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Down Day - Finally, Some Rest! (May 31)

Finally ... After 14 straight days of storm chasing for Brad, Simon and I we finally get a day of rest and day to do some laundry! We headed to Amarillo, Texas, checked into a motel and did some much needed laundry. We also gave our vehicles a nice wash since the dust storms the day before did quite a number on them. We had the chance to eat at The Big Texan again. A few of us headed over to Cadillac Ranch to do some photography after then headed to bed. Nice day of good food, clean clothes, good company and photography.

Chase Day 14 - Dust Storms, Supercells, Hail (May 30)

Ugh ... What a day and night the day before was. We arrived at the motel and noticed there were beetles everywhere. We walked into our room and found three live beetles and several dead ones. The breaking point was when Brad lay his head down on his pillow and head a scratching noise ... There was a beetle INSIDE of his pillow case. We asked for a room that didn't have a door to the outside. We switched rooms and this one was beetle-free.

We were somewhat close to the target area so we didn't have far to go. We headed to Weatherford, Oklahoma as cells began to fire in the Texas panhandle. We made our way to Shamrock, Texas then south through Childress.

While making our way south the hail was getting larger so we held back for a bit until the larger hail passed. We continued south trying to catch up with a huge storm but we couldn't catch up to it. It passed over Paducah, Texas. As we moved through the town there was damage but hard to tell if it was tornadic or wind damage.

A cell formed west of the large cell we were initially heading for so we went for th new cell. Drought was our enemy this year. Due to the extreme drought conditions in the U.S., the dust being picked up by this storm was dangerous. We were driving through zero visibility at times. We also had zero data at the time so we were literally flying blind. We broke out of the dust and noticed the supercell was right on us at which point Brad said, "Maybe you should drive a little faster." There were little to no towns available for us to take shelter in. We moved through Guthrie and Scott and Dave decided to ride out the storm there.

We waited about 20 minutes south of the storm and south of Guthrie, Texas for the storm to pass then headed back north. As we approached the town we could make out Scott and Dave on the radio through static and pretty sure we heard "tennis ball". As we got into town we saw the hail: tennis ball sized hail everywhere. It was covering one of the town's football fields so we went and took pictures. Unfortunately some animals in a nearby barn were injured. Scott and Dave experienced near 150 km/h RFD winds and filmed the hail and damage.

Check out Scott and Dave's video from that day: Rolling Thunder: True Storm Chasing Stories ... Guthrie, Texas Supercell.

After taking pictures and video of the hail we called it a day and we had a long drive back to town. We spent the night in Childress, Texas.       

Chase Day 13 - Big Hail, Big Storm, Big Wind (May 29)

And the fun don't stop! Thirteenth straight day of chasing; we and my vehicle are exhausted but we're getting out money's worth - so to speak. We started the day off in Wichita Fall, Texas and headed north on the 3 hour drive to Watonga, Oklahoma. The internet and cell signal were awful but we saw the storms begin to build and the chase began.

As we began to chase we noticed some large hail laying on the ground so we decided to pull over to snap some pictures and play with it. I got side-swiped by a golf ball-sized hail stone and immediately blamed Dave Lewison to which everyone quickly realized that ... well ... no one was throwing hail. It was coming from the sky! So we bailed south and began to approach the maturing storm.

As we're approaching the storm I noticed some golf ball sized hail stones falling in the road and said to Brad, "I think the hail is getting big." As he was responding a baseball sized stone hit the ground in front of us. Time to bail again! So we headed back west and south but Scott McPartland and Dave continued on with their hail guards. We beat the storm through Kingfisher, Oklahoma and continued south at Kingfisher. We continued to stair-step our way south and east away from the storm due to the large hail danger. The inflow winds into this storm was incredible. It was really difficult to keep the vehicle on the road. We got stuck behind a long line of storm chasers bailing south on a dirt road (the only option but it was dry so driving on it was ok).

We finally got far enough south that we could pull over and take pictures of the storm. Because we were so busy getting out of the way of this beast of a storm, we didn't notice, at first, its amazing structure. Beautiful stacked plate supercell. As we're watching we notice a tornado forming close to Scott and Dave's position in Piedmont, Oklahoma. I began radio-ing and calling them to give them warning. I knew they would either (1) be outside the car or (2) be in the car but it would be loud from hail, wind and rain so I knew I had to yell for them to hear me. Well, this proved to be quite dramatic video and audio.

