Monthly Archives: May 2016

23 May 2016 / Alanreed, Texas Supercell

Rense and repeat.  Southeast winds across the eastern Texas Panhandle, a lot of moisture, decent flow – scattered supercell storms were once again expected.

We made it into the panhandle on I-40 and arrived in Shamrock just before 4 pm.  Storm attempts had been occurring over southern Donley County and one updraft seemed to be taking hold near Hedley.  The storm was low on volume when we arrived, and sputtered and stumbled slowly northeast before dying near Quail.

At 5 pm, towering cumulus were noted both visually and on satellite to our north and we started considering a trip north toward Pampa and Canadian.  However, we continued to get towering cumulus just to our west ( near Clarendon ) and we felt that there had to be something favorable in that immediate area despite the failure of the first storm.  The planned seemed sound, and even looked like it was going to pay off for a time.

The next serious storm attempt occurred just before 6 pm with a quick developing updraft over Clarendon.  For the next hour and a half, the storm moved northeast around 5 mph across northern Donley County, producing large hail, and at times, a rotating wall cloud.  Confidence in tornado production was fairly high for a time just to the southwest of Alanreed.  By 7:30 pm, a cluster of storms moved into the area from the southwest.  While not directly colliding with our storm, an outflow surge northward to I-40 appeared to stabilize the atmosphere and our show quickly ended.

We spent some time measuring hail ( up to 3.11 inches in diameter ) – shooting some sunset color and then grabbing I-40 for the quick return home.

22 May 2016 / Spearman, Texas – Swing and a Miss

Looking northwest from 11.4 miles south of Spearman, TX (4:33 pm CDT)


Still high from the score of the previous day’s event, we left Garden City, Kansas and drove south toward the Texas Panhandle with fairly high hopes on the day.  High moisture, southeast winds across the panhandle, decent mid-level flow and the calendar saying late May usually spells a couple of big tornado events.

Thunderstorms were already forming as we drove south across the Oklahoma Panhandle and entered Texas, north of Spearman just before 3 pm.  We had long stops and spent about an hour and a half watching storms organize from a few miles south of Spearman.  It was from this location that we observed the best storm structure that we saw on the day, and a wall cloud with good rotation was evident around 4:30 pm.

Around 5:30 pm, our target storm took a hit from a left split that came off severe storms over the southeast panhandle.  The collision wasn’t necessarily a bad one in the sense that it didn’t kill our storm, but things did become disorganized for awhile.  In fact, they were disorganized for a long period of time.  Between 5:30 and 6:15 pm, storms in the area were without good definition, made up of numerous updraft areas, and gave us no reason to believe that something impressive was just around the corner.

We started making the drive south toward Pampa with the idea of checking out storms over the southeast Texas Panhandle – or hopefully, new storms that could develop near the I-40 corridor.  Little did we know.  Upon arrival in Pampa, our original storms got their act together and a supercell began producing a significant tornado.  It’s one thing to just pick the wrong target, it’s another to have been there and left.  A quick analysis of the situation showed that we were still closer to the original storm that we were any others, so we started the drive back north.  It was a long-lived event that was likely still producing a tornado by the time we made it back, but the dangerous part of the storm had reached the intersection of our only east option before we got there.  Playing it smart, we let the now obscured by rain mesocyclone start away from us.  There were a lot of low clouds which prevented us from even enjoying any storm structure, basically, it was a waste of time return.


21 May 2016 / Leoti, Kansas Supercell and Tornadoes

This was a fairly easy target with a nose of moist and unstable air sticking north across western Kansas, and moderate mid-level flow beginning to spread across the region as the upper ridge shifted east.

We made Garden City by 3:20 pm and ended up spending a good deal of time in and just north of the city through 5 pm, watching towering cumulus and small CB’s from our northwest to west to southwest.

Convection to the northwest was the most aggressive, and the decision was made to move a little closer.  We made stops near Modoc and eventually Marienthal just before 6 pm.  Storms were severe, but they were broken up into several different updrafts that were heavily weighted on their north sides.  Just after 6:30 pm, one updraft became dominant over northwest Wichita County.  For the next two hours, the storm sat nearly stationary along the Wichita/Logan county line.  The storm evolved into a beautifully sculpted updraft, but mid and upper level flow was spreading precipitation to the southeast, making it somewhat problematic getting shots from the typical point of view.  We observed three tornadoes with the storm that were all brief and appeared weak.  The first occurred at 7:04 pm about 10 miles north northwest of Leoti.  The second formed not long after the first dissipated about 12 miles north of Leoti.  After about an hour without a tornado, the storm reorganized and a third tornado was produced about 14 miles north of Leoti at 8:03 pm.

We ended the evening shooting lightning and watching the updraft of this long lived storm shrivel from about 10 miles north of Leoti.

16 May 2016 / Texas Panhandle Supercells

Looking southwest from 13.0 miles southeast of Canadian, TX (8:54 pm CDT)

Looking southwest from 13.0 miles southeast of Canadian, TX (8:54 pm CDT)

We crossed into the Texas Panhandle on I-40 at 3 pm, and ended up stopping in Groom around 4:30 pm.  Our hope was that an east/west boundary near I-40 would be the focus for severe thunderstorms, but that didn’t end up being the case.  For an hour, we watched storms on radar near the western end of the Oklahoma Panhandle.  By 5:30 pm, we had given up on the I-40 play and started west toward, and north from Amarillo.

