Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Quick chase forecast: April 29th

Heading out east after work today (3PM on the dot!) Hodos are good for supercells ... we have instability and moisture along the border. Enough to get me heading out anyway.

There seems to be a boundary draping out of SW Nebraska into Kit Carson County, Colorado. Winds converge from the north and south into a westerly direction along the boundary. I think this will be a good place for storms once we reach our convective temperature. The dryline isn't defined dramatically, but it exists, stretching south along the CO/KS border. This should slowly move south but the better moisture will back in in it's wake.

Also, I'm still trying to get photos/video done from this weekend. I'll have it up as soon as possible.

Monday, April 27, 2009

April 26 Chase Teaser

Full report by the end of the week ... just a couple quick video captures (I didn't shoot many stills)

Tornado #1, SW of Crawford, OK.

Tornado #2 (same storm)
East of Packsaddle, OK

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Heading home to Denver after successfully documenting mutiple tornadoes. =)
In Amarillo. Targetting Canadien, Texas and points northeastward for the day. Today could get... chaotic.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Successful chase... huge hail ... beautiful storms... dents in the hood... cracks in the wind shield... At Denny's in Elk City, OK... then back to Amarillo.
New cracks in the wind shield! Big hail!!!!
In Shamrock, Texas waiting for somethin' to pop.
Just got pulled over south of Stratford, Texas... was issued a warning... for going 2mph over. I must lool like a drug dealer or something.
Fueling up in Springfield, Colorado. Sun is shinin'.
Currently stuck (at a dead stop) in road construction, south of Lamar, Colorado. Oh, the humanity!!

Chase On - April 25th

I am awake!

... and should be heading out the door here shortly. Initial target: Shamrock, Texas

I've figured out how to do mobile updates on here, so I'll send a few blurbs throughout the course of the day.


This blog reached 10,000 views during the day on Friday!


It is my birthday. Think you guys could put together your chips and spring for a tornado for me? Thanks in advance.

That is all.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sat/Sun Chase Forecast & Feels Like Summer

My plan is as follows:
Leave Denver by 5AM on Saturday and reach target area which depending on the models will probably be in a polygon from Liberal, KS to Shamrock, TX to Clinton, OK. It looks like storms will fire ahead of the slowing cold front. Everything points to slow moving supercells with great low-level shear. This could be a hell of a day.

We'll be quartering in Amarillo on Saturday night.

Sunday looks like a TX panhandle dryline day. I'm not too interested in chasing what will probably be an ongoing pileup of convection leftover from the night before. Both the NAM and GFS are showing the dryline firing in the TX panhandle up into Kansas. The NAM keeps the dryline almost along the CO/KS border and initiates cells LATER the further north you go (obviously with heating) ... this could be a great "storm-hopping" trip home on Sunday. I have to be at work on Monday morning at 9AM, so I want to be well on my way home. If the NAM verifies, this should work out perfectly. The GFS is showing the convection further to the east in KS, but still keeping the trip home tolerable. Chances are, however, we will be getting into Denver early on Monday morning.

NAM CAPE forecasts for 6PM MDT SAT and SUN respectively. (0Z SUN, 0Z MON)


So, this evening, I met "the girls" (Katherine & Jami, my two old roomies) at Washington Park for a walk. It was a gorgeous day out ... temps were great and we had elevated showers all day long.

Elevated shower moves across the metro ... missed the rainbow by about ten seconds.

The lovely Katherine after the three of us enjoyed some Dairy Queen on South Broadway.

So! I'm not looking for sympathy congrats or anything, but Saturday is my birthday. Honestly, I can't imagine anywhere I'd rather be than under a big storm and if the forecast holds, I'll be right there. I'm VERY excited!!!


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lincoln/El Paso County Tornado Radar Grab (April 17)

Had a tornado warning here in Colorado on the 17th.


Took a screen grab of the nice couplet since it was close to KPUX.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Denver April 17th Snow Storm

Surprise, surprise, it snowed! It figures that we would have warm, dry weather all winter and a cold, wet spring. Funny how that works. Over the course of the day, I received about 8" of heavy, wet snow at my apartment (not an official measurement as I can't find my meter stick), with a short period of moderate rain and also some sleet. I also saw some of the biggest snowflakes I've ever seen. I called them dendrites, but in reality they were more like giant aggregate clumps of smaller crystal types. Looking closely at them (wish I would have taken a picture), they appeared be composed of several very small grauple caught in a web of more dendritic looking flakes. Anyway, it was an interesting day for sure.