Check out Scott and Dave's video from that day: Rolling Thunder: True Storm Chasing Stories ... Piedmont, OK Supercell.

The tornado eventually became rain-wrapped and dissipated. We then headed to the greater Oklahoma City area to ride out the "core" of the storm. We had a perfect spot in a self-serve car wash but the core was fairly lackluster. We met up with Scott and Dave and they told us they had softball sized hail stones (as proof in the video above). Charles Edwards said he saw a 10" hailstone fall (most likely two larger 5" hailstones stuck together). Somehow the Cloud 9 Tours vans managed not to get any damage from hail.

After a long, tiring day we headed to the Guest Inn in Norman, Oklahoma where we will spend the night.

Chase Day 12 - Gust Outs & Rainbows (May 28)

Can't believe we've been chasing for twelve straight days! Started off this morning in Hays, Kansas and we had quite the drive to our target near Wichita Falls, Texas. We began our trek south and a long, uneventful journey it was. As we were nearing the Texas border with Oklahoma, the storms were going up fast and furious. Several storms had matured with very large hail and moderate rotation. The better cell we were hoping to get on, between Vernon and Seymour, Texas was just too far for us to reach.

So we approached a storm just east of that one. It was showing good signs of rotation and large hail. There was a lot of lightning but the bases were so high. We separated from Scott and Dave to avoid hail and we noticed the storm was trying to build down but just could not get its act together.

We headed for Archer City, Texas to look for hail shelter. Since the storm was collapsing and the tornado threat was near zero, we decided it would be fun to ride out the hail under a shelter and film it. We found the perfect shelter just at the city limits and set up to shoot. Well the storm came, and collapsed. The winds were very strong, the rain was pouring, it felt like we were in a hurricane. But there was no hail! At least we got some fun video.

After that we decided to call it a day since no storms looked promising anymore. As we headed to Wichita Falls, Texas for the night we saw a beautiful rainbow and mammatus at sunset.

So now we're in Wichita Falls for the night and will most likely be chasing in Oklahoma tomorrow. Sorry for the lack of photos and videos - the driving is exhausting. Goodnight from Wichita Falls, Texas!

Chase Day 11 - Structure, Hail & Lightning (May 27)

Wow ... Eleven straight days of chasing plus two driving days ... We're exhausted but it has been an amazing trip. Today we started off in Kearney, Nebraska where we woke up to an SPC risk of MODERATE and 5% tornado risk. We were targeting closer to the Nebraska/Kansas border rather than further north. 

Our initial target area was Phillipsburg, Kansas but we decided to split the difference and hang around in Holdrege, Nebraska and wait for storms to initiate. Once they started to initiate, we noticed they were formed a messy line fairly quickly. The cells further north (too far for us to catch) showed some good structure before being swallowed up into a massive line of messy thunderstorms. We noticed a few cells were forming and remaining isolated closer to our original target in Kansas. We started the drive down but the cells just couldn't get their act together. We pulled over and took some structure shots which were beautiful. 

We decided to stay in Hays, Kansas for the night which would put us in better position for tomorrow (May 28). On the way to Hays we were treated by a great lightning show and we were all preoccupied filming it when we realized ... What are we driving into? We checked the radar and there was only broad rotation on it, nothing serious, but the hail marker was indicating larger hail. We pulled under a gas station overhang when the hail came but it never got bigger than quarter size. Scott and Dave headed up the road to try and find some bigger hail but, again, it wasn't bigger than quarter. 

We're now in Hays, Kansas for the night. The Weather Channel's "Great Tornado Hunt" crew is staying here as well. We'll be heading into Oklahoma tomorrow for some chasing. We haven't chased a single storm in Oklahoma this year. Last year was pretty much all in Oklahoma so it'll nice to be in the state.

I apologize for the lack of video. We haven't had any down days so the only time I can edit is when we get into the hotels at night (which is usually late) or when I'm not driving (but I do most of the driving as Brad does the navigating/forecasting/nowcasting). Also the amount of videos and pictures I can upload to the website and Youtube is highly dependent on the internet and we've had horrible internet at the hotels we're at.

So goodnight from Hays, Kansas!