Quick back yard chase today ended up being a little longer than I had intended, but it paid off in the end with a great light show on the Palmer Divide after dark. The day didn't exactly go along with my forecast, but at this rate, I'm not going to complain.
Very awesome and coincidental to meet up with Cameron Redwine and Scott Landolt at Cedar Point while trying to view some lightning. It's a small chase world after all!
Strong storm firing just east of the Denver-Metro area.
Interesting updraft structure (south of Strasburg).
The Kiowa water tower with mammatus. Amazing shelf cloud (or possibly rotational structure) east of Matheson, Colorado.
Lightning fun north of Matheson.
And time to leave!
Thanks to Michael Carlson and Johnathan Skinner for nowcasting!!
Had a great little back yard chase today with Michael Carlson. My initial target was a my forecast convergence zone east of DIA. By the time we got out, convection was already firing on a boundary further east. Secondary target for the day was the Limon area as the vertical shear would be better. The convergence east of the airport wasn't that great, so we headed to Last Chance and then south to intercept some stronger cells. (first photo) We got on one that had been sitting for a while and mineswept the hailcore, finding mostly 1" stones. The rear-flank pushed them out hard, driving them in horizontally to the driver's side (Michael found a couple new dents ... from only 1" hail!) A way down the road, we found some bigger (1.25") that had already fallen. The storm also had a nice, tight circulation in the updraft (second photo). It soon died, though and we tried to intercept others, but the whole area lifted and we lost definitive cells. We pretty much called it a night at that point.
(Have video but no pics of the hail. Hopefully I'll get a better environment for working with the new camera)
Sigh. Got to love these days where you don't expect much and get rewarded. We were NOT on the severe warned cell in Hooker County. Instead, we were on a non-warned that moved along I-80. Most of these pictures were taken between Big Springs and Ogallala ...
Video captures of two "interesting features"
EDIT: After reviewing video, I believe the first video cap is a wall/funnel structure. There was rapid ascent and rotation associated with that feature. The storm achieved brief supercellular status as it encountered deeper directional shear once it moved out of the panhandle. The shear in this area favored rotating updrafts whereas the area previous favored a more linear structure. Unfortunately, the storm quickly gusted out and inhibited any strong backing inflow from continuing to exist.
The second feature I believe to be more of an outflow structure as it seemed to be on the north edge of a shelf cloud that began to form on the rear-flank gust front. There was still inflow present at the storm pivoting around that area where the structure is seen, but there was no discernible rotation evident in the video.
I will be doing some further analysis of the event, but I wanted to make this note. I'll put up a report eventually ... bed time! Have to be at work in six hours.
What do you mean you're posting an "account" of your storm chase to Kansas on the 29th? Didn't you bust?
Bust is such a subjective term. I saw some pretty clouds ... got some hail ... even if it was melted and pea-sized ... meanwhile, everyone and their mother saw a tornado in Texas and just out of our time-reach in the Garden City area ... oh well. I couldn't get off work until 3PM anyway, so we did the best we could.
Brief synopsis: Met with Cameron Redwine and we drive to Kansas to watch a storm pop as forecast on the dryline. The only problem was the surface moisture had all but mixed out, so the updraft was unable to sustain itself. It died quickly and we were left sitting under it, barely even wet. We did see a wild fire on the way in ... and the sunset was beautiful. So, how about some pictures and maybe a video/slideshow?
Notes:*Click on any images for a larger view.
Chase Stats: Mileage: 538 Largest hail: Pea-sized (0.25") Chase Partner: Cameron Redwine Other chasers encountered: Johnathan Skinner (Greeley, CO), Chris Allington (Omaha, NE)
Notes:*Click on any images for a larger view.*Parenthetical times (4:25) denote a corresponding time in the accompanying video.
The Crawford & Packsaddle Tornadoes
Woke up at Carlson Chase Base: Amarillo that morning (Thanks again Verne!) and were on the road a bit after 10:30AM CDT. My target was Canadian, Texas and along with my chase partner and we caravaned with the Carlsons up through that area. We did briefly penetrate some of the early convection east of Miami, Texas, but continued back to the northeast. NE of Canadian, Verne got pulled over (well, we both did since we were at the same speed and I was right behind him). I pulled over in front of Verne and the TSP officer came up to his vehicle. Next thing I know, we're being waved on. Verne calls and tells me that the officer saw he was a storm spoter and APOLOGIZED for pulling him over. To his credit, Verne did drive slower after that. After heading through the Lipscomb area, I decided to head east into Oklahoma and then get south. I didn't like the way things were looking up in the area.