Tornado production was done by the time we met up with out first storm near Cactus just before 7 pm.  We found one storm in the lead that may have still been surface based, but a broken line of storms that extended to our west was clearly elevated above outflow that had been racing south.  We were able to jump in front of the lead storm – a high precipitation supercell – as it tracked across Spearman toward Canadian.

By the time the storms reached western Oklahoma, a solid line had evolved with some impressive storms embedded in the line.  We allowed one storm to pass over us at Durham, Oklahoma to see what kind of hail it had.  We were disappointed to find no stones larger than one inch, and even more disappointed that we allowed the line to surge east of us.  We never made it back in front and the resulting drive home was through high winds and heavy rain all the way back to Okarche.  One of the main problems that arises when you allow yourself to be overtaken by storms.

13 May 2016 / Western Oklahoma and Local Storms

Looking east from 8.2 miles west southwest of Okarche, OK (7:51 pm CDT)

Storms formed across northern and western Oklahoma during the late afternoon.  There did end up being a few supercell storms that moved almost straight south.   I first drove west on I-40 to the Erick exit and considered following storms that were just across the border over the southeast Texas Panhandle.  Unfortunately, these started moving almost due south and it looked like there would be very little chance of them getting into Oklahoma.  For the situation, I couldn’t see myself ending the day south of Childress.  I started back northeast and kept an eye on storms that developed over Dewey and Major counties.  These were only mildly interesting and I continued to work my way back toward home by way of Watonga.  East of Watonga, one of the more interesting storms of the day became visible to the east.  This storm was a high based supercell that was tracking south southeast across eastern Kingfisher County.  I stopped about 8 miles west southwest of Okarche and shot a few pictures of the storm before returning to town.

9 May 2016 / Kay County, Oklahoma Supercell

Looking southeast from 1.6 miles southwest of Peckham, OK (8:04 pm CDT)


Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.  The obvious target for the day was south central Oklahoma, but I still found plenty of evidence suggesting that supercells and tornadoes would be possible north all the way into Kansas.  Now, the storms over southern Oklahoma – they were what they were.  I wouldn’t target that area if it happened again today.  I expected them to develop or move quickly into the Arbuckle Mountains with all the hills, trees, lakes and bad road options it usually brings.  The Katie tornado ended up being a one out of a hundred event that was highly visible, long lasting and near a couple of state highways.  You could play that game over and over for the next 20 years and not have those results again.  The Norman storm wouldn’t be considered because it was – well, moving through Norman.  The Stillwater storm might have been an option had we stayed around Enid, but we ended up getting suckered on storms that were developing just to our west and northwest around 4 pm.   It wasn’t until after the chase day was over that careful analysis showed a southwest moving boundary that had undercut all the storms north of a latitude of Stillwater.  This wasn’t evident in the field in real time.

We had a couple of storms that maintained just enough structure to keep our interest as we followed them into Kansas between Caldwell and Arkansas City.  It was confusing to see low volume updrafts and an elevated nature, but it made more sense when we later analyzed the outflow boundary that undercut our storms.

One storm did eventually fight the less than hospitable air mass and actually looked close to producing a tornado near the Grant/Kay county line just after 7 pm.  We sat near the small community of Peckham as this storm approached.  Right on cue, as the storm was looking its best, another and stronger surge of outflow air arrived from Kansas and all hope for tornado production was extinguished.  We ended up playing in hail around Peckham and shooting some near sunset images that came out pretty nice.  The largest hail we found was just over the size of a golfball.



8 May 2016 / Woods County, Oklahoma Supercell

We left Okarche and started northwest with a broad target over northwest Oklahoma and southwest Kansas.  We stopped at a new travel center just northwest of Seiling around 3:30 pm and ended up monitoring the weather for close to an hour before making our next move.  By 4:30 pm, scattered storms were developing from Harper County, Oklahoma southward into the southwest part of the state.  We targeted a storm near the northeast corner of Ellis County and began moving north.  At 5 pm, we rolled through Waynoka with a solid looking storm to our west northwest over southeast Harper County.  What also had our attention was all the left split storms that were beginning to race northward from supercell storms over southwest Oklahoma.  There was a bad feeling that these would eventually impact us, and that did in fact end up being the case.

Between 5:45 and 6:30 pm, a fairly impressive supercell had become established over northern Woods County.  The storm had nice structure and occasional wall cloud features.  There was a decent amount of cloud base rotation just to our west as we sat a few miles north of Alva at 6:30 pm.  Unfortunately, one of the left split storms was now only about 25 miles south of us and racing north northeast.  While the main part of the storm missed us, a surge of northward moving outflow air impacted our storm around 7 pm, resulting in its immediate demise.

For the next couple of hours, we wandered around Woods and Alfalfa counties, and made half hearted attempts to follow new storms that formed near the Kansas/Oklahoma border, but it was clear that the atmosphere wouldn’t be supporting anything very impressive the remainder of the evening.  We made a couple of final stops late in the evening near Cleo Springs and Fairview for some lightning photography that ended up being rather uninteresting – and then started for home.