Finch Storm Chases
1993 to 2010

best viewed in 1024 X 768 screen resolution

Jonathan D. Finch

I present some of my storm chases on this web page. Some of the pictures presented were captured from my video tapes and the quality of these is not good. But I like to document as many of my chases as possible. Some of my chases from 1993 to 1996 are not listed since I can't remember the dates and since I don't have any pictures.

Apr 24  1993

Chase partners:  Bill Gargan

I started graduate school at University of Oklahoma in September, 1992. This was one of my first storm chases. We left Norman during the mid-afternoon as towering cumulus started to develop to our northeast. We waited too late to leave and were behind the tornadic storm near Tulsa.This storm produced an F4 tornado that we missed by a few minutes.

May 05  1993

Chase partners:  Paul Robinson...

Our target area this day was the Texas Panhandle into southwest Kansas. We left Norman around 1 pm and drove to just east of Amarillo. Towers kept exploding along the dryline and then weaken. It is possible that cool outflow from a storm complex in central and north TX killed storm chances this far south. Anyway, a storm developed far to our north in southern Hutchinson County in the Texas Panhandle around 5 pm and moved almost due north at 25 mph. We drove north for about 2.5 hours and finally got ahead of the storm near Hugoton. We saw one tornado occluding and another one forming. This tornado became large and stayed on the ground for at least 15 minutes.

Here is a radar loop for the event.

May 07  1993

Chase partner:  Mike Schramm

This promising tornado day did not work out so well for us.We drove up to northwest Oklahoma and watched storms develop along the dryline. Our storms quickly evolved into a line of storms while significant tornadoes occurred in Kansas and Nebraska.

May 08  1993

Chase partner:  Mike Schramm

We drove to north Texas and chased storms. We saw funnels but my memory is too vague about the details. I can't find my pictures/video for this event.

Jun 01  1993

Chase partner:  Bill Gargan and Paul Robinson

We saw a beautiful storm in northern Kansas with a nice overshooting top. We had to drive east for an hour to catch it.

Jun 02  1993

Chase partner:  Paul Robinson

Although we arrived late, Paul Robinson and I saw a beautiful supercell in southeast Colorado and southwest Kansas.

Jun 03  1993

Chase partner:  Bill Gargan and Dave Gold

We encountered storms in southeast Colorado. After driving 6 hours I at least wanted to give these a shot. But I wasn't driving. As we were driving away a tornado warning was issued on a storm to the west.

Jun 06  1993

We left Norman, OK in the morning and chased in northwest Kansas. One of my chase partners was in a bad mood and didn't want to venture into southern Nebraska. We watched towers explode along the warm front to our distant northeast. There were several tornadoes near and after dark in southern and central Nebraska. The CB that developed before dark was beautiful.
Jun 07  1993

We were out of place on this day. We didn't have any data on the road and opted to chase in southern Kansas. We chased storms east of Wichita but these did not produce tornadoes. There were large tornadoes in South Dakota.

Jun 17  1993

Paul Robinson and I chased a storm in the northwest Texas Panhandle. We saw a nice storm but no tornado. It was an interesting storm.

Jun 23 1993

I chased in southwest Nebraska. Storms developed well to our southeast in northwest Kansas and we photographed the storm tops. These pictures were captured from my video and are not good quality. Storms also moved into southwest Nebraska late in the afternoon but these were not tornadic.

Jul 04  1993

Paul Robinson and I started out our chase near Englewood, KS. We watched a storm developed near Dodge City and move northeast toward central Kansas. This was a pretty storm for awhile but we didn't see any tornadoes from the storm. This was a special treat for July when the southern and central plains is often hot and dry. This storm became outflow dominated.

Aug 06  1993?

Mike Schramm and I chased in southeast Colorado. We saw a nice storm that produced a lot of hail. We followed the storm to west of Pritchett.

Oct 12 1993

A chased in central Texas. A storm developed east of Breckenridge and moved southeast. I should have chased on the southern end of the storm since it was  moving southeast.. My windshield was broken by hail. The storm persisted for awhile but never produced a tornado. I saw another storm develop to the south. I also saw another large CB develop far to the northwest. I saw a car burning on the side of the road. There were a few tornadoes on this day and some of them were significant. I missed them all. I also got a speeding ticket near Throckmorton if I remember correctly. The speed limit was 55 back then.

Oct 15 1993

Oct 18 1993

Nov 13 1993

Mar 26 1994

Apr 02 1994

Apr 09 1994

I chased the warm sector in Oklahoma and busted. There was  a large tornado in southwest Kansas in the Plains area.

Apr 25 1994

A squall line developed across Oklahoma on a promising tornado day. But sometimes that happens along North-south oriented cold fronts.

May 09 1994

Paul Robinson and I chased in the northwest Texas Panhandle. We saw a nice supercell that was nearly stationary for a few hours. This storm produced an enormous amount of hail and there was flash flooding.

