Brian A. Morganti

2009 May Chase Summaries

May 6, 2009  -  May 31, 2009

May 6, 2009:    Wed- Day 1 - Departure/Travel Day - RDG to Greenville, IL :

I began my 2009 chase vacation today and completed the first 785 miles of my trip west to Greenville, IL (just east of STL).  First guess for today is eastern KS, Supercells likely IF the CAP can be broken.

May 7, 2009:    Thu- Day 2 -  Severe Storm - Tornado Watch Box - NW MO:

An MD for parts of NW MO, NE KS, and SW IA was issued shortly after I finished lunch in Concordia, MO.  Since there was an outflow boundary evident to my north, I decided to drift in that direction in case that area became the focus for the main show.  Along the way a tornado watch box replaced the MD. A broken line of disorganized storms soon formed along this boundary and my thoughts were to head north to the first storm and then west in hopes that the western most storm might have the best chance at becoming supercellar since it was closer to the higher instability axis.  I was able to connect with the first storm near Princeton.  The storm had been severe warned, but was beginning to weaken as it moved off to my SE. 

I then headed to the western most cell  on the "line" which was moving ESE just to the west of Bethany.  I was able to just barely keep ahead of this cell as I headed south of highway 69.  My first photo stop was near Pattonsburg.  At this point the severe warning had been dropped for this cell, but it began to show signs of renewed strength back to my WNW.

The storm then crossed highway 69 behind me and I took this photo south of Jameson looking to my NE shortly before it prompted a tornado warning.

The storm was getting away from me at that point and my only option would be to continue south on highway 69 then east on 36 if I wanted to continue the pursuit, but there was also new convection off to my SW.  I stopped briefly to film this  "new" cell from a point a little west of Winston.  I believe this is the cell that Bill Reid and others were pursuing from the west.  This picture was taken looking WSW.

I decided to make a run east on 36 for my original target storm that was now heading for Chillicothe, but first I had to deal with the core of the storm I had just filmed to my WSW.  Fortunately, dime size hail seemed to be the worst I encountered to the east of Cameron.  By the time I reached Chillicothe it was totally dark and the storm was off to my SE, and illuminated by plenty of in cloud lightning. I briefly thought about intercepting the "second" cell that was now heading directly towards Carollton, but didn't feel like dealing with the larger hail that was being reported with this storm.  I headed back towards Cameron and watched a small, but pretty updraft to my north being illuminated by the nearly full moon, and by IC lightning on the inside.  Cameron, MO. 555m

May 8, 2009:    Fri - Day 3 -  Severe Storms - Tornado Watch Box - SC OK:

After a late start I spent most of the day driving south from MO with hopes of at least reaching southern OK by late afternoon.  I caught up with the SW - NE boundary  draped across central OK near Pauls Valley and then proceeded farther south where I could watch what was happening to my immediate north and west.  I pulled off I-35 at the scenic overlook north of Springer.  It was nice to meet up and chat with Al M., Gene R., Sam B., Tim M, and several others who were enjoying the view and waiting for the first storm towers to show themselves.  A few towers began to form to our west and north, so I figured I'd better get moving as I needed gas.  While fueling up in Ardmore, a couple of nice updraft towers could be seen not too far to my northwest.  A plotted a course back north and caught up with the northern of the two storms near Springer.  The base was somewhat murky from my position, but a wall and tail cloud were briefly visible.  I tried to get a closer look, but storm mergers began in earnest and I had to duck for cover in a gas station at I-35 and highway 53.  Almost immediately I was boxed in by dozens of vehicles and had no choice but to wait things out.  While I was waiting the storm to my south pulsed and had a nice hook on radar briefly, but it too soon suffered from storm interactions.  I took a bit of video, but never felt compelled to reach for my DSLR once the storms got going.  542m Ardmore, OK.

