6/14/16 Guthrie, TX Supercell

This day reminded those who forget that even though all of the math and variables may not line up, that just has jack to do with how stunning nature is when she wants to be. Yes, it can be oddly pleasing sometimes to see everything come together so perfectly that what happens next is beyond belief, but most often you’d just rather not have that happen. Our initial target of southeast Kansas looked like it had some of the ingredients for this to happen, but when early morning storms sank through the area it became apparent that there was little chance better storms would end up forming and taking advantage of these.

Basically the only place that had a shot at some evening storms became near Childress, TX, as it was on the intersection of the dryline and a boundary left by the earlier storms which would help force them up. Naturally, being prepared to go watch some storms for an entire week prior, we went there.

20160614-184149-8594_1

The dryline was the only thing that could provide nearly enough forcing today. Energy was incredibly explosive, though, with CAPE reaching 5,000. As a result, one tiny tower formed near Paducah, TX that went from zero to 60 quite fast.

20160614-185612-8595_1

It got a bit bigger. I also got a respect for pre-dampened clay roads. Definitely not a good idea. A group of chasers got stuck ahead of us, and getting around them was still the most accomplished feeling I felt the whole trip. Thanks to my driver.

20160614-190715-8599_1

Finally got my abandoned house and storm photo.

20160614-191504-8604_1

20160614-193655-8620_1

It did briefly attempt to spin up pseudo-funnels a couple times, but less moisture near the dryline meant that cloud bases were a bit high, making the odds of a tornado touching down less than ideal. To make matters worse, even though there was just enough shear to get by, the low-level turning and strengthening of the winds was just not there, with barely a light breeze as we stood before it.

20160614-194616-8625_1

For all the locals north of us, their night was full of thunder and hail. For everyone south, blistering heat and humidity, but sunny skies.

20160614-200640-8632_1

The explosive instability gave the updrafts quite a nuclear look. There were twins at this point, with the one behind catching up to our initial storm and merging together with it.

20160614-202314-8652_1

One storm now. Anyone on this road was a chaser. Texas is so empty.

20160614-202449-8658_1

Hard to explain how hot it was.

20160614-204106-8672_1

Definitely enjoying the show.

 

20160614-204415-8680_1

It was like all the energy everywhere was exploding into the atmosphere.

20160614-205144-8694_1

20160614-210003-8710_1

The RFD cooled us off to probably just under a 100 degree heat index. It was really spiky looking.

20160614-212228-8717_1

We got ahead of the storm one more time as it started spitting out constant lightning.

20160614-212702-8739_1

20160614-212818-8750_1

20160614-212944-8762_1

20160614-213014-8765_1

The spiky inflow bands gave it a menacing look as hot air streaked into the storm from all directions.

20160614-213650-8791_1

20160614-213802-8795_1

20160614-214126-8801_1

Explorers.

20160614-214143-8802_1

20160614-214237-8806_1

20160614-214404-8812_1

Patience.

20160614-214613-8822_1

These guys really wanted their picture taken with lightning. Their photographer missed, but I didn’t!

5/24/16 Woodrow to Yuma, CO Tornadoes

The Valparaiso University Storm Intercept Team was faced with a decision to either keep spotting massive, high-precipitation rain-wrapped storms in Kansas or take an adventure to northeast Colorado where confidence was extraordinarily high that an isolated supercell would develop and trek from Denver into Nebraska. Knowing that less moisture in CO typically results in beautiful storms and easy-to-spot tornadoes, as well as the fact that every storm chaser and his mother would be in Kansas, we took this route, stumbled upon hardly anyone and watched a picturesque storm for hours.

20160524-175850-8393_1

As there were initially two storms that looked formidable, we hesitated on committing to either for a long while. As the southern storm became increasingly intense and started destroying the northern storm with its heavy rain and hail core, it was clear that this one south of Fort Morgan, CO would win out. At first it had multiple scuddy lowerings, like it was not sure what it was doing.

20160524-180106-8397_1

The base was very thick and so was the hail core.

20160524-181703-8422_1

The lead vehicle watches.

20160524-181744-8423_1

The ribbed scud at the surface tilting up into the vertical into the storm was amazing.

