Spēg's 2009 Chases

Spēg's 2009 Chases

Spēg's main page
Spēg's main chase page

Spēg's 2009 chase scorecard:

9 chases
6 supercell chases
1 tornado (sort-of)

Monday, June 15 - Follett TX

Picturesque supercell
Chase partner: flying solo

Storm in northeast Texas panhandle Again, not the greatest set-up, but this might be the last potential chase day for a long time, if not the season. And it was a day off. I wasn't really in the mood to chase and debated for the longest time before finally leaving after 4 pm heading for the eastern Texas panhandle. While going west on Interstate 40, a semi-truck had a blow-out while I was passing it, hitting my car with tire shards. It just hit the right-rear corner making some scuff marks, but no damage. The noise was quite startling though. Storms developed across the northeast panhandle Texas near Perryton, with other towering cumulus developing farther south-southwest in the Texas panhandle. But as I got to Elk City, everything south of the northeast panhandle had dissipated - no towers, no mid-level clouds, no anvil debris - nothing. Well, I was hoping not to go that far north, but there were no other good options and I was already out, so north I went.

Radar updates showed the storm dissipating as it moved into northwest Oklahoma, but to my north-northwest I was still seeing solid, hard convection appearing to be a well-developed storm tower, which confused me for a while. Visually I saw enough that I continued north, despite seeing other chasers leaving and driving south. South of Arnett, it became more obvious about what was happening, with one dissipating storm to my north with another developing storm to the northwest (photo showing both and photo showing the small dissipating updraft to the north.) The storm to the northwest comes more into view as I continue north. North of Shattuck, I get a better view of the storm and updraft (see photo on left). Despite what appears to be the lack of significant precipitation, my friend Dave is getting his car creamed by 3" hail underneath this storm at about this time (see Dave's hail photo.) I continue to stop occasionally to take more photos (wide shot and close shot of updraft) as I continue to drive north from Shattuck, then eventually drive west to Follett TX to get southwest of the storm for different lighting. It may have produced an ill-defined funnel cloud and scud, but had no significant motion. As the sun set, the updraft shrunk as the storm approached Oklahoma, but still showed some nice lighting thanks to the setting sun. The storm updraft kept shrinking as the storm and I returned to Oklahoma, so I bid it farewell and began the long drive home.

Sunday June 14 - Conway TX

Two (at least) supercells (one left-moving), gustnado
Chase partners: Christine Riley, Vanessa C.

Updraft base of left-moving supercell A messy day in the weather pattern to know where to chase. After a brunch at Cafe Do Brasil in OKC with some of Vanessa's friends, we stopped in west OKC to look at data and come up with a plan. There had been some morning showers and storms in the eastern Texas panhandle moving into northwest Oklahoma initially souring us to that region to chase. But for the lack of any other options that we liked better, we decided to head into the Texas panhandle to get closer to the best wind shear, and just see what would happen.

As we drove west through western Oklahoma, a few storms developed in the southeastern Texas panhandle near Floydada. Despite a tornado warning being issued for one of the storms in this area, we opted against going to this area since (a) there were a few storms in this area which would make it messy visually if we got there, (b) it's at the NW edge of what I have declared my "no chase zone" - that area of NW Texas where it seems like messy, high-precipitation storms are normal (and which point (a) seemed to agree with this today as well), and (c) it would not have been easy to get to. So we continued west.

We stopped at a rest area near Alanreed Texas planning to get data. But as we were walking into the rest area, I noticed it was very dark to the south, and what looked like an updraft base to the southwest. It hit me that we were about to get hit by a left-moving storm from that complex and that we probably did not want to be there and we busted west. Probably a good thing as the storm was producing 4.5" hail. We went west to near Jericho and stopped to watch the updraft base still to the southwest with a very low cloud base (see photo on right). If this base had been with a right-moving supercell, I would have started to get more excited. Then we went farther west to get out of the way, seeing a gustnado to our south along the way. We stopped for some other photo ops near Groom, and at the VW Bugg Ranch near Conway. While at the Bugg Ranch, we noticed another storm developing to the WSW near Canyon.