May 9, 2009:    Sat -  Day 4 -  Severe Bust - Central - North Texas:

Weak forcing along the NE - SW frontal boundary combined with anemic flow aloft resulted in no storms occurring in SPC's slight risk area across a good part of central and north Texas.  Additionally, cloud cover impeded instability for a good part of the day.  A wasted day overall for the 470 miles driven.  Waco, TX.

May 10, 2009:   Sun -  Day 5 -  Prep/Travel Day:

Today was a day needed to pick-up the new van from Martin in Arlington and get it ready for it's debuting with Tour 2 starting tomorrow out of OKC. 

May 11, 2009:   Mon -  Day 6 -  T2 - Orientation Day - Positioning Day:

No storms to chase today, so it was a good day to pick up the tour 2 guests and travel a bit to get into a better position for possible supercell storms on Tuesday.  OKC - Liberal, KS 300m.

May 12, 2009:   Tue -  Day 7 -  T2 Day 1 - Severe Storms - Southeastern TX PH:

Bill Reid, Chris Gullikson, and the Tour 2 folks started our day in Liberal, KS so as to be centrally positioned between potential target areas to our north in KS/NE or to our south in the TX PH region.  Even though the southern region was more  capped, we were hoping a slight upslope flow against the cap rock might just be enough lift to ignite a few storms.  By late afternoon SPC shifted the 5% tornado risk farther to the SW near Lubbock and a persistent area of weak convection was moving northeast into this region from NM.  After hanging around in Turkey for a bit, we decided to head towards this convection.   Somewhere west of Flomot (near Cedar Hill, I believe) we stopped to watched an area of robust, but high based, towers forming off to our south as a storm was developing to our NW.  The following photos were shot looking south, and of what later became our target storm.


We then proceeded after the storm to our northwest and watched it a bit from near South Plains.  The towers we left behind were now beginning to look a bit more healthy so we turned around and decided to head in that direction just in case these would become the main show.  We reasoned it would be easier to get back to the storm to our NW, then trying to play catch up with the stuff that was moving off to our east.  As it turned out it was the right move, even though it never really got fully organized as we had hoped.  The best show occurred as we were heading north on 287 near Memphis when a "lead" storm punched ahead and began to take on supercell characteristics.  We paralleled this storm east of Memphis via highway 256 and could see it was soon belching outflow to our north.  Even so, if featured a nice looking leading edge shelf cloud that was clearly ingesting moisture from the east as made visible in the following photos. 


This storm croaked as another one blossomed to our south and moved ENE.  As darkness fell we followed this storm east and eventually drove threw the core, but only experienced nickel size hail at best.  We ended the chase at Altus and had a nice light show all the way.  Not a bad start for the T2 folks!  Appx 455 miles, Altus, OK. 

May 13, 2009:   Wed-  Day 8 -  T2 Day 2 - Supercell - Western OK:

While waiting along the NE/SW boundary in Alfalfa County in NW OK a few large towers began to go up just to our southwest.  This became our target storm and it turned out to be the most southwesterly storm on a boundary that stretched all the way northeast to IL.  We were able to pretty much stay southwest of the storm as it moved slowly to the SSE.  The supercell  produced some very nice  base structure from time to time as well as copious amounts of nickel to perhaps quarter size hail.  Differential motion at cloud base was observed as well as some low hanging and ragged wall clouds...but no tornado was observed.  We finished the chase as the storm was intensifying south of I-40, where we took cover from the hail in the town of Carnegie.  No time for a more detailed summary now...but the following will offer a visual timeline evolution of the storm.  The final two photos show our view looking south as the storm really wrapped up near the town of Geary. A great storm to chase overall, even without a tornado!


410 miles - Altus, OK.

May 14, 2009:   Thu -  Day 9-  T2 Day 3 - Position Day:

Bill, Chris, and I blew off the slight risk of severe today in the southern TX PH region in favor of getting into position for what appears to be a much better day tomorrow somewhere in northern MO.  We visited the Hollis "bridge of doom" and had lunch in CDS prior to heading north to EMP for the night.  One small and isolated storm did form between LBB and MAF and briefly became tornado warned, but it did not appear that we missed much.  Emporia, KS 550 miles.

