swollen eyes and red nose, I must have looked like I had been in the losing corner of a boxing match...

 

Lightning in Drexel

 

Our storm continued to travel slightly south east, so we made tracks to travel south and through Amsterdam, Missouri, to watch the storm.  My memory is again a little clouded on exactly what was going on here as my hayfever really kicked up whilst waiting at this location. All I do remember is a nearby resident shooting some sort of air gun in our general direction... and a few close CGs...

 

Stormy skies in Amsterdam

Stormy skies in Amsterdam

 

As much as we wanted to continue watching the storm progress, our time was limited as we would need to be on our way back towards Dallas, as a fellow chaser had an early flight the following day. We were a good 490-odd miles from the destination (yes...and that works out to be just shy of 8 hours drive in a car). We set off from the storm around 6pm and aimed for Ardmore, Oklahoma to split the journey to reduce it either side of the much needed evening rest. 

 

Storm in the distance

Looking back at the storm - what a beautiful sight

 

The journey to Ardmore was pretty heavy going, but we had many sights on our way back. A great sunset to our west, as well as many towns on the way back that carried significant history. One of the most notable was the ghost town of Picher, Oklahoma,which was severely undermined for over a century and subject to collapse at any time. Further catastrophe in the town was due to the mining that had contaminated the water supply and subsequently many became ill. If this still wasn't enough, the town was also hit by an EF4 in 2008, destroying 150 homes. 

 

We stopped off in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for dinner (we enjoyed our last Braums of the tour!) and a comfort break before piling on the extra miles to Ardmore, where we stayed in a sub-par Super 8 for the night. 

 

After only a few hours sleep, we hit the road again and made way for Dallas, saying goodbye to fellow chasers and welcoming Tour 3 to the stage. Although gutted to not be still out there with them, I am pleased to be home - catching up with my girlfriend, Hannah (who surprised me by meeting me at Heathrow), as well as my friends and family. 

 

Thank you for following the blog during my time with Tour 2 Netweather Storm Chase USA. I hope you had as much time following it as I did writing it.  I'll continue to update with notable storms and virtual chases over the year and I hope to return to Tornado Alley next year for Chase 2018...although that is yet to be confirmed!

 

Until my next post, 

 

Jason

Day 9: Twistex and Twister

Posted on 30th May, 2017

For what may seem to be the last down day of the tour before our penultimate chase tomorrow, it was a down day of all down days. I awoke with a swollen wrist and feared that I may have actually fractured it. I did have some taunts from the team before they saw the swelling and colour difference and the taunts soon dropped away (mum/Hannah - it's MUCH better now and doesn't hurt, is barely swollen and feels fine!).

 

I finished a great breakfast (waffles and syrup is the best wake up meal ever) and met at 11 am for us to leave. Many of the team were hungover from their trip to the bars last night and missed breakfast, so we had a brunch visit to Jimmy's Egg, which was a breakfast bar right next to the hotel. As I'd eaten, I just went for a tea (something the USA can never get quite right...).

 

Our journey today was to Wichita, Kansas, to get into position for the marginal risk tomorrow. As it was a down day, we also wanted to make sure we saw some of the storm-chasing sights of tornado alley. Our first start was via El Reno, where we visited the Twistex Memorial.  This memorial is in place for the three, well respected chasers that were killed in the El Reno tornado of May 31st 2013.

 

The Twistex Memorial

The Twistex Memorial, near El Reno in Oklahoma

 

 

It's an important place to visit for any chaser to visit. Tim Samaras, and his team, were considered as one of the safest chasers at the time and were researching these monstrous tornadoes to help save lives in the future. They were unfortunately caught out by the beast that was El Reno, the largest tornado ever recorded. Essentially, no matter how good you think you are, Mother Nature is not a force to be reckoned with and always will hold the trump card. Seeing this is very humbling and reinforces the need to respect nature. 

 

We spent about 10 minutes marking our respects (and watching a spider jump at Dave) before heading on to Wichita. We still had a small detour to Wakita to make though. For those who like storm chasing because of one particular blockbuster, they will know that this is the town that Twister was based on.

