Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Let me start with this. Unforgettable chase by far in my season, not because of tornadoes, but instead close to softball sized hail and my closest friends. Leaving around 4AM in Greeley, we had lots of ground to make up for today’s chase day in Oklahoma with Brad Duncan and Stephanie Baker.
Skipping all the parts of the drive we reach Canadian, TX and see towering cu’s along the dry line in western Oklahoma. It was only a matter of time when we would reach Elk City to pick up our Oklahomans ;) Shep and I were cutting it close and hoping for another hour and half to get in position. The cell in northcental OK was beginning to come together and was going to make for a long afternoon. We get to Brad’s house in anticipation and head on our way to Clinton, OK.
Getting to Clinton, OK, I was getting discouraged because I knew the cells were good, but we were in for catch up the whole time. Seeing cells strengthen on the dry line to our south, Shep and I decided to see if this would collectively merge into a nice supercell. In fact as we drove south we could see the updraft was impressive and it was very uplifting. Finally in position, I get out of the car and play around in the marble to golf ball hail. The hail stone that told me to stop was this massive first hailstone of the day, half of a tennis ball. Putting on my helmet cam and Skinner personality kicked in. I loved it! Just sitting out there and watching hail fall outside. As we waited we could see some structuring looking south on the cell we were sitting underneath. As it began to create this base, we knew we were in for a show!
I got back in the car and wanted to get south before it started to rain too hard on the north side. Pretty much there was no hurry for anything, so the chase was just perfect timing in every aspect. As we drove closer to the base, the hail furry began. I drove through it and decided to go back to get some hail samples, which I fail to do a lot of times because a lot of the times I’m always in a hurry. So we drove back into the white hail streaks and softball season started! Watching individual baseball to softball fall on the road and flat wheat, dirt field was something I’ve been waiting for my whole chase career. The sound banging on the car and the road is something I’ll never forget.
With my helmet ready to go, I witnessed Brad getting out of the vehicle and grabbing a softball sized hail stone just outside his door. Joy and laughter. I was so excited to watch all the hail bouncing outside and they kept getting bigger. I ran outside around the car to the grassy ditch and grabbed a handful of baseball, hen, softball sized hail. My adrenaline was kicking soooo hard, best feeling ever, specially when a softball sized hail stone smashes into the side of the vehicle while picking up monster hail. I was hoping to get hit by one just to have a wound of some sort to show off :) Yea, I’m passionate crazy!
Jumping back in the vehicle, I totally lost breath from all the excitement. Than I took deep breaths and we were at it again watching hailstones falling more and more. It was beautiful to see white stones slowly getting smaller but with more frequency falling so violent happy.
Now turning around to get back into the SE quadrant of the now supercell structured storm, we watched the dark base create some intense backside RFD creating massive gustandoes. The base was rotating but there was no signs of funneling just yet. The supercell was now taking a SE direction therefore sucking up more of that wonderful warm moist SE flow. Another favorite moment as we stood there watching its birth. Stop and drive, stop and drive, stop and drive until we got near some hills of Oklahoma, the meso base and clear air notch was trying very hard to tornado, but leaving instead with a beautiful funnel in front of us. We watched and marveled as a group, as it began to break down and weaken. This is where Shep told me to pull over to get what I think is an award winning photograph! This would be the end of our wonderful chase as things dwindle leaving behind an outflow boundary for tomorrow’s setup :)
Half Dollar, Golfball, Tennis, Baseball, Softball Sized Hail
Here is a Video of the whole chase journey in full! Very Fun to watch!
Friday, May 27, 2011
Driving down the muddy road with nothing to look at in front of you but a nice big green tractor is by far the best way to start your day. Shep and I woke up with the intention of driving home the following day, knowing full aware we had severe weather setup once again for the area over our heads. After Shep got the call of being off work for the night, we both looked at each other and said so we’re chasing today too. Driving west we watched cu’s towering towards the Russell, KS area. We stopped for lunch in Russell and knew we were going to be at it again. The environment was favorable for possible supercells in central to north central Kansas today. The conditions looked much better in the south, but didn’t want to drive down there when cells were already converging to the north.
After lunch, Shep and I ran into the Weather Channel Tornado Hunters just on the outskirts of Russell. Pretty cool to watch meteorologists Mike Bettes and Dr. Forbes oogle over the convection to our west and east. We booked it out to get north as the convection was converging. The towering CU’s were quite phenomenonal to watch in Kansas as always. We watched and hoped one would go severe, but we chased some pretty intense lowering clouds as it was converging, but learned it was beginning to rain out. This in turn produced a marvelous feeder cloud feeding into an already developing cell to our south back towards Russell again. Choking looked to be the game today if this pattern kept up, as any storm that produced would outflow or be choked by super cooled rain air feeding the storm.
