2007 Chase Summaries

May 4, 2007  -  May 31, 2007

Brian A. Morganti

MAY 4, 2007:    Fri - Day 1 - Osborne County, KS:

I met up with Dave Hoadley, Bill Reid and the TT group near my original target city of Scott City before heading farther east.  We figured the CAP would hold in our target area until after sunset so we continued our way east and north.  We reached Ellis along I-70 around 7pm and after reviewing data it became apparent that the growing Cu field to our NNE would be our best hope for finding a storm before sunset.  By the time we reached Stockton we had a nice Cb to target off to our NE.

We soon caught up with the base along highway 24 as a nice RFD slot began to cut in from the west.  There was plenty of cascading motion in the cloud base near the RFD slot, but no wall cloud.  The RFD area dramatically increased in size and the show was basically tornado.  We stayed with the storm until after sunset then briefly targeted a tornado warned storm off to our west before heading to Smith Center for the night.  A fun day for the first chase day even without the tornado. Later that evening and well after nightfall (9:45pm CDT) Greensburg, KS was devastated by an EF-5 tornado, the strongest recorded in 8 years.  334miles.


MAY 5, 2007:  Sat - Day 2 - Central KS:

A high-risk day with plenty of PDS tornado watch boxes, but also yielding many challenges.  We started the day in NC KS and  immediately headed west towards building convection within a tornado watch box.  Those storms rocketed off to our north and we decided to head back east where better CAPE and backed winds were analyzed. We stuck with that area for several hours while we watched numerous linear storms firing along the Dryline back to our SW.  With time a few of these cells became more discrete and we needed to make a decision to either head south or stick with our target along the NE/KS border.  The storms to the south won out and along the way we started to hear tornado reports coming out of the St John area (south of Great Bend).  We eventually (7:00pm) made it to the lead tornadic storm that was moving from Great Bend to Ellsworth, but we were not able to see any tornadoes due to poor visibility and road options.  We then targeted other storms with tornado reports just to our south in hopes of seeing a tornado backlit by lightning, but no success.  I guess our biggest mistake today was to hang north for too long. Overall, a rather frustrating day that finished up in Hutchinson.  464miles.

MAY 6, 2007:  Sun - Day 3 - Western OK DL Mess:

Another day with big potential that ended up rather frustrating. Today we decided to play farther south along the DL in hopes of finding a more isolated "tail-end" storm. We briefly thought about targeting the Woodward tornado warned storm to our west, but feared it would be heading north into the rain cooled air. Besides, we had already decided not to play the boundary and instead head for warmer air to our south along the DL. Near Vici we watched what was rapidly becoming a nearly unbroken line of storms to our west and southwest. We then continued south via 34 occasionally jogging west for a closer look at severe warned storm cells to our west, but nothing we saw made us want to hang around very long. By the time we approached what had been the best looking cell on radar west of Mangum it too had become outflow dominate...what a mess!  We then headed west toward Hollis to take some sunset pictures from the old bridge over the river with new convection going up to our immediate west. These too didn't stand a chance, but at least it gave us something semi-interesting to watch in the fading light. Stayed in CDS with thoughts of heading south or southwest tomorrow. 394 miles.

MAY 7, 2007:  Mon - Day 4 - SW TX Slight Risk: 

Our experience today was somewhat similar to Jeff's. We also started out in CDS and traveled down highway 83 passing through towns that brought back fond memories. At SWW we continued south on highway 163 with thoughts of targeting the tail end of a broad area of convection that stretched from the southern Stockton Plateau northeast to SJT. Just north of Ozona we passed through a weakening cell that was spitting out a bunch of close CG's, while another cell to our west was also in the final death throws. We then had to make a decision to continue south towards the big CAPE area between DRT and Eagle Pass or continue towards the second high CAPE area (our original target) closer to the Big Bend region. SW TX now had an MD in effect while the area east and south of DRT had a tornado box for the storms moving NE from Mexico. Logistics and storm movement kept us moving to the SW. Brewster County was now under a SEV warning for new storms moving up from Mexico, and these were the ones we were hoping to intercept.