 

The Wakita Water Tower 

 

The town of Wakita is really small. I was shocked at how small it was! Our target was the Twister Museum, of which we initially thought was closed. This place was awesome. Twister is the film that inspired my interest in tornadoes many, many years ago and it was pretty surreal being in the town that it was set in, as well as see behind the scenes footage and to see and touch some of the props. I even saw Dorothy I!

 

Jason and Dorothy

 

Our journey progressed after buying a commemorative T-shirt of the museum (and it's tribute to Bill Paxton on the back). We were Wichita bound and planned to stay in the Red Roof Hotel there, the very same one that we stayed in on last year's chase. Applebee's was our restaurant for the night, so a good place to recharge and enjoy a social event after a long day of travelling. 

 

We hope for some supercell development tomorrow, but imagine we will be slacking it off early as we need to be back in Dallas for our return home to UK relatively early on Wednesday. Despite the lack of tornadoes (we have had a few, granted), it is scary thinking that the time of this chase has flown by! Let's hope that the marginal produces a tornado, but...I'd honestly be happy with a bit of structure!

Day 8: Down Day in Norman

Posted on 29th May, 2017

Despite the slight risk down south of Texas and into Louisiana, Paul called a group meeting at our departure time from Henryetta and gave us a group option on what to do for the day. We could have chased the southern slight risk and then that would be it for the tour (long way down plus nothing more than a thunderstorm over the Gulf of Mexico), take 2 down days and then chase the currently marginal risk in Kansas on Tuesday, or do both (baring in mind that there would be a good 800 mild trip to be done on Monday). The group opted on the 2 down days and the marginal risk in Kansas on Tuesday.

 

Our down day consisted of a trip from Henryetta up to Norman, not too far from Oklahoma City. We had in fact been to Norman before (last night of the 2016 chase) and it is a great location. 

 

The Big Bison BurgerThe Big G Buffalo Burger with sweet potato fries

 

Our lunch was in The Garage in Norman, a cool set up with garage themed wall decor and a bar. There were pinball machines in place, lots of sports on the multiple screens around the place and some great food on the menu. I opted for the Big G Burger, substituting the basic beef patties for bison. The burger was huge! Absolutely massive!  But it definitely tasted good!

 

On from here, we then checked in to the nearby Days Inn, which felt really strange as we never seem to check in much before 10 pm, so our 2:30-3 pm check in was very out of character. A quick throw around of ideas gave us the activity for the afternoon: Hey Day in Norman. 

 

Enjoyed a few beers with Nick at Hey Day in Norman

 

Hey Day is an entertainment complex, which provides a range of activities from bowling to laser tag to mini golf. The group split into two, with some opting for bowling and others opting for mini golf. I decided upon the bowling and we hired a lane in the 21+ section of the building. This upstairs area had a bar, pool table and a privae bowling alley that was strictly for people over 21. It looked great. We had the lane for an hour and the five of us kicked off to try and squeeze in two games each. We also made use of the bar (see above).

 

Adults only bowling alley

Adults only bowling in Oklahoma

 

I was absolutely hopeless here. I'm usually an OK-ish bowler but on my first bowl, I hit the ground with bowling ball hard and really hurt my wrist. Not thinking too much of it, I continued and ended up with a really poor score (80 in my first game). Pushing on to the second game, I did get a little better - but unfortunately the wrist was playing up (resulting in me dropping the ball before taking my turn...and even launching one behind me). Still, I pushed on and gained a respectable 108 - saved by a token strike midway through the game. Lee won the overall title and won our congratulations. 

 

We then took a trip to Walmart to stock up some supplies before getting ready to head out for a night on the town. Ubering over to BJs Restaurant (the very same one as we went to last year) we sat down smartly dressed for a good meal. Unfortunately I was a little off colour due to the wrist...so stuck with a salad and water). The team then went out to Campus Corner for some drinks and a night out, whilst I retired back to the hotel via Walmart looking for some pain relief and a wrist support. Although still slightly sore and swollen as I write this, it is certainly feeling much better. 

 

Monday's activities are most likely to be visiting the Twistex Memorial and the Twister Museum...should be interesting to see both of these today!

