End of the Road……

After travelling from Roswell to Amarillo on the 8th, accompanied by a nice HP storm that hit the Big Texan and resulted in a power outage while waiting for steak we had a couple of down days in the warm and sunny Texas sun.

xIMG_8955Unbelievably it was the last chase day of my 2014 trip and there was a marginal risk for wind and lightning in the Oklahoma Panhandle. After hitting the road we watched storms try to fire west of Guymon, they really struggled for an hour or so producing the odd bolt of lightning but time what not on our side as we needed to ping some miles off back to DFW.

As we headed back into Guymon, to gas and up and say our goodbyes the storm finally turned severe, with frequent lightning and some dime sized hail raining down as we were parked up under the gas station canopy.

IMG_8951_stitch

The storms typically exploded as we headed south-east, after punching through and getting in front of the storm system we were treated to a nice lightning show with LP structure that kept is company for an hour or so,  a nice way to wrap up the 2014 season.

xIMG_8970

 

Invasion

After an odd night out in Dumas we hit the road and headed West like chase pioneers!

After lunch in Clovis we were were sat between two risk areas, an upslope play in New Mexico and a stationary boundary in the Texas Panhandle, decisions like these can make or break a chase and even the entire trip. In the end we decided to target the NM risk.

As we headed west two cells formed over the mountains as a result of up slope forcing and began to slide east into the moist air and then the supercell invasion began. The southern cell threw a huge over out heads.

xPano

 

Road options were limited, but luck was on our side as the storm would cross somewhere along the 285…the road we were already on, now it was just a case of getting in the best location to intercept any tornado the supercell might produce. As we repositioned south, the most incredible structure began to emerge….the most incredible Supercell structure I have seen to date.

xIMG_8608There simply are no words…….a quick screen grab off the GoPro shows me and this monster supercell!

goprograb

I stood and watched as the different levels of the storm spun right in front of us, to have something of this scale sat right in front of me felt out of this world.

The storm crossed the road just to our North, I ran with my camera back to the road and watched as the RDS cut around the mesocyclone I watched as the sky above rapidly twisted before dropping an EF0 Tornado on the other side of the road from me…..simply unbelievable!

xIMG_8669

The fun was not over yet, a second cell behind the one that had just crossed the road was on course to pass over out heads, this cell was LP in nature and the main threat was for golf ball size hail. I opened the boot and used this for shelter while the guests took a few golf balls before retreating into the chase cars.

xIMG_8700

As the storm passed over and the sun set we headed further south for the final photo op of the day…..safe to say this chase day is up there!

xIMG_8736

On the range again….

Bit of of an odd chase day today, we were constrained due to a few guest admin issues. After assessing the hail damage from last nights events we headed towards Bennett to catch the now predictable storms firing off the front range around the Denver Metro area. While waiting we came across some of the best little creatures on the plains……Prairie Dogs!

xIMG_8284As the storm sloped off towards us we took to the dirt roads and criss crossed them to stay in front of the leading edge of this storm which went from a high based beauty to an outflow dominant HP mess.

xIMG_8404

xIMG_8417We continued SE were some of the guests witnessed a brief land spout tube, we stopped every few minutes for photo ops. Eventually the shelf cloud caught up with us and blasted us with incredible cold air drawn down from the upper atmosphere. I had a brief chat with the local Sheriff as they were on the lookout for Tornadoes after the unexpected EF2 that hit  Hugo.

xUntitled_Panorama3

After stopping to throw some pea sized hail around we jumped on the interstate and headed east to Colby, KS. Just in time for our storm to turn into a stunner with a corckscrew updraught, typical.

Never turn your back on a Supercell…

We started the day in Kearney, initially it looked as of Kansas would be the focus of our attention, as my track record with Kansas continues to hold true conditions started to look more favourable back in my favourite state of Colorado as warm humid air started racing towards the Rockies. We crossed into Colorado at Wray and raced west to intercept our first storm of the day, it rained a bit and fired out a few CGs. As the main moisture plume reached our area the storms started to look a bit more impressive near Last Chance, a nice LP Supercell with a lovely green core slowly spinning.

xIMG_8042

xIMG_8065Things were really starting to rock as a cell further hiding behind the one above started to look good on radar, and started to kill off this lovely cell but not before it did a hard 90 degree turn, which was unexpected and most likely due to an outflow boundary lurking around. Before we left the above cell, they sky looked odd, very odd. Temperature Dewpoint spreads were converging to the magic 10 spread as we started to close the gap between us and a stunning cell moving east from Bennett. I am pretty sure several laws were broken as we jumped onto i70 to intercept a Classic Supercell that looked like a Tornado producer, the SPC agreed and the storm was duly Tornado Warned.

xIMG_8151We decided to head to Limon to shoot some lightning, grab some food and a place to crash as the cell started to die off. On the drive down we came across yet another Supercell with strobe lightning that illuminated the most incredible stacked plate structure on the mesocyclone, if we could have stopped to grab a picture of this it would have been one of my best to date, but there was no safe place to do so. As we got to Limon, the storm was too close to shoot any decent lightning so turned our attention to dinner.

