From Plainview, TX, we drove southwest to the Midland/Odessa TX area. By late afternoon, a promising storm formed near Midland and the chase was on. Although the storm never became a supercell, it did offer some opportunities for photographs. We continued the chase until well after dark and were rewarded with a terrific lightning display. Our day ended in Lubbock, TX after 424 miles on the road.
Our target area for today was the Texas Panhandle. Along the way we passed through communities large and small: Oklahoma City, Lawton, Altus in Oklahoma; Childress, Paducah, Matador, Floydata, Plainview in Texas. Our over 400 mile journey was a dry run. No storms materialized, so we stopped for the day in Plainview. Plainview was named for its brilliant view of the Plains, which is Texas-speak for a 360 degree view of absolutely nothing.
Leaving Denver, we intercepted a line of storms in central Kansas around 7 p.m. One of these became the dominant storm at the expense of the others and began to rapidly intensify and take on the characteristics of a high precipitation (HP) supercell. Although rotation within the storm was clearly evident at times, the storm just didn’t have what it takes (and no one is really sure what that is) to produce a tornado. However, the storm took on a classic “mothership” appearance and treated us to a fantastic lightning show after dark.
We drove 640 miles today and finally checked into a motel in Blackwell, OK about 1:30 a.m. It was a long day.
And a Rocky Mountain Hi to you all! Today begins another week of storm chasing. Left the rain-soaked Gulf Coast for the high, dry air of Denver, Colorado. Missed my connecting flight out of Houston, but managed to arrive in Denver in time to meet my fellow storm chasers for this week and have a great BBQ dinner at Famous Daves Legendary Pit BBQ. This week’s group of storm chasers includes a large number of Australians and Brits. Crikeys, by the end of the week I’ll have quite the accent, I will.
It will be an early start on Sunday morning as we plan to target the central Kansas area. The next several days hold promise for severe weather development, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed in anticipation of seeing some awesome supercell storms and maybe a tornado or two.
Week 1 was a bit of a disappointment. Lack of moisture out on the Great Plains inhibited severe storm formation for most of the week. I did see several supercell storms, but nothing spectacular. The fact that I missed seeing several tornadoes late in the week haunts me still. The highlight of the week for me was getting a close-up view of the Project Rotate vehicles and equipment. Hopefully, my second week of storm chasing, beginning June 9th, will be more productive.
Tally for Week 1
Supercell storms: 2
States visited: Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, South Dakota
Miles driven: 3,044
By mid-afternoon, it was time to say goodbye to the McDonald’s parking lot in Russell, Kansas and get into full bore chase mode. From Russell, we drove southwest to an area south of Hays, Kansas. Our chase began near the small community of La Crosse as a supercell storm began to intensify. Driving through La Crosse, I made the comment that the town might not be around much longer. I didn’t realize it then how prophetic my words were. We stayed on the storm as it went through cycles of intensifying and weakening. Strong outflow winds generated by the storm buffeted us and raised huge clouds of dust which obscured visibility from time to time. The winds also generated several large gustnadoes. A gustnado is a rapidly rotating column of air usually associated with the outflow from a strong thunderstorm and are sometimes called spin-up tornadoes. Unlike a true tornado, a gustnado usually does not extend from the ground all the way to the clouds above; however, strong gustnadoes can have winds speeds over 100 MPH and are capable of causing damage to property. Our storm failed to generate a tornado, but it did manage to produce some amazing wall clouds and a narrow funnel cloud. Supercells forming to our south did become tornadic by late afternoon/early evening. Unfortunately, our group needed to be in Oklahoma City early Saturday so that several people could make their flight connections on time. Storm chasing friends of mine were able to intercept seven tornadoes produced by the supercells that formed to our south, and you can imagine my disappointment over missing those. It really pained me to see the tornado photos and video they captured, but that’s the way it is sometimes. I still have another week of chasing left, so perhaps it will be my turn then.
And what happened to the town of La Crosse? It was hit by two tornadoes that night. Although there was property damage, no one was seriously injured or killed. Also, one of the DOW trucks I saw earlier in the day took a direct hit from a tornado that same evening. The tornado blew out a window, but didn’t roll the truck and no one inside was injured.
A few more images of the Project Rotate vehicles.