What a storm we had overnight! After awaiting to see if our hotel was to be crossed by a tornado warned storm (emergency bag packed) we head to bed in relief when the warning was dropped. That relief was short lived when the resulting severe warned thunderstorm passed overhead. I know people at home had a storm last night too...but still think we were in the worst of it here in the US. Strobe lightning, very close and powerful CGs and shotgun thunder gave us the best overnight thunderstorm I think I've seen.

 

Bed called at about 3:30 am and I was soon out like a light! Sadly up at 8:30 for breakfast for a 10:00 am departure. Everyone seems quite tired today, but we are off to east central Oklahoma for a moderate risk. We expected this to be upgraded to a high risk, although this never ended up happening.

 

Moderate risk for May 27th 2017

Moderate Risk for May 27th 2017 from the Storm Prediction Centre

 

First stop on our journey was Wichita, where Paul would decide which of the many storm risks we would follow. We chose one on central eastern Oklahoma. At Wichita, we stopped for a KFC all you can eat buffet. It was a bit grim...and speaking of grim, the dew points were high and the air felt hot and sticky.  At Wichita, Paul made the call to head to the classic triple point set up that was setting up nicely north of Oklahoma City.

 

Tornadic probability

The SPC gave high hopes of seeing a tornado today

 

The next stop was just north of Cushing, where we stopped for a comfort break. The temperatures were about 95F and the dewpoints were in the mid 70s. The air was horrid...it was like walking through soup. Paul made reference that the air felt similar to that of the day of the El Reno tornado in 2013. This made me a little apprehensive as El Reno was huge.

 

Hitting the road again, the next target was Tulsa. We could see storms developing around us and knew that there was a derecho forming in Missouri - something we were keeping well away from. The SPC were throwing out many messages regarding the atmospheric conditions and we had a mesoscale discussion that talked about 6000+ CAPE and a negligible/weakening cap (in layperson - the atmosphere is loaded with more explosive power than you could shake a stick at...and there is someone smoking heavily next to the fuse...). If this goes off, then it's going to go off big time, with the chances of it going off being huge! 

 

Paul kept a close eye on radar and there were some very strong updrafts to our north east, although unfortunately this became into a very linear system. Linear systems are not what we wanted as they aren't the best at producing tornadoes. This was becoming a little disappointing as we had travelled a huge distance to get here and it was beginning to look like it was for nothing. Then, suddenly, a cell popped up a few miles west of the linear system and started to develop nicely - the chase was back on.

 

Radar for the day

Keeping watch of the skies... Barons helps keep us safe!

 

Car 3 radioed in saying that a comfort break was needed before the chase picked up, so we had a quick stop in a garage in Bartlesville. During our stop, the cell appeared to die off - much to the team's frustration. Although some other promising towers were appearing on the horizon, we decided to head towards the linear storms to our east. There were towers around us and we held back a little to see what they were doing before we raced to the other storms, gassing up in a town called Nowata first.

 

As the cars were flling up, a new cell had literally exploded behind us. Someone had indeed lit the fuse to all that TNT in the atmosphere and explosive convection was taking place. The storm went from nothing to 45000 feet within 5 minutes and from nothing to a severe warned storm in 7 minutes. Some calculations said the updraft speeds were in the region of 50-100 metres per second. This was certainly more like it!

 

Explosive convection

Some explosive convection over Bartleville

 

Paul calculated the best place to get to see this cell and we head north. The only problem being is that the landscape had plenty of trees, which meant seeing the base was tricky. However, as we continued north, the trees opened up and we saw the base of this beautiful LP supercell quite clearly. 

 

LP supercell in Oklahoma

LP supercell in over Bartlesville, Oklahoma

 

The supercell was slowly travelling towards us, so we hit the road back towards Nowata and chased the storm from the south. In an almost hilarious fashion, the chaser network showed loads of other chasers now ditching the linear storms to the north east and they came racing down to this storm. In order to get into the right position, we initially hook sliced the storm and chased down through some windy roads, trying to avoid large hailstones along the way. We took a few donks, but the windshields survived. 