We hung out at the old general store in Dryden and then proceeded west towards Sanderson hoping for new convective development. We were somewhat encouraged when a tornado watch box was issued for SW TX centered on Alpine, but the heavy overcast from distant and left over convection did not look promising. Worse, the storms moving north from Mexico into Brewster County were beginning to fall apart!  So here we ended up in Alpine, TX with another 500 miles on the odometer, and little else.

MAY 8, 2007:  Tue - Day 5 - Big Bend Storms:

We decided to play the area south of the boundary somewhere between the maximized 500mb southwesterly flow over the Big Bend region and the stronger 850h/700h southerly flow further east.  We kept moving east from Alpine in an attempt to stay ahead of the cool outflow being generated by a large cluster of storms to our north, which was proving to be an impossible task.  Just west of Dryden we needed to make a decision to either continue to our  target near DRT or head for the tantalizing storms showing up on radar and satellite images just south of the Big Bend Natl. Park.  Bill Reid sent a NOW post concerning our thoughts and soon after we made the commitment to head for the Big Bend in hopes of at least getting a pretty storm near sunset.  We were way too far south to consider the strong line of storms moving thru north TX and western OK.  We finished up the day filming some pretty convection with the Big Bend scenery adding a wonderful backdrop!  We then spent another night in Alpine.  396 miles. 


MAY 9, 2007:  Wed - Day 6 - Borderline Severe Storms:

Our third day in a row to play a slight risk area in SW TX.  Today's setup was very similar to yesterday's (May 8th) except that the mid and lower level flow was a tad weaker and the best CAPE was shunted farther south into Mexico.  Once again, late morning convection and cloud cover was lessening the chances for the day to reach its full potential storm wise.  We stayed in Alpine a second night due to a mechanical problem that needed to be corrected in the morning, so we again found ourselves blasting east along highway 90 in order to stay ahead of the cool outflow from storms to our north and west.  As we approached Langtry, TX the tail end of the line of storms back to our NNW was propagating southward into Mexico where it would eventually join other ongoing storms.  Somewhere along highway 90 near the Amistad Reservoir we stopped to feel the 81/65 air and watch a segmented line of storms approach from the west. 


These storms didn't have much to offer and we were soon blasted by cool outflow.  We continued east through DRT and Eagle Pass in an attempt to stay ahead of the southeastward moving outflow and to film lightning from time to time.  We then cut east through the core of the strongest approaching cell along highway 67 west of La Pryor.  We traveled with the core eastward for what seemed like an eternity experiencing only intense rain and some small hail.  I then left the rest of the group (and the storm) and headed north towards Uvalde in hopes of capturing some late sunset storm colors and lightning.  There were several incredible CG/Anvil crawler displays, but most were missed by my camera's lens.  Stayed the night in the Uvalde Best Western.  327 miles.

MAY 10, 2007:  Thu - Day 7 - Gentleman's Chase - SE TX PH:

I decided to blow off the slight risk of severe near San Antonio and begin my trek north for a possible SD chase on Saturday.  A cut off upper low was spinning over central Texas and wrapping an area of weak convection into western OK and the extreme eastern TX PH region.  I wasn't expecting much today except for some pretty skies and a few photo ops along the way.  It was nice to slow things down and relax on my 400 mile trip from Uvalde to CDS via highway 83. 


MAY 11, 2007:  Fri - Day 8 - Central OK Storms:

Although there wasn't much chance for severe weather today, residual moisture coupled with a minor short wave trough would be enough to trigger scattered thunderstorms across extreme SE KS stretching southwestward thru central OK.  By the time I reached OKC a small line of storms had formed just to the north of the city. These storms were rather messy, but soon prompted a severe warning for the counties located directly to the south of Oklahoma City.  I wanted to sample the more isolated storms that were forming north of the city and soon found a pretty little cell just west of Guthrie.  At one point the storm developed a small wall cloud with a funnel-shaped inflow tail pointing to the south.  Storm movement was to the SSW with the updraft region on the south side of the storm.  The following photos are looking west.