The two closest observers to me reported 9" and 8.2" inches, so I'm happy with my 8" estimate.

Up in the mountains west of the city, some places saw almost 50" of snow!!!

Map from the local

A few photos that I captured:

Currently: 37ºF, light snow.

Friday, April 17, 2009

2009 Storm Chase V Brief - April 16th

Well ... so the saying goes: you win some, you lose some. So far this year, each of my four chases had ended quite well. Each one was special and exciting in its own way. This one, on the other hand, we're going to officially label a "bust".

I wasn't able to head out on the chase until work ended at 3PM, so needless to say I was a bit restless. I was excited to take my rig out for its first chase of the year, having carpooled with others up until now. The night before, I cleaned the inside out as well as I could (making sure the interior sides of the windows were spotless). I also installed some nice new windshield wipers.

At 3PM, I hit the road and got stuck in some traffic on I-225 (which was insanely annoying). The skies over Denver had been shrouded with drizzle all day long and I was looking forward to punching through into some sunshine. (the new wipers worked fantastic, by the way)

I picked up Adam Childers, new to Colorado, to bring him out on his first storm chase and we hit the road. Little did we know it, but the initial half hour of the drive would probably be counted as the best "storms" of the chase.

The visibility increased and soon the drizzle became larger drops. We passed through a couple brief showers and saw a lot of scud as the tiny cells with very low LCLs raced north-northwest. On a couple of occasions, we saw brief rotation in the clouds.

We caught up with Cameron and Scott and began to caravan along with them. Cameron pointed out some rotating scud ... and in hindsight, we should have stopped and filmed the crap out of it because it was the best thing we saw all day! We continued to Limon where we got a bit of data and collectively decided to head southeast on 287. We passed through Kit Carson and suddenly we were in strong easterly flow and FOG. This was not in my forecast. The easterly winds were stronger than forecast and pushed a very cold, stable airmass westward cutting off the area I had targetted. We suddenly found ourselves struggling to get back out of it.

A storm formed south of Lamar that showed some promise, so instead of heading west to the sunshine, we continued south. It turned out that it didn't matter anyway as nothing really happened to the west aside from weak thundershowers.

Our storm to the south died, leaving us almost at US50. We decided to head west and try and get out of the low clouds, but never really made much headway before sunset. Finally out, it was dark and everything calmed down quite a bit.

We stopped in Pueblo and had some dinner at Jorge's Sombrero. The food was actually really good (the much-needed Margarita even more so).

After dinner, we headed back up I-25, home. Did see one flash of lightning as we entered a sleet storm and by the time we reached the summit of Monument Pass, we were driving straight into the snow. It took a while, but I finally made it into Denver.

Earlier, we stopped briefly for no real reason other than to get out of the car. I took pictures of an irrigation ditch. That pretty much sums up the day.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gone Chasin' (April 16th)

Just a quick note to let you all I'll be chasing in Eastern Colorado on Thursday, April 16th. As I won't get out of the office until 3PM, I'm not going to officially make a target (though it would be Kit Carson, Colorado if I did). The plan is to pick up anyone heading out along the way and aim for the best show in town as I expect initiation to be at or before 3PM.

I'll be driving so I won't be able to send out as many updates, but there will be occasional ones on Facebook.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Instant Fame: The Storm Chasing Fantasy

I spoke with a young gentleman tonight about his desire to become a storm chaser:

