Sunday, December 8, 2013

2013...A Ray Of Light In A Dark Year

Stats for 2013

Chases- 5
States Chased In- TN, TX, OK, KS
Tornadoes- 3
Tornado Days- 2

Milestones For The Year- First time I saw tornadoes on consecutive days (5/18-19)  

**Brief Synopsis**

Like 2012 the 2013 season was a quiet one. There was a local outbreak of tornadoes from a QLCS system that moved through Middle Tennessee on the morning of January 30th that resulted in 24 confirmed tornadoes in the mid-state. There were several events that did affect the South (Adairville, Georgia 1/30, Hattiesburg, Mississippi 2/10) but I couldn't chase any of them due to work. Due to the lack of activity in the South I opted to skip on Dixie Alley chasing for 2013 and gamble on my 10 day chase vacation in May....the gamble paid off.

At first I was worried that there wouldn't be much of an opportunity for me to chase due to the fact that the 2013 season got off to a slow start on the Plains. Outside of a small outbreak of relatively weak bird fart tornadoes on April 17th in Southwest Oklahoma and North Texas it was quiet all the way up to the middle of May (around the time I took my trip). I honestly wasn't looking too forward to making the trip until May 11th when I read a tweet from Scott McPartland that mentioned the possibility of an active severe weather pattern during my first weekend out. As the week leading up to my trip progressed I began to get more excited as it looked as though the season was starting to crank up just in time for my return to the Plains.

I teamed up with Shane Adams and Bridget Geaughan during my trip; I got to chase with them in 2011 after an invitation they sent me on The Debris Show. I had a great time with them and I wanted to go chasing with them again. They're good company to be around, and Shane's old school techniques are always a benefit in this era of storm chasing in which those with the latest technology tend to have the most success.

**May 18th**

My signature chase to date. It was a Moderate Risk day with a 10% hatched tornado probability. When we arrived in our target area which was Greensburg, KS the town was already overran by other chasers. While in Greensburg we ran into my friend and occasional chase partner Wes Carter who himself was on a little vacation from work to chase the weekend setup. He ended up joining us on the chase as storms began to fire up on the dryline. We focused in on a weak looking but isolated cell west of town while ignoring a messy looking tornadic cell near Hays and several high based severe cells near the OK/KS line. We jumped on highway 183 as the cell was moving northeastward staying almost parallel to it. It got larger and stronger becoming severe warned taking on a supercelluar look as we approached the town of Kinsley. After filming several mid level shear funnels in Kinsley we stopped between Rozel and Sanford to setup shop while witnessing our storm merge with another nearby storm. The merger helped kick the storm into overdrive as it finally began to tap into the low level jet and a little after 7:20 PM the storm we tracked for over two hours dropped the most beautiful tornado I have ever seen.

It was on the ground for approximately 35 minutes thankfully missing Rozel. After the Rozel tornado dissipated we saw another tornado outside of Sanford. It stayed on the ground for about 20 minutes; the rope out is among the best I've ever seen. Getting to see this tornado with Shane, Bridget, and Wes made it hands down my dream chase.

**May 19th**

Another moderate risk day this time with a 15% hatched tornado risk. Our original target was Southeast Kansas around Independence, but the storms that day opted to fired up west of I-35. Our lone tornado of the day formed over an hour later near the town of Viola. It lasted roughly a minute before dissipating.

Two more tornadoes touched down from the supercell but we had to give up on it after it rapidly moved northeast cutting off our one road that allowed us to keep up with it. The day went downhill from there as none of the other storms we went after could produce anything before congealing into one big squall line. A frustrating day as we had to let go of a tornado producing supercell while being too far away from the big tornado producers in East Central Oklahoma.

**May 20th**

As frustrating as May 19th was the 20th was even more frustrating. Our target was Southern Oklahoma around the Ardmore area; we made a stop in Norman for lunch early that afternoon. Storms began to fire after 2 PM and we proceeded south hoping to get in position of one of the many rapidly firing supercells that day. We ended up missing the tornadoes near Marlow and Duncan; adding insult to injury was the fact that if we stuck around Norman a little bit longer than we did we could have made a play on the Moore EF5.

**May 21**

We did make an attempt to chase this day as yet another moderate risk was issued for areas south and east of the Metroplex. The chase ended south of Fort Worth after a non severe line of storms moved through the area.

