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.


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.


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.


Finally got my abandoned house and storm photo.



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.


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.


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.


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


Hard to explain how hot it was.


Definitely enjoying the show.



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



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


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





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










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.


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.


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


The lead vehicle watches.


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


The chiseled mothership structure was incredible.


We all watch.



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



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



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.



What a funnel.


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.



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.




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.


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


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.



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


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




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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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



It shriveled up as it was pushed into the rain.


What a nice sunset.