MAY 21: Tue – Day 1 - Travel Day:
I left Bernville, PA at 1515 EDT with 11,217 miles on the odometer with plans to reach Kansas by the following afternoon. The set up was similar to that of 1999, with a slight risk of severe storms throughout the central part of the state. This time, however, I planned to be there in time to chase the storms. That would mean getting a room for only four hours sleep instead of the usual eight. After driving nearly 23 hours, I missed the Stockton tornado in 1999 by only 3 hours, and I wasn’t about to make the same mistake. My short and chilly stay on this night (temp’s in the 30’s) would be in Richmond, IN, a total of 522 miles from home.
MAY 22: Wed – Day 2 - “Sheriffnado” in Osborne County Kansas!
Well, at least the first day of my chase
vacation was not a bust, and I even got to witness my first Sheriffnado!
I was beginning to see the anvils from the stuff off to my SW when I noticed a funnel shaped lowering partially hidden by the trees on the SEV warned storm to my NW. I remember thinking that this could easily be mistaken for a tornado....and not 10 seconds later a TOR warning was put out for this storm based on a "law enforcement sighting"! At 7:04 PM CDT I filmed a couple of interesting funnel shape lowerings that reached almost to the ground while I was at the intersection of highway 24 and 281 just north of the town of Osborne. I later headed back east and got caught between the TOR warned storm that was now to my north and a rapidly developing HP to my SSW. After encountering some small hail and torrential rain I managed to get on the SE side of the tail end storm south of Osborne, but other than a few more interesting lowerings there was little to get excited about.
MAY 23: Thu – Day 3 –TX - Lipscomb County Spin Ups & The Pampa Beast:
We needed to decide on one of two target
regions today. Either the NE TX PH/W-OK area near the triple point or further
to the south west of CDS in an area of higher CAPE. During the early afternoon
we (Bill Reid, Blake Naftel, the Tempest gang and myself) hung out for a while
downloading data at the intersection of RT 270/412 & 283 just south of Laverne.
We were leaning toward our southern target area, but we could also see a line of
bubbling Cu just to the south, and closer to our northern target region. Either
way, we needed to get moving south.
Just north of Lipscomb we exited west onto a gravel road for a photo op. Rotation was becoming quite evident in a wall cloud to our NNW. At 5:04 PM the first tightly wound dark spin up became visible below this area of rotation and lasted for about 30 seconds. Within a minute or so another one formed a little further to the east of the first spin up. The dust whirls were highly contrasted, but never came close to visibly connecting with the rotation above. A couple more of these spin ups occurred after Matt Crowther, John Moore, and company arrived on the scene.
MAY 24: FRI – Day 4 – Western OK Supercells:
The Tempest Group and myself left Pampa as the surging cold front blasted
through just after lunch. We initially targeted Wheeler, TX, but along the way
numerous data downloads told us we would need to go further east. The north
winds finally abated about half way between Mobeetie, TX and Wheeler...AND, I
recorded an almost instantaneous temperature increase at the wind shift line
from 77 to 85!
We settled for a very pretty mammatus show at sunset just to the north of Hobart. Ended the day in OKC with 326 miles logged.
MAY 25: Sat – Day 5 – Preparation Day:
No storms today, and that was a good thing since I would need all day to get ready for my stint as the Tour Director for Tour # 3 with Tempest Tours. I spent the day in OKC switching over my gear to the TT Van, getting the Van cleaned up, oil changed, etc. Some guests had already arrived, and I would need to spend some time with my drivers (Dean & Kinney) as well.
MAY 26: Sun – Day 6 –TT Orientation Day Chase:
Dean Cosgrove, Kinney Adams, and myself
decided to take the new Tempest Tours guests on a "shake down" chase to NW OK
from our base in OKC. We would need to return to OKC, so this was the closest
best target area we could reasonable reach. Dean and I also liked the moisture
convergence and decent SE surface flow occurring in this region.
MAY 27: Mon (MD) - Day 7 - (TT Day 1) - TX PH - Crosby County Beauty!:
Today we led the Tempest Tour group on a guided tour of Supercells in the central TX PH from Armstrong County south to Crosby County. Our original target was somewhere west of CDS, possibly as far west as Plainview. We cut south on Highway 70 just as the first storms developed directly to our west around 2:30 PM, and quickly intercepted the first SEV warned storm coming out of Armstrong County.
