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Day 12: Another Tornado - Panhandle Magic

Currently I'm in Shamrock, Texas and we saw another tornado today!  The day started off with a long drive from Norman, Oklahoma to Dumas, Texas.  We met up with the Cloud 9 crew at a gas station and waited for the storms to pick up.  Sure enough, just south of us, a "blip" showed up on the radar just south of us.  We watched it for a couple of more radar scans and sure enough, it started looking juicy.

We headed for the "super blip" on the radar which soon turned into a nice supercell.  We pulled over to take pictures and videos then soon realized we needed to get further south of the storm because it was producing (at least) baseball size hail.  We bolted south and found another road to pull up on the storm and set up to watch.  There was a ton of rotation in the storm and then it began: a very nice lowering come out of the supercell rotation and then tornado!  They call this "panhandle magic".  We were maybe about 8 miles from the tornado which was a nice change from when we were 1/2 a mile away from the tornado on May 10.  It was a beautiful white elephant trunk tornado and lasted for a couple of minutes then dissipated.


We continued on so that we didn't get stuck under the hail core.  The whole storm was very green and according to our radar programs and the green on the sky, there was large hail in it.  The storm quickly became rain-wrapped which means rain and hail wrapped around the storm so we couldn't see the part of the storm that would have a tornado.  There were reports of other tornadoes within the storm from storm chasers who were closer.  Also, we could see strong rotation within the rain curtains so we're sure there was at least another tornado within the rain.  We pulled over again because the whole rotating supercell took on the "mothership" look.  You'll be able to see this in my updated photo album.  The inflow into the storm was so strong it was almost blowing me over.  I fulfilled my dream of letting bubbles goes into the inflow.  I blew the bubbles and sure enough they went streaming into the thunderstorm (yeah, I'm a nerd).


We continued on the storm until it took on a more linear shape and developed a beautiful shelf cloud.  We then had some dinner and after were treated to a wonderful lightning show.  That same storm is still trucking along (further north of us) but we've called it a night.  Got some great pictures and video today.  I'll update the photo album and in the next day or so, get some of my fellow chasers' pictures and put those up too.  Our target seems to be roughly around the same area as today, maybe further east.  Tomorrow looks good again for tornadoes.

Day 11: Down Day

Felt good to sleep in.  Still in Norman, Oklahoma.  I'm in the process of uploading my photos to Facebook as well so if that album looks less complete that my "My Photo Album" page... well it is.  Beautiful 25 degree weather today.  We went and watched Iron Man 2 then had dinner and now we're back at the hotel goofing around and doing nothing in particular.  Tomorrow we're headed for Amarillo, Texas for some storms.

Day 10: The Supposed Down Day That Turned into a "Coring"

Currently I'm in Norman, Oklahoma.  We came here this morning from Lawton expecting this to be a down day.  The plan was we were going to drive to the damage path of the EF-4 (American F scale for tornadoes) and do some filming there.  Well, once we got to the damage path, we noticed a cell north-west of Oklahoma City that was tornado warned... so naturally... we decided to chase it.  The storm tried to hook over and over (hook on the radar is indicative of a tornado) but it just wasn't happening.  However, the hail core on this thing was looking nasty.

We drove around looking for two things:
1) a good spot to watch/video tape/photograph the storm
2) shelter in case we got cored (hit with the largest hail in the storm)

We successfully found both things.  The shelter we found was a chapel which had an over-hang that cars can park under.  We drove to our lookout spot and were just about to get out to film when we realized the core was coming in faster than we thought.  We raced back to our shelter just as the hail started.  It started off as pea-size hail then progressed to golf ball size hail.  We were perfectly safe and had a great view of the hail storm both forward, back and to the one side.  The hail storm lasted almost 10 minutes so we were able to get incredible video.  Meghan and Heather had both brought hard hats as a joke... well Mark put one on and ran out into the hail.  Needless to say he has a few bruises.  After the hail storm was done it looked like it snowed.  If you check out my photo gallery, there's a lot of pictures comparing the size of the hail stones to a quarter.

Unfortunately, we noticed after that while the trees were getting shredded by hail, there were birds in the trees.  There was nothing we could do to help and unfortunately most of them died.  That was hard to see but shows you how helpless we are against nature.