20160524-181938-8425_1

The chiseled mothership structure was incredible.

20160524-182100-8429_1

We all watch.

20160524-182415-8438_1

20160524-182551-8441_1

It put down a series of knobby lowerings with each subtle rear-flank downdraft surge and clear slot.

20160524-182609-8443_1

20160524-182909-8447_1

A second or third RFD surge finally consolidated the wall cloud into a large but compact lowering.

20160524-183408-8456_1

20160524-183655-8460_1

This lowering was further eroded into a tight and rapidly rotating cone which morphed into a very large funnel that never quite touched the ground, though tornadic winds were assumed at this point.

20160524-183706-8461_1

20160524-183724-8463_1

What a funnel.

Screenshot_2016-05-24-18-44-15-1.png

Radar revealed the supercell’s complex inner structure. This tornado was situated within one of multiple occlusions, this one coincident with a tight hook echo just south of Fort Morgan. Meanwhile, a new mesocyclone was forming out ahead over our location.

 

20160524-184703-8492_1

It took one more wet RFD to tighten this wedge-shaped lowering into a classic elephant trunk tornado. It danced in the rain a bit before it lifted.

20160524-184921-8495_1

20160524-184927-8496_1

20160524-185136-8507_1

Knowing that this rotation was occluding and a new mesocyclone was forming ahead, we did the best we could to use a terrible road network to follow the storm. We opted to come in safely right behind it as another quick tornado formed.

20160524-194402-8517_1

The area of rotation it carouseled around was quickly tightening up but becoming extremely wrapped in rain and hail.

20160524-195358-8534_1

One short peek at a funnel and it was gone, dealing tornadic damage from this point onward as it crossed the road in front of us. The circular shape overhead was unreal.

Screenshot_2016-05-24-20-16-46.png

20160524-201528-8553_1

We were cautiously following under the RFD in weird lighting and lots of strange motions.

20160524-204635-8557_1

We finally poked out from behind and were treated with a spectacular beast of a Colorado storm.

20160524-204738-8564_1

 

 

5/23/16 Woodward, OK Tornadoes

This day was another day of excellent forecasting, even when computer model consistency was not entirely clear. The Valparaiso University Storm Intercept Team headed north into the Oklahoma panhandle from their hotel in Shamrock, TX, eyeing a region where a sharpening dryline bulge intersected an outflow boundary from morning convection over Kansas that slowly drifted toward the panhandle. Thoughts were that an isolated storm would form on the dryline and latch onto this boundary, giving it the enhanced helicity it would need to rotate and possibly produce a tornado.

20160523-172636-8246_1

Once late afternoon came, a couple of towers erupted in this “perfect” location. Despite our efforts to get as close as we could to them, they were quickly killed by riding off the boundary and into the cold air the morning storms left in their wake. Thinking that our day was over, as these storms would have the perfect combination of ingredients, we were about to head home when a storm erupted quickly south of these near Woodward, OK. Although this storm was not attached to the boundary that would give it extra spin, it became explosive fast.

20160523-200249-8252_1

The structure looked somewhat cold and smooth, and its organization seemed awkwardly elongated. The inflow band off to the right was very strong, however.

20160523-201041-8260_1

The storm was sucking up inflow at this point, but was not organized correctly to produce a tornado yet. The forward flank inflow band was almost parallel to the rear flank outflow.

20160523-201527-8271_1

This changed quickly, however. As inflow became less pronounced, the rear flank shelf cloud to the left became quite thick and began wrapping around the updraft. Scud became visible under the now rounded base.

20160523-202612-8304_1

It was not long before a clear slot wrapped around this lowering and a brief cone tornado dropped. The entire updraft of the storm was visible, and it was now structurally sound.

20160523-202908-8315_1

A second tornado touched down, this one lasting for quite awhile as the inflow band thickened again.

20160523-203314-8325_1

A nice ranch house got to enjoy a bit more than a sunset.

20160523-203332-8329_1

Dramatic landscape as the tornado became wrapped in a bit of rain.

Screenshot_2016-05-23-20-35-04.png

20160523-203925-8341_1

It shriveled up as it was pushed into the rain.

20160523-204033-8349_1

What a nice sunset.