Spēg's 2004 Chases

Spēg's 2004 Chases

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Spēg's main chase page

Spēg's 2004 Chase scorecard:

10 chases
8 supercell chases
3 tornado chases

Friday, April 9 - EDMOND/ El Reno OK

137 miles, 2:31. Cumulonimbus junkus

A day with low expectations, but when a decent thunderstorm developed near an apparent mesolow near Kingfisher, I decided to go north and take a look. The decision may have been somewhat based on the fact that I had not chased yet this season. Although the storm apparently had decent mid level rotation as I was driving north through the city, by the time I met it along I-35 north of Edmond, it had sent out a lot of outflow and the storm was very messy. There was another isolated storm near the stationary front in Dewey County, so I began driving that direction, but decided to cut my losses at El Reno and come back home. A good decision.

Tuesday, April 20 - SAPULPA/Oneta OK

284 miles, 5:37. Tornado.
Chase partner: David Dowell

When I left the office, the only storm was in Kay County moving into Osage County. Not really interested in chasing Osage County, I went home and began cooking dinner. But while cooking, I saw a first echo develop near the Lincoln- Oklahoma county line. Soon after, Dave called and said he was interested in chasing. So I finished cooking, scarfed down most of my dinner, and off we went.

We drove northwest on the turnpike and noticed a storm near Cushing that was moving east. The storm and us intersected near Sapulpa. We got off the turnpike and found a hill to watch the storm just in time for a well-developed clear slot to work into the storm. It also dumped some rain which made it tough to see, but we eventually saw something suspicious come out of the rain. Although it was at the right place of the storm, it was not very laminar when we initially saw it, and we did not quite know what we were seeing. After reviewing the video and photographs, our "something" did end up having more tornadic characteristics than what we could discern at the time, and was a tornado. The photo at the right shows it at an early stage with the tornado just to the left of the dense rain core, and in the lighter wrapping rain curtains. (The scanned image to the right lost a little of the contrast and resolution from the original where the tornado is a bit more obvious.) The feature became more obvious visibly in the dissipation stage where the funnel became messier and then more laminar again as I zoomed in closer for these photos. Video shows this was still a rotating cloud mass during this dissipation stage. The time on the tornado was 7:07 or 7:08 pm, and it lasted for almost 1 minute that we could see.

We got ahead of the storm through the south side of Tulsa metro, then stopped and played it again at Broken Arrow. We could see at least two power flashes to our north from the south side of Broken Arrow, and although had been watching a wall cloud, we saw nothing that appeared tornadic at cloud base in association with these power flashes. We drove east again and stopped just east of Oneta and watched it to the north as the sun set.

Another highlight of the chase was the incredible lightning show from storms just south of Bristow as we were driving back southwest on the turnpike.

Thursday, April 22 - OKEMAH/Dewar OK

275 miles, 6:46. Supercell. MNT (Meso, no tornado)
Chase partner: David Dowell
Nowcast support by Dave Ewoldt at one point (while he was watching a wall cloud near Bixby)

A couple of areas of interest today, eastern Oklahoma or north central Texas. The LFCs (Level of Free Convection) were much lower in eastern Oklahoma so we went east... and found one of the non-tornadic storms. One supercell was already producing a tornado near Broken Arrow as we were leaving, and there were a number of supercells developing along a dryline from just east of Tulsa to near Henrietta Texas. We chose a close storm that developed near Prague, and we intercepted NW of Okemah. It had decent structure to it and a couple of dry slot intrusions, but never seemed to get its act together completely. We kept with it to Henrietta and Dewar where it went through a significant reorganization with the primary updraft redeveloping farther southwest. TV radar showed decent structure, so we followed it for a little while longer, but it was going downhill from there.

Friday, April 30 - GRADY/ Eastman OK

312 miles, 6:34. HP post-tornadic Supercell with impressive cloud motion
Nowcast support from Dave Ewoldt

An early show with a tornado near Petrolia TX about 2 pm. I left Norman around 1:30 pm. I did play what had likely been what was left of the Petrolia storm north of Grady OK as it was getting messy with other storms down the line and a evolution to the HP (Heavy Precipitation) side of the supercell spectrum. The roads were not situated good for me, but I made it north of Grady in front of the storm to watch it, but then would need to race south and east out of the way before the core caught up with me (which Dave said likely contained hail larger than golfballs). But while north of Grady, I did see the storm trying to organize with some very fast cloud motion with inflow and rising motion into the storm. But despite this, I never got the sense of any organized rotation trying to develop. And then I had to split to avoid the storm bearing down on me.

As I got in front of it into Love County, it was looking quite HP with lots of outflow and a big ol' shelf cloud. But another tornado warning was issued on it in Love County for circulation near Rubottom, so I dropped south through Eastman to have a look. Dave said there was a decent circulation on radar, but it was really back in the storm. I wasn't too interested in going west from near Burneyville into the storm. But then the storm decided to start dumping a new core on top of me, so I went over to Marietta, then dropped south to Thackerville to avoid the hail before heading home.

