June 15th featured very high dewpoints and instability, as well as good shear and several boundaries for storms to form on. A cluster of storms formed in southwest Oklahoma later in the afternoon and became severe. We followed them towards Lawton as another storm developed on it eastern flank. As we approached Commanche it became tornado warned. Just north of town, it developed a rather large wedge tornado that persisted for over a half hour although it became rain wrapped. If was briefly visible near Loco, OK and caused EF2 damage along the way. After the storm weakened we dropped south on a tail end supercell that was just gorgeous and also tornado warned. Our thoughts and prayers for the town of Perryton, TX that was also hit by an EF3 tornado that day causing much damage and a few fatalities. The down side of storm chasing.
An extremely volatile day was in store on March 31st. A powerful trough was moving out of the Rockies onto the plains as a surface low intensified north of Omaha. We took our on call tour towards the Des Moines area in anticipation of rapid supercell formation early afternoon. The dryline lit up like a Christmas tree shortly after noon as storms raced northeast at 60-70 mph! Strong shear, good moisture and instability and a strong jet would fuel these storms. By 2pm a large thunderstorm formed in northwest Missouri and rapidly moved northeast, becoming tornado warned as it approached Ottumwa, Iowa. We moved to position ourselves in front of it to see what it could produce. We approached the small town of Packwood as a cone tornado stabbed down to the ground west of us and grew to massive proportions.
As we drove west on highway 78 towards Hedrick, the tornado wedged out becoming a massive twister less than a mile from us! The roar of the tornado and rear flank downdrafts winds filled the senses with the sound of a rushing waterfall. Due to fast storm motions and the unfortunate road closures in the area, we were only able to stay with it for about 15 miles before we lost it. This tornado caused a lot of damage, but fortunately no fatalities. It has been officially rated EF-4 by the National Weather Service.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to anyone affected throughout the central and southern plains this day as 60 tornadoes raked the region causing many casualties and much damage.
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!
May 4th took us deep into the southeastern US. Very strong shear, 70 dewpoints, 2500 CAPE and an advancing cold front would set the stage for intense storm development. We chased a cluster of supercells over west central Mississippi and merged into a raging bow echo as it ripped through the Jackson, MS area. Extreme lightning, high winds and a couple of tornadoes occurred as storm approached Jackson. Sometimes it is hard to see in the southeast due to trees, hills and hazy conditions due to close proximity to the gulf. We managed to find farmland and breaks in the tree cover to watch these intense storms roll through. Enjoy the pics!
October 4th looked crazy on paper. Great shear, super lift, great instability and moisture for Oct spelled big trouble for the folks in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. We left early morning in heavy snow and fog from our home in Colorado, and headed towards Lincoln, NE where we’d decide to head north or east. A supercell formed north of Columbus and was moving away from us so we decided to play the patience game for something further east. Soon a wedge tornado formed from the first supercell and we were feeling pretty bummed. Finally our storm got going as it crossed into western Iowa, dropping a large tornado west of Sloan. After an occlusion, a second, third and fourth tornado formed and the latter becoming a large 1.5 mile wide wedge heading near Climbing Hill northeast towards Cherokee. We had to stop the trip as we encountered a destroyed farmstead north of Climbing Hill, where our search resulted in no injuries, except farm animals. Fortunately, no fatalaties occurred that day, but a lot of destruction of property. Here’s a 10 minute video from this day:
May 24th certainly lived up to its High Risk billing. Supercells exploded along the dryline in western Oklahoma and quickly became violent. Numerous EF3 – EF4 tornadoes occurred with various supercells. We intercepted the Canton storm, which produced 3 tornadoes we could verify. Then we dropped south to Oklahoma City and intercepted two more storms that produced tornadoes as well. My heart goes out to all those who suffered personal losses this day. If you haven’t gotten involved or donated to the local Red Cross/or other agencies, please do so!
First of all, my heart goes out to everyone who suffered a loss on this horrific day. One of the worst tornado outbreaks and highest number of fatalities in US history. A very sad day indeed.
It was evident for a couple of days before this event that this would be the final day in a 3 day tornado outbreak for the US, and that this would be the most violent and wide spread. We started this day in Jackson, MS positioned to move in any direction. The plan was to intercept storms in MS, then continue moving east into Alabama, and eventually end up somewhere around Tuscaloosa by mid afternoon. However, fate would have it that this would never materialize for us. We jumped on the first storm that developed southwest of Jackson as it quickly moved towards Philadelphia, MS (and would create destruction and death during its entire life cycle through Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and into Georgia). One event changed what we would do the rest of the day. As we were 10 miles from Philadelphia, MS, well ahead of the storm, a vehicle with a young man and two girls ran off the road, slid down an embankment and hit a tree going 50 mph. The car spun around in a circle as we watched in horror. We immediately stopped to render assistance and called the state patrol. Fortunately nobody was seriously injured, but now the supercell was overhead and racing away from us at 60 mph, while there was no possible way through the trees, hills and winding roads to stay with it. The rest is history. We tried in vain to catch up to it again, and quickly learned of the strong tornado it was now producing, less than 5 miles in front of us, but we were never to see it. I believe all things happen for a reason, and I will never know why we were never to chase this storm.