Jason and Verne survey the sky under the huge mammatus field.
We headed south on US 283 toward Shattuck where we fueled up and intercepted a nice storm. The wall cloud looked great from our perspective, but I was worried we'd get lost in the FFD. We dropped south about a mile were we had a good few of the incoming storm. As soon had we set up our cameras, the wall cloud seemed to lose strength and the storm went into outflow-mode. We were literally watching a nice cloud and then suddenly were in the whale's mouth. It was a strange experience. (1:01 time lapse). We drove back into Shattuck and northeast on OK 15, hoping it would reorganize but all we witnessed were multiple RFD holes pushing out the gust front. (1:26). A cell on the flanking line seemed to organize, so we moved north of Shattuck to intercept. There, I had my first encounter with what could be described as "cake batter" roads. I just remember coming up over a hill on on the downside, starting to slide on the road. Looking further ahead, the road was covered in water. I knew I'd have to turn around, so I tried to find the widest, flattest place to do that. My rear-wheel drive Explorer was all over the place! When I tried to turn around, I got stuck. I tried to put it in four-wheel drive, but it wouldn't engage. Poor Jason started to get ready to get out and push. However, I put my Montana winter driving skills into place and slowly, in what could be described as a 100-point turn, getting periodically stuck, managed to right the vehicle, and rock myself out of any ruts that I had created. I eventually made slow progress back up the hill, though the Explorer was at a 45º angle! I drove all the way up the hill half-sideways ... but much to our mutal relief, I made it. So yeah, I finally get it ... "cake batter" roads ... it all makes sense now.
After that storm had passed, another formed to the south and we got south of Shattuck again. It had a fantastic wall cloud on it ... but wait. As it turns out, it was just scud. (2:11). We were both a bit frustrated and thinking it might be time to start heading home. The storms were all lined up and completely outflow dominant. We drove to Arnett where we were able to get some data. The storm on the far southern end of the line, while multicelluar in its radar representation, was the best show in town. It had the best air to work with. We resolved to intercept that storm and then make our way back north, hopefully making our drive home that night much shorter.
We ended up in the forward flank of the core heading south on US 283 just north of the Canadian River. I specifically remember driving through the Packsaddle Area and thinking that was a cool name. We didn't have a good view of the updraft until we crossed the river to the highway junction north of Roll. The wall cloud looked fantastic and was rotating quite a bit. I wasn't expecting much from this storm, so that was quite the surprise. We drove west on OK 33 and the closer we got, the better it looked. In fact, it almost appeared to funnel a couple of times, so I drove south on dirt and found a good vista where we could watch the wall cloud. (3:11)
We got out of the car and stood in awe as this thing organized. I was hypnotized as a funnel formed and it took me a good while to realize this storm was going to produce. Finally, it did ... right in front of us. (5:15) I was so hypnotized that I really wasn't really paying much attention to where I was filming and the result was some pretty poor videography. Oh well, live and learn.
I did manage to grab a couple of stills in the process as well, but as usual ... I think I could have done better.
After the tornado lifted (or at least lifted from our perspective), we got back up on OK 33 and then drove east back toward the junction. We ran into Verne there and I opened my window and did a nice "whoo" scream to him. That was pretty cool. I wanted to keep up with the wall cloud, however, so I continued north on US 283. There were a lot of chasers on the road at this point, (6:58) so traffic was a bit of a concern. I had to narrowly miss vehicles sticking out into the roadway or stopping suddenly ... and then of course, I stopped suddenly in front of Verne. Unfortunately, I'm not perfect either. We could see the main wall cloud was in tornado-mode at this point. It was skipping along the ground on the far side of the river and I suddenly had a doubt as to whether crossing the bridge would be a good idea. I didn't want to run out of road options. After surveying the scene for a minute or two, I figured it was safe to carry on. This was my first "big" tornado and it did cause some hesitation on my part.
*The rest of the chase is covered in the second video.
Once I realized we were going to be behind the tornado, I hurried. The RFD started to effect us and instead of finding a nice vista to watch the tornado, which was becoming quite large, from, I just kept driving toward it. There were tons of chasers on the far side of the river watching the storm but I didn't stop. I just kept filming and driving (which is hard to do). We continued east on Packsaddle Road though I was a little confused by other vehicles turning around but were later turned around ourselves by emergency management. At the time, I didn't see the tree damage or the trailer house that had been destroyed further down the road. I stopped and took one awful still and some more video.
