After yesterday’s strange and incredible lightning and hail storms today was shaping up to be another severe day. The NWS ended up putting a Tornado Watch box over the NE corner of the state at 11:00 am; it was muggy due to the moisture from yesterday and more coming that was trapped in the Front Range area due to fronts, and an upper air disturbance was passing over giving some extra lift. Shear and helicity all looked good for supercells and potential tornadoes.
I left about 2:00 and headed east on Hwy86 as my target was Kiowa, or more like Agate/Byers area. I wanted to sit on the north side of the divide and chase whatever fired from there. As soon as I was past Kiowa a promising cell started to form right around Byers. On my way there two other cells started to form to the SW–although these didn’t show up on radar they were looking really nice; but I went for the maturing cell and stopped on Hwy 36 about 10 miles east of Byers.
NOTE: Click on any picture for an enlarged and higher resolution version (they look better larger). For the slide shows, if you have a flash-enabled browser click on the FS link in the lower right to see a full screen, high resolution slide show!
Supercell of the day as I was approaching from Kiowa.
As I was watching the storm east of Byers, this hit me.
The cell was back building and went tornado warned near Byers. I was expecting the cell to take off and I was in good position for that; but it ended up moving south. I then jetted toward Deer Trail and eventually to Agate and south towards Hwy 86. I figured I could get to Simla or even Ramah if the storm continued due South where the road network gets better.
Between Deer Trail and Agate the large flat rain free base produced rotation and a funnel cloud. It also produced some amazing texture in the anvil/downdraft of the storm!
Great texture in the coulds with another cell to the south!
Funnel cloud formed SW of Agate
On my way south past Agate, the front end of the storm looked very suspicious and as I was driving it looked like a tornado could be occuring. There was a tornado reported but I didn’t know this until afterwards; but I did take this shot of the scud.
Inflow/Outflow SW of Agate; I believe I saw a tornado around this time.
I traveled south to Hwy 86 (near where I started) and then west to the road to Simla. I wanted to get to the road to Ramah, but there was no way without entering the core. I traveled south until Simla and got some amazing, and I mean amazing, structure shots. At this time there was a tornado down but I did not see anything from my vantage point.
I then headed SW of Simla and chased until near dark. I saw a funnel which ended up being a the Calhan Tornado. I was able to chase about a mile east of the core for a while until I decided I needed to book it south to beat the core going west on 94 into Colorado Springs. I ended up a little slow (due to the fast developing cell on the west side of this beast) and got into some golf ball sized hail. The cell that formed over NE Colorado Springs also put down some half dollar sized hail.
We’ve been wanting to do this trip for a while; so we decided to embark on a long 3-day weekend trip with my dad and my kids to go Selenite digging in the Great Salt Plains in North-central Oklahoma. I did some calling around and because of the oil boom and the Wynoka Rattlesnake Festival no hotels were available except in Enid; so we opted for a place in neighboring Anthony Kansas–the Anthony Motel & Cafe.
The Cafe was closed and I think we were the only non-oil industry guests at the motel; but it was nice enough…we got the Harley room so who could ask for more? Got there Friday evening and hung out in the room and went to bed early. Drove south to Cherokee OK on Saturday morning and headed out to the Salt Plains. Being a storm chaser as well; I was amazed that we were in the center of the high risk area; so we kept our eye open for building storms all day…
The wind was brutal; about a 30-40 mile southerly wind all day that picked up about 3:00pm…so we decided we had enough digging and decided to leave. Of course, like everyone else, we lost several things that blew out of the back of the truck and we couldn’t catch them it was blowing so hard!
We dug all day and found that the Selenites were a couple of inches below the ground. Hunter discovered that if you dug near the standing water you’d find crystals right away. They said to dig a hole in the sand, let it fill with water (we are at the water table) and then use a bucket or can to wash the sand from the walls. This did work and crystals did fall into the murky, sandy water; but we discovered that the Crystals exist right at the interface between the sand and clay usually; so we ended up just digging horizontal about 3″ below that interface and then pulling out the crystals on the top of the sand rather than in the water…seemed quicker and easier. You can either set out the crystals in the wind to dry; or just toss them in a bucket…we did both.
