Cyclone Road


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Chase Day 8 MAY 2013

Hoped to stay in Texas for this one, but dewpoint spreads drove me to Altus and then Mangum, Oklahoma and finally west into the eastern Texas Panhandle to this storm, south of Memphis. Later shot the backside of a storm farther south, around Snyder.

Chase day 15 APRIL 2013

I left from school without any gear but the iPhone, drove west and caught this storm somewhere near Throckmorten maybe. I don't know. I don't feel compelled to research these chase accounts so exhaustively anymore when it's a low end event. This was very low end. The photo below looks like the storm is producing a tornado, but it's not. That's scud, driven by outflow.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Chase day 30 MAY 2012: North Texas

What I remember about this was playing around with highest possible ISO settings on the new camera, more or less after sunset. The Mark ii still rendered some color.

Chase day 29 MAY 2012 - Southwest to Central Oklahoma

Chase day 28 MAY 2012

Chase day 27 MAY 2012

In late May some friends came to the plains and we drove around in search of better storms. With Jason Foster, Ian Livingston, and Mark Ellinwood, I intercepted this storm along the cold front on 27 May 2012. In this image, Ian and Jason are in the foreground.

Chase day 14 APRIL 2012

April 14th was a big day with people chasing all over the place. This is the best image I captured that day, a funnel that was fully extended seconds before, but I was driving fast. That's my primary memory of that day, driving fast all over the place. This image and the next serve only to prove I did in fact participate in storm chasing activities, albeit poorly.

Chase day 13 APRIL 2012

I chased April 13th and 14th somehow, somewhere, probably nearby on the first day and then in Oklahoma on the "big day," which was, for me, a big disappointment. Here's a few from the 13th (the day before the day):

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

18 March 2012: Willow, Oklahoma tornadoes & structure

Scott Currens, Bob Fritchie and I converged on the Shamrock, Texas Taco Bell, and tried the Doritos Locos Tacos while monitoring radar on our phones.

When it was clear our target area had mixed out via an elevated dryline, we drove south and intercepted what we'd called the "Childress storm" three miles southeast of Hollis, Oklahoma a few miles north of the Red River. The storm intensified as we approached, but in person looked initially high-based and benign. It looked like an outflow dominant cell struggling with the high dewpoint depressions of its environment, a ragged updraft region and weak convergence. But soon, the first serious wall cloud emerged, and an impressive tail cloud formed as scud collected around a circulation before it crossed our N/S county road. We pursued the storm into Hollis and turned north on 30. Near the airport, we observed the second of many occlusions, this time with more promising signs of tornadogenesis, but the pristine green fields and lack of power poles or wires was too ideal a foreground, I guess. 

At McKnight, we made the fateful turn east on E1550, a perfectly fine and well-paved road but without any northern options that didn't terminate at the river. We were stuck driving east. We fell behind, but in doing so we noticed the incredible structure of the supercell. The farther we went, the better it looked.

Taken about 10 miles east of McKnight

This was quite a sight, a seemingly low-topped cell with the stable-layer, polished sheen on deeply grooved stacks. Though we were well to the south and east, far out of position for tornado-viewing, we didn't mind. As Scott Currens said later, "Being stuck on that eastbound road was the best thing that happened." At that point I considered the tornado potential marginal at best--not the last wrong analysis of this persistent little storm. But when it reached the higher theta-e air in southwestern Oklahoma, and the more supportive shear arrived, the show was about to begin.

During the last few miles of our journey to SR 34, the rotational signature on radar increased sharply and a wall cloud emerged in the distance. This was a large, dark blocky wall cloud, the kind that produce tornadoes you can't see when you're more than five miles away. We were probably ten to twelve miles south at this point. Finally we turned north on 34. Somewhere along the way we may have seen the first tornado near Reed, but I wasn't able to shoot it.

We were parked near the fork of 283 and 34, one mile north of Willow, when the elephant trunk tornado descended.

Taken 1m north of Willow, Oklahoma, 0030z

This funnel dissipated but the same circulation produced another fully condensed funnel seven to ten minutes later.

