A big day was in store for Kansas. Supercells with tornadoes were possible as a combination of wind shear, moisture and instability were present with an approaching trough. By mid afternoon the dryline sharpened and soon cumulus towers formed. A cluster of storms had formed northeast of McPherson and the tail end storm started spinning. One small tornado formed as the cell moved north towards the warm front. As it approached it, other storms started forming on an advancing cold front and also became severe. We decided to leave the first storm as storm mergers made things too messy. As we blasted south towards Wichita, a landspout tornado formed underneath an updraft in the line and stayed on the ground for 12 minutes. When is dissipated, when then turned our attention to a supercell near Wichita. It had just spawned the Andover tornado and continued to cycle and become tornadic again near El Dorado. We blasted down to town, now in the dark and headed east towards the supercell’s updraft base. Quickly a tapered cone tornado formed and became visible through power flashes and lighting. It crossed the road in front of us and dissipated. Another one formed within a couple minutes and stabbed down to the ground and lifted. We continued to drift east with the storm and turned north at Rosalia. As we did a massive bowl formed and dropped to the ground! A wedge type tornado formed with multiple vortices. We got blasted with RFD winds wrapping around the tornado and had to vacate the area. As we continued east the tornado lifted as a line of storms merged with it ending the tornado threat. A crazy day with 5 tornadoes! Enjoy the pics!
April 28th looked good in terms of shear and a boundary for storms to form on. However, moisture was quite marginal. A supercell would form near Alma, Nebraska by mid afternoon and intensify while drifting southward along the residual boundary. It had decent structure and was also very electrified. The tornado threat was very small due to higher cloud bases, but by evening the bases would lower as low level moisture would increase. It never did produce a tornado, but certainly had everything else going for it. Late evening it was still active as it dropped up to a foot of rain and hail 6 inches deep. A fun day for Tour 2! Enjoy the pics!
Certainly not expecting much this day as moisture was greatly lacking with dewpoints only near 50F. Shear was good and there was a boundary present as a weak cold front was drifting southeast through the area. Numerous high based storms formed and didn’t do a whole lot, but finally one formed southwest of Dodge City, Kansas and started getting organized. A severe thunderstorm warning was issued and soon the storm developed a nice circular rotating base and vault region with copious amounts of hail falling out of it to the size of tennisballs! The storm persisted for a few hours and was eventually overtaken by a line of storms that formed along the advancing front. The structure of this high based supercell was quite impressive and it was also a lightning machine! We hope you enjoy the pics!
April 12th had a lot going for it. The problem was there were two clear targets. Play the better moisture, but less shear in central Texas, or play the warm front with a bit less moisture but better shear in Iowa. We started the morning in Oklahoma City and made the decision at 6am to head to Iowa, while looking over our shoulder at Texas. At the end of the day, both targets produced strong tornadoes! As we headed north it became pretty clear that the warm front was going to be our target with a strong theta-e axis slamming into it, instead of playing the triple point back northwest of Omaha. That decision was a good one as by mid afternoon, the warm front lit up with intense storms, some of which were supercells.
We had over a 500 mile trip to get into position and we made it by minutes! We stopped in Dakota City for fuel quickly and then headed west, to just east of Gilmore City. The supercell became tornado warned as we left Dakota City. So, with storm motion showing 50 mph plus, we positioned ourselves about 6-10 miles down wind of the storm, figuring it would take a few minutes for it to become tornadic. It sure didn’t wait long! I wish we would have gone a couple more miles south to get closer, but as the tornado formed, we decided to stay put so as not to miss any of it and thought it would come very close to us. The models showed the potential of long tracked tornadoes, however this one dissipated as it came about a mile to our west. We stayed with the supercell for awhile as it became very messy and hp in nature. Eventually we blew it off, as we knew we had to be in Arkansas the next day, and stopped to watch an electrified storm on the way to our hotel.
Great day, beautiful storms and fortunately there were no injuries or fatalities from the tornadoes! Enjoy the pics!