There appeared to be several types of crystals. Those that formed in the sand, we called them “Sandy”. Those that formed in the clay that were larger and brownish. Those that formed in clay that were bow-ties of sand in clear crystals, we called them “bow ties”. Those that formed in both sand and clay; we called them “changlings”.
Note that digging this way you have to be careful with your shovel as it is easy to break or bend it…we bent one of ours and another person there broke their metal shovel. The clay is stiff and heavy; so go easy. Daphne discovered the “motherload” of the day which put us into the great clusters and bow-tie crystals…of course this was just before we wanted to leave so we ended up staying an extra hour…but it was worth it.
We went home and saw the storms forming on radar…the ones that looked to impact our location of Anthony were at the time near Woodward, OK; which is where several folks died. The storm directly impacted Cherokee where we were all day (note that when we drove through every carwash and other bay was taken by cars already). I decided not to chase the storms given I was with the family and in Erin’s truck (hail damage was not an option; plus some of the side dirt roads would not be good in her car) so we decided to hang out in Anthony. About dark; the storm came through and we took refuge in the local funeral home basement; which was the normal storm shelter after the sirens started blaring! The kids got a good experience of what it is like to be a citizen in tornado prone areas (they’ve been on several chases with me prior…so they know that side too; which isn’t as scary). The twister went about 4 miles SE of town on its way to Wichita.
On the way home Daphne wanted to see “tornado damage” so I chose a route to put us through where I read there were touch-downs. We saw some damage near Hudson which was relatively minor; albeit still scary!
Overall a great trip, some amazing crystals and chased by a storm on a high risk day in the heart of tornado alley! Great fun!
The gallery below is best viewed full screen (click that FS option in the lower right)…
Rockhounding for Selenite, Cherokee Oklahoma - April 2012
Someone asked me about all the twisters I have seen and it got me thinking back on all of those good times. I decided to write down this list as it seems with the passing years I have a more difficult time remembering each one of them. I have photos and videos for most of the new ones; and have a couple of photos of the older ones somewhere; hopefully someday I’ll dig those out of my folks photo albums.
July 1977 South of Johnstown
From the deck of my hometown house we could see a landspout looking structure south of town (we were on the north side; about 5 blocks and over a slight hill is the southern end of town–so we saw it clear in the sky south of town). Dad immediately grabbed our neighbor Wayne (who is a photo genius) and we headed out in my dad’s old truck to check it out. My first chase!
I was starting to see it over the hill when Wayne told my dad to turn around as it was spinning right on us. I looked up and saw the swirl in the clouds that I will see many times throughout my life. That ended my first chase as a kid! I’ve been absolutely hooked since.
April 1983? Key Largo Florida waterspout
Still verifying the date; will have to cross-reference from vacation pictures someday at my folks place.
This was a fun story; it was stormy at our hotel on the beach in Key Largo, FL and I was on the beach. I saw a funnel come down into the ocean many miles away. I got excited and went to fetch a camera in the hotel room. I was sprinting up the stairwell steps and accidentally ran into a lady walking the other way; I missed her, mostly, and I apologized profusely; when asked the reason I was in “such a hurry” I said to fetch a camera for the twister. She told me how I didn’t know what I was talking about; “this is not tornado weather, I am from Kansas I should know”. She went on and on telling me how stupid I was, meanwhile I was missing the show! I couldn’t take it anymore and said sorry and bolted off to fetch the camera. By the time I arrived at the beach again, it was gone…I’m sure it was gone when she checked it out too, knowing my luck! Crazy kid!
June 1987? landspout west of Johnstown (called 911) (filmed on betamax)
This one was cool. I was hanging out with a buddy Dave and he was splitting for dinner; walking him to his car we looked west directly up the street and I saw a funnel behind the trees beyond the end of town. I saw the dim outline of landspout dust near the ground. I ran inside and grabbed my Dad’s Beta-max video recorder and filmed this cool tornado for about a minute or two before it was completely obscured by the trees.