 

Chasing over a lake

Chasing over a lake - "We got cows"

 

This was not great chase territory - we had loads of trees, limited room to manoeuvre and, should anything go wrong, we would have had difficulty returning back due to the huge chaser convergence. At one point, we even crossed over a lake, with water each side. This reminded us so much of the film Twister, where there are twin tornadoes twisting about over the water, either side of the road.

 

Despite areas of broad rotation, there was little else going on with this storm and, due to chase territory worsening, we thought best not to chase into Arkansas (only 40 miles away at this point) due to even worse chase territory. Paul made the call to turn south again and head towards another cell that had popped up on his radar, just to the south west of Tulsa. We left the explosive storm.

 

Leaving the storm

Leaving the storm in our wake

 

We raced towards it, it being only about 60 miles away. It was heading towards us pretty quickly, but as we were heading towards us, it became stuck on an outflow boundary and dropped a tornado. Sadly it wasn't moving, so we were not making great time on it. We booked up a Super 8 in Henryetta, Oklahoma, before making tracks to Chilis in Muskogee for dinner. It had been an incredibly long day and we were already exhausted from the day before. good food, good company and a good night's rest is all we needed to chase the slight risk on Sunday 28th. Thankfully, Henryetta is only 2 hours from target for the storms, so a lie in is due! There was some epic lightning as we head towards Henryetta, which made the 40 or so miles back to the hotel very entertaining.

 

Sunday may be our last chase day as the risks move too far east to chase and to ensure we can be within reach of Dallas for our return home on Wednesday. Let's hope we get some great storms on Sunday!

 

Thanks again for reading and for your comments. If you've enjoyed this blog, why not click the "share" button and share it with your friends? Stay safe,

 

Jason

 

Before I start this blog post, I just want to take a moment to thank Paul, Dave, Arron and Rich for getting us some great storms this year and for the amount of driving in some treacherous conditions. It has been hugely appreciated!

 

Today we awoke in the Super 8 in Hayes and had a 10:30 start as our journey was taking us back to Limon in Colorado in order to see the storms initiate on the slight risk. First stop was Burlington for lunch - a good 100+ miles trek.

 

Our options for Burlington for food was again McDonald's or Burger King and, wanting to mix things up a little, I chose Burger King today. Feeling the day was going to be a long one, I opted for a Texan Double Whopper and a side of 10 chicken nuggets. I think a diet is definitely in order when I return. After a nice vanilla shake to wash it down with, we again hit the road to Limon.

 

Initiation started when we were just arriving in Limon, with a big strong updraft starting. Following this through to a town called Last Chance it slowly ramped up in intensity. There were a fair few areas of broad rotation.

 

Early stage of the huge supercell today

The early stages of today's supercell

 

Soon chasing through the county we had to go off road and the road became less gravelly dirt and more field. We took a few bumps hard but managed to get out in front of the storm, whilst clipping the hook in the process. What's more, there were many areas of scuddy rotation with strong rising motion all around us. It was also relatively haily too with a few pea sized hailstones pounding the tours already battered vehicles. The hail stayed as pea-sized, much to the car windshield's appreciation!

 

Parking up further south east from the storm, we looked to our north west and saw a large lowering with a couple of gustnados forming. Sadly nothing really came of that and we chased a little further south. Glancing back there were a couple of other bases visible and these were actually appearing to be close to the ground. Despite the distance we had a great view - sadly it did not drop a tornado.

 

We also kept watch on the storm we were in front of. It had become a HP monster and inflow remained strong. Unfortunately it also had a lot of scud being drawn into it, which made tornado detection a little more difficult due to multiple areas of motion that look like funnels.

 

Wall cloud with suspect gustnado

Wall cloud with suspect gustnado

 

It was whilst here that a couple of residents that lived in the nearby farm that we had stopped at came to chat with us. The lady knew that quite a lot about storms and told us that she has recently updated her storm shelter to a basement (as previously had a crawl space). She informed us that a funnel cloud last year meant she shared this crawl space with her five dogs for four hours. Things also became a bit awkward as she asked us how we would have voted at the recent US elections. Thankfully she didn't push us for an answer and the question was soon passed over.

 

Back in the car we continued east and south to track the storm into Kansas. On our journey the skies became insanely beautiful. Paul eventually gave us some time to stop and take some photographs. The striations and layers of the storm were absolutely stunning and we have some awesome shots!