This ended up being my last chase for 2013 as things had quieted down outside of a local severe event in the Texas Panhandle. The rest of the trip was spent chilling at Shane and Bridget's apartment taking in a little RnR. Towards the end of my trip we went to Oklahoma to attend a storm chaser picnic in Piedmont hosted by Rocky Rascovich. Later on that night we hung out with Scott McPartland, Dave Lewsion, Mark Robinson, and Jaclyn Whittal from The Weather Network (Canada's Weather Channel) in Norman for a night of beer, food, and just shooting the shit over chasing and several other topics.

Although this year I saw the fewest tornadoes out of my past two years in chasing this season for me was all about quality over quantity (Rozel was definitely a quality tornado). In what was a quiet year going by the number of tornadoes that touched down I was lucky enough to strike gold on a few of the chases I was able to participate in. 

**Personal Note**

As noted by the title of this blog this was a dark year in chasing. While there were beautiful photogenic tornadoes that did provide a ray of light to the chasers who were lucky enough to encounter them there were tornadoes that brought with it tragedy. Most notably the deaths of Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and Carl Young as a result of taking a direct hit by the 2.6 mile wide tornado that hit El Reno, Oklahoma on May 31st. 

May they Rest In Peace.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Future Website In The Works/Solo Chasing In The Future?

It's been over two months since my trip to the Plains that resulted in my signature tornado grab to date (Rozel, KS 5/18). Since I returned from my ten day chase vacation in North Texas I've gone back to my normal routine in between chases (work mostly although I have had time to unwind and party it up with my bosses and coworkers). During the little downtime I have had I've been busy getting everything together for a little project I'm looking forward to getting started on.

In the near future I'm going to get started on my creating my own little storm chasing website. Nothing too big just a website to share some of my weather photos I've accumulated over the past four years, chase logs, bio, and a live stream page (if I want to continue streaming) to name a few ideas off the top of my head. I planned on getting to work on my website in the next coming weeks however there's been a change of plans that has my money tied up for a little while, and quite frankly I don't mind the delay one bit.

I've been chasing for three years now, and those three years consisted of me riding either shotgun or in the backseat. I don't own a car nor do I have a driver's license (got a permit but was never able to get my license). Well my days of hitchhiking to a meso may be over soon; my friend and occasional chase partner Wes Carter is selling me his old chase vehicle. A 1996 Ford Taurus station wagon....I've rode in that car plenty of times in the past few years and I'm so excited he's offered to sell it to me. I'll have my own car which in turn will allow me to get my driver's license. I'll be able to chase on my own which is something I want to do.

I'll still chase with my chase partners every now and then (if they want me around), but for the most part I'll no longer have to chase around their schedule. Which hopefully will mean I'll get to chase more than the 3 or 4 times like I've been doing over the past two years. I'm also hoping my new found freedom will lead to more Rozels in 2014 and beyond.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Chase Log : 5/19/2013

Outlook: Moderate

Target Area: Southern Kansas/Northern Oklahoma

Chase Partners: Shane Adams, Bridget Geaughan, Wes Carter

Chasers Encountered: Andrew Revering, Randy Denzer, Verne Carlson, Chris Rozoff

Travel Time: Approximately 9 hours

Miles Traveled: 371 miles

Result: 1 tornado, several wall clouds

Personally I felt like I was on top of the world with the tornadoes we grabbed the day before, and when you're on top there's only one direction you can go....this would be the best way to describe our chase on May 19th. We spent the night in Great Bend after our 5/18 chase; we left shortly after 10:30 AM and headed south on I-35 towards Wichita where we stopped for lunch. At the time our thinking was south and east of Wichita somewhere around the KS/OK line as a starting point (Shane even at one point thought about heading towards Missouri to start out); the updated SPC outlooks still had Eastern Kansas as the primary target for severe weather.

We left Wichita around 1:30 and continued southward; shortly after passing a toll booth on the Kansas Turnpike we noticed towers firing up to our west (this setup like the day before was an MCS type system where if you see a storm fire you need to jump on it and hope it doesn't turn linear quickly, but unlike 5/18 the storm motions were a little faster which made this day complicating and somewhat frustrating). We proceeded west for about 18 miles before heading north on highway 49 towards Conway Springs. At that point the storm became severe warned; we stopped north of town to film the storm as it quickly intensified to a supercell. 

I noticed two areas of rotation at the base of this storm after grabbing a shot of this wall cloud. We couldn't picked a better spot to view this storm but because of the 40-45 mph movement we couldn't stick around very long (we also noticed a precipitation core to the southwest which gave us a clue that more storms were firing behind this one).

