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Day 16: Home Now

Well, after an amazing 2 weeks, I'm home.  We drove straight through the night and made it home at around 6:00pm.  I had an incredible time and the memories I have will last forever.  I'm going to miss the friends I made and hopefully will see them in the near future (I'm talking about you Giggles and Squall-Line).  Thank you Mark for taking us out.  I can't believe we saw as many tornadoes as we did, drove into a potential tornado and witnessed amazing structure and an amazing hail storm.

I had an incredible time and hopefully I'll be doing it again next year!

Day 16: On the Way Home

Well, we're on our way home.  The storms were amazing today but unfortunately they were too far north for us to chase since we need to be home tomorrow.  A friend of ours got a beautiful shot of a wedge tornado right along the South Dakota/North Dakota border.

We're currently driving through Iowa on the way back to Toronto. 

Day 15: Bust Day

Well, we busted!  It's inevitable with every chase season that you bust at least once.  Everyone is surprised that this is the first time we've busted this trip.  It was an incredibly hard forecast today.  Even the Storm Prediction Center had trouble nailing down the spots.  It was looking initially like north-east Colorado and then nothing happened.  So we headed to the Colorado/Nebraska border... nothing happened.  So we drove to Sidney, Nebraska for dinner and are now in Ogallala, Nebraska for the night.

Tomorrow is our very last day to chase.  Looks like the risk areas are actually on our way back to Toronto.  We'll most likely be home Sunday sometime.  Hopefully we'll see some storms tomorrow for one last hurrah.

There are some severe storm risks tomorrow so we'll see how it pans out.  Here are the states I've been to on this trip:

Day 14: Down Day - Visiting Attica and Greensburg, Kansas

I'm currently in Garden City, Kansas.  Today was a down day and we spent it getting into position for tomorrow's chase which looks like western Kansas.  We started the day off by making a quick visit to Walmart to purchase Depends, balloons, crepe paper and window-writing markers.  It's George Kourounis' birthday in a couple of days but we're worried we won't see him on his actual birthday so we decided to give him a birthday surprise today.  We pulled up into the Denny's that Cloud 9 Tours was eating at and while George was inside eating, we decorated his van with "Happy 40th George", balloons, Depends, etc.  Needless to say once Cloud 9 saw this, they preceded to cover our car with everything that was on theirs.

We then proceeded towards Kansas.  We drove through the famous town of Attica where Scott McPartland took the infamous video of the house being torn apart by the tornado (video here) on May 12, 2004 and he showed us the house that got torn apart.  It has since been rebuilt but it's an eerie thing to see.

After this, we continued on to the infamous town of Greensburg, Kansas which was completely destroyed by a 1.5 mile F5 tornado on May 4, 2007 (more info here).  The town was completely destroyed and is being rebuilt "green" (energy efficient).  You can still see a ton of evidence that the town was destroyed.  There's empty house foundations, trees still stripped of leaves.  The town was famous for a meteorite they had with a gift shop.  The gift shop and meteorite are no longer there but you can still see the ceramic floor that was left behind by the tornado.  Visit my gallery for more of these pictures.

We then had dinner and are currently in our hotel rooms.  We haven't exactly decided a precise target for tomorrow.  That will be in the morning.  Looks like tomorrow may be our last day of chasing :(

Day 13: Tornadoes, Lightning and Close-Calls

Currently I'm in Shawnee, Oklahoma just south-east of Oklahoma City.  It was a roller coaster of a day.  Started off hot and sunny and we went and got some lunch in Weatherford, Oklahoma and waited for the storms to begin.  Sure enough, in the mid-afternoon, the first "blip" showed up on radar.  We were worried that this one was showing up a little too early for we waited to see how it developed.  Sure enough it developed into a storm so we were a little late getting on it.

We took off for the storm but the road networks were terrible so more than once we had to double-back, turn around, etc.  The storm had turned into a monster storm but again, we just could not get to it.  Eventually we found away around it but it involved us racing this storm south.  When I say racing, I mean racing ahead of the large hail.  Well, we got stuck behind an 18-wheeler going 20 below the speed limit and the hail was catching up and getting bigger so we had to bail on the storm and get out of it.

We took off for another storm to our east.  All our spirits had dropped and it was looking like the day would be a bust.  Sure enough as we approached this second storm, it drops a tornado.  It was a ways off and it was very low contrast (the tornado was almost the same colour as the clouds behind it so it was hard to see).  We did film it and watch it for a bit then tried to get into better position on this storm.  We did and got really close to the meso and were able to see it produce another brief tornado.  That brings our day's count up to 2.  We got ahead of this storm in really nice position and took some great photographs and video of the structure.

So, remember the first storm we were on?  Well, it sped up and gobbled up the storm we were on.  Now we had to scramble to get back into better position.  Unfortunately, the road networks were still awful.  We turned down a road and it ended up being a dirt road.  Dirt road plus heavy rain equals really difficult mud driving.  We had to bail on that road and by this time the storm was starting to overtake us.  We could see the hail core and it was a green I'd never seen before.  We kept racing and then realized there was no outrunning it.  We needed an east road option and there were none.  Scott found what we thought was an east road and we turned down it but again, it turned to dirt.  At this point, we had to make the decision: risk getting stuck in the mud and get run over by the storm or try to race the hook of the storm (hooks on a storm is indicative of a tornado).

We raced south just to the side of the hook.  Then on the latest radar scan, it showed us directly under the hook.  The rain was torrential and Scott said over the radio: "This is precipitation wrapping around the hook."  This is dangerous because large hail can potentially wrap around the hook.  Just as he says this, George Kourounis (driving for Cloud 9 tours who were in the same area as us) comes on the radio and they are in the hook with us.  He says, "We've got to go, funnel on the ground."  Another man from Cloud 9 says, "There's a tornado wrapping around the southern edge of this hook."

Where were we?  Southern edge of the hook....  Just as this happens, we're coming up on a house to our right and it starts to come apart.  Shingles and wood start to rip off the house and Scott, ahead of us, slams on the breaks.  We can see the winds are incredibly strong in bursts and we slam on the breaks as well.  At this point, there's nothing to do but wait this out.  Right after the winds slam by, we take off again and find Cloud 9.

To sum up: We were in the hook of the storm, there was a tornado in it with us.  Cloud 9 saw the tornado pass in front of them.  Were we hit by the tornado?  It's hard to say.  Brad and I both saw circulating rain bands above us.  We could have been hit by the outer winds of the tornado or the RFD (rear flank downdraft) wrapping around it.  Either way, the winds were incredible enough to tear parts of a house off.  After that, we all decided that was it for the day.  All of our nerves were shot.  That makes 2 tornadoes, and possibly running into a third.

We ended off the night with a beautiful lightning show from the storm, had dinner, then we all crashed.  Sorry family, but look, I'm alive!  The great thing is, we got the whole encounter on video.  Tomorrow is up in the air whether it's a chase day or not.  It's not looking that promising.  Then again, last time we said this, we had an amazing hail storm.  I haven't had a chance to update my photo album, I'll try to do it tomorrow.