Category Archives: 2005

Red River Storms – June 13, 2005

The atmosphere across Southern and Eastern Oklahoma was extremely unstable at midday, and while it didn’t look like that tornadoes were likely, severe storms were expected and we felt there were some supercell chances.  I picked up Doug Speheger and Erin Maxwell at Doug’s house in Norman.  Not long after I got there, a severe thunderstorm developed almost right overhead and moved off into the trees of Northeast Cleveland County.  We decided to let this storm go and target storms that were forming about 50 miles to the southwest.

We found marginally severe hail in Southwest McClain County, but not a lot of structure as the storms were quickly evolving into a long line segment.  There was a supercell storm at the southwest end of the line that was anchored in Cotton county for a time.  We saw a brief, small funnel cloud with this storm as we moved around the south end of Waurika Lake.  The storm quickly became outflow unbalanced as it moved toward the Red River.  Before it blasted us with wind and hail, I was able to come away with a couple of lightning shots.

We made a turn-around in Wichita Falls, TX and spent a bit of time on photography on the way back.

West Texas tornadoes – June 11, 2005

VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNr03RFDaLs

Our thoughts that the day might turn out to be a “day before the day” event came true.  A strong shortwave was not expected to impact the southern plains until the 12th, but enough instability, low level focus and modest wind shear was able to produce a small area of supercells near and south of Amarillo, TX.  I picked up Dave Dowell in Weatherford, OK and continued west into the panhandle.

We took our time driving and made a couple of stops including one near Clarendon before targeting new storm development west of Amarillo.  Keeping our options open to check out other storms to the south, we targeted a storm near Bushland.  This was a low precipitation storm that had beautiful structure for awhile.  Tornado warnings were issued for it and there was a brief time that rotation had increased to the point we believed a tornado was possible.  Soon after, the storm became stretched out and when outflow started hitting us in the face, we moved to other storms to the south.

We targeted a storm northeast of Tulia that had a radar look of becoming the dominant storm.  We could see the wall cloud taking shape as we approached.  Taking a position west of Vigo Park, it became apparent that the wall cloud had fairly strong rotation.  The first tornado was a weak tornado that formed with an occluded mesocyclone to our west northwest.  It was hard to believe that it was possible to get a tornado under such a small amount of cloud mass.  The second was made up of brief condensation wisps under a very low bowl shaped wall cloud.  The third tornado lasted a couple of minutes and appeared to be the strongest of the group.

Starting home, we drove through the core of the storm that was located over the canyon area to the northeast of Wayside.  We got to experience a period of hail larger than golfballs and then took time to shoot some lightning near I-40.

Tornadoes near Hill City, Kansas – June 9, 2005

VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYpEmTVWK3A

We drove north late on the 8th and spent the night in Dodge City.  For a couple of days, the severe potential on the 9th looked greatest near I-70, and we wanted to knock out more than half of the drive the evening before.

Things started out perfect chase day morning.  The target area looked to be in the same general area as previous thinking and we drove north toward WaKeeney.  We then went west to Oakley and made a data stop.  It was clear that we were in the right area, at the nose of the higher instability and near the south edge of the stronger deep layer shear.  We grabbed a bit of food and watched the first convection of the day begin about 15 miles to the east.

The county roads we took east were dirt/gravel, but were in good enough shape to limit concerns of getting stuck.  We watched the storm form a nice wall cloud near the county line west of St. Peter.  This wall cloud had VERY impressive rotation and while we did see a few dust whirls under it, there was nothing of significance to consider this a tornado.

It was time for things to get interesting - or nerve racking.  We had just finished watching a very strong attempt at a tornado, and felt sure that it would produce a tornado soon.   We started driving east and dropped into a little valley.  At the bottom, the road had severe rutting where previous water had been flowing out of fields.  We crashed into a rut that was more than a couple of feet wide and a couple of feet deep.  The car bounced hard, throwing everything in it around, and then died.  There we were.  For the first time in my chase career, I was stranded while on what was quickly becoming a tornadic storm.  It was obvious that it was a fuel problem, no matter what I did I couldn’t get it to start.  I felt sure that I had broken a fuel pump, line or filter of some kind.