We watched the storm for a few more minutes before we headed north to stay with it; about 2-3 miles in Shane spotted a weak tornado that touched down to our northwest near the town of Viola. It only lasted about a minute but it was enough time for me to get video of it before it dissipated (My video of the tornado can be found at this link

It was a great start to the day but unfortunately the lone highlight of the day in regards to seeing a tornado. This storm would produce two more tornadoes at it moved northeast towards the Wichita Metropolitan Area but we had to give up on it because more storms were rapidly firing to our south and we didn't want to get in a situation where we would be stuck on the northern fringe of the southern cells (especially with a large tornado threatening Wichita).

At that point the remainder of our chase in Kansas consisted of trying to get in position to view an HP storm that came up from Oklahoma. The photo below is one of the HP storms we saw near Arkansas City.

We then proceeded south into Oklahoma to make a play on storms that were a little more on the isolated side. We stopped near the town of Newkirk as we saw one storm grow into a supercell. This storm showed promised; it had a nice wall cloud to it and we even saw some of the same motion we saw on the Rozel storm the day before as it was about to produce, but outflow from the storms further north hit it and it slowly died out.(Another 5-10 minutes it very well could have produced a tornado.)

Our last shot of the day was with this storm near Tonkawa that quickly went linear.

After that we called it a day and headed south towards Guthrie where we spent the night. I really can't complain too much about this day; it was the first time I saw tornadoes on consecutive days. It was very frustrating though to have to give up on the storm that gave us our lone tornado as it went on to produced two more defined tornadoes including a large tornado that threatened Wichita. It was also frustrating that the storms in our target area quickly became linear as it moved east of I-35 while the storm of the day was in Central Oklahoma around Shawnee (an area I really didn't pay that much attention to). Still though I did accomplish a first in those two days of chasing and so far I'm a perfect 3 for 3 on chases in the state of Kansas; a state known to have given many chasers headaches.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Chase Log: 5/18/2013

Outlook: Moderate

Target Area: West Central Kansas

Chase Partners: Shane Adams, Bridget Geaughan

Chasers Encountered: Wes Carter

Travel Time: Approximately 13 hours

Miles Traveled: 542 miles

Result: 2 tornadoes, multiple funnel clouds

My first full day of a 10 day chase vacation started off with a bang; we left North Richland Hills at around 8:30 that morning and proceeded northward on I-35 to OKC before hitting I-40 west towards El Reno and then hitting highway 281 toward our target area which was in the Pratt area as a starting point. We made it to Pratt at around 3:30 and hung around in town for about 45 minutes before heading west on US Highway 400/54 to Greensburg where there was already a chaser convergence in the city.

While we were in Greensburg Shane, Bridget, and I got to meet up with my friend and occasional chase partner Wes Carter. I would have never known Wes if it weren't for Shane and Bridge so this meet up was a significant one for me and one of many highlights of my trip (I've known Wes for about 3 years and during that time the one thing we haven't done was see a tornado together in person. I felt that the stars had aligned for the both of us that day).

Around 5:00 was when what would be the storm of the day fired up around Greensburg; it was the lone cell of what was an MCS mess that fired up in West Central Kansas that day.

It was moving NE at a snail's pace (only 20 mph) as it became severe warned; we headed north on highway 183 towards the town of Kinsley as these shots were taken.

As we stopped to set up shop we all started seeing shear funnels to the right of the base. (From this noob's prospective it was so fucking cool to see that ;-)~)

We headed NE towards the town of Sanford to reposition; shortly after 7 PM the fun began as the storm we followed for over an hour finally began to show us some love.

At 7:22 PM our first tornado of the day touched down near the town of Rozel; for the next 25 minutes we got to film from start to finish the entire life cycle of that tornado....this is hands down the best tornado I got to see and the first one I saw from start to finish. It was initially rated at EF2 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, but wind measurements from a Doppler On Wheels truck detected winds in the 165-185 mph range thus it was upgraded to an EF4.

We initially thought this was a separate tornado but after further review from the National Weather Service Office in Dodge City; they determined  that the tornado below was still the Rozel tornado as it began to rope out. We were about 7 or 8 miles away from this tornado. When it disappeared before roping we weren't able to see the ground circulation other chasers closer to the tornado saw.

After the Rozel tornado roped out another tornado touched down at around 8:00 PM near the town of Sanford....the rope out on this tornado is up there with Goldsby as the best I've seen.

A new tornado warning was issued on the storm but that point it turned into an MCS crap that signaled the end of our chase. We headed up to Great Bend for the night for food and beer to celebrate our epic chase day.

This was a chase I can tell stories about 20 years down the was after all the best chase I've ever been on.