May 22 through May 27, 2000: Chase Extravaganza

  What a wild week of chasing this was, with five chases in six days over three states and thousands of miles.  Tornado Watches each day and tornadic storms, or at least storms with tornado warnings, every afternoon and sometimes late into the night.  It will be weeks before I have all of this written up, but I thought I'd get the best images up now and fill in the rest later. 

All images on this page: Copyright 2000  Amos Magliocco All Rights Reserved (Unless otherwise noted)

MAY 22, 2000:
FORT SMITH ARKANSAS

This was a last minute chase into a bad chase area.  Full insolation on a day with moderate dewpoints and decent shear lured me towards East Central Oklahoma--exploding towers pulled me to Arkansas.  Met a chaser from California who'd been out on the plains for six weeks.  He said he worked in the film industry and was using a small hand-held NOAA radio and a cell phone to talk to Tim Vasquez for guidance.   He'd never chased before and already had six tornadoes when I met him this day.   He chased the supercell on the right into the Ozarks.  I don't remember his name, but I tip my lucky hat to him.  Hope he made it out of there.

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MAY 24, 2000:
CADDO COUNTY, OKLAHOMA

I have no imagery from the 5/24 chase in Caddo County, Oklahoma. We started that day in Enid, chased south after realizing our wind fields had sunk south with the surface low, and came into the Caddo County storm from the north side.  We tried to core punch it, taking an angle that would cut it very close, but bailed out when the hail came down thick as rain, erasing our visibility and courage.  That storm soon gusted out. I chased with Jeff Gammons and the Weathervine crew as I had on the 22nd, and it was the beginning of a very successful week.

 

 

MAY 25, 2000: POST, TEXAS

Our first thought was the best combination of shear and instability would be in the Eastern Texas Panhandle, but we were only out of the motel a few minutes when the dense overcast and foggy conditions convinced us to go south, and out from under the ugly cirrus shield.  The following is from my email to the Storm-Chase list

"We ended up on a storm ESE of LBB last evening near Post Texas which had a sustained wall cloud and a crisp, rounded updraft base--the best storm of the week for me.   I would have bet a 72 oz steak it was about to drop, considering how quickly it wrapped up and the well-defined tail cloud on the wall cloud.  But alas it was not to be and the storm occluded and tried to eat us.

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Storm near Post gets cranked
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Jeff Gammons smokes one for good luck

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Running from the gust front and tumbleweeds--here
comes the sun

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Ominous lowering later than night--maybe the
best wall cloud of the week

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The series of images above show a funnel cloud that never touched the ground.  Though this feature was more than halfway down, which makes it an automatic tornado for some, it was not rotating violently or even modestly, in any discernible way.  Funnel cloud.  There's a difference.

The next hour was a wild combination of grass fires (none that we started) and tumbleweeds rocketing across the road as the storm blew itself out all over the place.  Never seen a rocketing tumbleweed?  Makes great video.  Kudos to David Cornwell for some great GPS navigation and the rest of the Weathervine armada.  Our execution was smooth yesterday and we were in exactly the right place at the right time." 

 

 

Here's a report by my friend Jeff Lawson from Denton.  He has given his permission for it to be used here.

MAY 26, 2000: THROCKMORTON, TEXAS
by Jeff Lawson

Got to Childress and saw a few random chasers, and saw a rather impressive
looking storm going up just to the west near Estelline.  So, I made a quick
jaunt out west to get a better look; it was elevated, and the top was
getting sheared off...it looked pretty good as it was going up, but the
minute I stepped out of the car for a closer look it became painfully aware
that I was behind the dry line.  So, back to Childress to see if I could
find anyone...I knew Eric Nguyen was with my group, so I just kept my eyes
scanning for his car.  Couldn't find them after driving around Childress
for awhile, so I headed back east on 287 to get in the better air.  As I
entered Quanah, I saw Eric's car...stopped and asked where everyone else
was, and they were luckily only up the road a mile or so.  Within minutes,
I met up with Amos, Jeff Gammons, David Cornwell, Michael Neumann,
and Jesse Snyder just north of Quanah.  A quick check of TWC showed a line of
CU well to the south, in the middle of the new tornado box...with the
storms firing northwest behind and along the dryline being sheared apart
and flying northeast, we decided south was the way to go.  Oh, and I
managed to get my radios working once again, so I was able to communicate
with the group.  So, we were off... (yeah, I know that's a lot of time to
focus on simply GETTING to the initiation area, but I'm still amazed I was
lucky enough to run into Eric when I did..if you read this Eric, thanks a
lot!).

