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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Dominating the Storm

IMG_3615Waking up in Sonora, with the nights storms etched on our retinas we headed back along i10 and found an absolute stunner of a family run Mexican restaurant. After lunch we drove through the rain and gloom to the clear air to catch any storms that might decide to fire, the CAP was strong today so I was not expecting too much from today.

IMG_3624The first cell tried to go up west of Sheffield, so we retraced our steps from the day before but this time we had company in the shape Reed Timmer and one of the Dominators. After both taking a wrong turn and getting to a good vantage point the storm had already died off. We headed north to Fort Stockton where we caught up with some other chasers, the day was looking like a bust and we stopped off at a gas station to stock up on some essential supplies (mainly beer). Extreme Tornado Tours were also parked up so we had a quick chat with the guys and then Reed and the Dominator turned up time for a few pictures……

IMG_6691We decided to call it a day and head north for the next days risk, towers repeatedly shot up only to be smashed back down by the CAP around the Permian Basin, a desert like landscape of sand dunes and the odd cactus. As we started to admit defeat a storm fired off a sneaky dry line in front of the New Mexico front range, bursting through the CAP and becoming super cellular within minutes.

We raced towards the base of the storm as it began to structure up and it started to look a little bit special, especially in black and white.

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We managed to get under the storm, but there was a 20+ dew point spread in the area so the base was never going to be able to produce a Tornado, as the sun set we placed ourselves out of the rain and hail to capture some lightning before heading into Hobbs for a well deserved Chilis, patient is a virtue in this game.

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Maybe I should take another shelfie……

xIMG_6564Waking up in Carlsbad the slight risk had moved south east along the i10 corridor although the capping appeared to be pretty strong so I was not expecting much.

After several hours of storm waiting, which allowed me to indulge in some random twitching (anyone know what the bird is?) cells fired and died continuously resulting in us having to head south where CIN values were weaker.

The chase lead us along i10 through some storm clusters and through the small town of Sheffield, TX. As we rounded the corner we could see a very large and striking HP supercell crawling towards us, we debated to avoid or to take a direct hit from the cell….it was a relatively quick decision among staff and guests and we made our way back to Sheffield and scrambled to find cover for each of the cards.

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As the storm approached the local Sheriff pulled up and we had a quick chat and reviewed the latest radar scans, he then promptly left town as not too damage his squad car. After all the guests had found various places to shelter I parked the card under an abandoned gas station and enjoyed the show with some US chasers and some guys from the weather network.

After riding the storm out, we headed down the i10 towards Senora, we had to core punch the storm that we took cover from on the interstate, some of the hardest driving I have had to do to date. Twenty minutes in very limited visibility, with rain, hail, lightning at 85mph in the dark.

We made it to Sonora, grabbed some pizzas and beers and all headed off for some much needed sleep…

senorabowThe storms were not done with us today we got slammed by a bow echo at around 3am (triangle in the radar grab shows our position), with very high winds, rains and intense lightning that caused multiple brownouts and was stunningly loud with some very close strikes, thee video below does not do the noise justice.

New Mexico Magic

Starting the day out in Colorado it looked like the best play of the day would be up slope storms forming off the New Mexico mountains. The area of interest would be along the 285 from Roswell, down through Artesia and Carlsbad.

It took some time for the storms to cook and slide off the mountains, and at one point we considered ending the chase and playing with the aliens in Roswell but south of Roswell the storms decided to play ball and we were initially treated to a small LP supercell.

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Two more storms slid of the mountains to give us a view of an LP, Classic and HP Supercell at the same time, which was a nice treat for the first timers and allowed us to give them a quick storm structure 101.

image2 The storms quickly squalled out, we took a quick drive to go and see some of the hail the HP dropped on the road and decided east of Carlsbad to watch the lightning show on the back end of the storms. After food we checked into our hotel and several cells slid past, several of us shot some lightning while dodging the rouge golf ball hail. Several of the team captured ball lightning and the images and footage are now with Nasa and the NWS for further analysis.

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Hide, Seek, Supercell…..

After a much needed sleep we needed to blast north to catch up with the other two cars to chase what looked like the start of a Denver Cyclone Convergence Zone. The initial meeting point was Lamar, CO but this soon changed several times as the day progressed and we settled on a rendevouz in Limon. We made good time up through the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles and then Limon via Lamar and some lunch.  The 340mile drive gave me some time to chat to the guests about all things storm related and give them an idea of what the next 10 days had in store for them.

As we approached Limon a Tornado Watch was issued for a developing cell to the West, we were only 2 miles from meeting the guys but they left as understandably they did not want to miss anything. At this point I put my foot down jumped on the i70 and blasted west at 115mph to catch up with the team.

After a very brief meet and greet and sorting radio comms in my car we headed further west as a developing supercell developed just to our south, we found a nice N/S road and watched as the storm initially struggled and then on encountering an area of higher atmospheric instability went supercellular for a short period of time.

We then dropped south for the next cell, which involved some excellent off roading, including drifting around corners on the red dirt roads. The storms were struggling to produce anything more significant than rain, lightning and some small hail but it was fun to be in the driving seat and good to be back out chasing again.

As the following days risks were set to be back to the south we left these storms and raced back east along i70 to catch up with a developing MCS so we could shoot some lightning and grab some food. We pushed through the line of storms into Kansas and spent the next hour or so trying to remember how to use a camera again. We then headed back to Burlington for our first McD’s of the trip and then drove two hours south and spent the night in Lamar.

 

 

 

 

 

Late Arrival Bonus

This years trip got off to its usual start, getting pulled to the side at Heathrow security before boarding the flight due to all the equipment in my hand luggage, I have to admit it looked very suspicious on image from the x-ray machine. After finally getting through security it was a non-eventful flight to DFW with other staff members and a couple of the guests followed by a couple of beers and some ribs for dinner…

The team already out here were making an insane 14 hour drive from central Nebraska to Dallas to drop guests off and pick the new arrivals up for a bonus chase day in Colorado on what normally would be the ‘changeover day’. Excellent, an extra chase day…well it would have been but 2 guests were arriving later that afternoon. As it was my turn this year, I stayed behind caught up with Tour 1 1 guests for lunch before their flight and picked up my car for the next 20+ days. Now, getting to pick what car you want is always exciting, it just so happened there was a NEW 2015 Chevy Tahoe LTZ 5.3Ltr V8. After a couple of runs around Dallas I picked up the two remaining guests, the rest of the team were already in Colorado so a 380 mile drive to overnight in Amarillo and catch them up the next day was the plan.

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After finally navigating my way out of Dallas a slight T-Storm risk had set up over our route to the Texas pan-handle. I saw the tops of the storms as we turned west off the I35 and over the next couple of hours we edged ever closer until the guests got their first taste of a US storm with some lightning and a nice shelf cloud off in the distance.

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After stopping for a couple of pictures we continued north through various flash floods and finally arrived 7 hours after leaving Dallas for a much needed sleep after waking up at 5am and only having had 4 hours sleep the night before. As for the rest of the team who shot to Colorado, we ended up with the better show!

 

 

Chase Outlook -4 days

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As there are only 4 days before I head out to the US I though I would quickly share my thoughts on how the first couple chase days will pan out, with the NAM coming into range and the GFS showing some consistency in the runs I am going to take a risk and say we will be heading straight to the Texas Pan handle region, with good upper level wind profiles, warm temperatures and a strong dryline, the only missing ingredient is CAPE but I am sure that will come through on the model runs from Sunday onwards.