Chase Log

May 7th Valentine, Nebraska Electrical Storms

May 7th really didn’t have much going for it. It was the first day of Tour 3 and we wanted something to chase. We left Oklahoma City early bound for Valentine, Nebraska, some 650 miles away. Decent shear, but very limited moisture and instability would result in high based storms to form. What we didn’t expect was the amount of lightning that was occurring with these storms. Right around sunset they became quite electrified producing numerous cloud to ground lightning strikes. We pulled east of town as they became severe warned and watched the show. Very pretty and long lasting lightning display rolled on for hours.

Enjoy the photos!

May 2nd Oklahoma Briefly Tornadic Supercells

May 2nd showed great promise from the eastern Texas panhandle across western and central Oklahoma. Good shear, moisture and instability would be found and a sharp dryline would provide the convergence necessary to initiate intense supercells. Clusters of storms formed first in southwest Kansas at the triple point, while numerous storms formed a touch later down the dryline. One storm we targeted was severe just northeast of Shamrock, Texas. We were quick to find out the failure mode this day and that would be too many cell mergers, splits and interactions. This first storm had merger issues and never got to what it could be. So, we targeted a new cell to our south that became tornado warned off and on for several hours. As the storm moved east to Binger, OK, it cycled several times and had great structure. It tried to produce but just couldn’t focus long enough to get a tornado down. The lightning on the cell was intense at times and occasionally wouldn’t allow us out of the vehicles. Soon, as models suggested, a long line of storms formed and became a wind producing machine as they marched across Oklahoma, with mesovorticies occasionally developing along the leading edge.

May 1st Kansas Tornadic Supercells

May 1st had a lot of promise. However there were certainly some issues with the set up. Storm mode was unclear near the front in northern Kansas and a strong capping inversion southward along the dryline could result is very short storm lives in that area. We started near Great Bend and jumped on a storm that formed northeast of Dodge City. It quickly became tornado warned. Based on initial visuals of the storm, it had little tornadic threat at that time. As the storm moved northeast towards Interstate 70 it really ramped up, getting tornado warned for nearly 3 hours. Rotation was visibly increasing and the structure of the supercell became quite nice. Unfortunately a left moving split further south came crashing into it and basically killed it. Other storms formed north and south, and opting for the usual tail end storm this day proved to be the wrong play. As the tail end supercell moved east away from the dryline, it showed a nice hook on radar and became tornado warned. As we raced south, leaving the messy northern play to get on the tail end storm, it weakened and eventually died. Before dying, it gave us a very nice look at the updraft as it became a low precipitation supercell. 9 out of 10 times this play works. However this day it did not as a cluster of storms north of the interstate rotated and one dropped a significant tornado.

Enjoy the photos as it was a pretty supercell!

April 29 and 30 Texas Panhandle Severe Storms

The end of April took us to the Texas panhandle for storms. The season has not even started yet due to persistent continental polar airmass intrusions, pushing surface moisture into the gulf of Mexico. Finally, we have a few days where moisture is returning, albeit slowly! With dew points in the 40s and 50s, storms during this two day period were high based, but marginally severe, producing large hail and high winds. Storms clustered along the dry line occasionally having supercellular appearances, however due to limited moisture, the tornado threat was zero. Enjoy the pics!

October 6th Central Kansas Tornadic Supercell

October 6th had us running an on call tour. The setup looked higher end for a fall event. Good shear, abnormally high dewpoints, moderate CAPE and a dryline/triple point would set the stage for numerous storms to form. We jumped on the first storm southwest of Garden City, Kansas, which took us all the way to south of Salina, Kansas! It was the long lived supercell all high res models showed would form.  Structure was decent and it certainly produced copious amounts of huge hail to softball size!  As evening approached the cloud base lowered and the fun really started. Several funnel clouds formed and one tornado occurred from the storm.  Motion was absolutely crazy with this supercell and I was pretty surprised it didn’t produce a large tornado! Nonetheless it was a fun chase day and great results! Drop us an email if you would like to be added to the “on call” storm chasing email list! They are QUITE successful!!

July 29 – August 12 Desert Thunder Tours

Each year, in conjunction with our sister website, www.southwestphotographytours.com, we spend 2 weeks in Arizona conducting our popular Desert Thunder Tours. We keep these as small one van tours, with 6 guests. The Arizona monsoon season peaks in July and August, with southern Arizona receiving the brunt of the thunderstorm activity. We had a very successful monsoon season in 2017, with storms on 75% of the days! We travel anywhere we believe the most intense, and pretty, storms will occur.  We spent time in southeast, southern and central Arizona, and even in southwest New Mexico. We photographed storms over Saguaro National Park, Kitt Peak, the desert floors, Sedona, Cathedral Rock, the Chiricahuas, the Superstition Mountains and many others. Some of the most spectacular lightning in the country occurs here each season! Below are many photos of the events we captured while on tour this season. We hope you enjoy the photos and we hope to see you with us on tour in the years ahead!