I followed the storm south for a bit before letting it go and then found another similar looking storm farther west near Geary before finishing up the day in Clinton.  410m


MAY 12, 2007:  Sat - Day 9 - North Texas:

Today was another day without a promise for severe weather.  However, moisture and instability were more than sufficient for thunderstorm development by early afternoon.  Most of the storms stayed south of the Red River over north Texas.  The first storm formed a little southeast of Waurika OK and then moved southwest.  I intercepted this and several other multi-cell and/or pulse type thunderstorms for several hours in Clay, Jack, and Archer County TX.  Although none reached severe limits, small pea size hail and winds to 30mph were encountered with these storms.  The storms were diurnal driven by the heat of the day and quickly weakened as the sun began to set---as depicted in the following time line of photos from about 2pm thru 7:30pm. Finished up the day in Wichita Falls, TX.  356m. 


MAY 13, 2007:  Sun - Day 10 - SPS - OKC:  Travel day, no storms...250m

MAY 14, 2007:  Mon - Day 11 (T2 arrival)- OKC - AMA:   OKC - AMA in order to be closer to our SE NM target for Tuesday.  Watched a dying squall line with some distant tower lightning strikes 12 miles east of Amarillo.  275m

MAY 15, 2007:  Tue - Day 12 (T2-1) Far West TX - Slow Moving Storms: 

Low level easterly winds, adequate moisture, and marginal instability proved sufficient to initiate several late afternoon and evening  thunderstorms across far west Texas, but lacking mid and upper level winds assured slow moving storms that weakened soon after they formed.  We found a briefly interesting storm about 40 miles east of Van Horn that exhibited some base structure and a few decent CG's.  On our way back to Van Horn a storm about 20 miles to our north put on a nice display of sporadic CG's that lasted for about a half hour.  After taking a few photos and some video we called it a night in Van Horn.  530m. 


 MAY 16, 2007:  Wed - Day 13 (T2-2) Western NM - Orographic Storms:

Another day with weak flow aloft and lack of convergence at the surface.  However, once again strong daytime heating and weak easterly upslope flow was sufficient to lift warm parcels of buoyant air over the higher terrain of western NM and SW TX.  We were able to leisurely enjoy the beautiful terrain in and around the Apache National Forest in western NM.  We took several film stops to view the developing Cb's between the towns of Glenwood and Reserve via highways 180 and 12.  Lightning was rather limited with these storms but we did manage to view a few distant CG's back to our west near Old Horse Springs.  Socorro, NM 503m


MAY 17, 2007:  Thu - Day 14 (T2-3) Walsenburg, CO - Shelf Cloud:

We decided that it was time to start moving north so that we could be in better position for the next trough that would begin impacting the northern plains by the upcoming weekend.  We also knew we had a decent shot almost anywhere along the front range of the Rocky Mountains to run into some diurnal convection.  About an hour south of Pueblo we had our eye on a strong storm that was holding strong just west of Pueblo.  A severe warning was issued for this storm which now had reports of nickel size hail and 60mph wind gusts.  It had weakened considerably by the time we reached Walsenburg, but had begun to display a nice looking shelf cloud just to our northeast.  We took highway 10 northeast form I-27 which was perfect for photo ops.  We then finished up the day roaming about a small ghost town about 40 miles east of Walsenburg.  A nice surprise on a day when we weren't really expecting much.  LIC 520m.


MAY 18, 2007:  Fri - Day 15 (T2-4) Belle Fourche, SD Lightning:

Today was a day to position ourselves farther north for the risk of severe weather in Montana on Saturday.  We watched a few weak storms with lightning along the way in NW NE and eastern WY, but the best show occurred after we arrived at our hotel in Belle Fourche, SD.  A couple of storms pulsed to our south and slowly moved off to our SE giving us time to take dozens of photos!  486m. 