Taken three miles north of Willow about 0038z.

A great March chase with Bob and Scott, a reasonable distance traveled and an unforgettable storm. While it wasn't my first chase of the year (An extended reconnaissance to Lubbock two days earlier isn't worth writing about) it was a gratifying start to the season's opening schedule.

Friday, November 11, 2011

This is a link to the preliminary report from Norman's National Weather Service office on the tornadoes last week. I have used their early tornado track map to impose my own path during the chase, recreated from my GPS log. Click the map to enlarge.

The red circles indicate major stopping points, of which there are too many. I couldn't quit shooting the Frederick-Tipton tornado (Tornado #1 on the map) because it was doing so many cool things: changing shapes, orientations, and posing behind some very cool foregrounds. Over and over I told myself I'd crop the shots, since I was pretty far away at the beginning.

It's always a struggle to choose whether to keep shooting, since the tornado could dissipate any moment, or put the camera down for five minutes and blast west (blast being a relative term on the muddy Oklahoma backroads) another three miles to get closer. As it is, if I'd gone farther west in the beginning, I wouldn't have found myself directly between both the dying Tipton cone and the rapidly forming soon-to-be Manitou tornado. (Tornado #2 on the map). I eventually caught up fully to the Manitou-nado, meeting it at its dissipation point over Highway 183.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Early in the day, about 2048z, southwest of Frederick

Both shots above taken 21z west of Frederick

2122z, new tornado forms east of ongoing Tipton tornado

Tipton, Oklahoma tornado 2113z

2124z near Manitou

2130z near Manitou

22z tornado nearing Wichita Mountains

Monday, November 07, 2011

7 November 2011: Frederick to Wichita Mountains, OK tornadoes

I'll add more narrative and photos later, but the quick & dirty version is that I observed four or five tornadoes between 2035z and 22z between west of Frederick to near Mountain Park. The first tornado began WNW of FDR, the same one which damaged Tipton I assume, and remained fully condensed (as far as from my vantage point) until around 2120z. This was mainly a symmetrical, barrel-shaped tornado which passed before so many great foregrounds that I stopped again and again to shoot and fell a little behind the storm as a result. But the pics are worth it. At one point a satellite tornado roped into an s-curve while the barrel churned away less than a mile west. Needless to say I stopped and shot this rare twin sighting.

Around 2110z, a new tornado formed to my ENE when I was 6 miles west of Manitou. The first tornado was by then a tall white cylinder, and the new one was a fully condensed cone, one to my NNW and the other due east. The second tornado was impressive for how the condensation near the base articulated the rapid rotation, as a sort of curtain formed around the primary funnel and turned somewhat more slowly than the tornado, highlighting the rotation by contrast. As this tornado crossed Highway 183 a few miles south of Snyder, it was a full barrel, mostly sunlit and with a dark gray cape of condensation, and then the thing simply vanished. I wasn't all that far away, and the storm was still relatively dry and clean as it had been the entire time, but I cannot recall a tornado of that size and duration dissipating so quickly. I guess there was still a circulation on the ground; it seems like there would have to be, but the visible portion was gone. And I had just found another great foreground.

A very brief tornado formed to the east of my position about ten minutes later, probably around 2130z. I'll check the camera times. I have a photo of this though I didn't file a report for it.

After that I poked along on dirt roads, picked up the next cone tornado at 22z when I was east of Snyder by about 6 miles. The tornado was north of me by 5m, likely near the intersection of Highways 49 & 54, just west of the western entrance of the Wichita Mts Wildlife Refuge on 49.