Headed south on Hwy. 6 to Crowell, noticing a storm with a decent
overshooting top to the southeast...the storm didn't look amazing, but it
was the only show in town as far as we could tell.  So, it became our
target.  Made a quick jog east on Hwy. 70 from Crowell, and then picked up
FM 267 heading south until we picked up FM 1919, following it all the way
to Seymour.  We then headed south on 283, stopping a few times to view the
storm now just to our west/southwest.  There was a newer updraft and small
rain-free base on the northeast side of the storm which we focused our
attention on at first...it quickly became contaminated with rainfall and
failed to get its act together.  We drove back and forth on 283 several
times to get in better viewing position, but finally decided (after a quick
look at the TWC radar) that our best bet was to ignore the northeast side
of the storm and keep heading south to get a better look at the primary
updraft on the southern side.  Based on the quick look at the radar and
visual observations as it happened, I think there might have been a storm
split at about that time, explaining the odd updraft region on the
northeast side...I'll have to check some radar data before I can be sure of
that, though.

I might point out that, for all basic purposes, our 4 vehicle group didn't
encounter any other chasers while we zipped back and forth on 283; I'm not
saying we were first on the storm (after all, might have been tons of
people down south), but we were the only ones on that side at the time as
far as I could tell.  That quickly changed, though...as we sat on top of a
hill along 283 viewing the storm, both DOW trucks passed by heading south,
followed by an armada of chasers.  Figuring that was a sign to head south
after all, we followed, keeping back for a couple of reasons:  1) As Amos
pointed out, the DOW trucks don't exactly place themselves in the best
position for visually VIEWING the storm, so they don't exactly represent
the best place to go and stop.  Also, 2) with so many chasers following, a
sudden stop could quickly create a parking lot along the road.  One of the
DOW trucks stopped along 283 north of Throckmorton as the other continued
south...we stopped just a little bit north of them, and had a great view of
the storm's huge rain-free base.  We viewed a few odd lowerings (not much
low-level rotation, though) and watched as the storm continued to backbuild
to the southwest.  As the precip started to close in (and Dave produced a
random hailstone which seemed to fall from nowhere), we decided to head
south to Throckmorton.

It was a chaser party, and everyone showed up.  We stopped for a brief
moment at a gas station in the center of town at the intersection of  380
and 283, and chasers came out of the woodwork.  Within moments, there were
about 9 chasemobiles sitting in the same parking lot, with the intersection
full of chasers on ALL sides.  It's as if the town of Throckmorton had been
invaded...I can't imagine what the locals were thinking.  Anyway, we were
viewing some ragged scud rushing towards us fast from the west when Glenn
Dixon and his wife
stopped to let us know that the updraft and primary
show was just a tad north of there, blocked from view by the county
courthouse.  So, along with just about everyone else, we rushed north out
of town, picking up Hwy 79 with the storm bearing down on us.  Ran into
some huge gusts and a very pronounced microburst practically within a mile
in front of us as we caravanned northeast, red dust obscuring our view.
Chasers were everywhere, pulling over, flying down the road, passing on
hills...saw some real bonehead moves, but I guess that's to be somewhat
expected considering the number of chasers and the situation.  Pulled over
for an instant just to have enough time to turn around and see what
appeared to be a funnel coming down practically on top of us...I didn't get
a good look, but there was some talk of the circulation possibly reaching
ground level among others in the group (will have to wait and see the
video) not very far from our location at all.  That was enough to get us
moving northeast again in a BIG hurry.  We decided not to play a game of
stop, run, stop, run, and simply continued until we hit FM 926 just inside
Young County.  Saw some damage to buildings along the way, but I'm not sure
if that was fresh or not...might have been a microburst ahead of us (we
were driving through some very strong gusts), but I can't confirm
it...might have been old damage from a previous storm.

