Spēg's 2010 Chases

Spēg's 2010 Chases

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Spēg's main chase page

Spēg's 2010 Chase scorecard:

7 chases
7 supercell chases
2 chases (maybe 3) seeing tornadoes

The synopsis of Speg's 2010 chase season (so far).

Sunday, June 13 - Fargo OK

post-tornadic supercell (marginally)
Chase partner: solo

There was enough to the weather pattern to get me to set an "early" alarm after a graveyard shift. I woke up a little before 3 pm and still saw enough to get me out the door with an outflow boundary across northwestern Oklahoma and the northern panhandles, and decent winds aloft over the panhandles. But for the second time, I missed the tornadoes having to get some sleep while on a string of graveyards. Tornadoes were observed in the eastern Oklahoma panhandle between 345 pm to 445 pm while I was driving. The storm became outflow-dominant while I was on the way, but still showed a little supercell structure as I approached it in northwest Oklahoma. The dark storm did present a photo op with a county road north of Fargo where the panorama above was taken.

Tuesday, May 25 - Manter KS/Bartlett CO

656 miles, 17:43 (including drive back Wednesday). Supercell with poor-contrast tornado
Chase partner: Dave Ewoldt

After spending the night in Dodge City, we ate lunch at the historic Dodge House, then played a little bit at a rest area at the wind farm southwest of Dodge City. There are a lot of wind turbines there. But when you get close, those turbines just don't seem as big as they look.

We continued southwest toward the Kansas-Oklahoma-Colorado border, stopping briefly for at a convenience store (although not at this one). Storms developed to the southwest, so we drove west from Moscow and started following the storm just east of the Colorado state line. After a while, it developed decent structure, and eventually a funnel (photo on the left). But as the storm continued to move north-northeast, it became smaller, weakened and we left it.

We went south where storms continued to develop near the Kansas-Colorado- Oklahoma border, but they all seemed to struggle as they moved north-northeast. Meanwhile, larger storms had formed farther south in the Texas panhandle. We got stuck in a famous construction area/pilot car area near Elkhart KS, which frustrated us, but may have helped us after all. After making it through Elkhart, we did get a radar update while in the Oklahoma panhandle that showed a very strong storm developing in far southeast Colorado (thanks AT&T for having just enough of a signal there.) So we turned north to play this storm, a scenario that would have been less likely had we been 10-20 minutes farther down the road.

As we drove west from Kansas into Colorado, visibility was surprisingly poor as the storm was pulling in smoke from a wildfire in the far northwestern part of the Oklahoma panhandle. Fortunately, we were getting better cel service and knew that the storm was strong, despite not being able to see much structure. As the storm passed east of a dirt road going north into Vilas CO, we took that road north to get in close behind the storm. We did and finally could see some of the storm once we were within a couple of miles. But our dirt road turned mud where the rain and hail had just moved through. There was a three-mile swath of hail up to about the size of tennis balls, and about a mile-and-half of this swath where there was 60-70% coverage of the ground covered by hail, and we even saw churning motion and a little rotation with an occluded mesocyclone being shed out of the back side of the storm.

We finally got north to Vilas, and the pavement of US-160, then moved east ahead of the storm, back into Kansas. From the Kansas-Colorado border, we could see both the storm moving in from Colorado and a small LP storm to our north, and visibility had improved significantly as the storm moved away from the smoke. In fact, the smoke that had been pulled into the storm earlier was now being exhaled by the storm as seen by the brownish layer of smoke exiting the storm on the right side of the storm here and here. It was a very nice looking storm that occasionally would produce funnel-cloud (and on the right), although we were never impressed by the motion and did not expect a tornado. Meanwhile, we were also watching the small LP storm to the north.

We moved south of the storm to watch to get sunset colors with the storm and to get a different view. It had not made any attempts of updraft structure that looked tornadic for a half-hour or so, then finally made another attempt to produce a funnel, and another, although again the motion was not impressive. We also saw what may have been the formation of a pileus cloud at the top of the storm tower. We watched the full moon with sunset colors in the clouds and additional storms developing to the west as the sun set. It's the time of evening when your eyes can start playing games with you, but I started thinking I saw something in the very poor contrast area to the northwest. See it? If you see a little farm in the center right, and go two utility poles to the left, there is something that looked like it could be a tornado, although it was very difficult to see. So Dave got out the videocam, put it in night-shot mode, and started recording. Sure enough, it was a tornado as seen in the video captures on the left, and here and here. Definitely not a great tornado catch, but a nice little bonus to go along with the nice storm structure, and my first Colorado tornado.