We started to move west again, then realized that the storm was moving into the Palo Duro Canyon and would not be accessible for a while, so we stopped a few miles west, watched the storm to our SW, and took advantage of other storms to the southeast for more photo ops (and here and here.) As the storm to the southwest continued to move east, we moved east back to Conway with the idea to drive south to catch it. We stopped one more time at the Bugg Ranch (and photo of the storm through one of the Bugs). But as soon as we started to drive south, the storm quickly weakened and we started back to Oklahoma.

A very nice chase for us, although Christine is still mad that we did not go back to the rest area after the storm moved through to measure how large the hail was.

Friday, June 12 - Norman OK

Tornado (apparently) and post-tornadic storm
Chase partner: Erin Maxwell

I was preparing to go to bed when I was paged for a tornado warning for Cleveland County and Norman about 10:25 pm. Took a quick look at radar, saw the rotational signature, jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes, grabbed my gear, and hit the road. The TV coverage indicated the circulation was near 24th Avenue E and Alameda and moving east, so I drove east on Robinson to 24th Avenue NE, partially to get east of all of the lights on 12th Avenue, and to get closer to the back side of the storm. Turning south on 24th Avenue, the storm was off to the east already (as expected), and looking to the SE from somewhere between Robinson and Alameda, saw some interesting scud clouds, and something laminar within these scud tags. The lighting and my angle wasn't good enough to know what I was seeing, and at that time I would not have given high odds that what I was seeing was a tornado, but what I saw matched photos that were taken from other locations in town, so apparently I did see the tornado.

Near Alameda Street, I did encounter some tree limbs in the road, where the tornado may have been a few minutes earlier. Before I got to Lindsey Street, Erin called when she became aware of the tornado warning, so I picked her up, and we followed the storm through the trees and hills of east and southeast Norman. This is not friendly chase territory and we only occasionally had sight of the updraft base through the trees, and although it did at times look fairly well-structured, it never looked like another tornado was imminent. We finally bailed on the storm as it was weakening near 180th Avenue SE and Banner Road about 11:30 pm.

There had been an outflow boundary in central Oklahoma through much of the day, and had I thought about that when the storm developed over my house, I might have been quicker to have hit the door thinking that boundary might allow something weird like this to happen. Oh well. And with the time of night, there are no photos.

Sunday, May 24 - Hot Springs SD

Outflow-dominant storm
Chase partner: Jennifer Palucki

Turbulent storm cloud motion We started the day in Rapid City SD after driving north from Scottsbluff the day before. Again we expected late afternoon storms, and took advantage of the morning and early afternoon to visit Rushmore Cave and its stalagtites, and Mount Rushmore (even though low clouds and fog obscured the mountain when we first arrived after lunch.)

After spending time at Mount Rushmore, we switched back into storm chase mode, and went southwest toward the area west of Hot Springs and watched storms develop to our south near the South Dakota-Nebraska border. But our road options were poor, so we decided that our best option was to let the storm move north toward us. As the storm approached, there was some interesting turbulent, churning motion at the leading edge of the outflow boundary (see photo to the left) and we experienced what we estimated as high but sub-severe winds (maybe around 45-55 mph.) There was some updraft structure observed as the storm passed us, but did not appear organized enough to keep our attention, and a look at radar showed the storm weakening and more unorganized showers/storms developing nearby, so we let it go. Which wasn't necessarily a bad thing as we drove a few hours south back to Ogallala NE for the night to avoid the drive back to Norman from being too long the next day.

Friday, May 22 - Hawk Springs WY

Storm with decent updraft structure over nice landscape
Chase partner: Jennifer Palucki

Towering clouds over towering rocks After driving from Norman to Ogallala NE on Thursday, we were thinking that we would target storms in the central/eastern Nebraska panhandle, but since we thought that storms would wait until mid to late afternoon, we hit some landscape areas of western Nebraska, including Courthouse and Jail Rock and Chimney Rock near Bridgeport NE. There were cumulus clouds developing in these areas, but not very tall. We looked at weather data while eating lunch at Bridgeport, and saw that we probably needed to go closer to the Nebraska-Wyoming border, so we went towards Scottsbluff NE.