So, we headed south on 926 (a few other chasers did the same), and stopped
for a short time to get a better look at what we had been running from.
The storm was starting to look like it was being undercut by outflow, and
we continued southeast to Newcastle as the core closed in on us.  Headed
west on 380 out of Newcastle to get an unobstructed view of the storm from
the south, stopping at a high point to get a wild view of the dust being
kicked up only about 1/2 mile down the road.  Snapped plenty of pictures,
made note of the amazing number of other chasers driving by in every
direction possible, and watched a curious lowering just to our north.
Almost instantaneously, we were hit by very cool outflow (refreshing!), and
decided to head back east to Newcastle as the wind began to pick up.  Once
again, we were back in the red dust, small limbs and other objects flying
by in front of us as the gust front plowed through Newcastle.  We headed
east out of town on 380, trying to keep ahead of the gust front, stopping
at a high point just to the northwest of Graham in order to let everyone
regroup (the fast pace of the previous events since Throckmorton had gotten
us spread out).  Watched the gust front in the distance and MORE curious
lowerings (not expecting much with so much outflow); began to hear an eerie
whistling as the gust front moved through the trees to our west...it
continued to get louder and louder, until we were suddenly blasted with
flying dirt and other objects.  Decided to enjoy it instead of taking
shelter...should have good video of the approaching gust front and many
chasers struggling to stay standing up.  Also noticed the incredible armada
of chasers streaming by us on 380...it was a like a parade.  Very, very odd
indeed.

Decided then that the storm was probably going to keep doing what it was
doing, and we were losing daylight rapidly, so we headed east on 380
towards Jacksboro.  Stopped in Jacksboro for a bite to eat and a break to
discuss what had just happened; the storm skirted our location, giving us
some good gusts and heavy rain as we ate.  Left Jacksboro (made a couple of
wrong turns in the process, but finally picked up 380 again) headed east,
following the backside of the storm all the way back home to Denton,
enjoying the light show ahead of us.  It's nice when the storm leads you
right back to your front door... :-)

All in all, a good day, even if the storm was an unusual beast...the
challenge made it all the more interesting.  Our forecasting appeared close
to being on the mark, and we did a good job getting to the storm once it
started going up (thank you TWC!).  The whole mess of chasers galore,
strong outflow, flying dust, huge grasshoppers, suicidal birds, and the
funnel right on top of us made for quite a wild experience...I'm sure this
is one chase I'm not going to forget about for awhile.  I joked to Amos
that this storm (which was pretty much the only show in town) is probably
now the most well-documented in history.

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The storm is in Haskell County and we're not.  We drove fast.

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Copyright  2000 Chris Collura All Rights Reserved

This image is courtesy of Chris Collura with the Weathervine team, showing the rotating funnel about to descend upon us.

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Glenn Dixon was inside the weak, developing tornado that Tim Marshall's wife compared to a dust devil.   As far as I know, it didn't even put out Glenn's cigar.
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Here's a brief weak spinup that I didn't even see as I was taping it--I'm turned talking to someone else.
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Ah, mammatus.  The obligatory image.
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Lightning in the dust of the RFD

 

MAY 27, 2000: JACK COUNTY, TEXAS

The forth consecutive chase day caught me with a flat tire and flat-footed, too tired to rise early enough to do a proper forecast.  When I realized initiation was right around the corner, I began to load the truck and found the tire, mortally wounded in one of the sudden twists or turns of the Throckmorton chase the day before.  Jeff Lawson, Tom Fitzpatrick and I still made good time to the storm, and took these interesting shots.   Is this a tornado?  You tell me.

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Is is a tornado? 
Rain?  Our imagination?
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