I called a service station in Hill City and the sheriff’s office, all were busy enough with the storms that they were not going to take the time to send a tow truck.  I was walking around the car and happened to look to the northeast when I first noticed a large stovepipe tornado.   I got my video here while standing on top of the car.  Now I was mad.  Not only were we stuck in the middle of nowhere with a car that wouldn’t start, but it now appeared that we were missing a big tornado show after having made a near perfect forecast.

Tracey suggested calling a Ford dealership and asking if they knew what the problem was.  While I didn’t think it would help, I was quick to try just because I would have done anything at that point.  I got in contact with a dealership in OKC and explained the problem.  The service tech guided me to a single push of a button in the trunk that got the car going again.  I couldn’t believe it.  There is an automatic fuel shut off that kicks in when the car thinks it has been in an accident.  The switch to reset it is behind a panel in the trunk.  We had fallen behind some, and ended up missing the best part of the large tornado southwest of Hill City, but we were rolling again and had the chance to make up for it.

Strong rotation continued near Damar and we were sitting near the south edge of the town when a tornado formed to the west southwest.  It was not that impressive, but did have condensation to the ground several times.  We moved to the east of Palco and watched another tornado develop to the northwest.  This was one of the better tornadoes (at least for us).  It was a large white cone for most of its life and ended with an impressive rope-out.  There was another tornado on the ground during most of the life of the Palco tornado.  This tornado was about six miles north of Zurich and could be seen to our northeast.

After the Palco and Zurich events, the storm didn’t look as well organized and I questioned its chances of producing more tornadoes.  We made the decision to move to the next storm south that was approaching Ogallah.  We ended up seeing the tail end of the final tornado with that storm.

Southwest Oklahoma tornadoes – June 5, 2005

VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9sStWP6ZTM

Going to sleep the night before – and after the excitement of June 4 - I wasn’t thinking too hard on a forecast, and didn’t give much thought to the possibility of supercells.  But looking at morning data, I not only felt strong about supercell potential, but that there would be a tornado or two as well.  The target was across Southwest Oklahoma / an area bounded by Lawton/Altus/Hobart.  We took our time and headed into the Wichita Mountains - stopped atop Mt. Scott – took a few pictures and started toward a storm that was forming to the northeast of Altus.  This storm produced some hail in Roosevelt.

As the storm drifted south, hail size increased and so did the supercell structure and rotation in a wall cloud near Tom Steed Lake.  The area of rotation drifted south to the northwest of Mountain Park where we saw the first tornado (small) about three miles west northwest of the town.  The second tornado of the day formed about four miles west northwest of Snyder.  This tornado only lasted about three minutes, but managed to find a couple of farm houses where damage was done.

Areas of rotation continued until dark, but we never saw any more signs of tornadoes and the rest of the evening was spent watching lightning as we drove toward home.  This was the final day with Lorraine Evans and Gareth Poile who had been with us for about 10 days.  While we had a few down days, we did manage to see some nice looking supercells and a handful of tornadoes.  A very enjoyable time was had by all.

Tornado – Hiawatha, Kansas – June 4, 2005

VIDEO PART 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mg5yW-Y3kH4

VIDEO PART 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3z7-Io6mVA

A significant outbreak of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes was expected this day from Iowa and Eastern Nebraska, south into Oklahoma and Texas.  We believed the best area was going to be across Northeast Kansas and Southwest Iowa and started with a target of Topeka.  While in Topeka getting fuel, storms started forming just to our northwest.  They quickly became severe with one storm standing out on the east end which tracked near highway 75 between Holton and Fairview.  We targeted this storm, but for awhile we were not extremely impressed.  As the storm approached Powhattan, KS, it rapidly organized into a strongly rotating supercell and produced a tornado about four miles east southeast of Powhattan.   The tornado crossed the road in front of us and began a wild multiple vortex dance just to our northeast.

As the tornado approached highway 73, there were a few farm houses in the way.  One of the buildings took a direct hit and we watched with amazement as the building blew initially to the west and then disintegrated as it blew to the east.  One more farm house was struck before the tornado weakened after laying down a path three miles long and up to 400 yards wide.