May 15, 2009:   Fri -  Day 10-  T2 Day 4 - Severe Storms - NW MO/NE KS:

Although severe storms were encountered, the day didn't turn out near as good as we had hoped.  SPC had a 10% tornado risk outlined from central KS northeastward into NC MO, but the morning convection hung tough across northern MO well into the afternoon.  We played around in NW MO on the southern flank of these storms hoping something discrete would form a bit to their south.  The best show we had was near Bramer as a cell to our north cut a wide clear slot and appeared to be wrapping up nicely.  Unfortunately, the show was brief and we then continued east and south ahead of the messy storms with an occasional film stop along the way.


We then set our sights on the storms beginning to form south of I-70 in Kansas.  We targeted a cell on the southern end of a line of storms paralleling I-35 to the west.  Unfortunately by the time we got to this storm it had merged with numerous other storms to its southwest.  We took one last photo op of the approaching core while we were west of Ottawa, called it a day and then went to dinner.


Ottawa, KS    375 miles.

May 16, 2009:   Sat -  Day 11-  T2 Day 5 - Travel Day:

No storms for today or likely for the next few days.  Our next chance may not come until Tuesday or Wednesday somewhere on the high plains of eastern MT or the western Dakotas, so we are slowly drifting in that direction.  Hays, KS 286 miles.

May 17, 2009:   Sun -  Day 12-  T2 Day 6 - Travel Day:

Another travel day northward with no storms to chase, but we did enjoy a few photo-ops along the way in eastern Colorado.  Tuesday and Wednesday still hold promise for storms somewhere in the northern plains.  Scotts Bluff, NE 450 miles.


May 18, 2009:   Mon -  Day 13-  T2 Day 7 - Travel Day:

Yet another day without storms, but this was as expected.  We are still hoping for convective activity over the next two days across eastern MT or western SD/NE before we need to start heading back to OKC. We made a few stops along the way including the Carhenge in AIA and at the western edges of the Dakota Badlands near the small village of Red Shirt, SD.  Ended in Deadwood, SD - 355 miles.

May 19, 2009:   Tue -  Day 14-  T2 Day 8 - Weak Convection SD/MT:

With shallow moisture, weak surface convergence and a strong CAP in place we weren't expecting too much today.  We visited Mt. Rushmore mid-day and then had a late lunch in Rapid City, SD.  We were somewhat encouraged by a slightly enhanced Cu field over the Black Hills and some storms with lightning off to our west in WY.  We waffled a bit trying to decide whether to drop south into NE ahead of some approaching convection or go northwest into SE MT along the moisture/CAPE axis near the boundary.  We chose the latter and ended up filming a bunch of left over virga/mammatus  near sunset from earlier high based storms. We were treated to a little lightning after sunset, but not enough to get excited about.  Finished up back in Rapid City with another 360 miles on the odometer.


May 20, 2009:   Wed-  Day 15-  T2 Day 9 - Severe Warned Storms - Nebraska Panhandle:

After having lunch in Hot Springs, SD we decided to drift south into the northern NE PH where instability and moisture seemed a bit better.  Weak storms were forming to the west of this region in Wyoming and we anticipated these would get better organized as they moved east.  We intercepted those storms near Harrison and set up shop for about 30 minutes and watched them strengthen as they approached our position.  One cell to our south showed signs of weak rotation.


The storms remained mostly uninteresting and linear while heading east on highway 20 thru CDR.  One cell to our south looked promising and we were able to make an easy approach along  route 87 about 10 miles south of Hay Springs.  A flanged base came into view followed by the leading edge updraft base that gave us some nice structure to our south.  The updraft region appeared on the southeast flank of the storm with all the heavy precipitation off to its northwest.  A bit farther east along route 87 we encountered the large armada of V2 and then took another film stop looking back at our cell as it drifted off to the east.