I called 911 and the lady said she wouldn’t raise the sirens unless someone else called it in. I had no clue of NWS at the time and wasn’t an official spotter, so my only experience listening to Dad’s fire department pager was to call 911. Because of the lengthy conversation with 911 I missed some of the tornado, but still got a little on video tape.
July 1987? Milliken / Gilcrest landspout (in clouds) (filmed on Beta-max)
This one was sweet. I went outside for some reason and looked up at the clouds and they were dark and dreary. I got my Dad’s Beta-max camera, got on my bike and rode to the far eastern edge of town (about 3/4 mile away). I filmed this incredible skinny tube that made it half-way to the ground did a 180 degree U-turn and then started back up. It disappeared into the clouds so all there was a U shaped rope!
Then I noted several miles to the north it came back down to the ground kicking up some dirt from the fields. What crazy structure! I’d estimate it was directly north of Milliken at this time in the Big Thompson River valley. I ran to my friend’s house that lived right there and called 911; then we watched in the field across the street from his house until it roped out. I got some sweet video, probably 10 minutes worth on tape! Oh, and once again, 911 wouldn’t officially run the sirens in town unless the sheriff gave a confirmation, which didn’t happen. Luckily no damage was done that I heard of.
Got about 10 minutes on video tape. Nice mix tape so far, the one above too and a funnel from another storm! NOTE: The whereabouts of this tape is unknown. I don’t know if my mom donated the tapes or perhaps it got recorded over (I reviewed most of our old tapes in my college days and didn’t find this particular one, bummer!), so I’ve never heard or seen of these storms since. Keep an eye out at some thrift store near you!
Spring 1990. Officially trained and certified with National Weather Service as a storm spotter. I went with my dad at the training in Greeley in about 1990. That was a great and useful course; I still refer back to the manual they gave us for storm structure schematics!
June 15, 1990?89? (http://www.thorntonweather.com/blog/weather-history/june-12-to-june-18-this-week-in-denver-weather-history/). Colorado National Speedway. I think the year is wrong, they say 97 in the article; I remember Fathers Day, 1989, 90, 91 timeframe? Perhaps a different storm? Any ideas? Father Days landed on: Jun 18 89, Jun 17 90, Jun 16 91, Jun 21 92, Jun 20 93, Jun 19 94
This one is pure luck. We were sitting down for dinner on the Fathers Day or similar celebration dinner with my family (don’t remember the exact year, the one in the article is not the correct storm). I looked out the dining room window towards the south and saw the evil looking finger in the sky far south of town. I only saw it for about a minute before it was obstructed by houses. Since we were in the middle of dinner; no one shared my enthusiasm to run out and chase it. Heard it reported over the police/fire scanner and later the news said a tornado was by Colorado National Speedway, I believe it tore up a couple of trash cans, maybe some of the stands. I’m still researching, if you remember this twister and any details of it give me a shout.
March 23, 1996; Jefferson County Airport inflow band touchdown
This one was way cool; but this was before I carried some kind of camera with me. I was driving home to Boulder from work in Golden. Along Hwy 93 intersection of McCasulin at the open space parking lot I parked and checked out the eerie clouds. However, in the nice inflow structure/tail a little section started to swirl, you know, the good swirl in the clouds that can only mean one thing. I estimate less than 15 seconds later there was a nice funnel cloud.
The funnel came down and hit the grounds somewhere probably West or a bit NW of Jeffco Airport. There was a tornado in Boulder that day too that was very photogenic; but the one I saw wasn’t it. Another person pulled into the parking lot to go mountain biking and he saw the tail end of it too! It was about 8 minutes later the guy in the bike arrived. The tornado had just roped out before he got there…and he didn’t believe us on how close it was to him.
I drove by Nate’s place in Broomfield and knocked on the door. He answered the door and had a surprised look on his face. I snagged him and we chased the storm. My sister took this when the storm was out west of Fort Lupton, the only shot of that storm that I know of.
Jefferson County Colorado Supercell March 1996.
