Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Trinidad & Amarillo Tornadoes - June 23, 2016

Pulled off something that I am not sure has been done before. Caught tornadoes in 2 different states on the same day, that are not adjacent to each other (Trinidad, CO & Amarillo, TX). I know Mike Umscheid and Jeremy Holmes were able to make both tornadoes as well.

I figured this week was probably the last chance at something with decent midlevel flow south of I-70 for the year. I planned on taking Tuesday off, but changed it to Monday on Sunday afternoon as the setup was closer and was too good to pass up. Targeted SE Colorado, but was a bit nervous leaving the Panhandle as some models fired storms there too. The surface flow just north of the Black Mesa out of the due east was too good to ignore. Got lucky that the HRRR was off on it timing and the Panhandle stuff went later than forecasted

I originally went to Campo with plans to adjust from there. Felt confident that just north of the mesa was the place to be so I drifted west to Kim, CO. Storms had already fired west of Trinidad in the mountains and south into NM, but I was a little hesitant to go that far west. I let the storm get a little more mature before I blasted west about 50 miles, while only see ~3 other cars on my way west. I got in range of the storm as it moved east of Trinidad with the wall cloud scraping along the north edge of the mesa. Really was a sight to see. It was pretty clear this storm had a tornado coming. The wall cloud tracked along just south of Highway 160, between the highway and the mesa. Soon after it pulled off the mesa the wall cloud tightened up and drop the tornado. I only saw a handful of other chasers on the storm, which given the lack of stopping places off that highway would have been bad with anymore. Pretty sure we all got the same shot because we kept stopping in the same places. June in CO and not a 100 chasers, it just felt weird.

One thing I will say about that storm was it had some really big hail for what I was expecting. Even stranger was it was tossing these big stones out east of the tornado out of the southwest, since it had wrapped up so much.Definitely picked up a couple new dents from that storm.

After that storm crapped out from storms coming up from the south I decided to go back to Boise City for gas. I stayed in Boise City for about 5 minutes before deciding to try a make a break for home (Amarillo) and while hoping the storm north of town might wait for me to get there. It looked like junk when I cored it on 287 as it was ingesting some other cells from the south. I made my way around east of the storm right as it really ramped up the structure. One of the craziest cg producing storms I have ever dealt with. Didnt get too many shots of lightning as I really couldnt get out of the car. Ended up a little too far east getting structure shots and missed the best tornado shots, but being east had it's perks too. Once again only a handful of chasers were on the storm, more than the Trinidad storm but still so few that it made you wonder if it was really June. Didnt know it was possible to see tornadoes in the Southern Plains and Colorado without a horde around it. Sitting alone on a highway and staring a storm like that one down, it really doesnt get any better.

Photo album:

Video (18 minutes), mostly time lapsed of Trinidad and Amarillo storms:

Friday, June 3, 2016

Chase Account May 21-24, 2016 - DDC, KS Tornadoes 5-24-16

With one of the more active weeks in chasing for the Southern Plains for the week of May 21-26 (Saturday to Thursday) and a dryline that would be moving very little, I had decided on chasing Sunday(22nd) through Tuesday (24th) to chase. Monday and Tuesdays are the easiest for me to chase as those are days we have help out the house so I am not leaving the wife with the kids in the evening. Sunday was just to local not to chase. I passed on the other days due to distance and lower probabilities. I also had to lock in my days the week before so it kinda made it easy for me to just focus on those 3 and get what I could out of them. I was able to kick of the festivities for the week with an incredible view over Cadillac Ranch west of Amarillo on the 21st after the kids went to bed.

Sunday (22nd) was an alright chase with a tornado in the rain near Clarendon, TX, but definitely could have been better. I was dealing with a tire that I had got patched a few days before that leaked the entire chase. Every Time I stopped I got out in the rain and hook a pump to it to keep at safe levels. I made it through the chase without issue. First thing Monday morning I went and had it patched again, but it remained a concern for me. My new tires were not coming in till Tuesday afternoon, though I have yet to put them on a week later at this point. I just wanted the patch to get me through the next 2 days of chasing. That entire day felt like getting kicked in the kneecap.

Monday left a foul taste in my mouth as I ended up in the middle target area with area where storm went to die. Caught a fantastic storm at sunset with lightning, which was the only thing that made the drive home acceptable.

The burn from Monday (mainly the Woodward storm) left me focused on going wherever I needed for Tuesday's setup. The area with backed surface flow from around Garden City, KS down to Woodward, OK was the obvious area to target to me. Hodo's for that entire area looked pretty and just about everything but the 200mb was in the "you are going to get a tornado" category IMO. I initially set out Buffalo, OK, like hundreds others, from Amarillo headed up US 60 at about noon that day. After passing Canadian, TX, I began to favor KS a bit more. I had considered KS before I left and the satellite loop finally convinced me. I drove north through Lipscomb and then backtracked to Beaver and made my way to Meade, KS. Analyzing satellite loop, the same type of bulge that had kicked off the Scott City storm with a tornado was forming right over Meade, KS (SW of Dodge City).

