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.