I would not have been too happy with the chase except for my brief play north of Grady which really did impress me with the cloud motion. This window was too short, but did move the chase into the "very good" category.

As an aside, here's a thumbs down to the person in the marked car of the Smith County (Texas) Sheriff's Department who was driving at 80-85 mph on Interstate 35. Don't you love it when cops decide that traffic regulations do not apply to them? (I somehow doubt if he was responding to an emergency 150 miles from his jurisdiction.)

Wednesday, May 12 - Attica/ HARPER KS

517 miles, 11:49. Tornadic supercell with at least 4 tornadoes
Chase partner: Kevin Scharfenberg

An incredible chase. Deep layer shear was very good in northwest Oklahoma and southwest Kansas. Low-level shear and low-level moisture were predicted to improve, so although it was not obvious that enough would come together for tornadoes, thunderstorms were a good bet. And there was enough chance for tornadoes that we hit the road. We made it to Alva and watched the cumulus congestus trying to form a storm. Eventually one area to our northwest did develop into a storm, and the game was on. Actually a second storm had gone up farther to the northwest that was blocked from our view early, so as we entered Kansas there were two storms from which to choose. It was a coin-flip as we could see both storms from Medicine Lodge. A tornado warning was issued for the north storm to the NW of Medicine Lodge, so we drove north from Sharon to get closer to the north storm.

As we drove north, I turned around and saw a funnel to our SSW with the south storm. I blew it off initially, but it soon became apparent that it was legit. We stopped and watched a thin tornado develop about 6 miles to our SSW. So we drove back south. As we went through Sharon again, it appeared that it may have dissipated, but after a couple of minutes we saw it again - it was a small funnel at cloud base, rotating dust at the surface, and a rotating cloud filament halfway between near the top of the dust plume. We observed this tornado which was southwest of Sharon from 7:14 pm to 7:26 pm CDT.

We had moved south of Sharon to get out of isolated golfball size hail stones that were falling, so we moved east on some back roads and KS-2 instead of US-160. When we were south of Attica, we could see three different updrafts or storms lined up east to west. We saw a funnel cloud in the storm to the northwest, then we saw a tornado develop about 6 miles to our north that was striking the edge of the community of Attica. We observed this tornado from 8:00 to 8:06 pm CDT. (And apparently the storm to our northeast also produced a tornado around this time as well, but we did not see it).

We continued east, then moved north from Anthony to get closer to the action. About 3.5 miles north of Anthony, we watched tornado #3 develop within a mile or two to our northwest (photo above/right). This is the closest I've been to a significant tornado in a long time (although it may go down as an F0 if it did not hit anything, but the rotational velocity visible with this was made it appear that this was likely a strong tornado). Here is another shot a few minutes later. The tornado visually formed at about 8:20 pm CDT, and we left it at 8:27 pm when we started to get precipitation from the hook, although the tornado was still there when we left it. I have some other blurry photos of the tornado - long exposure times were needed because it was quite dark which combined with the strong wind made photography a challenge. At least I have video.

We continued east again, but now it is getting dark. KS-2 was closed just east of Anthony with a bridge out, so we stair-stepped NE on county roads. We made a final stand 3 miles north of Freeport where we did see at least one tornado to our northwest in the lightning, likely near the town of Danville. We could see a large cone at 9:02 pm, and a tapered cone or possibly multiple-vortex tornado and still relatively large tornado at 9:08 pm. This was likely the widest tornado we saw. Only getting glimpses in the lightning, we could not tell if these tornado sightings were of the same tornado, two different tornadoes, or even how these may have related to the southeast of Harper F4 tornado. Later, we did see two sets of power flashes to the northwest (probably near Danville) while at the same location. There was a series of a couple of power flashes at 9:25 pm - it was near the action area of the storm but we could not tell for sure what the meteorological cause was (tornado or RFD). There was a big yellow power flash at 9:29 pm to the northwest. If this one was storm related, my guess it that it was probably RFD given it's position with what I was seeing in the storm, but we could not tell for sure.

We continue east again and tried to watch the area of action without getting hit by the surging rear flank downdraft. After a while, it became apparent that the area of interest was getting wrapped up farther northwest, and there was not a good play on it because of the surging RFD and the time of night.

At least four tornadoes, three that were likely strong, one in close proximity. This was my first "five-star" chase since Lamont day in 1998. And the closest I've been to a strong tornado since Moore in 2003 (although this one had better visibility).

Some of Kevin's pictures are also online.

Tuesday, May 18 - PARK CITY KS

361 miles, 8:25. Bust
Chase partner: Rick Smith; Dan Miller and Karen Trammell in convoy

We went out knowing that storms might not develop with since there was a bit of a cap, and there was not a lot of upper support to help storms fire. But if storms did fire, there was good low-level shear and a decent chance of a tornado. Well, some storm towers went up, but nothing could develop into a storm. So Dan practiced his chip shots. (Those were real golfballs, not golfball size hail.) Oh well, I knew it was a risk.