 

Supercell in front of the car

Supercell in front of the car

 

The storm was incredibly HP at this point and there were lots of excitement bursts as it looked like wall clouds and funnels were forming - but kept being disappointed when it turned out to be scud. The storm did look menacing at this point and, according to reports, there may well have been a rain-wrapped tornado within.

 

A little further east we stopped in front of a farm silo and near some railroad tracks. The supercell now looked like a giant alien mothership and the core gave the impression that it was abducting anything below it. It was such an amazing sight to see!

 

Mothership in Kansas

HP supercell, almost looks like a scene from Independence Day

 

With the light now fading away, the lightning was really starting to steal the show. It was almost like being in a club with strobe lightning flashing off all around us. This gave it a rather eerie atmosphere as the wall clouds and scud was now only visible when backlit by lightning.

 

Nightime HP Supercell in Kansas

Night-time HP supercell in Kansas (or is that a spaceship?)

 

Before long, the cool air of the core hit us and this gave us indication to move on, else be caught out by the heavy rain and hail within the core. Our destination was where we left off earlier that day; in essence giving us a complete round trip!

 

We stopped off for a quick bite to eat at McDonald's (yes...4 burgers in 2 days...I really need that diet now...) in Colby. We had to eat quick as the storm was still heading right for us and we wanted to remain in front. There were reports of large hail in the core and more hail damage was the last thing the cars needed!  As we left, lightning revealed a large wall cloud not too far away from us... the chase back to our hotel was on!  We soon found out that Colby was then hit by  60 mph winds and damage caused by 2 inch hail. Close call!

 

Night storms have always scared me - as it is usually the stuff nightmares have as a backdrop. Everything becomes difficult to see - it's like playing a game at expert mode. The only way you can see structure and cloud formations is via the lightning. We saw a lowering whilst off the interstate and after watching for about 5-10 minutes, a funnel shaped cloud appeared. We aren't 100% convinced it definitely is a tornado (as we've been tricked by the scud more times than we would care to admit today) but it was called in by another chaser as well and timings match some radar signatures.

 

Is this possibly a night tornado?

Scud or a tornado? We're still a bit uncertain

 

We soon arrived back in Hayes (yes, the same Hayes we set off from this morning. We are currently in the Days Inn here, awaiting the same storm that we hooked upon around 1 pm this afternoon. We are quite tired and a little weary, although a little excited/concerned as there are a few tornado warning on the storms due to pass overhead tonight. Whether we will be able to sleep soundly may be out the window, but at least we are getting our money's worth on this tour!

 

Big risk (moderate) tomorrow, so we have an early start. There are talks of a deracho occurring, which probably isn't something we want to get involved with, but maybe some interesting storms behind it may have some great potential! I shall keep you posted!

Chase Day 5 - Tornado in Colorado

Posted on 26th May, 2017

We awoke in the Econolodge in Limon and had what little offerings the hotel had for breakfast, before leaving around 11 am to head in to the marginal risk zone in north-east Colorado.  This risk was to be later upgraded to a slight.

 

Marginal Risk in Colorado

The SPC Convective Outlook for May 25th 2017

 

Our first stop was to head north towards Burlington for some food. As we head up, a cumulus field started to form behind us, which was a good indication that stormy weather was to follow. I had set a target myself of where I would chase if I were to be doing this solo, based on the models, and set a target of being around Oakley (Kansas) around 5 pm. Our actual drive north to Wray in Colorado soon made me realise that I need to take more time to understand the models!

 

Cumulus field and the other chase vehicle in the wing mirror

Being followed by the ast car in our convoy...and a cumulus field

 

Soon after we finished our Burger Kings and McDonalds in Burlington, Paul and his team took us towards Wray. A mesoscale discussion had been issued, meaning we needed to get into position quickly. Wray is famous for its spectacular tornado last year - with many stunning pictures being taken. I had wished I was there, but a year on, our marginal risk did not look like it was going to drop anything other than some moderately-sized hailstones.

