Monday, May 04, 2009

2009 Storm Chase VI Brief - Day Two - April 26th

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 ...


Chase Stats:
Mileage: 850
Tornadoes: 2
Largest Hail: None measured, maybe pea-sized.

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.

Lifetime Documented Tornado Count: 3



sknr31 said...

very nice!

Dann Cianca said...

Thanks Skinner! You going out this week? I'm losing confidence ...

Agitated Cu said...

Nothing compares to Neko Case and tornadic weather. Nice catches!

Dann Cianca said...

Indeed Christopher, thanks!!

sknr31 said...

confidence is merely a GVTH & zilch at the same time....

Pat Boomer said...

Beautiful stuff Dann
Really starting to get the shakes up here seeing all these nice storm shots.

Dann Cianca said...

Skinner: I have no idea what GVTH is ... best I can tell, it's a law firm in Malta.

Boomer: Sorry, don't mean to get you all worked up. Look forward to seeing your storms while we're under the death ridge this summer!

Terry said...

Gosh that was a beatiful storm, great catch, Dann.

Dann Cianca said...

Thanks Terry!