The tornado was escaping quickly at this point and not wanting to drive north through the core, we elected to drop back south to Roll and then head east on OK47. I was driving pretty fast and stealing glances to the north, but was unable to see anything.
Eventually, we gave up chase and met with fellow Colorado chaser Cameron Redwine. We headed back west and also met up with Colorado chaser Johnathan Skinner. Another storm was already organizing in the wake of the previous, so hoping we'd find a sweet spot, we continued back west of Roll again.
From there, we saw a funnel cloud coming out of the high based-meso or just another updraft component. It's hard to see on video, but it's there. (5:45) The storm wasn't doing much, so we parked it and just hung out for a bit. It did try and oraganize again (7:07),
so we followed it east and north (7:53) back to the Packsaddle area. We did see a funnel cloud in the wall cloud before turning north, which I tried but failed to get on video. (7:42)
The storm lost strength, so we returned to the Packsaddle area and found out why we had been turned around earlier. Unfortunately, a trailer house had been hit. (5:15 - I put this earlier in the video to make sure the storyline flowed a bit more).
The next thought was steak. We figured the chances of finding a steak house would be better along I-40, so we headed south. More towers started going up along the dryline back into Texas and suddenly, heading south seemed like a longer, less necessary option. We turned around and headed west into Texas where we intercepted the line east of Canadian. (8:40) There wasn't much to speak of with the line other than a meso.
We continued on into Canadian with the hope of finding a place to eat and get some gas. We stopped on the way into town to take a couple photos of the eastward propagating convection. We found a big, dead rattlesnake there!
Finally, we found a steakhouse in "downtown" Canadian. We were lucky to arrive fifteen minutes before they closed and I had a delicious "large" ribeye and loaded baked potato. Oh, and the bread pudding was absolutely amazing. I would highly recommend!
Eventually, we were on our way home. Cameron in his car and Jason and myself in mine. I had a brief scare when I forgot my leftovers on the roof! Luckily, the half steak and potato lodged themselves under the luggage rack and I was able to retrieve them without problem.
We drove north through Perryton, TX, then over through Guymon, OK. I wanted to avoid the road construction south of Lamar, CO, so we drove north to Syracuse, KS and then west into Colorado. We did see a bit of lightning as there were some weak cells wrapped around the low in SE CO.
I dropped Jason off in Limon and then spent the next two hours in HEAVY SNOW at 2AM and all the way into Denver. I could have done without that extra treat ...
MAP: Chase Stats: DAY TWO: Mileage: 850 Tornadoes: 2 Largest Hail: None measured, maybe pea-sized.
CHASE VI TOTAL Mileage: 1731 Tornadoes: 2 Largest Hail: 2.0"
Finally, I must say that this was probably my favorite storm chase ever. Not only did I get to baptize the 'Sploder, but we saw two beautiful tornadoes. We didn't have GR in the vehicle and while Jason does have WXWORX, we didn't rely on it too much. It was a victory for me in that every other chase this year, I had been just along for the ride. This really felt like "my chase" ... and while Jason had some input, mostly my decisions. It was a very accomplishing feeling.
Notes: *Click on any images for a larger view. *Parenthetical times (4:25) denote a corresponding time in the accompanying video.
The official plan was to leave Denver early on Saturday, chase the big event, stay in Amarillo, and then possibly chase on Sunday too before heading home. Things didn't go quite according to plan ...
I was out the door by 5AM MDT on Saturday morning and picked up my chase partner Jason Burns in Limon, Colorado. We headed south on US 287 through the Oklahoma panhandle and into Texas. Just south of Stratford, Texas, I looked in the mirror and observed flashing red and blue. I pulled over immediately and waited for the officer to approach my vehicle. I had the cruise set at 72mph, so surely it couldn't be speed-related, right? Technically, I was speeding ...
The officer came to the window and told me I was going over the posted speed limit. I told him I had my cruise set "right about" the speed limit, which was technically true and then asked him to confirm that the limit was indeed 70mph. He then asked me a ton of questions about where I was from, what I was doing, where I was going, etc. I explained that I was heading down to Shamrock, Texas to study and document severe weather. He even asked me where I got my meteorology degree from. In the end, I was issued a warning and thanked him. Jason looked through the GPS log and found that I was going closer to 75mph, so my speedometer must be off.