[22:19] ****: I am determined to be on tat show (Storm Chasers)
[22:20] Dann Cianca: Why is that so important to you?
[22:24] ****: Ever since i was a little kid, I loved weather. Now seeing the show just made me realize that I want to be an idol to other young and to show people just how serious things could be and to show that todays inventions could be better for tomorrow's future
[22:24] ****: adults
[22:28] Dann Cianca: Well, you're going to need to get out and get a lot of experience before anyone even looks at you.
[22:29] ****: thats the plan
[22:30] Dann Cianca: How many times have you gone out chasing?
[22:30] ****: well i didnt go last year\
[22:31] ****: becuase the damn storm caused me to stay in school
[22:31] ****: 2 minutes and i could have chased
[22:31] ****: and that night there was another one
[22:34] Dann Cianca: So, none ...
[22:37] ****: yeah basically
[22:37] ****: all though i called 2 tornadic cells right on the dot
[22:40] Dann Cianca: What do you mean by "called"?
[22:41] ****: h/o
[22:43] ****: you know how like when you look on radar and say it is like west or east of a town?
[22:44] Dann Cianca: ...
[22:44] Dann Cianca: Yeah, I guess.
[22:46] ****: well like it was on may 22nd
[22:47] Dann Cianca: No offense, but I don't get what you're saying.
[22:47] ****: I went outside during one f the storms and like i noticed that the wind was shifting and the thunderstorm was really roaring aove( constant thunder). As I noticed that the winds were shifting I grew more and more concerned that there was going to be a tornado out east of town and down southeast
[22:48] ****: well tornadoes formed right ing those areas
[22:48] ****: and i didnt used radar
[22:48] ****: I listened
[22:48] Dann Cianca: You sound like you've watched Twister too many times. haha
[22:48] ****: yeah but thats how i know
[22:49] Dann Cianca: Let me give you some advice ... take it or leave it...
[22:49] ****: ok ill take it
[22:49] Dann Cianca: Never, under any circumstance ever tell anyone that again. No one will ever take you seriously and you will never bee on the Discovery Channel show: Storm Chasers.
[22:50] ****: ok
[22:51] Dann Cianca: If you have some sort of innate ability like that ... keep it to yourself. I've seen people claim stuff like that and they get torn down quick. Just an FYI.
[22:51] ****: ok got ya
[22:52] ****: and like I use radar whenever i am not outside to determine where it is at
[22:52] ****: or when i am in a car
[22:52] ****: even though i havent chased
[22:54] ****: Why would ** do something like that? I thought that is what hey wanted
[22:54] Dann Cianca: Huh?
[22:54] ****: like why would they tear somebody down taat knows that there is going to be a tornado
[22:55] Dann Cianca: Because what you say is not believable.
[22:57] ****: wow dude that sucks
[22:58] Dann Cianca: Just being honest. You really want people to believe you can hear a tornado?
[22:58] Dann Cianca: Let's think rationally here ...
[22:58] ****: no its not that
[22:58] ****: I just know when a tornado is forming
[22:59] ****: by listening to the thunderstorm
[23:01] Dann Cianca: Well, no offense, but that is not a believable story.
[23:01] Dann Cianca: You might as well tell me you shoot lasers from your eyes.
[23:02] Dann Cianca: I'm not trying to be mean ... just bein' straight with ya'.

I've been bombarded as of late by young ones on Facebook and elsewhere wanting to know about storm chasing. I'm by no means a "veteran plains chaser", but I try to help where I can. It's astounding to me, however, how "storm struck" many are with the characters on Storm Chasers. I'm not trying to lessen the abilities of those on the show by any means. It's just that there are people out there who like any celebrity are very, very caught up.

So, there exists a certain pressure or drive to have part of that pie. We see this commonly now with people who are chasing for their first year and are loaded with technology ... streaming their epic storm chases live on the interwebs.

(... and yes, I know I post chase updates on Facebook)

I guess what I'm trying to say here is we can turn our eyes away from these VERY impressionable people or we can set the best example possible for them. I'm not going to go to any individuals and tell them how they should or should not chase unless it directly effects me. Just something to think about ...


Wednesday, April 08, 2009


A clarification of my last post as I'm not firing off salvos of charged text.

I've come to realize that in the chaser community, there are many interpretations of the definition of a tornado. As a meteorologist, if I call something a tornado, I want proof of that. I don't want any doubt in my head. I'm looking for evidence that a tornadocyclone has come in contact with the ground. Seeing dust swirl under a base or wall cloud is not proof to me. If the wall cloud is rather low and the dust swirls are persistent, well that carries a little more weight. I'm not going to deny a dust swirl under a funnel cloud as being a tornado. I just want some connection ... some evidence that the swirl of dust is occurring because of a tornadocyclone that may not be visible.

Why is this important? Well, being as accurate as possible when reporting a tornado to the National Weather Service or local law enforcement is the best way to keep the warning process as honest as possible.

I'm sorry that my fueled post lead to such a backlash and that it caused accusations to fly against some people in the community. That was not my intention at all.

I was simply trying to bring attention to something I care deeply about.

I look forward to seeing some good tornados this year.

PS: Possible chase coming in West Texas on Saturday. As we approach the day, I'll try and throw up a forecast entry.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

I Saw A Tornado*

Maybe I'm out of place ... and if so, feel free to put me there, but there's something I need to get off my chest...

Before I moved to Colorado in 2004, I was completely unaware of the "social" aspect of storm chasing. Any chasing that I had done previously in southwestern Montana consisted of me driving outside of the city to intercept an incoming storm and by doing so, having a good view. Following a storm through the mountains is pretty much impossible. Though I spent a lot of time on the internet, all I really knew of the world of storm chasing came from watching television. The only chaser's name that I knew was Warren Faidley ... from his videos I saw on The Weather Channel.