 

Not long after passing through Wray, we were on to a very strong updraft that showed promise into developing into a storm. Several other cells also erupted, giving some alienesque scenes that almost looked like three UFOs were present in the clouds. The chase progressed onto the dirt roads and were treated to frequent CG lightning and, to our amazement, a persistent wall cloud.

 

Wall cloud in Colorado

A persistent wall cloud in Colorado

 

Our position meant the supercell was travelling towards us, so we continued to travel in front, stopping occasionally to allow for photos. The base continued to grow and always looked like it was threatening to drop a tornado, based on some of the strong movement that we could see. As we chased, the hail core hit us - and when I say hit, I think the term "bombarded" is more appropriate. Within moments the lead car lost its windscreen to hail and moments later, the other car in the convoy lots its windscreen. Strangely, the car I was travelling in only managed a few dents in the bonnet, but otherwise escaped unscathed.

 

Cracked windscreen after encountering 3" hail

Proof that 3" hailstones and windshields do not mix!

 

Once we had escaped the hail, we pulled over to survey damage and to watch the wall cloud again. There appeared to be a lot of upwards motion and some rotation above our heads. Fellow chaser Lee pointed out that there was some disturbance in the dirt behind us and we noticed an area of circulation above - we had ourselves a tornado (albeit not a picturesque one). It lifted soon after us stopping to take pictures.

 

An interesting tornado next to the cell core

Not all tornadoes are beautiful, but this is our Colorado tornado

 

Paul could see there was a cell to the south that seemed to have a better base, so we travelled towards that one. We were now in Kansas - home of the Dodge and Bennington storms of last year. Pressing on, the storm started to take great shape and odds were on for a large tornado to drop. The inflow to the storm was extremely strong, with driving conditions becoming all the more tricky. I have some footage that I will eventually upload of a lorry struggling and rocking in the wind - and within that clip, a lorry that had come off the road in the wind. It was strong! (This is the point where I realise that the storm passed over Oakley in Kansas...my prediction wasn't too far off after all!)

 

The base that grew and grew, Kansas

The base that grew and grew. Some amazing structure!

 

The structure grew and grew, before becoming fully structured with a rotating base. It tried several times to produce a tornado, but failed each time. It wasn't too long until the cell died down and base started to weaken. The cell had massive amounts of lightning - with CGs raining down on us from all angles. Some were rather close but most further away. Our drive towards our resting spot for the night was entertained by a spectacular light show within the clouds, flickering all around. We managed to stop for some lightning photography, but very little ws gained other than the glowing clouds. 

 

Evening lightning show

Evening Light Show, near Hayes (Kansas)

 

Our final destination was Hayes in Kansas. We popped in to Applebees for a meal before checking into the Super 8...where head is about to hit pillow as it is currently 1 am. We will have an early start as we head back to Colorado in the morning, with the intention of chasing the slight risk that has been forecast. Let's hope for some more extreme weather will happen then!

With slightly sore heads we awoke to a slim offering at the breakfast bar, so decided that we would head across to the local IHOP. Unfortunately it was extremely busy, so it was decided that we would head North to Dumas for a Subway.  It wasn't a particularly long trip and we soon had the queue around the store awaiting our brunch. Additionally, one of the guys mentioned to a missionary that our tour leader needed saving, which led to us witnessing an interesting conversation unfold.

 

Amarillo to Limon

Our journey today - Amarillo to Limon

 

Most of the day was essentially just to position ourselves for the marginal risk across the Colorado-Kansas area. Our target was the long drive up from Amarillo to Limon (Colorado). The journey is a good 330 miles and we made good time. It was really great to see the scenary switch to a more colourful backdrop and also to watch the temperatures rise. 

 

We didn't have much to do or see on this trip so not much to report from today. We did however stop at the "Welcome to Colorful Colorado" state sign for a photo opportunity. We previously stopped here in 2015 and I remember taking a very blustery selfie. I did repeat the act and again, I have a very blustery selfie!

 

A blustery Colorful Colorado state sign selfie (mark 2)

 

Our next stop was in Lamar, which held fond memories of a beautiful mothership HP supercell from Netweather Tour 2 in 2015. Here we stopped for a comfort break...and also to visit a Liquor store. The store was HUGE and I've never seen so much alcohol in one place before. I'D at the ready, we refilled our beer/alcohol stocks and then pressed on for Limon.