As we approached Scottsbluff, we saw that storms were already trying developing in far eastern Wyoming. So we continued west from Scottsbluff, waiting near Torrington and watching clouds and shower development to our south, getting taller until a storm developed to our south. So we drove south toward Hawk Springs WY, then west to a very nice landscape. Unfortunately, it was dark enough under the storm and the updraft was close enough that we could not get good photography of that storm. But on the way back, we took some photos of some towering clouds over some rocky formations on a ridge to the south (see photo on the right). Then back to Scottsbluff NE for dinner and the night.

Wednesday, May 13 - Hennessey/ Waterloo

We saw storms. And a nice sunset
Chase partner: Dave Ewoldt

sunset and mammatus Dave and I went up to Hennessey and watched storms develop to our northwest and west, and could see another storm to the north-northeast that soon produced a tornado in Kay County. Our storms started moving southeast, and backbuilding on the west side effectively moving the storm complex south, which left us out of position to do anything with them (and the storm complex eventually produced a tornado near Anadarko after sunset.) We did watch an updraft of a small storm north of the complex, but it was not in a healthy atmosphere and the storm eventually dissipated. Our only viable play was a storm northwest of Guthrie, so we went east toward that area, although we did stop and enjoy the sunset (see photo on left.) We intercepted the storm near Guthrie, but it was getting dark so we let it go and went to enjoy a pizza at Interurban in NW Oklahoma City. Another storm developed on top of us, and produced some cloud-to-ground lightning very close to the restaurant. While we enjoying dinner, a storm in central Oklahoma City (perhaps the storm we left near Guthrie), developed circulation and produced a tornado near Stanley Draper Lake.

Sunday, April 26 - Frederick/ Wichita Mtns. OK

419 miles, 10:06. Supercell with cloud base rotation and attempted tornado
Chase partner: Erin Maxwell, Christine Riley

storm near Frederick OK Today I was worried about the cap not being strong enough, which might allow too many storms to form, and for storms to form early. And indeed storms formed very early - before 11 am, the first warning before 1130 am, and the first tornado warning just after 1230 pm (before we left Norman). We hit the road before 1 pm with the initial plan of intercepting the tornado-warned storm as it approached Interstate 40. But when we and the storm both reached I-40 near Clinton/Weatherford, the storm looked anemic. So we ate in Weatherford and investigated our options. There were storms to the northwest, storms to the west, and a large storm near Crowell TX. The storms northwest were too far, we didn't like the cluster of storms to the west, so we opted to try to either reach the storm near Crowell as it moved into Oklahoma, or any storm that might develop in southwest Oklahoma. One storm in the cluster to the west strengthened and produced the Roll/Packsaddle tornadoes in Roger Mills and Ellis Counties Oklahoma, but given the data we had at the time, I would still make the same decision.

We did reach our target storm near Frederick, OK and it almost immediately tried to organize developing cloud base rotation and rising motion (the storm at the time is shown on the right, and on this photo). We followed it northeast toward Manitou and between Indiahoma and Snyder, and it did try to organize another couple of times during this time before it reached the Wichita Mountains, although never quite as strongly as it did near Frederick. The storm traversed the Wichitas much easier than we could as we had to circumnavigate the mountains. But we did catch the storm again and followed it from Carnegie to Binger. There were a couple of more times where the cloud base tried to organize again as it moved through Caddo County before it quickly weakened near Binger. We were too far away to see motion, but there was one time southwest of Binger that it looked like there was a well developed tapered wall cloud, but it didn't last too long.

We ended the day with some Old Chicago pizza in Oklahoma City.

Saturday, April 25 - Butler/ Carpenter/ Custer City OK

390 miles, 11:05. Supercell with cloud base rotation and attempted tornado
Chase partners: Dave Ewoldt, Christine Riley

storm near Thomas OK The question we had for the day is if storms would form, as the instability and wind shear seemed sufficient for rotating storms. As it turned out, the cap wasn't as much of an issue as we thought that and we actually had a few areas of storms develop. We drove to Butler OK and watched showers and storms percolate to our north, northwest, southeast and eventually southwest. One storm near Elk City to our southwest increased in strength and we decided to go look at this one, so we drove west to Hammon and then south toward Carpenter. We caught the edge of the hail core and estimated we had an isolated golf ball size hailstone or two fall nearby as we drove south. We waited for the storm to pass by, then followed it northeast. There was larger hail on the ground, and we measured a 2.96" hail stone we found on the ground just southwest of Foss Reservoir.

