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Day 7: Off Day and Tourist Day

Currently I am at the Days Inn in Amarillo, Texas and it's definitely true what they say: everything IS bigger in Texas. We left Elk City, Oklahoma just after lunch and got into Texas. We stopped at the giant cross (no other way to explain it). I can't even begin to explain how large this cross was. Around it was statues of the stations of the cross. We just had to stop to see this; check out my photo album (link above as usual) to see the pictures.

After that we continued onto Amarillo, Texas then when to visit the Palo Duro Canyon. It was a beautiful blue sky day and the canyon was gorgeous. The ironic part was we could see so far in the distance we could see thunderstorms (which made us cringe at the fact that we weren't chasing those ones). We drove down into the canyon and looked around and on Dave's persistence, visited a cave that resembled... well... female genitalia (look at my photo albums for pictures and you'll understand). After that we headed to the famous Big Texan for dinner. Brad was going to attempt to eat the 72 oz steak but once he saw how big it was, and all the other food he would have to eat to, he decided not too (thank goodness!). If you eat the steak and all the fixings in an hour or less, you get for free. And let me say, everything is huge in Texas. The weirdest and most disturbing thing was seeing people walking around with loaded guns on their belts.

Tomorrow is going to be an early day. We have about a 4 hour drive to our target location tomorrow so we have to get up early. I still haven't had a chance to cut and put up videos nor swap videos with the people I'm chasing with. To be honest, I probably won't get a chance until the trip is over. There's hardly any down time. If we're not chasing, we're driving. Continue to tune into The Weather Network. If storms prove to be worth it tomorrow, we'll be live streaming.

I've added new pictures from today and added to the May 11 and May 12 photo albums.

PS - Brad just said, "I just realized how far away from home we are."

Day 6: Picturesque and Lightning

I'm currently in the Super 8 in Elk City, Oklahoma.  We started the morning off in Enid, Oklahoma.  Today was a very difficult chase day.  It was hard to decide exactly where to go.  We decided to head to Alva, Oklahoma as a target but not before stopping in Wakita, Oklahoma.  Now for those of you who don't understand the reason why we stopped in Wakita, go rent "Twister".  They have a Twister museum there (more like a hollowed out auto-parts store with posters and some debris from the movie).  Check out the pictures in my gallery.  We headed to Alva and the storms  were popping up but began to become almost like a squall line.  We did see some shear funnels (funnel clouds not associated with tornadoes) and beautiful cloud structure and turbulence. 

We chased these storms up into Kansas but not without ending up on a dirt road that blew one of Scott's tires.  After that was fixed we continued on then decided to head back to Oklahoma for the night.  On our way to Elk City, we noticed a few cells we may intercept.  So we strategically took a different path to intercept these cells.  The lightning on them was incredible.  Just as night fell, we picked a spot to pull over and take pictures/videos of the lightning.  I've never seen a more beautiful lightning show.  We then decided to get "cored".  This means you let the core of the storm hit you (normally you try to avoid this).  However, the hail in the core of the storm wasn't large enough to damage the vehicle.  Unfortunately by the time the core got to us, there was a little pea size hail, a lot of rain and strong winds.  We then continued onto Elk City for the night.

Tomorrow doesn't look like much of a chase day.  We're going to start the day off slow, drive to Amarillo, Texas to get into position for potential storms on Friday.  We're also going to maybe hit up The Big Texan and try to get Brad to try their contest: eat a 72 oz steak plus all the fixings (sides, etc) in an hour and he gets it for free.  Maybe do a little bit of sight seeing.

We're chasing with two other people both from New York: Scott McPartland and Dave Lewison.  Here are links to their personal websites:
Scott McPartland - PSPhoto Severe Weather Photography
Dave Lewison - Face the Wind

I got some incredible video today but haven't figured out a means of getting it online while avoiding Youtube. I'll figure something out. We also passed by the exact spot we saw/fled from the tornado on Monday. We saw the damage path and it went directly over our initial position. This is why you chase with experienced storm chasers. A lot of people got too close. After being out here I realize there are a lot of chasers who don't have respect for these storms, they just want to get as close as possible.

Also, starting today, The Weather Network is running the "Storm Hunter with Chris St.Clair" promos. Watch The Weather Network for live streams, etc.

Day 5: The Lonely Oklahoma Supercell

Today was a very hot and humid day and had the potential to be great but in a very localized area. There was a small window of opportunity for these storms to get going but if one did trigger in this area, it was going up. We left Norman, Oklahoma and headed to Clinton, Oklahoma not before stopping in Cherokee at a gas station where we met up with Cloud 9 Tours (storm chase tour company, George Kourounis is one of the drivers) and a lot of other chasers. Today was a "hurry-up-and-wait" day. Basically we got into position and had to wait for the storms to fire up. Eventually some started to pop up on radar and where visible in the sky. They bubbled up quickly then faded out fast. We were almost giving up hope on the day when 2 cells popped up on radar which looked promising. We followed the cells and eventually one became tornado-warned. About 90% of the chasers in Oklahoma were on this storm. It was getting near sundown but we managed to see a beautiful rotating updraft as the storm was low precipitation. After that the storms fizzled out for the night and are firing off in Kansas. Looks like just north east of Dodge City, Kansas is getting hammered with a storm that is hooking like crazy (for you non-weather nerds, a hook on the radar is indicative of a tornado).