MAY 19, 2007:  Sat - Day 16 (T2-5) SE MT, High-Based Storms & Shelf Structure:

A few storms erupted by mid-afternoon in NC Wyoming and began to move northeast as we approached Billings, MT.  We had originally wanted to head farther north into the CAPE axis, but decided to target the closer storm to our south which was now throwing a huge cirrus canopy into our northern target.  Threat Net radar seemed to be behind schedule compared to the COD radar images and it took us some time to get ahead of the segmented line of storms.  We were under the high-based mess from about Hardin to Lame Deer and decided our best bet would be to get ahead of the storm for some structure views.  A shelf cloud could be seen developing overhead and we made our first stop to look back at the storm on highway 212 somewhere near Ashland.  CG activity was increasing as the outflow caught up to us and we had to blast east again.  We repeated this process several times until our final film stop east of Broadus just as the sun was setting.  Not quite the supercell day we were hoping for but the awesome shelf cloud structure really made the day!  458m


MAY 20, 2007:  Sun - Day 17 (T2-6) NE WY, Tornado-Warned Storm:

We hung out until late afternoon at a WI-FI spot in Ashland, MT looking over data and trying to decide what to do.  A couple of storms had formed to our SW in Wyoming and were moving in our direction, while a broken line of east-west oriented storm cells had formed south of I-90.  We decided to keep our options open and head SE via highway 212 to Broadus.  The storms to our southwest weakened as they entered Montana, but the line to our south began to strengthen as they moved north.  With less then two hours of daylight left we headed south on highway 59 towards Gillette.  Along the way a tornado warning was issued for the storm directly to our south, but was mostly invisible to us on radar since it fell smack in the middle of the "radar hole".  We caught the back edge of the last cell as we approached I-90.  A nice tower went up to our east and briefly showed some promise before being sheared eastward.  At this time we also witnessed a couple of suspicious funnels aloft.  Overall, a somewhat frustrating day given the late show.  Back in Belle Fourche, SD for the night.  303m.


MAY 21, 2007:  Mon - Day 18 (T2-7) SW SD, Multi-Cell Storms:

We watched the first towers go up over Rapid City, SD in the early afternoon.  They remained high-based as they moved off to the northeast.  By mid-afternoon numerous towers were going up everywhere and it became clear this was not going to be a good supercell day.  We went both north and south to investigate a few promising towers, but ended up going east along I-90 to stay ahead of the broken line of storms.  A decent looking base would appear from time to time, but the cells had too much competition to remain strong for very long.  A sample of a core or two revealed dime size hail at best. We ended up the day going thru the Badlands National Park as the weak storms rumbled overhead. ND would have been the better play, but we needed to start our trek south for a potential tornado day somewhere in western KS on Tuesday.  Valentine, NE - 379m.


MAY 22, 2007:  Tue - Day 19 (T2-8) NW KS, Supercells & Tornado:

The big decision today was whether to play the triple point in NW/WC KS or head farther south along the dryline for possibly more isolated and explosive thunderstorm development.  We had lunch in Hoxie, KS and had little reason to move.  The area to our south looked capped and some small cumulus were beginning to develop overhead.  We headed a little east of town and watched towers begin to grow to our immediate west and southwest.  As we drifted farther east to Hill City several towers exploded back to our west and an isolated cell had formed a bit further south near Dighton.  This looked to be the "tail-end" storm and quickly became our target.  We headed south on highway 283 to near Wakeeney and stopped to watch the slowly developing storm off to our west.  While we were watching the storm it split, and the left split looked likely to produce a tornado, so we headed back north on 283.


We cut west on a dirt road to get closer, but the left split soon weakened and the original right split storm to our southwest once again began to draw our interest.

We experienced some nickel-size hail and then followed the storm north via the dirt road network.  At a point about 2 miles northwest of Togo the the easterly inflow winds began screaming into the storm of what was now becoming an incredible looking supercell. The dust and previous hail battering proved too much for my PD170 as I lost the use of my LCD screen, but fortunately the camera continued to record!  We then needed to blast north as it was evident tornado genesis was imminent.  The dirt road was getting worse with mud holes and slick spots as we barreled along praying we wouldn't get stuck as the tornado descended about a mile to our NNW.  The lead van radioed back that it had become stuck (along with other chasers) so we stopped where we were to film the tornado. 


