Cyclone Road

Friday, May 23, 2003

Purple Hays

Hays, Kansas--I'm in Hays, Kansas this morning where the Toyota dealer told me nothing is wrong with my truck. A high-pitched metallic grinding sound came from the chassis last night in the Goodland, Kansas Wal-Mart parking lot, so I got up at 5:00 AM and drove the 120 miles to Hays thinking my chase season might be over. They couldn't duplicate the sound or find anything out of order.

Today's setup is another mesoscale mystery, this time with extensive cloud cover over most of Western Kansas. I'm banking on high terrain and some fair dewpoints in extreme Eastern Colorado, and a small boundary I analyzed on the Goodland radar, which looks to be pushing east of Limon right now. I'm heading for the Colorado county just west of Goodland to see if I can catch up with the gang and/or catch some upslope storms.

Yesterday we saw some amazing cumulus structure, several with mesocyclonic and polished, LP appearances, but with updrafts blown completely vertical venhilating from the flying saucer, stacked plate bases. I've never seen features quite like these and am anxious to post the pictures later tonight.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

From the Road
Guymon, Oklahoma--We're scouring data in the Guymon public library, eyeing an area from NW Kansas to Eastern Colorado for severe storms later in the day. The pattern now is harder to forecast, but probably more rewarding as dozens of chasers have planted themselves at home in mourning for the lack of constant outbreaks or in fear of computer models. Meanwhile, nearly 1500 j/kg CAPE values and marginally supportive shear profiles could reward the persistent up here in the high terrain. Or we could bust. Ha!

Yesterday was a remarkable travel day. We visited the Texas Panhandle ghostown of Moteebie where a local man named Dale Corcoran told us stories of the still-standing first panhandle jail, and how a tornado in 1897 destroyed the thriving town of Moteebie, which at the time was the largest city in the area with stagecoach lines arriving from around the plains. We toured the jail, a few other buildings, and hung out with a very tame and curious deer with a large red tag marked "210" in his ear. Later, we visited a graveyard south of the ghostown where Dale told us stories about dozens of people at rest there, including his great-grandfather, a man with such a stunning life story that I'll keep it from the prying imaginations of my writerly friends. Haha. Stay tuned for more on that.

Dale Corcoran is a remarkable man himself, retired from working oil rigs, we guessed, who took up maintaining the old graveyard and jail as a way to keep himself occupied. Still with a strong handshake and hearty laugh in his late 60's, he wore a cutoff white t-shirt and had a burn mark on the tip of his index fingers from decades of getting the last drag off every cigarette. His skin was a permanent sunned leather. He laughed about our interest in the place but answered every question in a detailed and thoughtful drawl, hypnotizing us with his memory of dates and people dead for fifty and sixty years. When we finished, he led us back through town in his white pickup truck and stopped at his small house, where he lives with his fifth wife. There's no place like the Texas Panhandle.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

On the Road Again

The gang is bound for Southwest Kansas this morning, looking for two days of chasing despite the dire predictions of model worshippers everywhere. We hardly have time to photograph all the supercells for the constant strem of cellphone calls describing the extent and power of the upper level ridge. Call us crazy. Currently looking at this area of Kansas and Colorado for two days of chasing and possibly into the weekend. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Imagery from the past several days

I updated my weblog with a variety of images from the last 10 days. I have an edited video clip of the Stanford/Mallett, Texas tornadoes from May 15th.

I also have video captures of the large tornado seen along I-44 on May 9th near Stroud and Chandler,Oklahoma. These images from 5-9 are grainy, and the tornado is barely backlit. The scariest thing about these is that Dave Fick and I never really understood the size of the tornado just a mile or so ahead of us.

Finally, I have a few thumbnails from the picturesque supercell between Duncan and Ardmore, Oklahoma on May 19th.

Huge thanks to Steve Miller for the use of his house and computers, and Jeff Gammons, Chris Collura, and Jason Foster for assistance with video editing and other technical issues. We've had a fun down day. Despite gloomy talk on the lists, we're heading for New Mexico tomorrow for LP's on Thursday and whatever may follow through the weekend.


Timelapse of Supercell near Ardmore

This is a clip from the May 15 tornadoes near Stanford, Texas. including the shot which includes both the wedge and elephant truck simultaneously:

Stanford, Texas tornadoes

These were taken from near Interstate 44 between Stroud and Chandler and show the tornado backlit by occasional lightning. I have not thumbnailed them because it's hard enough to detect the large tornado in the center of the frame with the full image. So no thumbs, but it's there. Dave Fick and I were often less than a mile from this large tornado as it marched up 44. A full report is in the archives of the blog.


Waiting Day

McKinney, Texas-- We're at Steve Miller's house in McKinney watching video and talking about going to IHOP or Cracker Barrel. Very disappointed that SPC dropped the slight risk in NM tomorrow, so it looks like we'll stick around here tonight and head west in the morning.

Last night, a large thundershower approached McKinney from the north at about 2:30 AM. Of course, we hadn't gone to bed yet and so we grabbed the cameras. We jogged down the street and filmed lightning from an open area at the end of the cul-de-sac. We heard the drumming sound of rain approaching and the first few drops served as a warning for the deluge seconds later. Five stormchasers beat it down the road in the pouring rain, cameras tucked under t-shirts, back to the refuge of Steve's garage. A wild night and thus the late posts today.

Picturesque Cold Front Supercells

McKinney, Texas--Steve Miller and I along with the Weathervine gang chased a beautiful supercell from near Duncan, Oklahoma to near Ardmore today. The storm wrapped up with silver laminar banding in the lower and mid-levels and displayed several wall clouds and long tail clouds and inflow bands. Today's setup was very unusual in that the cold front produced a vanguard windshift line, oriented north to south, which acted as a convergence axis in much the same way as a dryline. Also, with mid-level flow oriented perpendicular to the boundary, storms moved off the front and did not seed other cells along the forcing. The deep cold air was well behind the windshift, and from what I understand about people who studied the models extensively this morning, the mesoscale environment developed much differently than progged. We enjoyed this backlit suerpcell for several hours as it generated tornado warnings in Stephens, Jefferson, and Carter Counties.

Later, another supercell developed to the west and we intercepted it just north of the Red River in Love County. This storm had a large bell shaped mesocyclone and was also visually impressive for some time. Will post photos later, and I may have an AVI clip of the two simultaneous tornados on Thursday in the Texas panhandle. Right now, we're facing at least tomorrow afternoon down until we reposition to West Texas for Wednesday or later in the week.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Front Range, Colorado--Steve Miller and I are
patrolling the front range of Eastern Colorado for the
chance of low precipitation supercells generated by
orographic lifting in the elevated terrain ahead of
the Rocky Mountains. Today's setup is marginal, but
with a polar front sweeping south through the plains
this upcoming week, we're taking our chances where we
find them. We plan to meet with the Weathervine team
around Lamar and reposition from there.