Looking southwest we watched the slow moving cell moving towards Lucas, KS. As it was maturely turning into a professional outflow dominant HP storm. We headed south on 232 driving around Wilson Lake watching the beast swallow and precipitate lots of rain. This would be the end of our chase, as the severe thunderstorm to the south near Great Bends, KS was just out of our reach. It was a gorgeous day of scenery and outflow convective storms in Kansas. Now it was time to descend homebound to Colorado.
Total Miles: 186
Yes I actually had car engine light trouble, my car wanted OIL!!!!!
Bound for central Kansas target for tornadic severe weather, Shep and I were delighted to be chasing in the VAD - Velocity Azimuth Doppler, my car, for gas price reasons and nobody else was able to go. I was really excited to be smelling the Kansas dewpoint, and just chasing (period). We got to Oakley, KS and could see convection beginning to pop along the boundary, but remaining capped. We began heading south hwy 83 to Scott City to drive east to Great Bend, where we finally intercepted a developing linear embedded cell along the line of convection. It was impressive only for a short period of time when it was all dieing as they would rain out moving north northeast. Shep watched the tornado warned cell up north of I-70, and both decided since it had an easterly component and was the only thing worth of notice to chase. We drove up and intercepted some crazy looking shear along with greenish skies along the rolling hills of north central Kansas. We played around coring the storm as it was going through pouring rain cycles.
Following this cell as it continued to spawn tornado warning, we enjoyed ourselves in some flooding and impressive backside updrafts. In Lincoln Center, KS we drove through some rising waters and than headed east on hwy 18 to get in front of the cell again. Finally getting in front we saw it regaining potential and the chase caravan initiated once again driving north on 106 towards Minneapolis, KS. We could see ahead of us mesocyclonic structure with wall cloud attempts, mostly scuds.
Once arriving in Minneapolis, KS, we began driving north to intercept a very well pronounced meso moving slowly eastward. I remember only because of the video we captured the dialogue of our conversation as we were about to enter into a state of unknown vulnerability. Passing unknown decisions back between Shep & I, we still found ourselves driving east on a dirt road called Oxbow to get to hwy 81. At least we thought we would get to hwy 81. While driving on Oxbow Road, it was a steady dirt road, just a little wet from normal precipitation, but as we kept going it only got worse. Boating mode was set on my Saturn from this point forward. Just as we reached what seemed to be a bridge my Saturn was beginning to lose rear traction causing me to slide to the right. And into the cropping ditch I went sliding to officially get stuck. The backside precipitation was following us as is was wrapping into the meso moving northeast. So we had to wait till we could get outside to attempt for what would be 3 to 4 hours outside trying every idea that we could come up with until it was hopeless. Thankful my car didn’t die after so many attempts driving back and forth in the mud to get to the center of the road. Attempts to call Triple AAA, but with these conditions, it was helpless. My only concern at this point was the lack of oxygen since I wear oxygen now when I sleep. Stress, anxiety, and extertion are not very helpful in this situation so I just stayed in the car and did what I could as Shep went out and attacked the wheat, mud and Kansas river forest. My appreciation for him doing everything he could to get us out. It was than he got back in my car around midnight that we would have to wait it out till morning. An MCS was heading our direction which would bring more rain and lots of lightning all around us as we slept the night stuck in MUD. It was actually very soothing to hear through the night, and I was able to rest somewhat which was another blessing. The next morning Shep called Josh Wiest, the savior of the situation. He used Google map to look up houses around our vicinity to see if they had a tractor since we were surrounded by beautiful wheat fields. Josh was able to contact a farmer who willingly drove the tractor easily down the deep enriched muddy road. Thanx Josh. Once again "what an ordeal."
Total Miles: 563
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Leaving the hospital in Aurora, I was in constant communication with Shep about the massive rotating mesocyclone over Denver. This produced a very scenic funnel almost making it to the ground. Shep in Commerce City had the perfect vantage point since he was working there filming LaCrosse tournaments. I was a little south but with my eagle eyes looking through I could see but wasn't able to photograph the main themed that stole the show.
My friend Aragorn giving me a ride home to Greeley both decided to do a little chase in Denver. Traffic killed timing. We finally made it to 104th on I-25 and headed east to 85. In Thornton, 1-3 inches accumulated on I-25. On 104th, we punched the redeveloping cells popping from the south moving northwards. This was great because it hailed again pretty good. We both enjoyed the thrill of pea sized hail while coring the storm. Once we got far enough east to 85 the base of the storm was outflowing. To the south towards Commerce City, I rolled down my windows and could still hear the tornado sirens going off. This apparently was another round of rotating outflow meso, creating fast moving scuds and funnels. I was able to look at the right time to my south and see a large funnel out front of the outflow mess. All in all, temps were rapidly decreasing and the storm was losing upper level shear quickly due to the lack of mountains to keep forcing and organization. Therefore, producing a long band of outflow moving eastward.
This was a great way to start the freedom.
Stay tuned for more updated blogs soon from Kansas.....