We had a clear view to the SW of a nicely developed wall cloud with funnel shapes below. The orange backlighting below the storm base offered excellent contrast while viewing the storm from Rt 287 near Ashtola. We again went south on 70 to get in front of this storm, but it soon weakened as a better looking storm on radar beckoned to our SSW in Swisher County.
MAY 28: Tue – Day 8 - (TT Day 2) Pecos County Supercell:
long day. The Tempest gang, Bill Reid, Curt Kaplan, and myself left ABI by 1:00
PM targeting a region somewhere along an obvious OFB that stretched west to east
across Ector, Midland, and Glasscock County. We wanted to get a little south of
this boundary for an intercept on any SE moving severe cells. A data stop at
the Sterling City Library (a nice friendly place) told us we needed to get
further west soon. A line of enhanced Cu was evident just ahead of the DL from
southern Winkler County south to the Glass Mountains.
At 2400 we cut SW in front of the storm. At this time I glanced in the side view mirror...what a chaser caravan this storm had attracted, it looked like every known chaser in the western hemisphere had been drawn to this beast. In fact, the last radar scan I looked at indicated it was THE storm of the day for TX! We called it quits on 285 north about 50 miles south of FST. I figured we would have a nice front lit structure view when we got north of the storm, but "oh my god"...what a beauty!!! The powerful updraft towers ranged from white to gray, blue, purple, yellow, and pink, with a spectacular CG thrown in from time to time for good measure. We lingered till long after dusk filming lightning in the form of "bulbers", multi-stroke CG's, CC's, and probably a couple of CA's. For those structure freaks that were there, you know what I mean. We lodged in FST for the night dog a-- tired, but content! Three great days for the Tempest Tour folks, one day in a SEV watch box, and two in a TOR watch box plus plenty of great structure. 389 miles logged.
MAY 29: Wed - Day 9 - (TT Day 3): Fort Stockton to Big Bend Scenics:
Wednesday we took the Tempest Tours Gang south from FST down to the Big Bend Ntl Park. We met with Al Moller a couple of times along the way, who inspired us all with his knowledge concerning the interaction of the local geography and weather.
We were hoping for a photogenic supercell to go along with the fantastic scenery in the park, but only a few weak and short lived storms materialized. However, the natural beauty of the area seemed to fill everyone's photographic needs for the day. We did catch the back end of another weak complex of storms back near FST and briefly intercepted a SEV warned storm after dark, so the day was not without storms. 363 miles traveled.
MAY 30: Thu – Day 10 - (TT Day 4) The “Tumbleweednado” Chase:
Thursday was a travel day north in order to get in position for the weekend. We quickly went into "chase mode" when the gang spotted a very large dust devil near Tulia, TX. A quick intercept was plotted with GPS along a nearby dirt road...but "where'd it go"! Suddenly it reappeared on the other side of the road as a large "tumbleweednado", then wrapped up into another large and tightly wrapped dust whirl with the dust tube extending a few hundred feet in the air. What a blast!! We next plotted a course to the Big Texan and to celebrate with the traditional steak dinner :-). Total miles today: 508
MAY 31: Fri – Day 11 - (TT Day 5) Positioning Day:
Friday (today) was another travel day north. We were also hoping for a little late day activity in the SW NE region, but things never came together. We stayed in Ogallala for the night with hopes of scoring on Saturday in NW NE/NE WY. 349 miles logged.
JUN 1: Sat – Day 12 - (TT Day 6) North Moving Storms in SW Nebraska:
Today the Tempest tour gang targeted extreme
NW NE into EC WY, mainly north of Route 20 from CDR to Lusk. I wanted to stay
as close to the Theta-E ridge axis and best upper level support as possible. I
also liked the strong easterly surface flow into this region that would aid in
moisture advection and the low level shear. We hung out just north of Lusk
until early afternoon frustrated by the junkus anvil debris drifting eastward
off the Laramie range. We watched a severe warned cell on radar well off to our
NW, but decided to stick with our target region a bit longer. Even though a SEV
watch box was issued for our area, I didn't feel very good about it and started
thinking about heading further south and east ahead of the LP system near the
Tri-State area of NE/CO/WY. An MCD followed quickly by a SEV watch box was
issued further to my east in NE, which was I needed to get moving.