We couldn’t resist running an on call tour during the week of April 11th. We gathered the guests early in the morning and departed Denver, headed for southeastern Oklahoma. Tough countryside to chase in with the Ouachita and Kiamichi mountains providing plenty of obstacles. However the set up would too good on paper to resist making the 850 miles trek there! High dewpoints, high CAPE, strong shear and a lingering boundary would provide all the ingredients needed for supercells. As we blasted there, about 120 miles out a supercell formed, earlier than models showed, and moved slowly eastward through Ft Smith, Arkansas. Knowing there was no way to catch it, we set our sights on another storm southwest of there. As we approached , it became better organized and soon became severe. We dropped south at Sallisaw, OK toward Poteau and it was evident we needed to get even further southwest to cut in front of this now tornado warned supercell. Coming over the mountains near Talimena State Park, we got a glimpse of a huge block shaped wall cloud. As we approached Talihina, we stopped to watch it wrap up. Within a few minutes it dropped a tapered cone tornado.
Not wanting to let is go through the mountains, we followed it eastward as radar continued to show a massive hook echo, often indicative of a potential tornado. We ended up the Talimena Scenic Drive, which is a stunning high road with views of the mountains at many places. We were on top at 2000 ft with a view of a massive wall cloud to our north and several cg lightning strikes. We stayed with the storm for another hour as sunset came and darkness ensued. We let the storm go as it was steadily weakening and heading into Arkansas. A fantastic chase, caught our first tornado of the year, and was reminded just how difficult it is chasing in the mountains of eastern OK/western AR! Enjoy the pics!
August 19th looked too good not to chase. Good moisture, high CAPE values, strong lift with an approaching wave and good low level shear along a boundary would set the stage for a good day! Mid afternoon storms exploded over northeast Colorado and slowly intensified. One particular storm, south of Holyoke, CO became a supercell. As it drifted east/northeast along the boundary it took off and became tornado warned. Very very strong low level rotation was occurring and the low level mesocyclone eventually became rain wrapped where you couldn’t see it anymore. Extremely heavy rains (4-9 inches!) prevented me from taking dirt, now mud, roads to get into the notch for a better look. However, the storm did produce a tornado, possibly two, one of which was a fast funnel in the hook area before it wrapped up in rain. A fun chase day, and good results, just wished for a better view in the notch! Enjoy the pics!
Our 2021 Desert Thunder tour scored big this year, chasing nearly every day. A very favorable monsoon pattern was in place with a 4 corners high stationary the entire time, pumping easterly winds in the mid levels and surface moisture out of Mexico. Daily rounds of storms gave us some amazing scenes, and throw in the cactus varieties and mountains, and you have a winner! All guests got some incredible photos! It is nice being able to base yourself at ONE hotel to come back to each night and the Tucson airport Residence Inn is a great one! Please enjoy the pics and if you are interested in this “lightning and landscape” tour, check out the website! It is shown at the bottom of the list of tours.
July 14th had it all. Boundary, great moisture, instability and good low level shear. We blasted from Pierre, SD to central Iowa as storms formed and became severe and tornado warned. Several tornadoes did occur in central and eastern Iowa with one particular tornado we just missed by 15 minutes being the most intense near Lake City. Frustrating day to say the least, but we still managed some great supercells and a tornado late in the day. Moral of the story is to NEVER give up until storms are weakening and loss of heating reduce instability.
Conditions finally became conducive to severe weather again late on July 13th. Upslope flow into north central Wyoming off the Big Horn mountains would generate severe thunderstorms. Adequate wind shear, instability and moisture would be present for a couple of supercells. One such storm formed just east of Sheridan and tracked southeast to Gillette. It produced tennisball sized hail, high winds and had decent structure. As evening arrived, a complex of storms formed and extended all the way out to near Pierre, SD where we arrived at our hotel at 2am! The next day would take us to Iowa for a potent event! Enjoy the pics!
Our Photo Tour #3 had one of the worst weather patterns of 2021! This period usually produces great severe weather, supercells, lightning and tornadoes. Not the case for 2021. Since the pattern was dominated by a massive record breaking ridge of high pressure resulting in sunny hot days, we decided to take the group to Arizona to photograph monsoon storms. Much better than doing the park scene! We DO go the extra mile to at least find a storm, any storm, that is worthy to photograph! We spent most of the tour around the Tucson area as an active monsoon had set in. This is the first time we have ever taken a storm chasing tour to Arizona to chase in June! Some of the lightning we captured was super, and there was also a marginal supercell near Stafford. Upon our return to the Denver area on the last day of the tour, we did intercept a supercell just east of town. Enjoy the pics! We hope the weather pattern will be back to normal for 2022 Photo Tour #3!