May 28 1994

This is one of my most memorable and enjoyable storm chases. Project vortex did not have operations on this day. There was a storm chaser's barbeque in Norman, OK with many chasers in attendance. I saw no storm chasers on this day. These were the good old days when you could chase storms in solitude with nature. Storm chasing is not the same these days. Throngs of people read the SPC outlooks and then watch for radar echoes to develop in the risk areas. It is nearly impossible to find a storm without throngs of chasers crawling all over the place.

The southern branch of the polar jet was situated across the the desert southwest and into the Texas Panhandle. High level winds were about 60kts at 250 and 200 mb. Given the slow storm motion, the high level storm relative flow was about 60 kts.This is extremely important in getting a long lived supercell. Many forecasters just look at the 0-6 km windfield and ignore the high levels. This is a big  mistake!! If high level winds are weak, storms tend to collapse and gust out. Strong storm-relative winds at high levels help to ventilate the storm and allow the storm to organize and rotate before gusting out. The 500 mb chart showed 30-35kt flow from Arizona into the Texas Panhandle. The 700 mb chart showed weak flow at Amarillo and Dodge City and 25 kts at Oklahoma City and Jayton. A dryline was located through the Texas Panhandle. A warm front stretched from southern TX into the Texas Panhandle at 18 UTC. By 21 UTC, mid to upper 60s F dewpoints were in place in the eastern TX Panhandle. Surface based CAPE values were over 3000 j/kg and the vertical wind shear profile was excellent. An isolated storm developed in northern Roberts County and jogged south at 5 mph. A bell shaped meso developed with this storm that was just gorgeous. We saw the entire life cycle of a beautiful tornado and barely had to move. This tornado hit nothing and was rated F1. I believe that this tornado was capable of significant   damage. Here is the radar loop from the Dodge City 88D.  The official storm reports from the NWS are here.

The visible satellite imagery that evening was very interesting.

May 29 1994

We missed the big tornado near Newcastle but saw a smaller tornado in Graham. Driving south into Texas from Wichita Falls we saw towers developing to our south. We decided to chase a storm near Archer City. This storm intensified quickly and produced vivid lightning. The storm intensified quickly. This storm showed a lot of promise as it moved to the southeast slowly. This storm looked more and more ominous. We saw a tornado in Graham, TX. This tornado did not last very long. I remember seeing a storm chaser account of the tornado on the internet.

June 25  1994

Steve Courton and I chased in northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri. We saw two supercell storms and saw good storm structure but no tornadoes.

Oct 05 or 06,  1994

Bill Gargan and I drove to eastern Colorado and arrived late. There were tornadoes much further west in Colorado.

Oct 07 1994

Oct 16 1994

Nov 03  1994

Bill Gargan and I chased in eastern Oklahoma. I don't remember what we saw and I don't think it was anything great. We arrived late to the funeral of David Shellburg who died on Halloween in a plane crash outside of Chicago.

Nov 04 1994

Nov 12 1994

Nov 27 1994

Nov 27 1994

Bill Gargan, Sean Lyon and I left the OU maproom at 230 am to go chasing in eastern Arkansas. We headed east on I-40 and had a change of heart in eastern Oklahoma. There were several significant tornadoes in western TN that afternoon. But these storms were  moving about 65 mph.

Jan 18 1995

Feb 26 1995

Apr 08 1995

Mar 25 1995

I chased in the Texas Panhandle. I was too far south and was late arriving to the Ochiltree County storm. I missed the tornado.

Apr 17  1995

I followed a storm from southwest Oklahoma to near Pauls Valley. I saw a small tornado near Winniewood.

Apr 19 1995

I chased in north Texas the day of the Oklahoma City bombing. Storms developed late in the afternoon in north Texas. I chased south of Mineral Wells and in the Fort Woth area. I did not see the Fort Worth tornado.

May 06 1995

I chased along an outflow boundary between Abilene and Lubbock. A storm developed over Lubbock just before dark. I also saw some nighttime storms north and northwest of Lubbock. I missed the nocturnal tornado south of Amarillo.

May 07 1995

This was a disappointing day. A squall line developed in west Texas and moved across north Texas in the evening. I missed a big tornado near Ardmore.

May 12 1995

Steve Courton, Charles Edwards, Casey Crosbie and I chased storms in Kansas. There was an early show east of Goodland that we missed. This storm had a tornado look-alike. I only have a few pictures from this day.

May 13 1995

Steve Courton, Charles Edwards and I drove to Ilinois after the May 12 chase.  We were behind this storm in western Illinois. If we not been shy about driving to the storm from the rear we could have seen more. We did see a tornado near the Illinois River from about 10 or 12 miles away. I dont know if this was the 1st tornado (F4 from 1 N of Ipava to 2 NE of Lewiston or the 2nd tornado (F3 that moved from 2 NE of Goofy Ridge to Tremont).

May 22 1995

I saw a tornado near Hugoton , KS. This was an awesome supercell and I thought we would see a large tornado. Pictures are coming.

Jun 02 1995

I missed the big show at Friona and Dimmitt. But I did follow a storm from eastern New Mexico into the Texas Panhandle. I didn't see anyone else chasing this storm since many other people were further south. The base of the meso became lower and a funnel developed.  I saw a tornado in Oldham County for a few minutes. This tornado was in open country and hit nothing. The tornado lasted for several minutes before beginning to lift. I was at least 7 miles away from the tornado and perhaps as far away as 10  miles. I kept chasing the storm but it weakened after moving deeper into the cooler air.

Jun 03 1995

A storm developed near Silverton and moved into southwest Oklahoma. This storm was a high precipitation supercell and never produced a tornado--at least from my vantagepoint. I positioned myself in the narrow region between the FFD and RFD as this was the only place to get a good look at the updraft. Another updraft developed further east and actually produced several funnels. This large funnel was probably on the ground as a tornado although I could not confirm. A look at storm data confirms an F1 tornado 9 miles east of Duke which was on the right location. So the large funnel that I saw was a tornado. I was just west of this scary looking storm and just east of the big HP storm. Another funnel developed and lasted for a few  minutes. I did not confirm this funnel as a tornado either. This funnel was very persistent but finally weakened

Jun 04 1995

I saw a beautiful LP supercell near Lamesa, TX.

Jun 08 1995

I missed the big show in the Texas Panhandle but I did see a tornado northwest of Canadian that lasted a few minutes. I started off chasing in the Oklahoma Panhandle but it became clear that the best area would be further south. I didn't realize at the time that the north end of a well-defined dryline was located  in Brisco County caprock canyon area. If someone had shown me the 21 UTC surface map I would have blasted south and gotten in postion for a big show. I did see a storm a nice supercell storm near Canadian. A clear slot developed and a tornado was imminent. A funnel cloud developed. This tornado lasted for about 10 minutes and was quite a treat--until I learned about the big show. The contrast with this tornado was rather poor. But I had a  great time anyway with this tornado. I saw Chuck Roberton when I was watching this tornado. Like I said, this tornado lasted for quite a while and was located over open country. This tornado hit nothing and moved over open country as I sat in my car and filmed it. I briefly zoomed out to see more structure. I was surprised at how long the tornado persisted in open country. This is the last picture.

Amarillo Radar Loop

Jun 09 1995

I chased a supercell storm near Vernon, TX. This was a nice storm but didn't see a tornado. This pictures were all taken from video.

Jul 01 1995

Bill gargan and I witnessed a supercell storm in the northwest Texas Panhandle. This storm appeared to have gusted out but then quickly spun back up into a rapidly rotating meso. I cant find the pictures.

Jul 02 1995

Bill Gargan and I chased in the Texas Panhandle and saw a nice storm. This storm produced a funnel.

Jul 03 1995

Bill Gargan and I chased in southern Kansas? We saw some storms but no tornadoes.

Jul 04 1995

Bill Gargan and I chased in northeast Kansas. We saw some nice storms but no tornadoes.

Sep 29 1995

Nov 10 1995

I chased in eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas. On the way back home it was snowing.

Mar 14 1996

I am not sure if I have the correct date for this chase. I chased in eastern Oklahoma with Paul Robinson. We saw a  severe thunderstorm but no tornado.

Mar 23 1996

I chased solo and without maps in western Oklahoma.. Weygandt invited me to chase in his vehicle. Then by the time I arrived at his house he had changed his mind. He didn't wont to get hail dents on his brand new van and was afraid I would want to get too close. So I had to chase by myself with no maps.

This was a great LP supercell in western Oklahoma. The shear profile was great but moisture was limited so cloud bases were high. The inflow into this storm was ferocious and there was lots of blowing dust. Weygandt had some bad luck with his chase vehicle. Some debris broke off from somewhere and crashed into his vehicle. OMalley heard the impact, inspected it himself and then pointed it out to Weygandt. Then the two inspected the back of the vehicle for damage. The dust was incredible with this LP storm.

Apr 03 1996

I chased in southwest Oklahoma with Dave Usinksi and saw storms but no tornadoes.

Apr 21 1996

May 08 1996

May 09 1996

May 12 1996

Bill Gargan, Sean Lyon and I chased a storm near Perryton, TX. We saw a storm and it was interesting for awhile. We did not see a tornado on this day.

May 13 1996

Paul Robinson and I chased a supercell in southwest Kansas. This storm was not all that great.

May 14 1996

May 17 1996

May 18 1996

May 22 1996

On little sleep, I drove to western Kansas in the morning. I was so tired I pulled over and slept for 3 hours in the afternoon in northwest Kansas. When I woke up storms were developing to my northwest. I intercepted a storm near Haigler, NE. This started out as a beautiful LP storm. I saw one tornado with this storm. There was a stray piece of hail that fell with this storm that was probably baseball size. This tornado persisted for a few minutes. I was located southwest of this tornado. Even after the tornado the storm structure was awesome. This storm didn't produce any more tornadoes.

May 23 1996

I intercepted a beautiful storm north of Limon, CO. This was a gorgeous storm but I never saw a tornado.

May 24 1996

I chased in the Texas Panhandle and saw a small tornado not far from Stinnett. I was just behind the meso as it traveled east. Pictures are coming.

May 25 1996

I chased in the western Texas Panhandle and saw a small tornado near Friona. An outflow boundary was located in the area from previous convection. Pictures are coming.

May 26 1996

This was a major bust. I chased along an outflow boundary in far southwest Oklahoma. Storms initially had promise and then crapped out. There was a big show in southwest Kansas with a very large tornado. Pictures are coming.

May 30 1996

I busted in west Texas and eastern New Mexico. I thought about chasing in Colorado but didn't. There was a huge tornado near Elba, CO.

May 31 1996

I chased in southwest  Kansas and saw a picturesque tornado near Rolla.

Jun 04 1996

Jun 05 1996

Jun 19 1996

Jun 20 1996

Nov 16 1996?

Apr 10 1997

After making a forecast in the national forecast contest in the morning, I drove to the Texas Panhandle and witnessed several storms. We initially watched  a storm develop near Hereford and then saw hail on the ground around Hart. I saw a brief tornado with this storm but by the time I took video it was gone. Later we found another storm and watched it intensify for awhile. One storm near Kress produced 2 persistent funnels. Dave Hodges and I watched these funnels for a few minutes. These may have been in contact with the ground. A tornado downed trees west of Plainview and this may have been from the same storm.

Further south, severe weather broke out across the South Plains of West Texas during the afternoon and evening of the 10th. A band of storms moved across the area bringing large hail to many counties. Ahead of the band, however, an isolated tornadic supercell moved from Lynn County northeast across Crosby and Dickens Counties. One of its tornadoes struck a lone, double-wide mobile home about one-half mile west of White River Lake (or about 6 miles NNE of Kalgary) in Crosby County, killing one 78 year-old male and injuring a 73 year-old female. The couple was preparing to leave for shelter just as the tornado struck. It totally demolished the structure and damaged a vehicle. This same cell had caused tornadoes in southern and eastern Lynn County earlier (as reported by chasers and spotters), and proceeded to cause other tornadoes in Dickens and eastern Crosby Counties (as reported by spotters and local law enforcement). Near Afton (Dickens Co.), a trailer was damaged, the roof of a cotton gin was ripped off, and a chimney collapsed due to a tornado. A tornado was reported approximately 2 miles to the northwest of Canyon Valley around 9 pm. A residence was completely destroyed and was located 1/2 mile north of County Road 238. The tornado is reportedly separate from the White River Lake tornado described above. Debris from the home was scattered up to 6 miles from the residence and cedar trees where uprooted and large sandstone rocks were moved. The debris path was reported to be an estimated 1/2 mile wide with utility poles snapped and carried four to five hundred yards south of the house. A very heavy and anchored deer stand was blown over and damaged 1/2 mile north of the house.

An arctic cold front moved through Lubbock before midnight which I forecasted. The models were way off with the positioning of the front. My forecast low of 31F was 20F degrees below MOS guidance. The low as of midnight was 32F.

May 01 1997

May 25 1997

We saw a tornado near Burrton in Harvey County, KS. This tornado was not warned for. It was fairly picturesque and lasted for about 10 minutes. Here are some pictures that were taken during the May 19 to May 24 period as we chased marginal days and waited for the western trough to develop.

May 26 1997

I chased near Tulsa and busted. I got on the east side of Tulsa and waited for the storm. Those who stayed on the west side saw a nice tornado. The storm weakened before it reached  my location. If the city hadn't been in the way I would have seen a tornado. I hate chasing around cities.

May 27 1997

We drove to north Texas to chase the front. We saw storms but there were large tornadoes further south that we missed, including the one that hit Jarrell.  

Here is a radar loop for the event.

Jun 02 1997

We spent several days in Texas chasing storms in early June 1997. I dont have any pictures from these chases. Here are some pictures that include my friend Guy Caputo that were taken this week.

Jun 04 1997

Jun 7  1997

We chased in the mountains of the Texas Big Bend. We saw a rotating storm near Mt. Livermore (if I remember correctly). This date could be wrong as well.

Jun 8  1997

Jun 12  1997

We chased in north Texas and saw some storms in the late evening.

Jun 14 1997

Jun 15 1997

Jun 16 1997

Oct 11 1997

I chased in southeastern Colorado. Unfortunately I left and headed back to Norman and missed the big show later in the evening. When I was near Holly, CO heading east I took this picture of a storm that was producing a tornado near La Junta.

Jun 07 1998

I thought for sure I would see a tornado on this day. The vertical wind shear was awesome and CAPE values were at least 3000j/kg given the 60-65F dwwpoints in eastern New Mexico. I did see a beautiful storm though.

Oct 04 1998

Here is a large frame with my video captures of the entire tornado life cycle.

Rick Rubrecht and I chased storms in northwest Oklahoma during the early afternoon. We gave up on these storms and went east. A storm developed in northern Caddo County around 2115 UTC and moved northeast to near Interstate 35 where were intercepted it. This turned out to be a fantastic tornado. It was close to dark and I only took video. So all the pictures I have are low quality captures from video. The tornado was illuminated by lightning and went over Lake McMutry. The tornado took on various shapes and sizes as it moved to the east-northeast. There were frequent cloud to ground lightning strikes near the tornado. The tornado took a while to rope out. This tornado lasted for about 15 minutes.

The radar loop is very impresive.

May 03 1999

After working a midnight shift in Wichita, I made a quick chase forecast of Lawton, OK. I arrived in Lawton just in time to see the 1st storm developing right over town. I followed this storm for awhile and saw 2 tornadoes. The 1st tornado was fairly brief and I do not have a picture of it. The 2nd tornado lasted about 10 minutes. I was chasing solo and got confused with the roads around Interstate 44. The Lawton storm was moving away from me to the northeast. I decided to chase a storm that was off to the west. This storm had awesome structure and I saw several tornadoes with it. I managed to get picture so the updraft and tornado near Anadarko from about 10 miles away. An Indian family living near Anadarko took some nice pictures as the tornado passed right by their house.  I kept chasing this storm and saw more tornadoes after the storm passed into central OK. If I recall correctly my pictures of these tornadoes didn't turn out well. I am not sure if these tornado pictures were mine or Bill Gargan's. He was just ahead of me in his car so we were looking at the same tornadoes.

May 31 1999

We were behind a nice supercell that developed west of Liberal since we thought there would be a great supercell in Colorado. We tried to catch up to the storm but were too late. We were behind the storm trying to catch up to it. This storm produced some huge hail and my friend Guy Caputo picked up a piece of it. We missed a large tornado near Sitka. More pictures will be forthcoming.

Here is the radar loop for the event.

Jun 03 1999

I chased the caprock area of the Texas. A storm exploded and showed promise for awhile. But this storm died quickly. I missed a large tornadoes in northwest Kansas and central Nebraska.

Jun 04 1999

I chased in central Nebraska. I feared a bust and left for home around 4 pm. A storm developed on the high plains and moved across western Nebraska. There were tornadoes just before dark in the "Sandhills".

Jun 13 1999

John Dunne. Guy Caputo and I chased in northeast Colorado. We found a nice supercell but this storm only produced weak gustnadoes. We  found another storm further north that evening.

Jun 26 1999

Dan Bikos, Jonathan Case and I chased in southeast Wyoming and the Nebraska Panhandle. We saw a small tornado near Harrisburg.

Jun 27 1999

Dan Bikos, Jonathan Case and I chased in southeast Wyoming to near Scottsbluff. We saw an awesome storm but no tornadoes.

May 16 2000

John Dunne, and I saw a tornado to the southwest of Guernsey, WY.

May 17 2000

I chased an awesome supercell that developed  north of McCook, NE. I abandoned the storm south of Eustis and blasted east for the main show. The only problem was that the Eustis storm was the main show. As soon as we left the storm it produced a large tornado.

Here is a radar loop.

Apr 06  2001

I missed a F2 tornado that developed near Rolla and moved into Grant County. I was chasing west of Garden City.

Apr 10  2001

I chased in western Kansas.

Apr 14  2001

I chased in southwest Oklahoma and busted. I was torn between 2 target areas in the morning and chose poorly. There was a large tornado near Pratt.

Apr 21 2001

I was very excited about tornado chances on this day. I  headed out to Greensburg from Wichita. A storm developed north of Dodge City. This storm looked just awesome as it developed into a supercell. I got some awesome pictures of the storm before dark. A saw a small, brief tornado before dark and then headed back to Wichita. The tornado was so brief that I didn't get a picture. This is one of the last pictures I took looking northeast towards eastern Rush county. The time of this picture was around 8 pm. This storm moved to the east-northeast along a neatly stationary front. The shear profile was awesome since a 50 kt low level jet developed. This storm produced another large tornado that moved northeast from west of Ellsworth of near Interstate 70. The affected area was included in a severe thunderstorm watch that evening.

Here is a radar loop.

Jun 11 2001

We stayed the night in Watertown, SD in anticipation of a great chase day in western MN. We got a great show. A supercell developed in western MN and produced tornadoes and large gustnadoes. This storm also produced very large hail. We saw rain wrapped wedge tornado looking west toward Benson.

Here is a radar loop.

May 05 2002

May 5 was a wonderful chase day. The chase hordes were all in the Texas Panhandle. To my knowledge I was the only storm chaser on the Trego/Ellis County storm. I left Dodge City around 130 pm and headed north to Interstate 70. This storm became quickly severe. I called and reported good low level rotation. Then I called back and reported a funnel just north of the Interstate in Trego County. This funnel quickly evolved into a tornado. Because of my efforts, the Dodge City office was able to issue a tornado warning for this storm. This tornado was on the ground for about 20 minutes and was rated F3. Two tornadoes were occurring at one point.

I drove to the affected area the next day and photographed the damage.

Here is a loop of the event.

May 07 2002

Fritz Kruse and I chased on this day. We initially went to extreme northwest Oklahoma. Then a storm exploded to our north. We had to hurry back to the north. We were delayed 4 minutes by road construction. The storm split and we chose to head toward the southern part. Althouth we missed the 1st large tornado, we got quite a show. The inflow to the storm was awesome. We saw a very nice tornado. This tornado roped out just to our north.