I couldn't see any point in trying to get in front (the north side) of this
scary looking northward moving line, nor position myself in back of it for that
matter. I then found a couple of new discreet cells on radar further to our SE
lined up N-S in eastern Cheyenne County. The best looking one was just NE of
Sidney and it was another NNE moving cell. What was going on here? Was it the
"dry punch" coming in from the SW or were the storms feeding into some
"backwards" inflow coming in from the NE? Either way, it looked like we would
intercept the core of the first storm in Lisco on Highway 26 mid-way between BFF
and Ogallala. Again, the CG's were intense and heavily beaded in appearance.
We cut through the core with caution and then stopped for a photo op (from
inside the vehicles) near Oshkosh. This was one of the most remarkable CG
displays I have ever witnessed. Once again we had very long and wavy CG's that
very slowly ended as segmented beads, some of these were like nothing I've ever
seen, especially so close. Dean Cosgrove commented that it was among his top
five displays ever! As an extra bonus, Dean's van was facing back east
(opposite of ours) and he captured some sort of "shear funnel" highly contrasted
by the IC lightning.
Two SEV watch boxes and two SEV warned storms ended the two day "storm draught" for the guests. We ended up back in Ogallala for the night (Saturday evening) after logging 465 miles for the day.
JUN 2: Sun – Day 13 (TT Day 7) Northeast Nebraska Bust:
On Sunday (6/2) we drove across NE from Ogallala to Norfolk expecting to see tornadic supercells. The day held big promise…that is if the ETA's progged 15 C 700 mb CAP could be broken. It couldn't and we hung out with Martin Lisius, Bill Reid, Keith Brown and others near sunset under some flat and boring cloud that grabbed everyone's attention. 357 miles logged.
JUN 3: Mon – Day 14 - (TT Day 8) “ Colorado or Bust”:
Bust it was! I targeted an area in extreme west central Kansas and into the plains of eastern CO that had a high potential to produce very photogenic supercells by late afternoon. On Monday (6/3) Martin felt we had a day filled with the potential for tornadic storms in NC KS...IF the CAP could be broken. It couldn't, and the only towers we saw were firmly planted in the soil around CNK. We made a futile attempt at the end of the day trying to intercept convective development in SW KS near DDC.” 465 miles that produced nothing!
While studying data during the late afternoon at the local library in Concordia, KS I could see the opportunity we lost. Satellite imagery indicated there were several fully developed and isolated supercells hanging out in eastern CO. The pain…the pain.
JUN 4: Tue – Day 15 - (TT Day 9) TX Panhandle Supercells:
After two bust days, the Tempest gang was ready to see some real storms, and they were not disappointed! Today (6/4) we left DDC targeting an area from PVW to Littlefield to Levelland. An easy pick with all the ingredients coming together over the C/S PH...a deepening low NW of LBB, DL along the TX/NM border, strong divergent flow at 250 mb, a speed max at 500 mb, good SE and easterly SFC flow bringing in good moisture. We just needed to watch SFC and SAT data and stay ahead of the CF near the triple point. We encountered a big messy storm on our way south as we entered Hale County on I-27. We needed to get to the south end of this elongated NE/SW convection but would need to navigate around lane closures due to flooding and stalled vehicles near Hale Center. Fortunately, the main core had passed just to our east. We could see a big vertical CB to our NW near Clovis and a highly sheared LP just to our west. The linear stuff weakened and separated from the main core to our ENE that rapidly intensified as it moved into Floyd County.
We headed east on highway 54 from Abernathy
and watched new development just off to our SSW. There was no way we were going
to catch the big messy HP beast to our NE near Matador since it was moving away
from us a 30 MPH. We opted to get
We had a great photo op just north of highway 82 somewhere between Lorenzo and Idalou. The circular cloud base nearly extended from horizon to horizon in front of a couple of large flared shaped lowerings. The massive updraft towers were blue/gray and green...what a beauty! The center of the storm was dry and revealed a golden/orange sky below to our west. This was punctuated by a few nice CG's and highly contrasted dust plumes that rose back up to the cloud base level. Precip began to fill in from the north and south edges of the storm, but it looked like we had plenty of time to go a bit north than east...WRONG! Suddenly the storm intensified and filled in with heavy rain and a few large hail stones began to bang onto our vehicles. It looked safer south, so we turned around and went back south to highway 82, then blasted east to the first available covered protection to wait things out.