Being within a few miles of Colorado, we spent the night in Guymon instead of driving all the way back to central Oklahoma. Storms formed in the morning over Guymon, including a very close lightning strike that woke us up around 8 am or so. Although these storms were not going to be anything to chase as far as severe weather, they made for a nice background of the wildflowers that were across Oklahoma panhandle (known a long time ago as "No Man's Land.")

Monday, May 24 - Kismet/ Dodge City KS

407 miles. 9:08 hours. Supercell (for a while)
Chase partner: Dave Ewoldt

We left central Oklahoma for a multiple-day trip. Although we were somewhat surprised how early severe storms developed. There were a lot of storms across the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles and southwest Kansas. So at some point, we just had to pick a storm, so we went west in the Oklahoma panhandle, then followed a small storm northeast toward Liberal, KS. We did see a clear-slot attempt and perhaps a small funnel with the storm as we approached Liberal, then followed the storm northeast toward Kismet and Plains. The storm was somewhat small, although it did occasionally look interesting (see updraft structure on the right.) But the storm started to weaken as it moved northeast past Plains, KS. So we shifted focus onto landscape photography north of Dodge City, taking photos of flora, fauna, sun rays, clouds and windmill, and sunset colors in clouds and water.

Friday, May 21 - Panhandle/ Groom TX

591 miles. 10:09. supercell
Chase partner: flying solo

It was a day off, and I saw enough potential to get my to go to the Texas panhandle, even though my typical chase partners were all busy. I was worried that storms might not form, but thought they would be strong if they did. I was encouraged when a storm formed south of Amarillo as I was driving west. But the first targetable storm weakened between Groom and Lefors TX while I approached. The next best options were a big storm to the south, or a small but developing storm on the northwest side of Amarillo. Hearing that Amarillo had a nice dewpoint and a southeast wind, I targeted the storm near Amarillo... which weakened as I approached the storm northeast of Amarillo. This was not the scenario I was expecting.

Meanwhile the big storm in the southeast panhandle sends off a left-split moving northeast toward Groom, and this storm split again near Groom where the original left-mover weakened and the new right-mover became planted and was nearly stationary. I started racing southeast, although I did stop for photo ops west of Panhandle and on the left. As I got closer, I took a few more photo ops of the back side of the storm including knuckles under the back-shear anvil. The storm started moving northeast and weakening as sunset approached, and I stopped one more time for sunset colors in storms to the south and southwest. Overall, the photo ops with the Groom storm did a very good job salvaging what was turning into a mediocre chase.

Sunday, May 16 - Lake Hefner

80 miles, 2:29. local HP supercell
Chase partner: solo

Tornado chances were low today, but when there was a good radar velocity signature and a tornado warning on a storm moving southeast in Kingfisher County, I figured it was close enough that I would take a look. Of course, as anticipated, the low-level rotation soon weakened, but I thought I would take a look anyway, and I drove to Lake Hefner to watch the storm approach. It was an interesting experience seeing the reactions of people at the lake as this big hailstorm approached, including a sailboat (seen in the distance left of center) as the storm approached. Some were in the cars listening to radio coverage of the TV meteorologists, others were dining out on the restaurant's patios enjoying themselves and watching the storm approach (as seen in this panorama ), even as the winds with the front-flank gust front hit without the recognition of what they were about to experience. After taking a couple more photos, I got out quick and drove south on the Lake Hefner Parkway and Interstate 44. I did hear a couple of hailstones (that sounded like they were big hailstones) hit the car on the way south. Within a few minutes after I left, Lake Hefner probably experienced hail of at least golf ball size (and probably larger). And just to the east of Lake Hefner, the storm produced softball size hail (over 4" in diameter), and the hail storm continued southeast across Oklahoma City producing extensive damage.

I watched the storm for a little bit from southeast Oklahoma City then started driving back down to Norman. Off to the west, an LP storm developed out near Minco (about 20-25 miles west), and although the structure looked interesting, this storm was undercut by outflow winds from the first storm.

