Sunday, March 27, 2011

Welcome To The Jungle!!!!!! 3/26/2011 Storm Chase

Greetings from the Boro,

Yesterday was my first real chase (to me a real chase is chasing outside the state of Tennessee) and the end result was a score that will bring forth some discussion in the chase community....the following is a synopsis of yesterday's chase:

Drew Gardonia and I left Murfreesboro around 7:30 AM, we targeted Northern Mississippi around the Tupelo area banking on supercell development with CAPE readings over 2000 J/Kg. Models suggested storm development between the hours of 3-10 PM we arrived into Mississippi around Noon after going through Alabama, we stopped in New Albany, MS just outside of Tupelo and the atmosphere did not look too promising as far as storm development went. After stopping for gas and a restroom break we pulled into a local Pizza Hut for lunch and to look over the models, at the time the air temperature in New Albany was in the low to mid 50s and overcast with intermittent rain. At the time we were eating lunch the SPC upgraded the slight risk area to a moderate risk and a tornado watch had been issued for Central Alabama, Drew called up Wes Carter (a chaser from Manchester, TN about 35 miles SE of the Boro and one of the many awesome chasers in the chase community I've had the honor of meeting either in person or in the chatrooms) who was targeting the Tuscaloosa, AL area, he was telling Drew about storms firing up in the watch area about 100 miles away and that Central Alabama around Tuscaloosa and Birmingham looked prime for tornado development. We were in a bind at that moment the atmosphere around Northern Mississippi was just too stable for any supercell development and it looked like taking our chances there would result in a bust, I called up Jim Sellars (Papa Jim) a 30 plus year vet who was kind enough to give out his number on FB for nowcasts and he recommended Drew and I try to get back into Alabama towards the watch area as the warm front had already went through. After a brief conversation with Drew we decided that our best chance was to meet up with Wes in Central Alabama.

It was a two hour drive back towards the northern edge of the watch area, but we left New Albany around 1:00 and it was still early enough for storm development. We got back into Alabama and around 3:00 we were in bird sight of a cell that would be tornado warned, we were in Lamar County, AL at the time the warning was for Eastern Fayette and Southern Walker Counties. This was a shot of that tornado warned cell as we were moving southeastward on Highway 78 near Carbon Hill.
We couldn't catch up with the storm in time however we stuck around Walker County as a new cell formed near Jasper. The storm never had a warning for it but radar showed the storm forming a hook, Drew and I pulled off the road to get a better view of the storm and were treated to a nice looking structure on the even had a rain free base to it
I was too far away but I did notice some weak rotation in the storm and I believe I even saw a couple of small needle funnels after looking over the video I took. After the storm weakened we came up with a gameplan on the next storm to intercept. It didn't look good as all the action at the time was further east and Drew and I did not want to play catch me if you can with the storms east of us. We were about to call it a day when Drew got a hold of Wes, he informed us about a cell that developed South of Birmingham in a favorable environment about 35 miles away and it could be the storm of the day. The thought of abandoning a chase close by does not sit well with me, Drew asked me if I wanted to go for it my answer was OH YEAH!!!!!!!! it wasn't even 4:00 yet and we thought about turning around and heading back to M'boro at the time.

We headed southbound on I-65 through Birmingham when we got a good view of the growing storm.

We just entered Shelby County around 4:10 when the storm became tornado warned, one funnel cloud had already been reported with this storm and it kept growing (this cell was isolated). We got off exit 228 in the small town of Calera about 25 miles South of Birmingham when we met up with Wes, we pull over outside a hotel off the exit were we setup. Here's some photos of a giant wall cloud west of the interstate, it even had a nice looking tail cloud to it

We went after the storm after it passed over us, Wes was ahead of us we followed him through a somewhat curvy road looking for the faintest sign of a funnel. We were just SE of Calera when we pulled over with these photos
This next photo is gonna create some debate, after consulting several chasers they told me I got a tornado. Just looking at this photo makes you have to say this is more than just a funnel.......

however I know the rule of the game unless there's confirmation from the NWS via LSR or comparing chaser reports (there were other chasers in that area including Andy Gabrielson, Dick McGowan, and Jesse Risley) from what I heard Andy G did see a tornado yesterday but I don't know if it's from this storm and this occurred in an area were a storm survey would be next to impossible. Until I get confirmation I'm calling this one a "possible" tornado "definite" funnel cloud as there was confirmation of a funnel SE of Calera. This is what makes chasing in the jungle frustrating at times you could have a monster wedge on the ground but if trees and large hills obscure your view you're clueless unless you see debris flying in the air. We were so clueless we left the area before it had a chance to move over for us to get a better view. We lost the storm as it move eastward into an area with the only road to get us to it was a dirt road up a mountain (no thank you). As the storm moved away from us we got some nice photos of the supercell over a large hill
We got back on 65 heading north towards Huntsville as more storms were forming to the west on the AL/MS line, caught this shelf cloud as we were heading up towards Lawrence County
The storm in Lawrence County never did go severe although it was fun to end the chase with nickel size hail and strong winds. We called it a night afterwards we stopped in Athens, AL before making our trip back up to Murfreesboro. We got home a little before 9:30 it would've been sooner but I had to stop at Krogers to grab a six-pack of Guinness to celebrate a successful day.

We were on the road for 14 hours traveled over 700 miles and went through two and a half tanks of gas, in all we saw one rotating wall cloud, one funnel cloud that could be a tornado, and some nice storm structures. Not bad for my first real chase if I say so.

UPDATE: The National Weather Service office in Birmingham confirmed an EF1 Tornado in Southern Shelby County near where Drew, Wes, and I setup.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Long Time No See......

Greetings from the Boro,

Ok so it's been almost 4 months since I've done a blog (damn time flies) so I'll let you in on what's been going on in my life during that time period. First off I joined ChaserTV a DAMN HELL ASS AWESOME streaming service, got some new equipment, been on one chase (my work schedule limits me on chase opportunities), and I will be chasing in the Plains during the last week of May (date TBD). That's just a sampling of what's been going on some good some bad; it may seem short and sweet but I'm a guy that doesn't spill my guts out about every nook and crannie of my everyday life (it ain't that interesting to begin with just a steady diet of work and sleep with the occasional booze and drama).

Right now my mindset is the young severe weather season that is in progress right now in Jungle (Dixie Alley) and after a winter of bitter cold and non stop rain or snow, it's got the making of one very interesting March through Early May. This winter reminds me of my first winter in the Boro; the sun was out maybe ten days during that season most of the time it was cold, overcast, and dreary (a SAD patient's worse nightmare). There was even one snowstorm that affected Middle Tennessee during that winter which also brought forth an EPIC ice-storm to Southern Middle Tennessee that knocked out power in some parts of the area for over a week. When Spring came around in '09 there was plenty of severe weather across the area including an EF1 that hit the Boro on March 28th that actually came within 200 yards from my apartment complex (I was back in my hometown visiting family I missed that tornado). Then two weeks later I made the score of my life with the EF4 that hit on Good Friday (I'll get deeper into that day with a special blog I'll be doing on the two year anniversary).

So this is the Meteorlogical start of Spring and already there's been some severe weather and a lot of flooding, but this season as I stated earlier is young and in the coming weeks there's going to be a shit ton of action in the Mid South. We could even see another Good Friday event in or around the Boro or in some part of the Nashville Metro Area (no I'm not a Meteorologist but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night ;)). Who knows what this season brings but I'll be ready and I sure as hell will not wait another 4 months to do another blog in other words I've crawled out of the rock I've been living in and I'm ready for Spring and a promising one at seeing another tornado.