So, over the last few years, I've slowly expanded my chase territory from the areas adjacent Denver to further out into Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. I've spent a lot of time online meeting other chasers (especially here on Storm Track for the last two years). Many of you I've come to respect for your passion and expertise. This goes the same for many chasers I've met locally in Colorado and whom I have befriended.

I can't help but feel a little disheartened this year, though. I know it hasn't been the most ideal year for tornadoes. Sure, there have been a lot of reports and some towns damaged, but it seems like most of the tornado reports here on Storm Track this year (including one which I made on the March 7th day) are of brief spin-ups or gustnadoes or I saw the funnel cloud but couldn't see the ground and I'm relying on someone else's report to of a "spin-up".

I let myself be convinced that what I saw on March 7th was "technically" a tornado, but I wasn't ever really comfortable with that. I've since retracted on this. It listened to others telling me what I saw was a tornado when I knew damn well it was just circumstantial evidence.

Then came March 23rd. We were on that same great supercell that everyone else was. It was like the storm was teasing us all day. We saw a gustnado while it was in Oklahoma and then that amazing wall cloud before it moved past Arkansas City, KS. There were many tornado reports on that storm ... all of them "brief spin-ups" ... well, and one photoshopped tornado later, but that's another pathetic story I'm not going to get into right now.

Thinking back, this year has not been good for photogenic tornadoes. I think the best I've seen is the Saint Jo, Texas one. Correct me if I'm wrong ... I'd love to see some nice, fully condensed ones from this year!

... it just seems like we're counting anything to get our numbers up. The way I look at it, if you see the funnel but can't see the ground (or any debris), YOU CAN'T SEE THE TORNADO. Maybe I'm wrong. If you were to just have your own eyes to go on, would you call in the feature as a funnel or a tornado? But where draw the line? What if you're just looking at the storm from afar ... and there's a tornado reported. Can you see the tornado? Is any dust swirl near the updraft a tornado?

I mean, I know it's tough with the lack of moisture this year ... "fully condensed" is hard to achieve. It's just hard when I see veteran chasers ...people that I really respect, counting anything and everything. I'm not making any specific accusations here and I'm not going to call the chaser police on anyone or tell anyone what they saw or didn't see is or is not a tornado (unless it is shamefully photoshopped) My point is, I think we should personally hold ourselves to higher standards. Arguably, the tornado is the biggest goal of *most* storm chasers. It should mean something. I've only seen one ... and it meant a lot to me. ... and I've been chasing since 1997 ... 53 storm chases, not a record many would be proud of. :) I just know that if I'm going to tell someone I've seen a tornado, I want to be able to show them documented proof. I'm not trying to sound elitist. I'll be the first to admit that I have a lot to learn about being out, chasing storms. Every time out, it seems like something surprises me and leaves me scratching my head.

There are a lot of [B]new[/B] chasers out there this year and they're looking up to some of you as examples of how to do things right. Just keep that in mind.

Next week: Multiple vortex tornadoes and multiple touchdowns from the same tornado cyclone ... count them one or twenty? haha

Friday, April 03, 2009

2009 Storm Chase IV Brief - March 23rd

*Click on any images for a larger view.
*Parenthetical times (4:25) denote a corresponding time in the accompanying video.

We woke up in Russell, Kansas (Thanks again to Verne Carlson for quartering us at Carlson Chase Base: Russell). The southerlies had been howling all night long and the morning was no exception. It was chilly, but moisture/wind chilly, not inverted dry chilly like Denver. The clouds outside were unreal and looked very turbulent. We hoped this was a good sign for the day. (0:01)

We wanted ample time to set up for the day, so we were soon on the road after a brief stop at McDonald's. Southbound out of Russell, we saw what could have been a good omen for the day: a horseshoe vortex

Our trip south to Medicine Lodge, which would be our target, was hampered only by high winds and the occasional renegade antenna, which Michael was repairing in the photo below.

From Medicine Lodge, we watched as cumulus struggled to develop. Just as soon as something would develop, it would quickly roll over and die. We had a couple "false starts" as this action happened. We stopped for a while southeast of Medicine Lodge and Verne flew his streaming model plane. (2:00)

Our next stop was north of Attica where we watched storms begin to fire. (time lapse at 2:59) We stayed here for quite a while, dodging sprinkles and dealing with the insane wind.

Kendell scans the western horizon.