I found a gas station a got the tank full for the impending chase. While at the gas station, me and the other chasers their were in awe of the tower going up over town. Some of the most impressive upward motion I had seen in quite some time. It was very clear this was "the" storm. While it had other towers north of it and some a ways SW, there was nothing south or southeast. I quickly got out east of town as I expected the storm to move east or northeast. I stopped by a pair of European guys in their 20's and chatted for a bit. The storm exhibited clear northward motion but I kept expecting it to turn more east at any time, but I blasted up to just past Fowler, KS and took Fowler Rd (30 Rd) north, which is 6 miles west of 283.

I tried to get my stream and dome cam functioning as a rain free base expanded and an RFD cut tried to poke in with a developing wall cloud. The stream just wouldn't connect. The dome cam I had thought overheated again so I kept checking it but was getting no response. I eventually gave up on getting either to work. Figured out after the chase why the dome cam never worked. The battery had become just dislodged enough not to turn on, but not where I could tell. Would have been great to have that video but was better I didn't have to deal with it during the chase on what would be soon muddy roads.

I pushed north 4 miles following the storm that was really beginning to spin. Saw my first other chasers at County Line Rd. Just a few though. We all pushed along right up behind a now pretty intense little wall cloud with occasion funnels, which may have touched down. I was sure this storm was going to turn east now, so I took a right turn on 'I-kid-you-not' Whirlwind Rd. That road forced me to go 3 miles east before turning north again. Putting me just 3 miles west of 283, yet I was still right up behind the action.

The first fully condensed tornado formed shortly after turning back north on 108 Rd. This first tornado was on the ground just a few minutes when another very nearby circulation put down a small tornado. This circulation was pulled around the main tornado and was eventually sucked into the larger tornado. The merger pretty much killed both tornadoes, the the main circulation quickly recovered turning into a large stovepipe that became very laminar and grey from my view from the south. It created some fantastic views as it matured. Just wished I had not ventured so far east at this point.

As I tracked north, this tornado continued to move further west as it went north till it moved back into the rain and roped. Before it finished, the new meso had dropped a few needles just north of me. This new meso soon wrapped up into another laminar cone and had another meso or 2 forming very close to it. The storm was incredible. It had a new wall cloud going long before the previous meso's tornado had even matured. The new meso, especially the one forming just east of 2nd primary tornado seemed to a have a few areas of rotation, even a anticyclonic one on the edge of it's RFD region. This could have been bolstered by the close proximity to the mature tornado just to it's west. When the 2ns primary tornado began to rope out, its circulation was sucked around the south side of the new meso area that had been dropping needle tornadoes. The needles had morphed into a stout cone under a now large wall cloud. This new tornado would be the one to track just west of Dodge City and eventually rope out NW of town.

I ran into a number of foreigners while sitting at the corner 108 Rd and Saddle Rd. It was quite a interesting experience considering on where I was in the US. We all had one goal out there and we were all beyond giddy at that point. Most chasers I had seen had been quite courteous giving how nasty the roads had got. After the 2nd main tornado faded, I took Saddle Rd east to 283, but going up 283 was never my idea as I figured the cops would shut it down. I took advantage of a paved road and blasted east to go around Dodge to the east side. I was able to get way out in front of the crowds.

I made it all the way up to 3 miles north of DDC to Garnett Rd and 283. I blasted back west from there and was treated to another fantastic view of 2 tornadoes on the ground again (for at least the 3rd time that day) there north of DDC. I made a push west to the next paved road, not realizing the storm had finally turned NE. Storms were getting pretty cluttered so the life of this storm was definitely in danger. as the tornado moved north, I pushed further west to 110 Rd, which is paved, to follow it north. I only made it 5 miles north following the tornado before running into the damage at the landfill, which a propane tank was spewing gas from the middle of the road. A number of chasers decided to drive passed the tank and continue. I decided my chase was down but continued to watch the tornado move off to the NE. Before completely giving up I dropped a few miles back south and watched another pair of tornadoes. I was soon back on the road south only to be blocked by a number of people doing 7 point turns on the road trying to avoid the incoming hail from a left split. I knew there was nowhere to run so I punched on through storm. I ended up with 4 new dents and a nice star on my already cracked window. 

Nothing on radar was super appealing so I began to track SW and quickly began to find damage. I waited for a few minutes for the storm to reorganize, but it never happened. I kinda got stuck where I pulled up the road out west of the damage, but was real lucky and was able to free myself. All that chasing then getting stuck after the chase would have made sense. Expecting lots of Damage just west of Dodge, I went all the way west to Cimarron and south from there. Power was out all the way out there too. As I drove south the sky really began to light up so I started looking for a windmill. I was able to find one in the midst of a wind farm. Was a complete of a chase as I could have ever have hoped for. Only a few snafu's but nothing too bad. I started my trek back to Amarillo, which I got home just at 12:30 am.

Here is my video of highlight clips from the DDC storm:

Here is my timelapsed video of the entire chase by DDC:

Clips from the May 22nd chase and Clarendon, TX tornado:

Chase route while on the storm: