Tuesday 31 May 2016

SE New Mexico / W Texas


Starting in Midland (TX) we headed west for 3h30mins into southeast New Mexico and chased a couple of bog-standard UK-style thunderstorms near Carlsbad (NM). As these storms moved off the mountains, they were struggling for moisture and eventually dissipated, but produced some nice CGs for a time. So we headed back east to Hobbs (NM), by which point we noticed a few storms developing just east of Midland. Since nothing else looked like it would develop nearby, we drove 2 hours back to Midland to get onto a near-stationary thunderstorm complex.

The great thing about these storms hardly moving meant that we could park up and try and shoot lightning for a few hours without needing to move with (or 'chase') the storms. This allowed me to stream the storm through Facebook Live to viewers back in the UK (and elsewhere in America) from near Garden City (TX) as the lightning frequency really ramped up as the sun set. In fact, from multiple storms, we had a good 6 hours of constant lightning. Definitely worth the long drive back to Midland, and makes it the 2nd best day of the trip!

SW Texas - Bust!


Perhaps the biggest bust I've ever chased - started the day in Amarillo (TX) and drove for nearly 4 hours southwards towards Midland (TX), placing us in the SPC's 'Enhanced' risk area for severe thunderstorms. A few storms had developed over the mountains out west, so we headed towards them, just north of Pecos (TX), but as we approached it was clear they were collapsing. In fact, an hour later there were no storms left, resulting in the SPC cancelling their Severe Thunderstorm Watch! Meanwhile back near Amarillo there were a succession of thunderstorms, in a messy fashion.

Saturday 28 May 2016

Kansas/Oklahoma border


Starting the day in Newton (KS) we had to decide to head north to the I-70 corridor where shear would be maximised given easterly low-level winds, or nudge south towards the Olahoma border where there appeared to be better sunshine / higher temperatures / higher dewpoints. We chose the southern option and chased multiple marginally-severe thunderstorms that were very much outflow-dominant but produced some pretty gust fronts. After stopping to chat to Paul Botten and the Netweather gang (UK chasers) we decided to ditch this messy convection and head south as we knew we needed to be back in the TX panhandle for Sunday.

One of many gust fronts approach from a marginally-severe thunderstorm near South Haven (KS)

On our way towards Oklahoma City (OK) we found Pete Scott (UK chaser) and Dave Ewoldt parked up near a field trying to shoot some lightning, so we chatted for about an hour until it was almost dark, and then went our separate ways. Overall, some thunderstorms around, but a fairly unimpressive day.

Friday 27 May 2016



SPC issued a moderate risk of severe thunderstorms today, stating that there could be the potential for a few tornadoes, perhaps significant. Whenever the threat level is MDT or HIGH, it always tends to be very messy and not particularly ideal for chasing nor for photography, and that's exactly what happened this time. Elevated convection quickly developed over SW Kansas in the morning and moved northeast, bringing extensive cloud and cooler surface temperatures such that, despite numerous rounds of thunderstorms, most of them were sub- or just marginally-severe, with very little evidence of this potential tornado outbreak.

We drove around Kansas throughout the day, jumping from storm to storm, but overall very few got organised enough to provide any real interest, and so we called the chase off early in the evening and booked a hotel in Newton (KS).

Wednesday 25 May 2016

S Cen Kansas


A lower / marginal risk of severe thunderstorms today, so in no rush to be anywhere in particular we thought we'd visit Wakita (OK), the location of where Twister was filmed! We had in the back of our minds a chase target of Enid (OK) for the chance of an isolated storm later in the day.

After spending much of the afternoon in Blackwell (OK), we nudged north towards Wichita (KS) just in case any developments occurred to our north. By the time of arrival in Wichita, there was already one thunderstorm off to our east, and another way to the north of Salina (KS). The latter soon became severe warned, but was a good 1hr 30mins drive away - we estimated we wouldn't be on this storm until near 19:30 and didn't want to drive all that way for it to die and a southern storm to then turn interesting.

The Wakita water tower, as seen in the film Twister

So instead we drove around S KS after several different faffy LP thunderstorms that had very thin updrafts and didn't really produce much at all, even lightning or rain was rather limited! Meanwhile the storm north of Salina was producing a tornado that was on the ground for well over an hour - in hindsight we could've chased this cell eventually if we'd've left Wichita earlier, and one look at the satellite picture revealed that this cell would carry on producing tornadoes given the fact it was riding along 2-3 boundaries.

Satellite image of the tornadic supercell in north Kansas, and trailing boundaries. Smaller, non-severe thunderstorms are visible in south central KS

Oh and around 9-10pm a lone severe thunderstorm popped up just north of Enid and dropped a brief tornado! Just to add insult to injury...

Dodge City dodged a bullet


The run of frustrating days continue! We targeted Woodward (OK) for lunch then nudged northwest to sit at May (OK) for a couple of hours waiting for initiation. It was a big tornado-type day, had lots of potential, and hence practically every chaser was in the area, poised ready to pounce on the first supercell of the day. For that reason, once storms began to fire, we chose a supercell near Liberal (KS) instead of Dodge City (KS) in the hope that the roads would be quieter but we might still see a tornado.