We eventually made it out of the mud mess and later hooked up with the lead van on another gravel road east of Wackeeney.  Another great looking supercell had formed to the south of our original tornadic cell and we stopped to film this one several times.  It eventually lined out, but more storms formed on it's southwest flank.  We later had to deal with those storms which had us navigating about in the darkness through hail cores and flooded streets that looked better suited for white water rafting.  Lots of new hail dents for the vans.  Ended up in Wakeeney, KS for the night.  438m.


MAY 23, 2007:  Wed - Day 20 (T2-9) NE TX PH Supercells:

By mid-afternoon storms began forming along the NE/SW oriented boundary that stretched south through NW OK and the eastern TX Panhandle region.   After analyzing data near Perryton, we decided to head farther south towards the tail-end storms via highway 70 and 83.  We hung out for about an hour just north of Canadian watching a supercell off to our west that showed promise.  The storm was over Roberts County about 20 miles to our west and we had a good view of the base.  It made a few attempts at producing a wall cloud, but not much more.

Our interest then turned to a new storm that was forming to the southwest near Borger.  As we approached this storm via highway 152 we could see low level scud clouds screaming into the base of this storm.  Southerly inflow was great and it seemed this storm had everything going for it.  Threat-Net was showing an inflow notch and we later had shear value indicators reading as high as 138mph with this storm.  We really needed to get east out of Borger but there just were no road options into the Canadian River Valley.  We headed north on 207 thru Stinnett and then tried to go east as we got north of town.  By that time the best the storm had to offer was off to our southeast where it couldn't be seen from our position.  We got cored with some nickel size hail and had to bail back west as another heavy rain/hail core was about to overtake us from the west.  We finished up the chase a few miles north of Stinnett looking at the lowered base structure off to our east.  What a waste, this storm almost assuredly produced a tornado but we were "road-screwed"!  I put my cameras away and we called it a day.  AMA - 470m. 

 MAY 24, 2007:  Thu - Day 21 (T2-10 Final) AMA-OKC:

The slight risk outlook for SW TX was too far away for the final day of our tour.  Had the tornado threat been great, we would have gone all out, but it just wasn't worth the effort for what we might see.  Instead, we opted for a quick visit to the Cadillac ranch west of AMA and a nice lunch at the Big Texan.  After 10 long chase days that each resulted in some manner of success, we were all glad to take a breather on our final day together.  OKC 275m (T2 total = 4643 miles)

MAY 25, 2007:  Fri - Day 22 OKC:

Down day to rest, clean and service the vehicles, and get ready for the next tour's (T3) arrival on Saturday.  0m

MAY 26, 2007:  Sat - Day 23 (T3-Arrival) Positioning Day:

Our 4 + 1 caravan of 19 guests, 6 staff, and two media folks drove from OKC to Hays, KS to be in position for the chance of severe storms somewhere in western NE on Sunday.  We encountered some weak but pretty convection along the way, but no lightning. 360m. 

MAY 27, 2007:  Sun - Day 24 (T3-1) Western NE - Severe/Tornado Warned Storms & Landspouts:

By early afternoon a small broken line of storms formed to our west over NE CO.  As we traveled north on highway 61 near Grant, NE we could see the base of the northern storm to our west.  The storm generated a severe warning for Perkins County and exhibited it's updraft base to the north of the precipitation core.  A brief landspout tornado formed under this base and quickly dissipated. We continued north as the storm passed by to our east displaying a pretty updraft with a rainshaft below being pushed out to the north.  We next targeted an isolated storm north of Sydney.  As we approached this storm from the east along highway 26 west of Ogallala, we got a brief glimpse of a distant landspout  tornado beneath the base before we dropped into a river valley.  Soon after, Garden County received a tornado warning for this storm.  We repositioned for a better look, but the storm was going down hill fast.  The next and final severe-warned storm was intercepted farther north in Sheridan County.  As we approached this storm via highway 2 near Ellsworth it exhibited LP characteristics, but also was rapidly dissipating.  The three storms are shown below.  Kadoka, SD.  570m. 