Monday, May 10 - Wakita OK

424 miles. 9:34. two tornadoes, including dynamic multiple-vortex tornado
Chase partner: Kevin Sharfenberg

Today was a high-risk day that lived up to it's potential. It's been rare to see the magnitude of these tornado ingredients set up in the same area as have developed today, and it was obvious that a dangerous outbreak would likely develop. But storms were also going to be racing at over 50 mph, so it wasn't going to be an easy chase. The morning data suggested that potentially tornadic storms could develop quite far south in Oklahoma, but we targeted northern Oklahoma where the odds of storms were the highest.

After lunch in Okarche, we saw a storm had developed in the distance to the northwest, while towering clouds were also attempting to develop to our west. We went northwest to keep the northwestern Oklahoma storm in play, but kept watching the attempts at storm development farther south in case we wanted to target one of these storms. The storms farther south did not develop well as we approached the first northwest storm, so we targeted this driving north from west of Enid up to Nash and SW of Wakita, trying to stay well ahead of the fast- moving storm.

We stopped just south of the intersection of State Highway 132 and State Highway 11, when we saw a brief tornado develop to our southwest. With the fast-moving storm, we soon started driving east on SH-11 to remain ahead of the storm. While driving, a very dynamic multiple-vortex tornado developed to our west, although we did not have time to stop to take photos, although another chaser happened to take a picture of us while we were driving east with the tornado in the background (see photo on the left.) We did get out in front of the storm enough to stop briefly and photograph the wrapping rain curtains and very large-scale rotation to our northwest, although the still photos do not in show the very strong rotation that we could see. We had seen occasional wisps of a funnel or tornado in the middle of this large-scale rotation, although the large-scale rotation was strong enough that this was a damaging storm over a much broader area than just near the tornado. Another brief stop allowed us to photograph the storm to the northwest again as it moved rapidly east-northeast. Radar data suggested that the storm was tightening it's rotation into a well- developed tornado again, but we were not in a position to see this anymore to our northwest and north, and the fast movement would not allow us to get into position to see the dangerous part of the storm again.

Meanwhile, additional storms finally did develop to the south and all the way into central Oklahoma. Our best option was to drive well east and attempt to get ahead of the storms that were about to move into the Oklahoma City metro area and Norman, while helplessly listening to the radio coverage of the damage that was beginning to unfold in the OKC/Norman area. We drove east to Pawnee, Jennings, Drumright and Bristow are with the option of heading south from Bristow and catch the central Oklahoma storms somewhere in the Boley-Okemah area. But were slowed enough by a small hailstorm north of Bristow and the town of Bristow itself that we decided that our window to get to Boley was small enough to not attempt it, and we came back home on the turnpike.

Thursday, April 22 - McLean TX

455 miles, 8:38. post-tornadic supercell (although a funnel and possible tornado)
Chase partner: flying solo

I slept in today as I would start midnight shifts this night and was not going to sacrifice sleep for chasing. I did finally get up and load up the gear, and even took a friend to the airport on my way out to the Texas panhandle. Storms did form a little on the early side with tornadoes developing in the eastern Texas panhandle while I was still a few miles away from the Texas panhandle border. When I approached McLean, there were two storms - the initial tornadic storm that was northwest of McLean, and a newer storm near Groom. Although when it was decision time, I was not getting timely data on my phone (not a good start to my AT&T/iPhone era), but somehow did get an update of the Amarillo radar's 1.5 degree velocity which showed a strong circulation with the initial storm. So I went north figuring that if I didn't like what I saw, I could drop back south to the new storm. That turned out to be the incorrect decision as the storm near Groom was producing multiple tornadoes. There was always enough organization in the north storm to keep me interested in it. Although not a good view, there was a wall cloud and at least a funnel cloud seen to the northwest (see image at the right), and another wall cloud later. Although the road options became more limited, so I left the storm and drove back south before becoming trapped by the second storm (and of course, the storm I left produced another tornado a few minutes after I left it.) I did get into position to watch the second storm, and saw a lowering at about the location that a tornado was reported. After a while, the area of interest seemed to be wrapped in rain, so I started heading home.