However, despite this storm being tornado-warned multiple times, it never produced. Meanwhile I could see the amazing hook echo of the Dodge City storm on radar, and photos started filtering in of tornado after tornado, so we ditched our storm and raced northeast to try and get onto the Dodge City storm, that was riding an outflow boundary. As we approached we could see a tornado in the distance on the left side of the large wall cloud, and then this lifted and a new one formed on the right side. But a new storm was going up overhead with a lot of CG lightning nearby, so we had to head east to get out of this storm and by this stage everything had become rather messy with storms popping up all over the place.

We hung about through the evening hoping we might catch a tornadic circulation on one of the storms, but eventually gave up and drove to our hotel in Alva (OK) for the night. So despite feeling disappointed that we could've gone straight to Dodge City and seen the whole event, we did still see 2 tornadoes in the evening before the storm died. And Dodge City was very fortunate that the tornadoes stayed to the west of downtown...

Tuesday 24 May 2016

TX Panhandle - again!


Our initial target was Woodward (OK) so from Amarillo (TX) we drove east on I-40, had lunch in Shamrock (TX) and parked up in Elk City (OK) to give us options to head north, south or west. One lone storm fired up near Memphis (TX) so we nudged southeast to chase it, along with so many other chasers as well - the roads became very busy around Hedley (TX). Here we bumped into fellow UK-chasers Paul Knightley and Helen Rossington! A select few chasers clearly have a lack of respect for other road users, but thankfully most other chasers know how to drive safely.

This storm more-or-less died in-situ, so we headed south towards Turkey (TX) to see another cluster of thunderstorms that had developed. These were messy in organisation at first, but the southern cell became a much more organised supercell as the evening wore on - even developed a wall cloud for a short time. We waited until the sun had set, and then, as is often the case, thunderstorms spring up along the axis of instability and it becomes a race to get out of them and find a hotel. Annoyingly our supercell near Turkey produced a wedge tornado around 21:45-22:00, only made visible by lightning lighting up its silhouette, but by this point we were well on our way to our already-booked hotel in Clarendon (TX). Annoyingly there were also a couple of tornadoes near Woodward - our initial chase target!

It was always going to be a close call as to whether we would make it to the hotel before a big thunderstorm approached us from the west, we got there just in time and parked the car under the hotel awning. As the thunderstorm arrived, it produced a lot of heavy rain, and hail around 1-1.5cm in diameter. The storm also exhibited, on radar, some rotation, enough to prompt the NWS guys in Amarillo to issue a tornado warning! This was unusual for us - we usually chase the tornado, not the other way round!

Tornado warning was issued 5 mins after we arrived at our hotel for the night

Thankfully, to my knowledge, there was no tornado and the storm eventually passed - but a lot of hotel guests were standing outside with us watching it, and one family from Tennessee asked to have a photo taken with us, with a lizard on my shoulder! First time for everything…

Lightning north of Clarendon (TX)

Sunday 22 May 2016

TX Panhandle


Some days are good, others not so good - and today was one of those days. We left Garden City (KS) with a lunch target of Dumas (TX) where we'd reassess the situation and nudge accordingly. After lunch, given that the environment was uncapped and hazy, convection was already bubbling-away and developing nicely. A dryline bulge had developed west of Lubbock, in theory providing the lift required for storm initiation - in reality, very little developed over W TX on the dryline and it was primarily focussed on a N-S line much farther east in the eastern Panhandle.

Storms developed quickly here and became severe in no time, so after driving down to Canyon (TX) we quickly headed east to intercept a line of developing supercells, some exhibiting better rotation than others. We found ourselves chasing the southernmost cell which became more-or-less stationary close to Lakeview (TX), It had good, fast rotation at times, but quickly became rain-wrapped before allegedly dropping a tornado. We were slammed by RFD wind / rain / hail which made us a little on edge for a while, and once we managed to get out from under the storm, it became a race to move west to avoid a whole line of thunderstorms that were now developing overhead, with the threat of large hail.

Annoyingly, several other thunderstorms in TX (and KS etc) produced some tornadoes, but alas ours was too HP to see anything that may have briefly formed. Always tomorrow...

W Kansas


We left Amarillo (TX) from our overnight stay and headed north for 4 hours with a target of Syracuse (KS). Took a few hours for initiation to take place, but eventually a few storms formed (near 4-5pm) along the dryline close to the KS/CO border and drifted NE. They were messy for the first hour or so, but eventually the southernmost cell (which went up pretty much overhead) became better organised and slowed it's forward motion.

As we nudged north of Marienthal (KS) this storm, now a supercell, dropped 2 very brief (5-10 seconds) tornadoes, before splitting. The new southern supercell then became better organised once again, drifting to the NE at only 5mph, and eventually dropped another brief tornado.

As the sun began to set, this supercell took on some incredible structure, especially when backlit by the setting sun, with a lot of lightning flashing around. Tennis ball sized hail was reported with this storm, but the hail core stayed to our W/NW.

We left the storm as it was getting dark and headed south to book a hotel for the night in Garden City (KS).

1st tornado of the day north of Leoti (KS), taken from 6 miles to the east

Hard to focus camera, even on tripod, giving the buffeting inflow winds and stark contrasts of light levels in front of and behind the storm