Eastern Colorado supercell – June 2, 2005

Another drive back to Colorado.  There would be a risk of supercell storms in western Kansas, but there was also strong capping to worry about.  At Tribune, KS, we made the decision to continue northwestward into Eastern Colorado for tornado warned storms that were rolling east near I-70.  We targeted a supercell storm with great structure just east of Limon.  This storm had produced tornadoes before we arrived, but didn’t while we were on it.  We ended up with a broken windshield from hail larger than golfballs near Seibert, CO, and then continued to our hotel in Colby, KS.

Colorado scenery and supercells – May 30, 2005

We had fairly high hopes this afternoon as a near classic setup for upslope, severe storms was in place over a small area of Northeast New Mexico and Southeast Colorado.  We decided to play the Colorado side of things and took a trip northwestward from Clayton, NM to near Kim, CO.  This took us through some very pretty areas that I have not been before.  We took some time out to shoot lightning photos midway between Trinidad and Kim.

Our first supercell storm organized north of Kim and we spent the next several hours with it in Northeast Las Animas County and Northwest Baca County.  The storm tried several times to produce a tornado, but couldn’t get it done as far as we know.

We wouldn’t catch up with the next supercell until well after sunset near the town of Pritchett, CO.  This storm had some nice structure and produced hail as large as 2 1/2 inches that covered the road west of Utleyville.  The storm produced one weak tornado that we know of, but our position and the lack of light prevented us from seeing it.

West Texas and New Mexico beauty – May 27, 2005

We ended up with more than we thought we were going to get this afternoon.  We took our time driving toward eastern New Mexico.  We came across a few storms across far west Texas near the towns of Friona and Dimmitt.  These were weak and we continued northwestward to storms near Logan, NM.  We made a brief stop to watch a small cell near Glenrio, NM and then continued on to storms that showed better lightning potential.  We got to see some nice daytime lightning west of Nara Visa, NM and a beautiful sunset east of Romero, TX.  It was in this area where we had a few other lightning ops.  One spot west of Channing, TX treated us to heavy, small hail that covered the road in places.

Sky color saves the day – May 13, 2005

A couple of low level boundaries and high instability supported the threat of supercells and tornadoes across the southwest part of Oklahoma and Northwest Texas.

I started with a target of Altus, but getting there I found that supercell storms were forming in Texas near the city of Paducah.  I didn’t want to go into Texas, but the quick development in a highly unstable atmosphere drew me in.  As has often been the case with chasing in Northwest Texas, I found the storm to quickly become HP in nature and once again found myself looking for other storms to target.

The next storm I observed was northwest of Quanah.  It had nice structure for a bit, but was on it’s way down by the time I reached it.

After looking at some interesting lightning near Altus, OK, I made my way back toward I-40 with hopes of some photo ops near sunset as I slid between storms.  I was very pleased with the results which helped make the day.

Flooding, large hail and tornado near South Plains, Texas – May 12, 2005

VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPyAVnHLMi4

I left Garden City, KS with not a lot of hope on the day.  A cold front had moved south through the Texas Panhandle and into Northwest Oklahoma.  Model data suggested that the front would move back northward through the Texas panhandle, but morning and early afternoon storms looked to be keeping the front from moving much.  As I drove south through the panhandles, it was cool and cloudy with periods of elevated thunderstorms that were producing some hail and impressive lightning.

Early in the afternoon, a supercell storm formed near Plainview and tracked slowly east northeast.  I wasn’t in a lot of hurry toward this storm as it was a long way from me, but I steadily moved in that direction.  After spending a couple of hours in the central Texas Panhandle, I made a run at new storms that were forming to the west of the original Plainview supercell.  The route I picked took me on a core punch course with a storm about 15 miles southeast of Tulia.

It was one of my more intense core punches, not only having a large amount of hail up to baseball size and high winds, but a lot of flash flooding to go with it.

Shortly after I came out of the core near South Plains, TX, strong rotation became evident to my northwest.  I believe it had already produced one tornado and quickly produced a second as it approached the town of South Plains.  The contrast of my video was poor, but I decided to stay out of the hail and get poor video.