So, I got tired of getting pelted with hail, so I purchased a Baron WX Mobile Threat Net Weather station for the car; only went out in college periodically because I was so busy all the time and couldn’t see the storms out far east of town. After working at NOAA in Boulder I realized that technology is it and after the last storm I was hooked again! Because of work constraints, however, I didn’t really get to go out much until the late 90s. Instead I watched storms over the internet and see what my target would have looked like. I learned a lot and did this for years. Here are some shots of the dash of my chase vehicle.
After learning “DaBaron” I wanted to try it out; but loved the idea of being driven around the plains, staying at a nice, clean hotel and getting up and predicting the weather each morning. This was on the Silver Lining Tours Master Class tour. 10 days on the plains, learning weather (got some nice software and skills on the trip). Was a great time; I have a DVD if you want to swap one of yours.
June 7 2005 South Dakota badlands, SW of Wanblee SD, Jackson County
Jackson County Tornado June 7 2005
June 9, 2005. Hill City Kansas #0 (This was reported to the NWS by the folks I was with; he was a NWS employee, but this picture isn’t that great).
Hill City Tornado, June 9, 2005
June 9, 2005. Hill City Kansas #1 (Truncated Cone)
Hill City Tornado June 9, 2005
June 9, 2005. Hill City Kansas #2 (The infamous tornado)
Hill City Kansas Tornado June 9, 2005
June 9 2005 Palco Kansas
Palco Tornado, June 9, 2005
June 9 2005 Damar Kansas double twister
Damar Double Tornado June 9, 2005
June 9 2005 Ellis County Kansas
Ellis County Tornado, June 9, 2005
June 11 2005 Caprock Texas (or was it 10th)
Caprock Tornado, June 11, 2005
June 12 2005 sw of Jayton Texas (Kent Co) #1
Kent County Twister #1
June 12 2005 SW of Jayton Texas (Kent Co) #2
Kent County Tornado, June 12, 2005
June 12 2005 SW of Girard Texas #3 multivortex
Kent County Multi-vortex June 12, 2005
June 12 2005 SW of Girard Texas #3
June 12 2005 Jayton/Hamlin Texas #4
Hamlin Tornado, June 12, 2005
June 14 2005 Trego Center Kansas Mothership (this was confirmed by Doppler on Wheels that was right next to us)
Trego County Toranado, June 14, 2005
What a great learning experience! Much quicker than learning it without for sure! I had a blast and I highly recommend Silver Lining Tours!
(((Doing what I could I got in some chasing in 2006 and 2007; but work schedule prevented me from doing too many chases; thus no tornados but many great structure, lightning and storm photos!)))
May 22 2008 Hoxie Kansas
This is the same day as the Windsor tornado. I was past Sebert and didn’t think I’d make it back to the Front Range, especially since the storm was moving Northwest (huh?). Kansas was supposed to go bonkers on two consecutive days…I chose to chase western Kansas!
I ended up in good position on a Tornado Warned storm but needed to hold out for the core to cross the road; this was west of Hoxie Kansas and I didn’t think it wise to core-punch this beast. That ended up being a very wise move! I pulled off in the field entrance and watched several storm chasers get ditched on a slick-as-ice road (I tried it and backed up). I got just a couple of still shots that are quite Photoshop-ed to get good contrast; it was a HP supercell day! Immediately when the cell passed the road I headed east to get into great position, but ended up stopped by downed power lines (and a roof) across the road. The power lines were snapped in 3 or 4 segments, wow! It seemed so cruel to me for the Mother Nature to blow away two of the homes in the middle of no-where–miles and miles of nothing in every direction! The tornado was pretty big from the video I’ve seen, I think I saw it beginning to rope out and come out of its rain-wrapped environment.
Hoxie Tornado May 22, 2008
June 15 2009 Elbert County Colorado #1
It was Daphne’s 5th birthday and I worked from home so I could go out and chase this day. I targeted the Palmer Divide and assumed action would start around 3pm. I was waiting for my new HD video camera to be delivered. The moment UPS arrived the storm of the day was passing over; so I hopped in the car and headed out. About 7 miles from home I caught this awesome supercell; chased it to Colby Kansas and saw the best stuff here! Amazing that the battery came charged enough to take this amazing video!