July 13th Central Alberta, Canada Tornadic Supercell

After our adventure in North Dakota on July 11th we knew we had to head well into Canada. A strong upper level low with great flow aloft, good moisture and instability, and lift along a dry line /Canadian Rockies foothills, would keep us in this region for several days.  However, July 13th was by far the best set up in the area! We spent several nights in Red Deer, Alberta and chased west and north of there each day, capturing everything from supercells and tornadoes, great lightning, large hail, clusters of storms, and even a superb Aurora Borealis display on night!

July 13th looked like the peak of action and it certainly was.  We targeted a boundary and foothills intersection west of Drayton Valley and we were on the storm as it developed west of there by mid afternoon.  We watched the storm cycle several times until it finally intercepted better moisture and instability and took off.  It rapidly intensified and started rotating. Soon the roar of the winds with the RFD of the supercell could be heard, followed by the winds from the tornado it produced. It started as a multivortex and morphed into a cone before it completely wrapped in rain. It was rated EF1, the strongest tornado in Alberta in 2017. The storm had fantastic structure, and throw in the canola fields of Canada and it was stunning! A great day and 4 day period for us in Alberta. Beautiful countryside there! Enjoy the pics and the Aurora as well!

July 11th North Dakota and Minnesota Tornadic Supercell

July 11th took as to eastern North Dakota.  An advancing dryline, strong moisture return and extreme instability would set the stage for numerous supercells, some tornadic. We started the day just west of Grand Forks, ND as convergence caused cumulus towers to explode. It didn’t take long for severe and tornado warnings to be issued! We played with the first to do so northwest of town. It had decent structure and very large hail. A large wall cloud formed and spun strongly. An occasional shear funnel would occur, but nothing imminent to touch down. Soon, a supercell formed on the southern end of the line and quickly became severe. It developed a strong area of rotation and a hook on radar. we quickly dropped south to intercept the storm, driving through blinding rain and hail golfball sized. As we cleared the core, a large circular updraft came into view and it was obvious it was spinning strongly. A mulitvortex tornado occurred back in the core that we couldn’t see. It stayed on the ground for over 20 miles as it approached the Minnesota border.

We stayed with the storm all the way to northeast of Fargo is the structure was jaw dropping! At one point, the rain cleared enough to get a brief glimpse of the large tornado! (pic below) Eventually it weakened as upshear convection would form and interfere with the supercell. The lightning was extreme, intense and very close numerous times. Several times we had to get back into the vans for our safety and to keep our guests safe. Finally near sunset, we let the storm cluster go and headed west for what would be several days of chasing in Canada!

 

June 28th Iowa Tornadoes

June 28th held good promise for supercell storms and potentially tornadic ones to boot. Great moisture, instability and wind shear were forecast across southwest through northeast Iowa. A composite warm front/outflow boundary existed along that corridor and would be to focal point for several tornadic supercells. We were in the Des Moines area and drifted southwest towards Winterset.  Soon a cluster of updrafts rapidly formed at the triple point south of Nebraska City, Nebraska. One dominant storm emerged from them. As we blasted west, then south towards Bedford, Iowa (our target!) a tornadic storm developed southwest of Corning, or about 25 miles north of the Bedford target. Since this storm was insanely electrified, had a large wall cloud and great structure, we couldn’t leave it to drop to Bedford for the approaching tornadic storm west of town. It became tornado warned, like the Bedford storm did as well. We stayed with it and watched several tornadoes form and the storm cycle numerous times. We thought it would produce a significant tornado a few times. Most were short lived and sometimes hard to view. Still, a very successful day, 4 tornadoes later, and a pretty supercell. There were over a dozen tornadoes in Iowa this day and a couple were very pretty.  Late June and July in Iowa can sometimes be magical!

 

June 26th Kansas Sculpted Tornado Warned Supercell

June 26th on paper didn’t have a lot going for it.  We fully expected high based storms to form along a slowly advancing cold front over northern Kansas and southern Nebraska.  Early afternoon storms formed in south central Nebraska, but we decided to wait till later and chase in the area where the best parameters were, over northwest and west central Kansas. The wait was well worth it! One storm formed northeast of Colby, Kansas and became severe. Structure was decent and hail large.  Soon another 2 storms formed west of it along the same boundary. The lead storm left an outflow boundary that the second storm injested.  The air, full of moisture and helicity caused the updraft of the second storm to spin, soon becoming tornado warned near Oakley, Kansas. We intercepted it there and stayed in front of it all the way south of Scott City, Kansas where it moved south of the instability axis and weakened. The storm had top notch structure, was tornado warned its entire life cycle and also produced hail the size of softballs. An amazing and unexpected treat to watch this thing on the first day of the Reunion Tour for hours!