JUN 5: Wed - Day 16 - (TT Day 10) Final Tour Day:
The guests elected to ignore the slight risk of severe today, which would have required a marathon all night drive back to OKC by late evening. The guests were satisfied, and welcomed a relaxing day and drive back to the base city prior to their departure back home. 326 easy miles driven back to Oklahoma City from Plainview, Texas.
JUN 6: Thu – Day 17 – Nebraska (Surprise) Severe:
I finished my duties as TD for Tempest
Tour's # 3 today and decided to head
north to NE by day's end, and (hopefully) be in a good position for Friday. On
Wednesday, we blew off the slight risk of SEV in the Stockton Plateau since
the guests needed to be back to our base city in OKC by THU morning.
Everyone was well satisfied with the awesome show near LBB on Tuesday, and I
didn't want to spoil their final day with a possible bust and l-o-n-g drive.
JUN 7: Fri – Day 18 – Nebraska Storm Fest:
I reached my target area near Yankton, SD by
early afternoon, but was
disappointed to find the area socked in with lots of mid level clouds. SAT
images indicated the clouds stretched from SE SD to near SW NE along the
frontal boundary. I was tempted to head back to the clear skies to my
south, but I liked the higher CAPE and moisture pooling right where I was.
An MCD was soon followed by a SEV watch box that included parts of SE SD
and NE NE. I was sitting at a high point near Crofton when one of the first SEV warnings was issued for a storm just to my west in Knox County.
I was able to film some rain shafts & CG's as this storm moved off to my
NW...but overall the storm was a dud and the SEV was soon cancelled. There
were now a couple of decent looking storms on radar showing up in Holt
county to my west, so I plotted an intercept course somewhere along highway
14 south into Antelope County.
Another radar download indicated storms where initiating further and further west in central and NC NE. I spent the next couple of hours driving through or near high based storms on my way west towards Valentine. It was fun filming the approaching storm, then stop further west and capture the brightly lit towers back to my east. One storm really got cranking when I was shooting slides and video back to my east near Atkinson. Nice colorful towers leading up to a circular anvil and mammatus, all set off by a small herd of cows that gathered in the immediate foreground. I thanked them for adding a sense of scale…then headed west again. From Ainsworth to Valentine I was treated to one of the best displays of Anvil Zits I've ever seen...almost continuous activity. I stayed in VTN for the night...probably along with a lot of other chasers thinking the same thoughts concerning Saturday.
JUN 8: Sat – Day 19 - SE Montana Chase:
Over 500 miles were driven today with not much to show for the
The area a bit north and west from Belle Fourche, SD looked like the place
to be..yesserie, a big day with big promise!
JUN 9: Sun – Day 20 North Dakota Bust:
This day really hurt. I was betting on the promise of what could be a really BIG day…maybe even one with strong to violent tornadoes somewhere in central ND. I had already stayed two days longer than I was supposed to, and would have to pay the price with another one of my marathon drives straight home at the end of a long and tiring chase day. The CAP held and once again squelched any chance of storms. I ate a burger along with the new Tempest Tour group (their first day), then mentally prepared myself the best I could for the long and boring drive home. It was nearly 10 PM local time and it was just getting dark.
JUN 10: Mon – Day 21 Blast Home Day:
The entire day (and previous night) was spent driving towards home. I finally arrived back in Berks County shortly before 2 AM Tuesday morning (June 11) after a grueling 27 hour, 1656 mile marathon drive. Not my record, but who’s counting…it’s a price I was willing to pay in order to squeeze out just one more chase day, or two!
Total Miles Logged w/Tempest Tours: 4622
Total Miles Logged on my Own: 5389
Total Miles Logged: 10,011
Average Miles per Day: 476
Total Days on the Road: 21
Total Days in Chase Mode: 16
Total Days Severe Storms Intercepted: 12 (6 w/Tempest Tour #3)
Average Time to bed: 2:00 AM
Highest Gas Price Paid: $1.46 Belle Fourche, SD