Elbert County #1, June 15, 2009
June 15 2009 Elbert County Colorado #2
Elbert County #2, June 15, 2009
June 15 2009 Elbert County Colorado #3 (plus satellite #4)
It then dissipated as you see in the video; but a need then comes back out of the cloud. The video is six to eight times sped up, so this was about 30 minutes of video if I remember correctly). The original funnel had left and I couldn’t detect much rotation; but then a needle came back down probably out of the same Meso-structure; very cool. I then took off to go after it. I drove through Elbert County and over one hill I saw a huge funnel with a sattelite tornado around it. I can’t confirm these were on the ground; I didn’t have a good shot and was hoping around the next turn there would be one but there wasn’t. So I only got a shot while driving which wasn’t so good (the focus was on driving at that time). I followed it to Colby KS; had an exciting encounter with hail and incredible (and scary) structure.
Elbert County #3, June 15, 2009
Elbert County #4 Satellite, June 15, 2009
Music in the following by my band, Multicast…
June 7, 2012: Palmer Divide / Agate Tornado
I what appeared to be a brief tornado but because I couldn’t confirm rotation from my location I figured it was just scud. But after watching some other chaser’s video I realized that I did witness a tornado between Agate and Deer Trail on this monsterous supercell. I was driving at the time so I don’t have a picture or video.
June 7, 2012: Simla, CO Torando
I had gained good position on this amazing structure supercell and it was tornado warned as it headed NW of Simla. From my vantage point I couldn’t 100% confirm a tornado but after confirmation from other chaser video and accounts I do believe I saw a tornado; and the position of the tornado was consistent in the meso as the later Calhan tornado.
Funnel embedded in rain core, NW of Simla Co June 7, 2012
June 7, 2012. Calhan tornado.
As I was driving I saw a funnel form but there was no good place to pull off the road at the time; so I continued to watch while the funnel grew in size. I eventually was able to pull over and got some cool shots as the funnel drifted into the rain core. Later video capture shows the funnel back-lit by lightning. Although I never did see the funnel reach the ground; chasers closer to the storm did confirm and there was damage. I was trying to stay in front of the storm to capture structure shots so I wasn’t as close as others.
June 7, 2012 Calhan CO Torando as it drifed into the rain core
Summary. That’s it for the official count. I have seen lots of wall clouds, funnels, swirls, gust-nadoes, etc; but I only count them if I can confirm it is a tornado (and I call that into the weather service). In the last several years I’ve not seen any “official” twisters but I have seen many situations that were highly suspect…just couldn’t confirm rotation or ground debris usually because I was in bad position relative to that part of the storm. I’ve also been on many storms with confirmed tornadoes but just in the wrong place; part of the fun of chasing!
I had been wanting to take a tornado tour ever since they were first offered; the thought of not having to drive and get to see how hard-core storm chasers travel everywhere sounded great; and this company had the “Master Class Tour” which was a severe storm forecasting class at the same time as a tour! Perfect!
Here is the original journal I posted with pictures while on the tour to communicate back to loved ones and friends! What a great trip and opportunity!
Didn’t know if I was going to chase this day as I had a meeting until 3pm likely I’d be behind all day. After walking back from another building on campus through the sprinkling rain, I saw a couple of nice towers starting to form; one just east of us and one to the north. Got back to my desk and took a look at some of the maps and imagery. Did a little work and then decided to take a break and check out the storm from the 9th floor; I’ve been wanting to do that for a while.
While up there I saw some impressive lowerings on the east side of the updraft base; but they were pretty far away–I’d estimate west of DIA. Then I saw a small scud-like cloud form, on the ground, out of the center of the rain shaft dominating the whole west side of the storm.
No condensation tube that I could see, but definitely rotation/debris on the ground.
It was pretty far away; I’d guess 10 or miles? But the scud cloud started to rapidly rise from the ground. I then noticed a bunch of disturbances on the ground; a few were spinning. It reminded me of the water around a waterspout and I even asked the docs that stopped to look as well if there was a lake out there. I never saw a funnel or condensation tube but I’m going to chalk this one a very small rain-wrapped (for a while at least) tornado. It reminded me of the tornado I saw last year near Hoxie Kansas as both just appeared out of the rain and then dissapeared; although the Hoxie one definitely had more traditional structure. I put up some video (same zoom; from my cell phone) on facebook.