We hear for the night and tomorrow looks like storms will be in this general area. Not exactly sure where we'll be chasing but that will be decided in the morning. The big news here is still the tornado outbreak on Monday. We're hearing a lot of stories from locals about damage. We actually met a storm chaser who just moved here from the UK and while he was out chasing, his house near Oklahoma City was destroyed by a tornado. Later in the week if there are some fair-weather days we'll be going out to look at the damage. Keep checking out The Weather Network for videos and live feeds from us. We were live-streaming the rotating updraft, not sure if they broadcast it but it was beautiful.

Sorry for the lack of video and lack-luster pictures.  The first real storm day I was in the front manning the camera for The Weather Network then couldn't get out because of the tornado.  Today I was in the back of the van manning the live stream.  Hopefully in the next couple of days I'll get some good footage or get some from the others I'm with.

Day 5: The Day After and the Day Before "The Day"

Title is apparently what some chasers are calling today because yesterday (Monday) was a severe outbreak and tomorrow (Wednesday) looks to be equally as juicy.  As for today, there still is the slight risk of severe storms popping up, however, it is not the outbreak scenario we saw yesterday.  There are really only one or two spots in and around our area where storms can initiate today basically around the Wichita Falls area.  So today won't be nearly as insane as yesterday.

I forgot to mention in my post yesterday that while we were chasing, we were headed for Wakita, Oklahoma and for those of you who don't know, this is the famous town from the movie Twister.  The storm, however, didn't track the way we thought it was going to so we actually didn't end up heading for Wakita (I was hoping we would because that would be a story-and-a-half!). 

For those of you who don't know, we're streaming live video back to The Weather Network.  Unfortunately there really isn't a set time for when we're doing it.  It's basically whenever the weather takes a turn for the worst and we film it.  Yesterday it was around 4:00pm - 5:30pm, however, today, tomorrow and all the other days could be different.  For those of you who missed it, here are the links to the live streams we did.  Allow me to set up the clips before I post the link:

Basically this is the point where we're racing down the road as it looked as though the tornado was headed our way (which is was) but then it turned off the road and away almost parallel to the road so we were safe.  This is shot leaning out the car window looking back at the tornado.  At this point, Mark was on his bluetooth talking to The Weather Network as we filmed.  The tornado didn't look as menacing at this point but it was definitely a hairy situation.  Here are the links:

The Weather Network Clip 1
The Weather Network Clip 2

That's all for now.  Hopefully I'll be able to get some more video to show you guys but it looks like the film formats are weird and conversions are needed.

Day 4: First Chase Day, Lots of Tornadoes

Wow... that sums up the day.  This was our first official chase day of the trip and needless to say we saw tornadoes!  We got going from Blackwell, OK at around 2:00pm and headed towards Medford, OK.  We saw the lowering develop on the storm and sure enough, it dropped a tornado.  We were a little close and out of position so we repositioned further up the road.  The only way I can explain the spinning motion was like a merry-go-round.  There was the main tornado and the suction vorticies around it.  Our greatest video was taken by Meghan and we drove away from the tornado as it came down the road then crossed about a 1/2 mile behind us.  The great thing about the video is it's a beautiful shot of it and then you see a satellite tornado wrap around it.  At one point, the tornado was a wedge.  Unfortunately I was manning Mark's cameras (for him and The Weather Network) so I wasn't able to get my own footage.  I'll be getting some from Meghan and Heather in the next couple of days.  It was wild and probably the largest adrenaline rush I've ever experienced.  On a scale of 1 to 10 compared to the Woodbridge tornado I saw, this was 25.  It didn't even come close to this.  Here's a rough map of where we traveled today.  We went from Blackwell to Medford then to Bartlesville.  After Bartlesville we decided to call it a day, get some food then head to Norman, OK to get into good position for tomorrow.

We continued on trying to catch these storms but the problem was the storms were moving so fast that once you got into position, it practically blew by you.  We did continue on but came up behind a storm and were about to punch the core (where the biggest hail is) so we backed off because we didn't want to smash out any windows or the windshield.  We did get some golfball size hail which was exciting.

The Storm Prediction Center has 37 tornado reports.  Unfortunately a tornado did pass through Norman, OK earlier this evening (this is where we're staying tonight, don't worry mom no danger of storms tonight).  There were at least 5 fatalities today(in Oklahoma County and Cleveland County).  The tornado that passed through Norman was rated a possible EF3.  This is the map of the tornado reports today (in red):

Tomorrow is not looking as severe as today but there is still a slight risk of severe weather.  According to Mark, tomorrow looks like the kind of day with a less chance of tornadoes but a better chance of seeing some really good storm structure.  Hopefully tomorrow we can get some really good shots.  In the meantime, I added some pictures to my photo gallery (link at top of the page).