Here is a radar loop and a zoomed in version.

Jun 09 2003

I chased with Guy Caputo and John Dunne. Our target area from the night before was north of Ainsworth, NE. We drove up to Ainsworth the night before and slept in until 10 am. We jogged north about an our and caught as awesome storm. We saw a picturesque tornado that lasted for about 10 minutes. This storm produced a large, weak dusty tornado near Oneill a little later in the evening.

May 12 2004

My target area was south central Kansas.A saw one tornado in Barber County. A larger tornado developed further east and hit Conway Springs. I believe that this may have been this tornado that I photographed looking at the eastern horizon.

May 29 2004

I left Dulles airport around 10 am, arrived in Kansas City around 2 pm, and  left KC around 3 pm. I looked at things the previous day and my target area was south central Kansas. The main reason why my target area was further south is that the high level jet approaching 100 kts was progged to be across northern Oklahoma. The 700mb jet was also progged to be strongest in southern Kansas. Surface based CAPE values would be 3000-4000 j/kg if 70F dewpoint could make it into southern Kansas. I thought this was a high liklihood given that rich moisture was on place over Texas.

I arrived in southern Kansas just in time for the big show. A storm formed on the dryline in northwest Oklahoma and moved east-northeast for several hours. The storm encountered high dewpoints near Anthony and became a beast. Despite moving into a capped environment, the storm kept going and produced several tornadoes. The first tornado was difficult to see. Once a storm is rotating, it sometimes doesn't matter if the storm moves into a capped enviromnent. The bottom part of the storm gained a laminar appearance after moving into the capped environment. You could clearly see the level of free convection at the top of the forced ascent layer. These tornadoes were picturesque. I was using a very cheap camera and was not prepared for a low light setting. My best photograph that evening was  of a lightning lit tornado.

Jun 11 2004

I busted in Iowa. I arrived late to the northwest Iowa storm and missed several tornadoes. Then I tried to catch a storm further east in my original target area and missed the tornado. Then I blasted back to the southwest and arrived late to a storm near Fort Dodge, missing another tornado.

Jun 12 2004

This was a big bust. I opted to chase in southern Nebraska along an outflow boundary since the 500mb temperatures were very cold. My target area previous to this was southern Kansas but I changed my mind. I missed a picturesque tornado south of Wichita.

Mar 28 2007

This was a tremendous bust. My area (far southwest Kansas) was capped until very late. I blew off the storms developing south of Dodge City. These storms produced significant tornadoes in Gray and Hodgeman counties. I watched some high based garbage storms in far western Kansas in the late afternoon. I should have stayed out there since 1 particular storm that I was watching went to town immediately after I left it. This storm produced a killer tornado in Holly after dark.

May 05 2007

Apr 26  2009

Storms fired early in the afternoon in northwest Oklahoma and southern Kansas. I opted to blast further south and catch a storm developing along the dryline in the Texas panhandle. This actually worked out very well. We saw a tornado near Roll, OK. Unfortunately we missed the beginning of this tornado and we did not get very close to the tornado. This served as a lesson for me. If one of your chase partners in a different vehicle needs to get gas when a storm is about to become tornadic, done feel compelled to stop and wait--keep chasing. Anyway, we approached the storm from the west and saw a lowering of the cloud base. We were very excited when we saw this. The inflow was very strong from the southeast and there was some blowing dust. I measured a 63F dewpoint with my Kestrel. This storm soon produced a tornado near Crawford but we missed it. Anyway, after getting gas, we raced north and caught the end of the 2nd tornado. These pictures were taken by Rosa out of the window and are not  very good. We had the camera  on auto-focus instead of landscape. However, this was Rosa's 1st tornado and she had a good time!! She enjoys storm chasing too!! Another supercell developed to the west and this one was rotating at low levels as well but did not produce a tornado.

The tornado destroyed a mobile and tore up some trees about 7 miles north of Roll. You would never know based on the official storm data. Even though I reported the damage and submitted pictures to the affected office, there has yet to be any official storm report. You would think the media would be interested in this event. This tornado does not appear in storm data whatsoever.

Apr 29  2009

Chase partners: Rosa Finch

My target area for April 29 was west Texas. I was too tired after a midnight shift to drive 5 hours. This was a west Texas classic. The NAM 48 hours out showed MCS activity across TX/OK. However the model failed to generate a well defined outflow boundary and the SLP field was barely affected by the model convection. I called SPC and voiced my concern that a well defined outflow boundary could lead to a favorable environment for tornadoes.  The 12 hr NAM didnt even capture this outflow boundary very well. This is a case where perusing high resolution models did not help. Forecasters needed to look beyond the models and use their meteorological skills to forecast a tornado event.