xIMG_8261Now, this where things started to go slightly wrong. We headed to grab some food at our now regular haunt of Oscars Bar and Grill. The cell was 15 miles NNW of our location moving due East. Myself and other staff went outside with some beers and enjoyed the show before our food arrived. We sat down to dinner keeping an eye on the local weather reports on the TV when the signal cut out, then the electricity. We turned to look out the windows when wind, rain and hail came blasting in at over 90mph, a couple of staff went outside to see what we could see and I jumped in the car to try and move it out of the hail. We got blasted with RDS winds associated with the outer circulation of a Tornado, a hook echo formed right about Limon and produced an EF2 wedge tornado less than 2 miles away and went on to hit the town of Hugo, 5 miles to our South East. We had just had a very close encounter with a multi-vortex Tornado. I took one car of staff and guests down to Hugo to see if we could assist in anyway but the emergency services were already on scene.

xIMG_8273

The above picture was taken just south of Hugo, as the now linear storm system sped off. Another lesson learnt, don’t take your eyes off the radar. No matter how tired you are or how confident you are that a supercell will carry on in the same direction.

Nebraska High

day1otlk_20140603_2000_prtAfter a travel day ,due north to Concordia we woke up to find our selves in a Moderate Risk Area with a 15% hatched probability for Tornadoes…today was undoubtedly going to be interesting one.

We headed to Grand Island for food and on our way the risk was upgraded to High, a relatively rare warning level from the guys over at the Storm Prediction Centre. Interestingly this was for a Derecho, a type of storm system that none of the team had witnessed before, on the downside this was bad news for discrete Tornado producing Supercells.

xIMG_7716We positioned ourselves and awaited for initiation, the wind shear in the lower, middle and upper parts of the atmosphere were incredible to watch first hand and an excellent sign that when storms got going they would be severe. We were not alone in the target area today, we came across a slightly odd sight of numerous chasers all gathered at a gas station waiting for the party to get started, the usual suspects were there and it was great for the guests to meet and greet some of the guys of the Discovery Channels ‘Storm Chasers’ show.xIMG_7748xIMG_7738

The storms fired and the chaser convey rolled out and towards a monstrous and fast moving HP Supercell. We headed right under the base of the storm where we witnessed a brief multi-vortex Tornado on Highway 283 North of Grand Island. The storm system was rapidly going linear so we pulled over to plan our escape route away from the derecho that was setting up to our west as predicted, unfortunately we found ourselves right in front of the monster.

Untitled_Panorama2This thing packed sustained 80mph winds with 4″ hail which inflicted incredible damage to the North side of Omaha and the town of Blair, making international news. Thousands of cars were destroyed and sidings of houses looked like they had been used for target practice.

xIMG_7866xWe ended up punching through the southern end of the derecho encountering some strong sustained winds which were enough to rock the car from one side to the other. After emerging through to the otherside we watched some lovely LP supercells that fired off the dryline.

xIMG_7895Although it looked as if the chase day was over there was one more surprise in store, as we pushed back east we drove through the most incredible display of lightning, so intense that it made the record books for the highest frequency of lightning ever detected. Another first for me, as we drove past a radio tower an upwards lightning bolt erupted from the top of the tower. Not what was expected from the day, but a great one none the less!

Kansas from Oklahoma

After a quick turn around of guest back in DFW we had managed to get a bonus chase day in to start the tour. The days risk area reached from Nebraska down to extreme NW Oklahoma. Our only realistic option was to aim for the southern tip and see if we could pick up a tail end charlie storm…..

The first storm that peaked our interest was near Elk City, a small LP that struggled to do anything remotely interesting. The air was far too dry and instability lacklustre. A storm further to the north looked as if it was doing the business with Supercell characteristics evident. We found a great vantage point north of Buffalo OK. As the storm drifted towards us lovely structure emerged from the gloomy twilight gloom.

Untitled_Panorama1

 

IMG_7633A further two storms drifted pass, the newbies faces were a picture in themselves. Now when chasing your eyes can play tricks on you, in the dark with only sporadic lightning to try and discern tornadic features. The picture looks awfully suspicious but no Tornado was reported for our location. As the storms turned into a linear mess we headed down to Woodward for the night, feeling somewhat sleep deprived but a great day and an excellent start to Tour 3. Personally. I have not had much luck with Kansas, but as the storm was in Kansas as the time I can add this to one of the very few Kansas Supercells! Some of the stragglers who arrived late into DFW over-nighted in Wichita which got slammed by an MCS. A nice feeling that no one missed out.

xIMG_7593

 

End of the road……almost

IMG_7407Waking up in Limon, CO. Today’s risk was looking less than excellent, nut it was a risk none the less, whatever happened today we had to keep the drive back to DFW in our minds as it is surprisingly easy to drive 8 hours in the wrong direction and leaving yourself with an almost impossible drive down to Texas. While gassing up we saw what could be an ideal future chase car, I imagine it would not be the most fuel efficient thing we have ever driven.

We headed east some mushy storms fired up, at this point the fatigue of driving was starting to kick in and I struggled for enthusiasm with this one. A few CGs fired out and we found the obligatory train tracks to try and get some shots from….