Finally, a storm formed and headed right toward us. We were quick to intercept, but it was rather high based and not even really hailing yet. I only have one shot of the storm:

The popular decision was to leave this storm and head south to Oklahoma were more storms were firing. I wasn't in agreement with this decision, but I'm glad that's what we ended up doing. (time lapse of departing storm at 3:13)

So, we headed south. And it looked unstable ...

Finally, we crossed the Oklahoma border south of Caldwell, Kansas and we had us a storm. It wasn't even warned at this point (though I'd wager if it were in Colorado, it would already be tornado-warned). We decided to move east and south to get in better position. The roads sucked, however, being made out of large, sharp rocks as best I could tell. Finally, we were a good position to observe and saw an amazing sight. (3:27) I was in video mode for the next hour so and didn't get many stills. From a distance, they looked like twin funnels, but it is possible that it was just scud.

We repositioned again, further south as the storm approached and found ourselves almost directly under the wall cloud. (5:19) The base was pretty high, but there was some wicked rotation to it. Eventually, the RFD bulged out and was saw a nice gustnado. (7:11) I was trying to video this when Michael backed into me with the car. I shouldn't have been standing there!

Our train of vehicles (Michael, Kendell & myself; Verne; and The O'Keeffes) departed at this point (suddenly awash in other chasers) and headed straight east to I-35. We turned north to make some time on the storm which seemed to be picking up speed. (7:31).

After a brief trip into the edge of the core, we turned east onto US 166 and suddenly found ourselves in perfect position. (0:09 - second video) We stopped on a dirt road south of Ashton, Kansas and watched a nice wall cloud form up. (1:04) After sitting there for a while and filming, we continued east. Road options were tough and the storm was moving fast. We missed a paved road that would take us through Geuda Springs and subsequently over the Arkansas River and got stuck with the Arkansas City route. To our north, and incredible wall cloud was rotating rapidly. (4:09) At this point, there were tornado reports and the storm was FINALLY tornado-warned. We couldn't see the spin-ups as we had trees in the way, however.

We kind of lost it behind the trees and turned north on dirt to get a better view. It was there that we saw a nice cone funnel. But again, we couldn't really see the ground. (4:50).

When we got back on the highway so we could outflank it, the dust in the inflow was intense. We could hardly see it anymore. Then ... we got slowed down in Arkansas City. On the east side of town, we could now see the meso and it was pretty impressive. (5:07)

We had a pretty clear view from here and continued north. The wall cloud came into view again and we all thought it was a huge tornado. (5:20) As we got closer, though, we were less convinced. (5:40)

We missed a road due to me not paying attention and the general consensus was to head south and intercept the next storm in line. So, we fueled up in Arkansas City and headed south on US 77.

Near the state line, we stopped to look back at the storm we left. It was still looking pretty powerful.

But ... there was plenty of new convection happening down south. So, we drove east of Newkirk and got kind of hung up along Kaw Lake where the surrounding hills and hollows are rather jungle-esque. We did find a nice hill top to sit on for the next storm to move over. It wasn't quite as intense but it was still beautiful. (5:51)

After experiencing the outside of the core, we headed back to US 77 so we could blast south and intercept a newly warned cell southwest of Stillwater, Oklahoma. We ran into the O'Keeffes and also experienced a brief hail storm from a developing cell while in Ponca City.

As we continued south, the storm in front of us was absolutely gorgeous in the evening light.

Interesting cloud formations ...

We really weren't looking for tornadoes at this point. We were looking for big hail. On the radar, the indicators were showing 3.5" stones. We wanted some of that! ... so we punched. (7:03)

We saw maybe 1.25" max in the core ... less than expected. It was interesting to smell the shredded trees. The odor was very profound. We also saw a burnt-out car on the side of the road that was still smoking. There were emergency vehicles nearby as well. Not sure what happened there!

Once out of the core, we continued east and then north again, back into it but only saw rain. We stopped in the hail swath and goofed around for a while. It was cold when we got there, but the south winds immediately kicked up and it got very warm, very fast. That was kind of cool.

We were pretty tired at that point and the storms seemed to be winding down, so we left and headed back to Russell. We did get to drive through the squall line induced by the cold front overtaking the dryline north of Wichita. It was brief, but fun.

Eventually, we made it back to Russell where we talked to Tony a bit before hitting the sack. (We drove back to Denver in a caravan the next morning)

Chase stats:
Documented Tornadoes: 0
Largest Hail: 1.25"
Purposeful Storm Intercepts: 4
Mileage: 1610
Chase Partners: Michael Carlson, Kendell LaRoche