We took our final photo op along highway 2 near Bingham/Ashby of a nice mammatus canopy being illuminated by the setting sun.  Imperial, NE 460 miles.


May 21, 2009:   Thu-  Day 16-  T2 Day 10 Final - Travel Day:

No day from Imperial, NE to OKC  with a brief stop in Greensburg, KS - 557 miles.

May 22, 2009:   Fri-  Day 17-  T2  Departure Day:

Day to clean and service vans and prepare for the new T3 guest arrivals---OKC.  No storms of significance on the Plains.

May 23, 2009:   Sat - Day 18 - T3 Arrival-Orientation Day:

We traveled from OKC to Hays KS to get in position for possible weakly rotating storms somewhere in NW NE, SW SD, or extreme E-WY on Sunday.  Before dinner we took a short drive south of town to photograph some old farm buildings in the fading sunlight.  360 miles

May 24, 2009:   Sun - Day 19 - T3P Day 1  - Weak Storms NE/WY/CO Tri-State Area:

A marginal day for storms was expected, but we still managed to find a few nice photo-ops among the mostly weak and disorganized storms in the NE/WY/CO tri-state area.  The first storm we encountered actually looked much better from the west then it did while on the approach.  We drove a few miles south of Egbert, WY and had a brief view of an interesting updraft tower and rain shaft prior to the whole storm falling apart.  We then drove southeast under the cores of several cells along the gravel road that connects Hereford, Grover, and Keota, CO.  We then continued east of the messy line of convection thru Sterling and then north to the Pleetz Plateau.  The storms never became severe, but at times the ominous sky to the west did afford us with a nice backdrop for photo-ops along the way.  Sidney, NE 540 miles.


May 25, 2009:   Mon - Day 20 - T3P Day 2  - Strong Storms OK/TX Panhandle:

Another marginal day for strong to severe storms was on hand, but we once again managed to find plenty of interesting photo opportunities.  We started the day in Sidney, Nebraska and then dropped south through the eastern plains of CO.  We broke out of overcast skies near Burlington and were treated to beautiful cumulus filled skies farther south including a double TCu each with a pileus cap, followed by storms...too many storms due to a weak capping inversion. 


By the time we reached the Oklahoma PH we were faced with a decision to target newly developing cells to our immediate west and southwest, or stick with our target area in the NE TX PH where an isolated strong storm was already under way.  After a bit of waffling we headed for the northeast PH storm near Canadian, but it eventually became apparent we would not be able to be in position on this storm much before dark.  At the same time there was a strong line of storms forming to our immediate west as we drove through Perryton, TX and we could see a shelf cloud was beginning to take shape.  Chris and I were both thinking the same...turn around and get in front of that shelf cloud!  We went back thru Perryton and then northeast via SR15 and were presented with numerous photo-ops looking back west at what had become an awesome looking shelf cloud!  Shamrock, TX 606 miles.


May 26, 2009:   Tue - Day 21 - T3P Day 3  - Severe Storm - Weatherford - Fort Worth TX:

The same problems persisted today as the last few days, weak flow & convergence at the surface and weak winds aloft.  Surface moisture and anvil level flow were better however across a good portion of northwest TX along and south of the Red River.  After a visit to the Hollis "Bridge of Doom" we headed southeast towards SPS and Bowie, TX.  We then hung out at a rest stop north of Decatur feeling the oppressive air and watching a few towers bubble up here and there.  One persistent but somewhat soft tower caught our attention to our southeast.  It didn't look the greatest, but it was holding together in the right area of convergence and instability.  We decided this might be our storm so we headed south of Decatur along highway 51 to Weatherford.  Golf ball size hail was reported near Weatherford,  but the core was moving off to our east and we only experienced to perhaps dime size hail.  Going thru Weatherford was painfully slow, as we could only occasionally glimpse the storm off to our ENE.  Bill, Kinney, Rob, Chad, Chris, and I headed our group east on I-20 and were able to get one decent photo-op after traveling a few miles.  We continued to follow the storm east towards the metroplex and it looked to be weakening a bit, so we stopped and waited things out as the storm began to split.  We waited out a small hail core and then headed back west on I-20 not feeling it was worth the effort to deal with the congested road network off to our east.  We stopped to film lightning just south of Cisco an hour or so later, but the weakening line of storms was uncooperative for the most part. Abilene, TX 475miles