Rosa and I woke up late in the afternoon and headed west toward Garden City to chase a developing supercell storm. This turned out to be a gorgeous supercell that moved slowly to the south-southeast. As we approached the storm the mammatus was awesome. Even through mid to high level winds were not very strong, the weak mid level winds allowed for a strong right mover. The storm moved into its inflow so low level storm relative flow was enhanced. Also, the storm actually moved perpindicular to the high level flow so that the storm relative flow at 250mb was actually fairly good. We watched this storm for quite a while. The storm produced a tornado when we were driving toward the stormHoweverwouldn't trade this storm  structure for anything.  It was definitely quite a treat.

Jun 04  2009

Chase partners: Rosa Finch


This is a marginal case day, but since this is the 1st day of my chase vacation, I have decided to go ahead and chase. My initial target area in the Limon-Denver corridor. A cold front has scoured the moisture out of the central and southern plains. However, a narrow ribbon of marginal moisture is returning up the high plains. Also, a weal cool surge through the Limon, Denver and Akron area this morning may actually help. This region was socked in with low clouds. The southern edge of this cool/cloudy area should have locally higher dewpoints. With west-northwest flow at mid and high levels, supercells should move to the sse.

What happened?

This day turned out to be better than expected. I actually saw 2 supercells and a funnel.

Initial short-lived supercell about 10 miles northwest of Calhan

Funnel southwest of Kiowa with the 2nd supercell.

Jun 05  2009

Chase partners: Sean Lyon and Rosa Finch


I have more hope today than yesterday. The mid to high level flow actually has a southerly component today. Therefore, lee troughing should really increase. Unfortunately, low level moisture tends to be marginal across the plains. In June, when the moisture is marginal, you do not want to be on the lower terrain since higher temperatures and marginal moisture will lead to high cloud bases. It will also be warmer at 500 and 300mb in the warm sector. I prefer to chase on elevated terrain on the northwest extremity of the moderate CAPE area where surface temperatures will be cooler and cloud bases a little lower. I hope chase forecasters dont accept the the 12z nam. This model shows a morning MCS over Nebraska and cool outflow over southeast Wyoming all day. In fact the nam shows surface temperatures between 50 and 55F in the afternoon to the lee of the Laramie mountains. This is a model error. My chase target area continues to be southeast Wyoming where initial cumulus towers should develop on the Laramie Range. Storms should have about 3 hrs residence time in the theta-e axis of southeast WY and the western NE panhandle before moving into lower CAPE in western NE. I think the chances for supercell storms are very high and there could even be a few tornadoes.The vertical wind shear profile will be awesome.

What happened?