 

The Massive Liquor Store

The massive liquor store in Lamar, Colorado

 

We are currently staying in the Econolodge here in Limon, which means we will be in a great starting position for the risk tomorrow (Thursday). The greatest risks are looking to be Friday and Saturday - and I'm hoping one or the other will be "Football Shirt Day". Our last FSD was on May 25th 2016, where we saw the Bennington to Chapman tornado in Kansas. I still like to believe the day brought us the luck of a tornadic storm.

 

Our evening here was spent at Oscar's Bar and Grill, which again is a familiar haunt. The venue is very popular as a hub for chasers that chase in the Colorado area and it is completely movie-themed.  Within the restaurant there are pictures of movie stars, movie posters and the menu is themed by giving the dishes appropriate movie titles. It also doubles as an American bar, with a pool table and sports on TV. I definitely recommend it giving them a visit if you are in the area.

 

Oscar's Menu

Some of the menu at Oscar's Bar and Grill - I had the League of Their Own meal

 

Tomorrow looks like we will be chasing the marginal risk in eastern Colorado and western Kansas. It looks like it will eventually form an MCS and be a little to have anything fancy to see, but a storm is a storm and if we are lucky enough to find a few isolated storms then who knows what we will see tomorrow!

 

Day 2 Convective Outlook

The convective outlook for May 25th 2017 

 

But for now...sleep! The long days and nights are finally catching up on me and mix in holiday beverages and the fact we are jumping between timezones a lot, bed is very much needed right noe!  

 

Thanks for stopping by to read my blog. If you like what you have read and seen, feel free to share the post - or even comment below.  Thanks again,  Jason 

After yesterday's great LP supercells, the risk to chase was too far south to chase. This wasn't all bad news as it meant we could enjoy a down day and repositioning day. We awoke and had breakfast in our hotel, where we were approached by a lady from Huddersfield (UK), who asked us why we were here. She seemed a bit shocked when we told her we were chasers.

 

A small drive from our hotel and into down town Roswell. This city is famous for the alledged UFO crash that occurred in 1947 and the locals have made the town really UFO- and alien-themed.  Streetlights all have alien eyes, there are UFO symbols everywhere and little aliens dotted on most porches and street corners. The inner geek inside of me thought it was cool! 

 

Alien in Roswell

One of the many aliens in Roswell

 

We head into the Roswell UFO Museum, which has information about the crash and evidence for and against UFOs. Sadly I had brought my backpack and wasn't allowed to carry it through - but I was kindly allowed to leave it behind the counter so I could look around too! If you plan on visiting, leave you backback at your hotel. I found it all rather interesting - especially having cool photographs and 3D alien exhibits. I think the picture I shared of one of them scared one or two of my Facebook friends though...

 

Alien Autopsy in Roswell UFO Museum

Scene of the alien autopsy in the Roswell UFO Museum

 

Soon after we finished at the museum, we went for some lunch. Today's meal was at Big D's Downtown Dive. Although the name implies it, it was far from a dive - it was a busy and vibrant diner - and the food was amazing! I wholeheartedly recommend the Texas BBQ burger with a side of sweet potato fries. Delicious!

 

Our next stop was Amarillo, as we need to get into position for some expected storms in the Kansas/Colorado border that are expected to develop Thursday. We are still a good 6-7 hour drive away from there as I type this (7:30 am in our Super 8 hotel in Amarillo), so positioning was definitely needed. On the way we stopped in Texico, a border town between New Mexico and Texas. We managed to take some pictures of the state sign for New Mexico and also of an abandoned motel that we happened to park by. It was a welcomed stop to stretch our legs before continuing our journey to Amarillo.

 

Abandoned motel in Texico

Abandoned motel in Texico

 

Whenever there is a chance of staying in Amarillo, there is often a high chance that we will visit The Big Texan Steak Ranch. Those who followed my blog last year will remember that this is the home of the 72 oz steak.  This year, someone (not in our party) was brave enough to attempt it on stage. Despite his best efforts, he was defeated!

 

The 72oz Big Texan Steak

The 72 oz Steak at The Big Texan Steak Ranch. Could you eat all this and the sides within an hour?