After the hail storm, that looked like a snow storm, we traveled to just south of Moore, Oklahoma to see the damage caused by the EF-4 tornado that touched down on Monday, May 10 this week.  This isn't the tornado we saw, ours has not yet been rated (probably because it happened in a field which makes it hard to rate and it was multi-vortexed).  Here is a link to information about the outbreak:


Here are the track maps of the various tornadoes that day (the purple dashed line "not yet surveyed" was the tornado we saw):


Check out my photo gallery for images of the hail as well as the tornado damage.  Tomorrow looks like another down day so we'll be sleeping in.  Up until this point, the models were not looking good storm-wise for the next week.  Looked like there wouldn't be too many storms.  Well... that's changed.  Tuesday and Wednesday look good for storms in the Texas panhandle and then Friday, Saturday and Sunday look really good for storms.  That's still a little far out but it looks good.  I miss home but I'm having a great time and learning so much.

Today is Meghan's birthday (happy birthday!) so she got an amazing hail storm on her birthday.  We then went out for dinner with Jim Leonard and Jack Beven. Jim Leonard has been storm chasing since 1969 and pretty much any hurricane documentary you watch has his footage in it. Jack Beven is one of the top hurricane forecasters in the world. He directly briefs all the high-ups in the U.S. government. We had the privilege of having dinner with these two men and it was amazing to hear what they had to say.

Now we're in the hotel, goofing around, watching some of our video, doing laundry and relaxing. We'll see what tomorrow has in store and if will actually be a "down day".

Day 9: Down Day in Texas

Well... nothing happened today. The only storms that kicked up were waaaay too far south (near Mexican border) and way too far north. The only tornado reports were from Colorado, Wyoming, Mississippi and Louisiana. The air is still just too cold. We're looking at the prospects for the rest of the week and Wednesday seems to be showing some promise.

Today we sat in a parking lot and watched movies in our van and hung around doing nothing. Finally we got our act together and decided to head back to Oklahoma. I'm currently in Lawton, Oklahoma. Tomorrow we intend on finishing our drive to Oklahoma City where we are going to look at the damage caused by the tornado outbreak from Monday. One of the tornadoes has recently been upgraded to an F4 tornado. We're going to go do some footage of the damage since it's going to most likely be a down day.

For those of you who are thinking "Geez, is every day a down day?" According to the veteran chasers around here, the fact that we actually saw a tornado in the first week of our first storm chase ever is unheard of. They're one of the most rare occurrences in nature and the fact that we saw a multi-vortex tornado that chased us down the road... that was lucky (or unlucky depending on how you look at it). It's very common to have down days. It can't storm every day. If it did, I'm sure the population of the Plains would be next to none. Fingers crossed we'll get some more storms this week. We did see some very nice structure yesterday. Today was more of an overcast, cool day. I was cold today, in Texas... that doesn't make sense.

New photos added to the photo album. There's also some tagged photos of me on Facebook put up by the people I'm chasing with.

Day 8: The Day That Tried So Hard

Well, today was a frustrating chase day. We traveled all the way down to Amarillo, Texas and it looked like the storms were popping up around Odessa, Texas so we drove all the way there (4.5 hrs from Amarillo). The storms started firing off early (around 1:00pm) which wasn't expected. We got on a few storms that looked promising but unfortunately there was a lot of cold air being fed into the storms so they ended up dying.

We did witness one storm was was wrapping up really good and was so close to dropping a tornado but again, the cold air got into it and it died. We did see a lot of incredible lightning and beautiful mammatus clouds. We also got a good look around Texas and just how frustrating and lack-luster the road networks are.

I did get to hear my very first "hail roar". For those of you who don't know, hail roar is the sound you hear coming from large storms that are full of large hail. You're hearing the roar of the large hail stones moving around and hitting each other up in the cloud. It's an eerie sound to hear and I didn't realize that's what it was until an experienced chaser pointed it out... I thought it was a truck or something. It's a scary and humbling sound.

The only reported tornado today was in New Mexico. We did meet up with Brad's boss, Dave Sills who is also working on the government funded (Canadian and American) tornado research called "Vortex II". He said they did witness a brief tornado early in the morning but that was it.

Cloud 9 Tours (a tornado chase tour company, Mark is good friends with the people that run it) are large pranksters, especially George Kourounis. Meghan found our van in the parking lot with all the videos, antennas and windshield wipers taped up so she took all the tape off. Then, going from past experience, Mark said we needed to check under the van. Sure enough, they had taped an alarm under the car to go off at around 3:30pm. Needless to say, we took the alarm off and put it in the van but forgot to shut it off. It went off at 3:30pm and scared the crap out of us. Here's a picture of Charles Edwards, one of the Cloud 9 master minds.

 

Tomorrow is looking slim for a chase day but we're going to stay in Odessa (because we're tired) for the night then probably make our way back to Oklahoma tomorrow.

New pictures added to the photo album.