We continued to Amarillo where we got lunch and then headed east on I-40. There were a few puffs of cumulus along the dryline which bisected the interstate near Boydston. We stopped in Jericho to have a look at things (2:48) and just hung out for a while. Nothing too spectacular was going on, so we continued east toward my initial target of Shamrock, Texas.
In Shamrock, I ran into Colorado storm chasers Sean Mullins and Jon Merage and we hung out for a bit in the Dairy Queen parking lot. Things suddenly started looking better to the northwest, so we got on the road, heading north toward Wheeler, Texas on US 83. I realized that I forgot to fuel up in Shamrock and though I wasn't running low, I thought it a good idea to fill up in Wheeler to set us up for later just in case. The storm was still getting going at this point, so we figured we okay.
We headed west out of Wheeler to Ranch Road 3182 and had a nice vista of the storm. The base was very high but held a broad, slow rotation. There was a bit of scud being pulled in (3:20) and I also witnessed a few gustnadoes in the inflow.
We got back going after a while and I also witnessed a pretty strong gustnado (3:24) right as we turned onto Ranch Road 1046 and started heading back to the east. We followed the storm as it tried to organize (3:36) to Allison and it really wasn't doing much, so I decided sampling the core might be a good idea. We continued north on RR2654 and started getting into the rear-flank core. It began to hail quarters and then it started getting larger. I thought I turned on my video camera, but somehow I did not, so missed the best part of the show. I turned into the hail as to not blow out the side windows as the stones were obviously larger than golf balls. I don't know what the official definition of "gorilla" hail is, but in my inexperienced opinion, I would call this gorilla hail! I first noticed a radial crack in the wind shield which subsequently spidered and was joined by a new one at the base of the wind shield. I wasn't even slightly upset about this ... I had been wanting to baptize my rig for a while now! I eventually realized I wasn't videoing and started to record (4:00), but most of the big stones had already fallen.
When they stopped (for the most part), I got out and grabbed some of the bigger ones. Most of the large stones were around 2" and maybe a few were a bit larger, but none moreso than 2.25". The stone I measured was only 2" but it had melted a bit.
At this point, I had already deemed the trip worth it and anything else that would happen would be a bonus. We headed back south toward Allison as we didn't want to get back into the core and completely destroy my wind shield. We continued into Oklahoma and watched as the storm began to organize.
We intercepted a wall cloud between Durham and Reydon, Oklahoma and it came pretty close to producing. (5:15, 5:35) Then, we followed the storm east again, dealing with the obstacle known as the Canadian River.
We stopped again north of Leedey, Oklahoma and adjusted a couple of times. I took a lot of pics and video here. (8:02-8:23)
We briefly ran into Tony Laubach here who was nice enough to serenade me with "Happy Birthday" before the Discovery crew had to continue on. We left after a bit and crossed the Canadian, right before the core. I continued east on paved, but curvy road along the north side of the river. I had a blast driving on the windy, wet road with the core of the storm nipping at our heels. THAT was fun. (Though I'm not sure how much Jason enjoyed it!) It reminded me of being younger in Montana and driving up the road to my grandparents' house in the mountains ... as fast as I could. I'd be lying if I said half of the fun I get from chasing wasn't actually driving.
Anyway, it started getting dark, but the golden color of the small amount of light peeking through was stunningly gorgeous. We stopped on a hilltop to take some pics/video (8:25) and ajusted a bit (8:28) for a better shot as the storm moved over. The mesocylone was beautiful in the light ... it was absolutely divine.
We gave up on the storm at this point and headed south toward I-40. Verne Carlson was allowing us to stay in Amarillo for the night and we wanted to get back. We did stop a bit to shoot some lightning, but much to my dismay, most of my shots were taken with ISO 800 ... oops.
We hit I-40 and stopped in Elk City for some dinner where we encountered (randomly) Colorado chasers Ryan Shepard, Johnathan Skinner, and Chris & Krista Yates. Eventually, we rolled into Amarillo at 2:00AM CDT and we were off to sleep, preparing for our "consolation day" on Sunday.
"Always Chasing" describes my desire to never stop pursuing my goals and dreams (pardon the cliché). There are always storms to chase and trails to explore. This blog is a repository of those adventures... pursuing severe/adverse weather, visiting new places and exploring the natural topography of my surroundings. It is an outlet for my amateur pursuit of photography with my point-and-shoot camera as well as a forum for discussing meteorological events. The name "Big Sky Convection" will remain, but I feel that "Always Chasing" more accurately describes my direction.