Some pictures of the chase:
Nice lowering as I'm catching the storm.
Nicer lowering as I'm catching the storm.
Yet even nicer lowering_S_ I have pretty much caught the storm.
Here is as much as my camera could capture.
This is looking very suspect...no apparent rotation but definitly RFD winds.
It turns out Adam Boggs was directly next to this lowering and has some amazing footage of it. In his footage it didn’t appear to be rotating much either; we’ll call it a Scudnado. It was impressive structure though! Ended up hooking up with Adam on some random county road and we chased the rest of the day convoy style. This was a great chase and the storm had magnificent structure at times!
Wow, mothership take me home!
Just south of Fort Morgan, great structure.
Out north of Fort Morgan somewhere, gaining some great Structure.
Death of the storm
Then, some lightning from the cell further west by Keensburg.
This was a down day for most chasers, but our guides strutted their stuff
today by forecasting west central Kansas as a target. The mid level had a
lot of moisture coming up from Amarillo into West Central Kansas and there was a
lot of dry desert air coming up over Colorado forming a dry line with nice
instability once you got into Kansas. We drove from Kearney Nebraska and
arrived at Colby Kansas at noon. We hung out there until 5:00 when we saw
the first storm of the day blow up, and boy did it in a hurry.
We had to drive east to catch up with the storm and experienced some minor
hail on I-70 along the way. After going south right where the Trego Center
tornado was on Day 3 (June 9th) we knew that area was in for another intense
storm. We actually drove by where the tornado was and saw much destruction
to trees and even flipped over flatbed trucks. We parked along a small
country road and watched this beautiful mothership supercell evolve. I
have always wanted to see a mothership and was blessed with a super high quality
storm structure today. We hung out with two farmers who were really cool
and calm as this beast passed over their homes.
Eventually this put down a very weak tornado right before it was overwhelmed
with a squall line that had developed over eastern Colorado–very similar to the
supercell from Day 1 in South Dakota. Then all hell broke loose and we had
to run for our lives (well, not really, but there was large hail and intense
winds that would have wrecked havoc on our van). The storm quickly
swallowed us up and we narrowly escaped it after almost 2 hours of being very
closely chased. I’m positive this storm complex had to produce large
tornadoes and devastating hail storms; we’ll wait to see what the NWS report
This storm was the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and produced the most wicked
lightening storm I’ve ever seen too. For over 2 hours it was black as
night (but it was daylight still) with zero visibility due to blowing rain
(gusts were around 50-60 mph). The lightening was intense in every
direction, probably 4-5 times per second. I tried to video it but I don’t
think it came out. You could see scary lowerings in the clouds through the
lightening at times. What a treat from our mother nature!
There are a lot of pictures here because I am in awe of the beauty of this
storm…I couldn’t decide on which to show so I chose many.
This is the Rear Flank Downdraft blowing dust in the distance. This is
an intense wind!
Lots and lots of rotation!
and finally a tornado. This is called a truncated cone because the
condensation funnel didn’t ever go from the cloud to the ground, but as you can
see there is a definite tornado as seen by the debris on the ground.
You can see the tip of the funnel in the center, it actually isn’t the funnel
looking thing on the left, but that was rotating too!
Because of the intensity of this storm complex, there actually could be a
chase day tomorrow as well do to the outflow boundary generated by this MCS.
We thought we’d be sitting around on day 10 but that may not be true anymore.
Gotta love how dynamic the weather is!
Here was our escape route. After leaving the tornado, we were right in
front of the golden box in the yellow. The tornado is the where the letter
F is in pink near the center of the radar. We had to navigate down the to
the right and down the green notch.
Video (first half is a few days later in Kansas; second half is the Texas Twisters from 6/12):
Today was suggested to be a big day due to the instability and jet digging
in. We headed east and south from Plainview. There blew up two large
storms and we were positioned well between the two. The northern storm was
by far the largers storm and so we targeted it. It ended up dying and the
southern storm was exploding so we went south. This storm ended up being
on a squall line so we focused on the southern storm. Bill’s friends at
the Lubbock office called and told us the sheriff had reported a tornado with
the second to last storm and so we headed fast and furious to that storm.