We dropped south towards Meridian, MS to get back on the interstate as another supercell formed and raced past us (no road options to chase it) and also became tornadic. It was already becoming a frustrating day and it had just begun!Storm motion of 60 mph, poor terrain for chasing, lack of roads and low visibility led me to rethink the entire rest of the day. I felt the only way to have any reasonable chance of intercepting tornadoes would be to get 30-45 minutes ahead of the supercell, find one of the few clearing to view it, watch it approach and fly past us, then drop south on the next storm and do it again. This approach finally paid off, however we were never able to get into Alabama, and instead stayed in the rough terrain in eastern Mississippi.
A tornadic supercell formed southwest of Jackson and right turned, heading east/slightly northeast toward Newton/Hickory, MS. we dropped south of town about 3 miles and found a great clearing to view it. The storm, already tornadic and a killer, quickly approached. As it did, a wedge tornado was quite evident over the hills and trees to our southwest. About 2 miles west/southwest of us another tornado materialized in an instant and approached us at lightning speed. As this grey cone moved dangerously close to us we blasted south out of its way and watched as cars were driving directly into the path! We honked, stopped and waived people off as the tornado, now another wedge crossed the road at the exact spot we were parked and viewing it from, uprooting trees and flattening power lines in its wake. We drove back north as the strong tornado raced away from us and crossed I-20. I was fearful for vehicles on the interstate and the town of Hickory they were directly in its path. We drove to the interstate and went east to see if we could still view the tornado (an EF3), but now it was rain wrapped and long gone. As we dropped south through Hickory we encountered a couple destroyed homes with rescue vehicles already on the scene. We decided it best to continue south (since help had arrived) and intercept the next supercell also tornadic now just northeast of Turnerville.
We dropped south on highway 503 and headed southwest on 18 towards Turnerville. At that point we stopped, although the view was partially obstructed by woods and hills. I could see a very large multivortex tornado directly southwest, rapidly approaching. It wasn’t until later that we learned of the fatalities just north of Turnerville as numerous homes were destroyed by this EF4 tornado. At the junction of 18 and 503 a barbeque place had a couple of people in it. We warned them of the approaching danger and they left. Amazing how oblivious people are to a dangerous situation. We told them to get south and far away from this large, violent monster. The tornado turned into a fat cone, then wedge as it blasted past our location less than a quarter mile south of it at 60 mph. The noise was horrendous, louder than any tornado I have ever witnessed. Everything in its path was demolished. Trees, houses, power poles, everything. We saw the tornado was heading directly into the small town of Rose Hill, and headed up 18 towards town. Trees and power lines were down and after some local help and moving debris out of the way, we proceeded into town. Rose Hill was directly hit by the violent tornado about 3-5 minutes before we got there. We found much damage, homes destroyed, animals killed, and people in need of assistance. At this point we abandoned the tour and rendered assistance. One family we immediately found lost everything. Their house was totally leveled, their barn destroyed, vehicles and horse trailer thrown and demolished. They were trying to round up their horses who of course were totally spooked and uncontrollable. Dead chickens lay around. The father, mother and daughter survived due to a freakish event. About 5 minutes before the tornado hit, their neighbor had called them and asked them to come over for a minute. The whole family walked over to the neighbors only a few minutes before the tornado hit. They surely would not have survived had they stayed in their house (without a basement or shelter!).
With our day now done, and authorities on the scene, we left our search and rescue efforts and headed back towards Jackson for the night. We knew the supercell still had this violent tornado in it. We let authorities know this. Later we discovered the tornado had continued nearly 65 miles and leveled a big part of the town of Snell, where 7 fatalities had also occurred. A horrible discovery.
I am still amazed in this day and age of the lack of concern by a vast majority of people when faced with a dangerous situation. The NWS, SPC, local authorities, etc all approached this day and through the day with great reaction to this historic situation. Still, hundreds have perished, and maybe the toll would have be considerably larger, had not the agencies made sure the word was spread and warnings issued with as much lead time as possible. People seemed to have the idea that nothing would happen the them, it would always be someone else. This event proved otherwise.
I am pleading to every person who reads this account to get involved and donate your resources to help those in need. It will be a long time before things return to any sense of normalcy in the southeast. Please get involved!
Here is a video I put up of the tornadic events from this day.
A bit of a frustrating day today for us as there were so many cells to choose from. We targeted the initial supercell that formed near Hillsboro, TX (again) and followed it until it finally produced tornadoes near Ben Wheeler in Van Zandt county Texas. The storm just couldn’t focus rotation in one spot for long before occluding and the meso jumping ahead. Finally, just west and then north of Ben Wheeler, it produced two truncated slender tornadoes, followed by a 5 minute multivortex which caused damage to roofs, trees and power lines. Below are only a couple photographs and two video stills. Check out the Youtube video of the multivortex tornado.