 

This is something of annual tradition for the tours and the time for a good tour group photo. We also have a fair few drinks and a good amount of food. I will say that last night's 21 oz Lone Star Sirloin was the best steak I have attempted to eat (it had beaten me!). We soon returned by the complimentary Big Texan Limo and ended the night in one of the hotel rooms to continue socialising until the early hours. 

 

Tour 2 2017 at the Big Texan Steak Ranch

Tour 2 at The Big Texan Steak Ranch

 

Wednesday will see us head north towards Kansas as Thursday we should be chasing the currently marginal risk in this area. We have a fair drive ahead of us, but I'm sure it'll continue where yesterday's road trip left off. I sure am excited to be returning to Kansas again.

 

 

Chase Day 2: Magic in New Mexico

Posted on 23rd May, 2017

We started the day chasing a slight risk that featured prominently slightly south of the Texas panhandle and into New Mexico. There was also a 2% risk of tornado, but it was felt that this was a little too optimistic, given the dew-points were low and moisture minimal. We thought that the risk was worth chasing for potential hail and structure.

 

Tornadic probability chart

Day 1 Tornado outlook chart for 22 May 2017

 

Luckily we had positioned ourself in the right area from our chase yesterday and this meant we could have a later start to the day. We were able to leave at 11 and trek on down from Dumas to Lubbock.

 

We stopped for lunch around 2:40 in Lubbock at McAlister's Deli (it was unanimously decided that we did not want burgers!). I thought I'd aim for a healthier option and picked a chicken Caesar salad wrap. I also had a lemonade with mango fruit shot...amazing but the quantity was huge...not great for a long car journey! Whilst leaving the car park, we saw a storm start to initiate...and it looked explosive. Paul decided to let that one go and chase towards the Texas-New Mexico border, where storms were modelled to initiate.

 

Initiation near Lubbock, Texas

Initiation near Lubbock,Texas

 

We crossed into New Mexico (and new state for me...and one that I've wanted to visit for a while due to it being the state with Roswell UFO incident and the hit series Breaking Bad), in the Clovis area. There was a lot of waiting around whilst we waited for storms to initiate, so some of the guys and I had a bit of a kick around with a football. Storms were picking up and dying, but eventually Paul and the team spotted one the wanted to go for...and off we went!

 

Hail Core from a developing supercell

Hail core from a developing supercell in New Mexico

 

Watching the storm seem to build, hopes were built, but then we felt the conditions change and the storm seemed to start to dissipate. Holding onto the storm it suddenly regained strength and we chased it south as it became a stunning low-precipitation supercell. It gave a continual roll of thunder and the occasional CG lightning.

 

Low Precipitation Supercell in New Mexico

Low Precipitation supercellin New Mexico

 

After punching through the core, we found ourself on further two supercell thunderstorms, both of which were severe warned and one showing signs of rotation. We had plenty of time to stop and take photographs as we chased their progression. The initial thunderstorm died off fairly quickly, but the second remained severe-warned and even tornado-warned for some time.  Their low-precipitation status and the setting sun made for some picturesque scenes and everyone's camera was snapping away to capture the perfect scene.

 

Spaceships over Roswell New Mexico

Spaceship near Roswell, New Mexico

 

Before long, it died down - coinciding with the setting of the sun. As the sun was dropping down the sky and across the horizon, it illuminated what was left of the storm, which happened to be a stunning display of mammatus clouds, the dying base of the LP supercell we had been watching, a distant anvil and, of course, the setting sun. This gave for a 360 degree view of just breathtaking scenary and has to be one of the most awe-inspiring sights I have  ever seen.

 

Mammatus at Sunset

Mammatus at Sunset

 

We finished the chase soon after as the supercell was dying out. As we were not far from Roswell, that is where we planned to crash for the night (The Rodeway Inn, Roswell, New Mexico). We had our meal at a bufflow wings place and then hit the hay. Tomorrow looks to be a down day after all, so it will be good to relax and not have to rush off to chase first thing. It has been a long 460+ miles of traveling today and we could all do with a break.

 

I hope to bring you updates tomorrow of our activities!

 

Jason