We had to punch the tip of the core to get there and when the base of the storm
came into view we knew we’d be in for a treat. We watched as a large wedge
was formed and touch the ground. This beast became rain wrapped and we
moved to beat the hail wrapped core. We proceeded to see multiple vortex
and another cone and ended up with a roping out elephant trunk. In total,
we counted 5 tornados from this supercell.
There is a 1/2 mile wide tornado that is rain and dirt wrapped in there, don’t
be fooled…it was rotating VERY fast!
My still shots of this multiple vortex tornado (yes, one tornado with two-three
littler tornados in it…these tornados were rotating around each other).
This came out of a new mesocyclone base after the wedge dissapated (at least we
think, the wedge could still be rain wrapped behind and to the left…we got the
hell out of there so we’re not sure). I concentrated on video at this
point and don’t have captured images from that yet.
At this time we saw that the last storm in the squall line (one storm south)
was growing enormous and was swallowing this already huge storm. We drove
fast and furious and upon diving out from the forward flank downdraft we saw a
huge horseshoe shaped wall base with a wall cloud. This never really
shaped up to much so we ended up driving away and viewing this storm from a
distance. This was a HUGE storm that took up several counties. We
saw amazing anvil crawling lightening and beautiful striated mammatus.
The above two pictures are of a wall cloud under this monster. You can
see from the two pictures the downward motion of the wall cloud, we really
thought it was going to tornado. Behind it is the rear flank downdraft
(RFD) hole…you would not want to be right under this hole as you’d probably
experience 100 mph winds and softball hail. And yes, there was rapid
rotation in these clouds at this time.
Rapidly rotating funnel with tail cloud that was very active, but didn’t put
down any tornado. This beast was so huge and so efficient it didn’t have a
chance to make a tornado…there was just too much rain cooled air falling down
through the RFD and cooling the inflow too much.
This is a typical shot from the trip. The above radar shows this super
cell. It probably took up at least one whole county and a 1/3 of all the
counties surrounding it. Maybe 50 miles at the base?
These are called Puscular Rays. You are looking at blue sky with a
little bit of the anvil at the top of the photo. I haven’t quite learned
exactly what causes this, but it is like a rainbow effect, there is refraction
of light around the supercell forming a “inverted shadow” of sorts on the
horizon. That is the while triangle.
Picture from our ride away from this storm after sunset. Incredible
storm structure, but it would require a fish-eye lens to do the storm justice.
Notice the shelf cloud sucking in moisture from the lower level of the
atmosphere (950 mb). Then the inflow right above it sucking in mid-level
moisture (700 mb), then the anvil way above that. This middle inflow band
demonstrates the amount of rotation in this storm as it is bent around from
behind the storm. This was a very healthy storm that died about a couple
hours after sunset due to the loss of heating.
The first tornado was the largest of the trip, we figure 1/2 mile wide at the
base. We saw several trees fly up and also several power transformer
explosions. A couple of towns were in the wake of some serious hail
problems associated with this storm.
Day #5. 6/11/2005. Texas Panhandle Supercells and Tornado
We targeted the Texas panhandle today as there were several boundaries
forming with lots of moisture (even though it was somewhat cool for Texas in
June). We drove from Dodge City to just south of Amarillo and sat around
and watched the clouds waiting for one to blossom. It took storms a little
while to get going, but once they did we had a choice of one by Hereford and
another outside of Amarillo. We took the Amarillo storm because it was the
first and most impressive. As we drove close we found another classic
supercell, but this was fairly small in nature. We watched a big wall
cloud approach NW Amarillo and it kept trying persistently forming wall clouds,
but there was just not enough juice for it to take off. We heard that the
southern storm was taking off and so we left the Amarillo storm as it was
putting on a nice lowering, but the rotation had pretty much ended. Again,
like every day, we heard the sirens go off and everyone came rushing out of
restaurants, stores and their cars to see the large dark cloud coming their way.