We continued following it northeast and it continued to organize a few times. Strong rising motion and cloud base rotation developed in the storm base north of Arapaho and west of Custer City, and again west of Thomas (shown on the left.) It seemed very possible that a tornado might develop, especially in the first attempt we saw west of Custer City. But it didn't. We eventually let that storm go as it passed north of Thomas and went to the next storm down the line. Between Weatherford and Thomas, we saw an odd laminar cloud formation that looked like it could have been an odd horizontal/tilted vortex, although it had no significant motion that we could discern. Knowing the low-level jet would be increasing in the evening after sunset, we watched one more storm after sunset south of Weatherford, but did not see anything that kept our attention very long.

The primary issue today may have been that moisture mixed out and decreased through the day. The storm bases always were a little higher than we would have expected.

Monday, March 9 - Watonga OK

254 miles, 6:32. Supercell (albeit a left-mover), 2+" inch hail
Chase partner: David Ewoldt, Mari

Lightning in storm near Watonga Went up to the Okarche to meet Dave and stage there until storms developed. Storms developed in northern Oklahoma near the Kansas border (where we worried about if there would be moving into a more stable airmass and also moving away from us too quickly), and then also in southwest Oklahoma (where we were worried about the lack of wind shear). We waited for storms to develop in west central Oklahoma where they might be sufficient instability and shear to have a chance to develop into a stronger storm.

Finally, after a few attempts, a storm developed near Foss OK, so we left Okarche to meet this storm near Watonga. But while approaching Watonga, we noticed another storm to our southwest that put our target storm in bad position, and also seemed like it would be capable of producing hail and was moving toward us. So we drove down to Greenfield to get out of the way, and I noticed the updraft on the north side of the storm confirming this was a left-mover. After the storm crossed US-270/281, we went back north to see how large the hail was. We found 2.19" diameter hail (or 1.95" if you don't want to count the weird appendage of ice) south of Watonga. Sunset was upon us, so active chasing was over, but we took some lightning photos (as seen to the right, or in this close-up of the same photo) as the storm moved northeast.

We stopped again to (unsuccessfully) try more lightning photography near Geary of another storm, then followed it for a little while when it developed some weak circulation on radar. It was short-lived, so we went back to Okarche. On my way home, there were numerous very close cloud-to-ground lightning strikes as I was driving back down Northwest Expressway in northwest Oklahoma City, including one strike to the southeast where the "beads" of lightning could be seen between and after visible lightning strikes in the lightning channel. That's always an interesting sight (as long as you're not too close.)

Tuesday February 10 - Yukon OK

71 miles, 1:54. Supercell (barely)
flying solo

Ground fog and full moon In the days leading up to today, the storm potential seemed to be more in southeast Oklahoma, and I was not interested in chasing southeast Oklahoma in February, I did not prepare much for the first chase of the year. I was on midnight shifts this week, and on the morning of the 10th, it looked like it might be a potential chase day farther west after all. So I charged my camera batteries, set my alarm for 3 pm, and went to bed. I really didn't want to get up when the alarm sounded, but finally figured I would at least tae a look at the data since I was awake. I turned on TV, and immediately see live coverage of a tornado occurring in Edmond! That woke me up quickly, so I decide to chase since it was close and the environment was obviously primed for tornadoes. Of course, since I had not prepared much, there were all types of kinks in gearing up for the chase. I could not find my tape recorder, the batteries were dead in my GPS and caliper, and later when I bought batteries in Yukon to put in the GPS, the maps that I had loaded were not there.

I did get to Mustang in time for the third storm of the series and followed it up to Yukon. I did briefly see some supercell structure to the updraft, but it was soon obvious that this storm was moving a bit farther west than the original storm, and in an atmosphere stabilized by the initial tornadic storm. So I came back home to Norman.

I did not take any photos during the chase, so I am using a photo I took from the office in the morning of the setting full moon and some ground fog that had developed as low-level moisture began to increase in central Oklahoma.