IMG_7418_edit

 

We left this system and dropped south to the next, this one threw out some lovely close strikes, which for the guests standing outside came as a slight ‘shock’. We decided to call it a day and head back south, aiming to overnight in Burlington, this was essentially the end of the chase for the guests but as usual you can never say never. A system initiated north of Burlington which allowed us to punch through into Burlington to enjoy a great CG barrage.

 

Better than nothing….I guess

After a drive to Amarillo and a very big steak the day before we headed into one of the most stunning states in the US…Colorado. There was next to no risk of storms today but we still managed to find one. A small cell firing off the Rockies, the best we got were a few bolts and a ‘rain-nado’.

xIMG_7364

After watching the storm slowly decay, we headed north towards Limon, one of the reasons I love this state is because of the incredible scenery that we got to drive through. Everyone was feeling slightly deflated, so I took a car load of guests up into the hills to try our hands at some star photography.

xIMG_7391

A storm slowly flashed away to our south, while we tried out best to catch the elusive Milky Way, it should be easier to catch being over a mile up in the clear air. By the time 2am rolled around and the kyotes began to circle we headed back to Limon and a nice long sleep.

 

 

5 seconds of fame…..

IMG_7252Today was another slow burner and after the previous days stunning chase, we bimbled to the target area and watched the sky bubble until finally a cell became the dominant player of the day. Still any storms in the US is infinitely more impressive than anything we would see back in the UK, it was holding the attention of staff and guests as a nice wall cloud developed in the distance.

IMG_7267x

The storm lost its structure as we headed closer to the moisture laden air the Gulf Coast, we decided to let the storm overtake us and see what fun we could have with the hail and lightning within. We took some close lightning strikes, hail and high winds which put a smile on most of the guests faces, some went very quiet indeed. After the storm blew through we were treated to stunning backlit structure as the sun set.

IMG_7302x

10455479_782817481738201_655851183_nAs we were parked up a local news team pulled up and I was nominated by the other staff to give a short interview to be broadcast that evening across Texas. The rest of the group made this far from easy while doing their best to distract me as I tried to explain the days weather, and how a bunch of people from the UK were parked up on a road on the outskirts of Austin.

Afterwards we headed off to grab some dinner and a few beers to discuss the day and what lay ahead for the remainder of the trip. It just so happened we were in a Sports Bar with numerous TV’s one of which happened to have the local news on…….

IMG_3641xAfter dinner any our 30 seconds of face in Texas we decided to head to Fredericksburg, a stunning Bavarian town hidden away in the heart of Texas.

 

 

 

Whacky Chasers

horse_gasAfter overnighting in Hobbs we were smack bang in the middle of the target area for storm initiation, so a nice late start before wheels up. While prepping the cars for the day a slightly more unusual sight, a horse parking up at a gas station….

About 10 miles out of town a storm exploded directly over our heads, the first bolt of shotgun lightning woke us all up and was a great start to the day.

xIMG_6893This cell which was rapidly becoming supercellular was moving east, so the only way to chase today was to carry on moving east to stay just infront of the storm. Multiple funnel clouds were descending from the cloud base.  The storm transitioned from classic to HP throwing out a large gust front with a stunning green core at its centre.

As this was the only storm in the contiguous US and with only two roads to chase on we were about to experience some extreme chaser convergence, which I can only compare to a chaser version of whacky races with chasers from all over the world in an array of different cars struggling for the best spots to pull over.

xIMG_6948

A second cell suddenly developed below the one pictured above and began to steal it’s energy source. We dropped down onto that storm along with every other chaser in North America, it had some nice structure and was happy just floating about over the open fields of West Texas.

xIMG_7040

The storm rapidly became Tornadic, the picture above shows a funnel with broad circulation, I managed to get some footage before we needed to drop south and east to stay in front of the hooking base of the storm. The storm produced a Tornado that latest for around two minutes, it wrapped itself in rain and scud pretty quickly but I was able to capture the debris cloud swirling on the ground.

xIMG_7054

We continued to push east, a new cell behind our tornado producer dropped a lovely rope Tornado about 20 miles away, one of the guests managed to capture it in the distance. A subsequent supercell formed behind us with an incredible stacked plate updraught structure, the scale of this had to be seen to be believed and the picture really does not do it justice.xIMG_7100

We headed west behind this storm to see what we could see but the hail being dropped was far too large to be playing those who risked it ended up totalling their cars. We headed back west after the storm has passed over the road  to get some lightning shots but this was short lived as the developing MCS had accelerated and was now chasing us into San Angelo. The Tornado sirens blaring, we jumped out of the cars at our motel and let the storm pass over us, with large hail crashing down and VERY close lightning strikes landing all around. After this bombardment we headed out to dinner, but I could not sit inside when the backside of the storms were lightning up the sky.

xIMG_7183

After dinner we could not resist heading east into the darkness to enjoy the show as it drifted away, it was very much worth the late night trip.

xIMG_7216

What a great chase day from start to finish with 14 hours of continuous stormage and some great driving experience acquired for myself!