But so it wasn't a complete waste, I did take one weather related photo of the sunset and clouds.

Wednesday, May 26 - GARBER/ Tonkawa OK

395 miles, 10:14. Two supercells, a few attempts a tornado
Chase partner: David Ewoldt
Morning push-pin: Enid, OK

Interesting day. The best wind shear was along the Kansas-Oklahoma border with 500mb winds predicted to be around 60-70 knots! So we made an intersting decision. We held to our north target area, blowing off the tornado-warned storm that developed near Hinton even though there was no storms in our target area at the time. We hung around Hennessey and saw enough in the towers trying to develop that we never got too nervous. We were eventually rewarded with explosive development over Enid. So we went up to Enid and followed it east, although that became a little difficult with the storm moving at 40 mph. We saw one funnel east of Enid, and saw enough cloud-base rotation and rising motion that I thought it could develop a tornado quickly near Garber. But it didn't. It tried a couple more times through Noble County, although these attempts were not quite as impressive as what we saw near Garber. But then we ran out of road, and with the storm moving at 40 mph, we figured it was a lost cause to get to an east road to follow it into Pawnee County, so we had to let it go. Then it decides to produce a tornado near Sooner Lake. D'OH!

So we found another storm to play near Medford, and caught up with it near Tonkawa. As we were approaching it, we thought the storm might have too high of a base to produce a tornado, but it had nice structure, so we set up a photo shoot with the picturesque storm over a wheat field south of Tonkawa, including the panarama above. But as we were watching it, it seemed to get better organized. And at the same time, the NWS Norman issued a tornado warning for it. So we followed it east to Ponca City and into Osage County. At times, we were probably in the hook precip region. There were times of chaotic motion and short-lived attempts at organization, but it never had the look like it was getting it's act together.

Saturday, May 29 - Putnam/ Geary/ CALUMET/ Concho OK

239+ miles, 7:57. Two (maybe 3) tornadoes
Chase partner: Bill Wasinger
Morning push-pin: Enid, OK

Short version so far:

  • Played with north supercell west of Putnam for a while
  • Avoided core punching south storm while blowing off north storm. Good because...
  • Saw some of the biggest hail I have ever seen laying on the side of the road when we went through Custer City. Did not measure it, but some stones were at least three inches, some probably 4-5".
  • Were within a mile or mile and a half of the rain-wrapped mesocyclone at Geary. Did not want to play that game.
  • Saw tornado develop (that turned out to be an anticyclonic tornado south of the main action) NNE of Calumet. Tornado lasted maybe ~10 minutes, but the condenstation funnel was hit-and-miss. And it was a relatively small tornado. The photo on the right was as soon as we stopped after seeing the tornado touch down (the funnel was visibly on the ground just before this photo. The tornado was reported to still be on the ground at this time, we just were not close enough to see the surface circulation right then).
  • Saw a brief (~1 minute) tornado NW from near Concho
  • Additional funnel development near Concho.
  • Saw power flashes looking east from N of Concho that were probably near Piedmont

Thursday, June 10 - Marshall/ MILLIGAN IN

183 miles, 3:58. horizontally-challanged supercell and possibly rain-wrapped tornado
Chase partner: Steve Speheger
Morning push-pin: Greencastle, IN

Small supercells developed south of Champaign IL along a warm front induced by differential heating across west-central IN and east-central IL. We first caught the business end of the storm south of Turkey Run State Park near Marshall IN (we saw glimpses earlier but there are a LOT of trees in the Sugar Creek region of western Indiana in the Turkey Run and Shades State Parks area.) We followed it east toward Milligan where the photo on the left was taken when there was some slow rising motion and enough to keep our attention, but nothing that seemed too threatening for immediate tornado development. About 8 minutes later, a well-defined RFD clear slot developed and worked into the updraft with decent cloud-base rotation noted north of the clear slot. But then rain started falling between the clear slot and the rotation with the rain wrapping around the circulation. With the motions observed in the rain curtains in the field just to our northwest, I thought there might be something buried in the rain (the motions were not as strong as the 2000 Olney TX rain-wrapped beast where I thought there had to be a rain-wrapped tornado, but strong enough to make me think there could be something). A couple of brief touchdowns were reported south of Waveland at about that time, which generally fit with what we were seeing. We watched video a couple of times and saw "suspicious" areas in the wrapping rain, but nothing that was an obvious tornado.

We followed the storm east and saw a couple more half-hearted attempts at organization, including a funnel cloud or two in Putnam County, but nothing that looked like it came as close as in the Milligan/Waveland area.

Had some flashbacks of my June 2, 1990 Indiana chase that was also southwest of Crawfordsville where I accidently took a picture of a tornado that I did not visually see. Maybe I should have shot more photos today.

Thursday, July 1 - Hammon/ Custer City

316 miles, 7:29. supercell with funnel
Chase partners: David Dowell and Kevin Scharfenberg