MAY 28, 2007:  Mon - Day 25 (T3-2) SD Bust:

Slight risk of severe with 30% hatched area for large hail yielded no daylight storms across the central and eastern Dakota region.  We were just north of Pierre, SD around 6pm CDT when we decided to call it quits and start heading south for our Day 2 target area.  Weak upper air support, lack of surface convergence, and a strong CAP were the culprits today.  North Platte, NE 440m

MAY 29, 2007:  Tue - Day 26 (T3-3) Supercell, Simla CO:

After having lunch in Wray, CO we decided to head down to I-70 and then west.  We weren't quite sure if the best play would be near the KS/CO border for storms later in the day or head closer to mountains and try to intercept a storm moving off the front range.  There were already storms in progress near Castle Rock and Denver and the Castle Rock storm was beginning to look organized.  That became our target storm and we were able to make an intercept via highway 24 near Simla, about 25 miles southwest of Limon.  The storm was tornado warned, but it was becoming undercut and the brief structure show was the best this storm could offer.


We then blasted east to Limon for a "quick" pit stop, but not quick enough to escape the approaching hail core.  We headed south in an attempt to get into warmer air in hopes of new storm development, but it was no use...the cold air from the storms and the CF to our north was blasting south faster than we could drive and was undercutting any storm that tried to form farther south.  We intercepted a few more cells for shelf cloud views and lightning before calling it a day in La Junta, CO.  537M. 


MAY 30, 2007:  Wed - Day 27 (T3-4) Mini-LP Supercell, Capulin, NM:

Our plan today was to relax and position ourselves closer to our general target region for Day 2 near the NM, TX/OK Panhandle borders.  We had a leisurely lunch at the Hog's Breath Cafe in La Junta, CO before heading south to the Raton Mesa.  We figured not only would we enjoy the scenery along the way, but have a decent shot at seeing some upslope convection take place over the higher terrain of the Raton Mesa by late afternoon.  As we approached the town of Capulin from the north we had our eyes on a decent updraft base to our west.  MTN showed a small but compact radar return for this developing storm,  so we drifted to a better viewpoint along highway 64/87 a few miles west of town.  The LP structure was low-topped and exhibited a nice laminar base flowing into the northern updraft region of the cell.  It put on quite a show for about 2 hours giving us plenty of photo-ops over the Capulin Volcano.  A nice relaxing day that ended with a gentleman's chase.  Finished up in Clayton, NM with a mere 275 miles added to the odometer. 


MAY 31, 2007:  Thu - Day 28 (T3-5) HP Tornadic Supercell, OK Panhandle:

The first towers of the day became visible to our northwest as we neared Campo, CO along highway 287/385.  We watched the updraft towers percolate for a while before deciding to head farther east via a dirt road network northeast of Campo.  The southern cell was becoming dominate and became our target storm.  The storm was drifting slowly eastward towards us and we had plenty of time to hang out and wait for it to strengthen.  We decided to stay ahead of the storm by going farther north and then east, but the approaching rain core made this risky on the dirt roads.  We took one last look at a radar loop before making a decision, and the last frame showed the storm diving southeast.  The decision was made to blast south.  On our way south a nice bulb shaped lowered was observed off to our west and we stopped to film.  Rain curtains were wrapping around to the south side of the updraft area and soon cutoff the tornadic lowering.


We then dropped south through Keyes as the town's tornado sirens were sounding and watched the storm move off to our northeast.

We then headed east on 64/412 toward Guymon and stopped several times to film what had now become an impressive HP supercell to our north. 


The heavy rain core kept the main updraft region hidden from our view as we continued eastward, but interesting lowerings could be seen from time to time. Around 8:15pm CDT we were able to view a white horizontal funnel to our north that was the rope out stage of the reported tornado near Hough.  We took one last film stop just north of Guymon as the storm moved south across highway 64/412 to our west.  There was rapid motion in the cloud base above us and a tornadic circulation seemed imminent, but never occurred.  We plunged thru a small hail core on the north side of Guymon, then headed a bit east of town before letting the storm go.  Guymon, OK.  336m.