May 27, 2009:   Wed - Day 22 - T3P Day 4  - Severe Storm - Marathon, TX to Big Bend:

Severe storms appeared likely in the DRT to Ulvalde to Eagle Pass region as well as the high country east of the Davis Mountains.  We eventually decided the high country might prove more photogenic, even if the storms didn't become quite as severe.  Along the way we found a profusion of cactus flowers in full bloom west of Eldorado, TX.  As soon as we arrived at Fort Stockton a target storm became apparrent to our SW.  The storm began to look decent with a nice flat RFB and inflow bands as we approached Marathon, but then weakened shortly thereafter.  We managed to get south of the core on highway 385 several miles south of Marathon.  We skirted the approaching hail core and experienced nickel to perhaps quarter size hail, although we later learned baseball size was reported with this storm.  We took several more photo ops looking back to our north, some of which produced very nice CG's...all of which escaped my lens, of course.  We then headed to Terlinqua for the night and watched another nice lightning display off to our north while waiting for dinner at the Star Light Cafe.  475 miles.


May 28, 2009:   Thu - Day 23 - T3P Day 5  - Severe Storm - Alpine, TX to Marathon:

We spent the morning visiting various sights from the Big Bend to Presidio, TX before pursuing a storm to our north that formed over the Davis Mountains.  The cell became severe warned as we approached Alpine and was easy to intercept as it was only moving ESE at 5mph.  We followed the storm east along highway 90 and found hail covered roads east of Alpine as well as white hilltops clearly marking the hail swath.  By the time we reached Marathon the storm had weakened and split, so we continued on to Sanderson and then north towards Sheffield in hopes of intercepting a broken line of severe storms moving southeast towards I-10.  The CG's were pretty good right up until we set up our cameras on a high point to film the show, then the lightning was mostly imbedded in the clouds or rain.  Spent the night in Ozona, TX - 470miles.


May 29, 2009:   Fri - Day 24 - T3P Day 6 Final  - Travel Day, No Storms - Ozona, TX to OKC:

No storms today, so it was a good day to travel back to OKC for our final evening together.    We all had a great week photography wise and gave our cameras a good work out with five of our six days shooting stormy scenes.  Thanks to my driver Chris and our guests Laurie, Joanne, Joe, and Mark for making this trip one to remember!  Appx 470 miles were driven today with one photo stop along the way at Mount Scott near Lawton, OK.  Total miles for the week:  3400.

May 30, 2009:   Sat - Day 25 -  T3P Departure Day:

A down day to clean/service vans and prepare for the next tour.  Although there is a possible of some storms with strong wind gusts in eastern CO and western KS, it doesn't look like we are missing much.  OKC. 

May 31, 2009:   Sun- Day 26 -  T4 Orientation Day:

One way or another we were not staying in OKC after the orientation.  Although no severe storms appeared reachable on this day, the prospects for severe and perhaps rotating storms where likely on Monday either in the TX PH or somewhere along the KS/NE border near the frontal boundary.  I chose the later target, but figured we may just as well wind up heading south to the panhandle if things looked more promising for that area in the morning model runs.  We briefly got side tracked north to CNK as a couple of weak storms formed to our north.  They never really got going and a few young updrafts kept growing to the west of the original cells, but these too weakened as the sun began to set.  442 miles driven - Hays, KS.