Why was I on the Frederick storm to begin with? I thought I was late for the real show farther west, or that the whole event was hosed anyway from the widespread precip, uncapped environment. I followed the storm from Texas toward Frederick because I imagined it was the best way to waste the least amount of gas on a rainy November bust, and then suddenly it was a fine supercell; and just as suddenly it was one of my better storms in years. You never know. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

From MSNBC, a comprehensive list of how to help the victims in Joplin:

Several organizations and individuals are helping victims of the Joplin tornado. Here's how you can get involved and help those affected by the deadliest single U.S. tornado since 1953:
  • The American Red Cross has set up a page for Missouri tornado and flood relief.
  • The Joplin Red Cross could use some donations. You can contact it at (417) 624-4411 or in order to find out what supplies are most necessary.
  • The Missouri SEMA has set up a donation page.
  • A list of major non-profits that operate regularly in Missouri can be found on the National Donations Management Network website. You can also call (800) 427-4626 for further information.
  • The Missouri Interfaith Disaster Response Organization istaking donations for longterm recovery efforts.
  • The Community Blood Center of the Ozarks is in need of blood — particularly type O. A list of donation sites can be found here.
  • 211 Missouri is helping organize volunteers in the affected areas. More information can be found by calling (800) 427-462.
  • Nurses or doctors looking to help can call (417) 832-9500 for the Greater Ozarks chapter of the Red Cross.
  • Health professionals can register to volunteer through the Show-Me Response website.  
Animal rescue
  • For those in the Joplin area: Emergency Pet Center of the Four States at 7th & Illinois near the Sonic is OPEN and accepting found/injured animals. Its phones are down at this time.
  • The "Animals Lost & Found from the Joplin, Mo tornado" Facebook page is tracking lost and found pets.
Safety Information
  • The National Americorp Volunteers are setting up a national hotline for residents to call to check on loved ones. The number is (417) 659-5464 and should be active later today.
  • The American Red Cross has set up a site on which you can check in, report on the safety of others, or look for information on loved ones.
  • The "Joplin people accounted for after the storm" Facebook page is helping people track loved ones who fell out of touch during the storm.
  • The St. John's Health System has been updating its Facebook page regularly with information relevant to the aftermath of the storm.
Other efforts
Some words of caution
While giving is good and your intentions are great, be aware that there are individuals who might attempt to take advantage of your kindness. Read up on the charities or organizations to which you are donating funds or supplies. You can use sites such as Charity Navigator — a service run by a non-profit organization that has information on more than 5,000 charities and evaluates the groups' financial health — to confirm that everything's on the up and up.

Just a place-marker update so I don't forget these chases, which as you might guess means they were fairly forgettable.

May 11, 2011: A big, over-hyped Wednesday chase led me all the way into northeastern CO for two storms near Burlington. Cannot believe I drove that far when I hadn't intended to go much north of I-40. Met up with Scott Currens along the way and we checked out the weird, northwestward moving storms as one of them produced a modest wall cloud directly over the city of Burlington.

May 18, 2011: A bust near Norman, Oklahoma. Shouldn't have left the house at all, between the intense CIN and more intense pain in my sprained knee, which I didn't begin treating until a few days earlier.

May 19, 2011: I was convinced this was the last day I'd see a tornado in 2011, because I'd planned all spring to chase with a research project from the 19th to the 24th, and the project's goal was other than documenting tornadoes. So I planned to poke my head up around Interstate 40 and turn back. I wound up near Woodward, Oklahoma but never saw a storm worth shooting. Scott Currens zipped past me on the road out of Camp Houston, headed west for the storm. He was in the process of hooking up with the aforementioned project, too, but had some equipment issues and chased solo.

May 22, 2011: I'm fairly confined to local chases now and spending less than seven hours at a time in the car. I targeted Jacksboro and chased two supercells, one a small LP that morphed into an interesting structural presentation and produced a rapidly rotating wall cloud. The second supercell, again firing near Jacksboro, was a HP/Classic hybrid with two distinct and fairly interesting mesocylconic cycles, the second of which produced an organized and rotating funnel near the town of Bridgeport. Took several shots of both storms on Sunday and I hope to process those later in the week.

No tornadoes observed on any of the above chases. Between my teaching schedule and the knee issue, Chase Season 2011 is almost certainly going to be my worst. I'd say it's second behind 2000, but despite not seeing anything much of interest that year, 2000 was much more fun. This chase season has been, thus far, a real drag with the exception of a few great days. Anyway, enough whining. Two good/great days in a row coming up for chasers between today and tomorrow and wish them all happy hunting and the best of luck.

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