The city was a zoo, so that finalized our decision to get the hell out of town
as it would be hard to chase in a city.
We picked off a southern storm that had a history of a tornado and it was a
monster. Absolutely huge storm. This storm was trying to get with it
and kept forming new wall clouds that were impressive. Finally, once we
thought the storm was going to give up, once wall cloud formed with a funnel.
The funnel eventually dropped for a small cone tornado. We think it may
have put down two tornadoes, but until we review the video we can’t be sure.
We moved to get a closer view but we ended up in a mess with lots of rain.
We immediately went south as the rain was not linear (meaning it was curving
around) and we watched a huge funnel from less than 1/4 mile away while in the
bear’s cage. After having enough and knowing that the funnel was going to
come down, we moved another mile to the south and watched the rain wrapped
circulation head off in the distance. The national weather service issued
a tornado for this rain wrapped whatever, but we only saw the huge funnel and
didn’t ever see a tornado. At this time baseball sized hail was falling
just north of where we were. I unfortunately didn’t get any stills but I
should have some video.
The national weather service got a report on this storm that there was a
tornado on the ground, but it only looked like rain-filled downdraft (with no
rotation) so we are not counting this as a tornado. The tornado I only
have on video and don’t have a way to capture it for viewing just yet.
We then watched a new storm form right behind it and it got quite organized
putting quite a show. We were directly under the clouds with all sorts of
eddys and rotation and scud building everywhere from the strong inflow.
I’ve never seen cloud motion like this, hopefully the video comes out. We
watched this storm go off into the distance while getting eaten alive by
mosquitoesas it got dark. We were going to sleep in Amarillo but two
monster hail storms got between us and flooded the interstate with tons of water
and very large hail and we were stuck going south to Plainview for the night.
The target area is the eastern Texas Panhandle or western Oklahoma or Kansas.
We’ll see what the outflow boundaries look like from today’s monstrous hail
Today was foretasted by everyone to be a great tornado day in the Texas
Panhandle. There was a very strong upper level trough coming through that
would for sure initiate convection, and there was a dryline and frontal boundary
to make a second day of a classic triple-point. The triple-point was
looking to be down outside of Clovis New Mexico and into the west central Texas
Panhandle. We started off the day in Dodge City Kansas and headed south.
After analyzing data we were really confused because the trough was out of
phase, meaning it was too early in the day and there wasn’t enough heating for
the really deep convection. Therefore everything started going bananas
around 1:00 and since there was little cap everything was free to explode.
This is not what you want because every storm will fight for the deep energy and
instability in the lower atmosphere. We decided to stay north and targeted
the first supercell in the rich atmosphere in SW Kansas.
We watched the storm as it kept producing wall clouds but they were really
not that impressive. This storm could not get organized enough before the
early morning big sloppy storms from the central panhandle started to seed the
northern storms. We know we would only have a small window (maybe 2 hours)
of time before this would happen and ruin any chance of the northern target area
taking off, and it just didn’t get organized in time. We then targeted
another good looking storm in the extreme western Oklahoma panhandle and by the
time we got there the storm was just a squall line with a nice looking shelf
cloud (another whale’s mouth type of formation) but nothing severe. At
least we weren’t the only people that busted today, everyone did as there were
no tornadoes that any chaser saw anywhere…shows how the Storm Prediction
Center’s models can be way off based on a single, early morning storm complex
ruining the environment, and the upper level disturbance coming in way too
After dark we can see a nice supercell on radar and great lightening show
around Amarillo, but none of us were in the mood to drive 1.5 hours to chase a
storm in the damaged atmosphere after dark.
These pictures are examples of the wall clouds we saw today. There was
definite rotation and they kept trying to re-organize with strong inflow, but
the southern storm complex kept feeding outflow aloft into this storm ruining
its chances for tonadogenesis. You can see in this picture two wall
clouds, one is dying and the other is accepting all the inflow.
Tomorrow is looking like a good day on the Raton ridge in either southern
Colorado or northern New Mexico, and Sunday could be the last good day of the
tour. I think we’ve maxed out on our outbreaks