Our (Sean Lyon and myself) initial target area for initiation was west of Chugwater, WY. This worked out great. My wife Rosa was along for the chase as well. Even though I took these pictures, this was a joint venture. So these pictures are Sean's too as far as I'm concerned. We drove to the Chugwater area around 1 pm and waited around for storms to develop. Due to the extensive mountain enhanced cirrus, it was actually difficult to see the storms developing to our west/southwest. Two storms developed west/southwest/northwest of Chugwater. We drove about 5 miles southwest of Chugwater to watch the storms develop. I enjoy taking temperature/dewpoint readings in my target area in order to calculate dewpoint depressions and lifted indices. I have a skewt-log P diagram in the trunk of my car that I always take chasing. The T/TD at Chugwater (5300 ft) at 2 pm MDT were 67F/53F. But since 500mb temps were around -10 to -14C at 12 UTC and progged to be around -12.5 in the Chugwater area at 18 UTC, 500mb/400mb/300mb lifted indices were around -7/-8/-8. This probably corresponds to about 2000 j/kg surface based CAPE. Given the 40kt 500mb flow from the west-southwest, 25kt flow at 700mb from the southwest and 80kt winds at 200mb that were progged for the area, I was very excited about the tornado chances.We focused on the southernmost storm due to the fairly strong 3-6 km flow, we knew that the storm would move no more than 30 deg to the right of the 500mb wind. Our predicted storm motion vector was 270 deg at 25 kts. By 252 pm our storm was getting better organized and had begun to rotate by 317 pm just ese of Chugwater and turned to the right (280 deg). This actually worked out fairly well for awhile as the storm initially moved to the east or east northeast. But I suspected that we might have to drop south. The major problem on this chase was the lack of roads east of Chugwater. Road 313 went east from Chugwater. When the storm was east of Chugwater, the updraft portion of the storm was just west-southwest of our location. We started out on this road but we were keenly aware that we might need to drop south. But there were no paved roads to the south. Anyway, we did decide drop south since the forward flank downdraft was getting close to RD 313 and since the meso seemed to be moving to the east-southeast. We dropped south on Rd 246 as a scary wall cloud loomed just a few miles to our southwest at 319 pm. We dropped south on 246 about 6 miles. By 326 pm the meso was to our north. Then we took Rd 153 southeast and then east as the meso was north of Bear Creek at 350 pm. I am glad that we had the Wyoming Atlas Gazetteer as this would have been impossible without it. We took this dirt road through the canyon west of  Phillips. Due to the surrounding cliffs, it was difficult to even the storm as we traveled east at 352 pm. Due to the poor road conditions--frequent turns and rough areas, we actually got on the back side of the meso. Water actually covered the dirt road in several places, but we managed to drive off the road slightly to avoid the water. I can't believe that we actually were able to pull this off.  But this was a safe place to be as it was partly cloudy to our south and west. We got a clear look at the meso as it was approaching Bear Creek but still north of RD 153. The first tornado developed several miles west of Phillips on Rd 153 along Bear Creek around 357 pm MDT. The timestamp on my digital camera was 354 pm. But there is a 3 minute difference between my camera and my cell phone (which has the correct time). This tornado started off as a ferociously rotating column north of Bear Creek around 352 pm. By 356 pm the condensation funnel was still hard to see. Even after passing  over Bear Creek there was  no obvious condensation funnel even though some tornado damage had occurred.. But the rotation was so dramatic with this meso that it was obvious from our perepective that we were looking at a tornado. Our belief was corroborated by the damage. Vortex 2 took pictures of deciduous trees uprooted along Bear Creek  It might be worth searching for tree damage just north of Bear Creek as this tornado could have started before 357 pm. This radar image from the Cheyenne radar at 352 pm shows a great hook echo just north of Bear Creek  Were were located just west of this meso along Bear Creek Rd and we witnessed amazing low level rotation suggestive of a tornado as early as 352 pm. At 400 pm MDT a truncated cone-shaped tornado developed. This was somewhere south or southwest of Phillips. Higher contrast pictures are also available. This tornado seems to have lifted but may have just disappeared in the rain. Another tornado appeared at 403 pm and was wrapped in rain from our vantage point. This rain wrapped tornado was still visible at 408 pm as a large white cone.  A higher contrast picture showing this large tornado can be seeen here. The tornado became so wrapped in rain that it became barely visible. Large hail also occurred with the storm. We stayed far enough away from the precip cores to avoid the very large hail. I tried to report these tornadoes to the NWS but I had no cell/internet coverage. In retrospect, it may have payed dividends to wait for the storm to approach highway 85 near Meriden. In fact, those arriving very late from the southeast may have been rewarded greatly with a higher contrast tornado. But this is not the way I operate. I  always go for initiation, wanting to see the entire evolution of the storm. Part of the fun for me is making a storm initiation forecast, driving to the area and then watching the storms develop. Driving east from Phillips to La Grange, we saw another tornado from 423 to 425 pm to our south.  Then we saw another tornado partially obscured by rain between 428 and 430 pm. This may have been the same tornado that started at 423 pm and continued through 430 pm. This last tornado roped out at 430 pm and disappeared by 431 pm. We actually followed this storm well into the Nebraska panhandle. This storm became a rotating beast again after a brief weakening near the Nebraska/Wyoming border. We may have seen 1 or 2 more tornadoes with this storm, but it is possible that these were just tornado look- alikes. This particular look alike occurred at 549 pm. The storm structure was amazing in the western Nebraska panhandle.  In retrospect, if we had been about 10 miles to the south in the panhandle the view of the truly amazing storm would have been better.

I plotted the path of the tornado in google earth. The path length was about 17 miles. This tornado was rated F2 based on wind measurements from Vortex-2.  The radar loop from Cheyenne  is here.

Unfortunately the start time of this tornado is incorrect in Storm Data despite the wealth of eyewitness accounts. The official start time is 407 pm while VORTEX-2 has 353 pm and I have 357 pm. I shared all my information with the NWS in Cheyenne shortly after the event. 

Radar images for selected times are:  2143Z    2148Z    2152Z    2157Z    2202Z    2211Z    2220Z    2229Z

Jun 06  2009

Chase partners: Guy Caputo, John Dunne, John Dunne Jr. and Rosa Finch


Warm sector moisture continues to be problematic. I do expect dewpoints to rise to around 65F in southwest IA today despite lower dewpoints further south. Why is this? In summer, the boundary later tends to be deeper in the warm sector of the southern plains--south of the upper jet. However, deeper into the westerlies, the elevated mixed layer tends to be lower to the ground so that moisture trapped beneath is confined to a more shallow layer. This leads to higher mixing ratios further north even though the precipitable water could be the same. Also, MCS clusters tend to move along the southern edge of the westerlies. So areas further north often have a wet ground with lots of evapotranspiration. Evapotranspirated moisture tends to mix out deep into the warm sector. However, along the southern part of the westerlies, areas of moisture convergence (such as ahead of a surface low and shortwave trough) can pile up  and concentrate this evapotranspirated moisture in a small area where storms later develop. Anyway, I am opting to blow off the eastern option (southeast NE) in favor of western Nebraska. Mid level temperature have cooled somewhat overnight. In fact, 500mb temps are progged to be around -15C from SNY  to MHN today. When moisture is lacking, it pays to be further west on the higher terrain where you dont need as much moisture and where mid to high level temperatures are colder. My target area for today for initiation is the area between Sidney and Alliance where surface dewpoints should be in the 53-55F range. Mid to high level winds are progged to be very strong by June standards. The main limiting factor for significant tornadoes are the weak low level winds and the narrow theta-e axis. I expect to see supercells but the tornado chances are low. A storm that develops will have about 2 hours to produce a tornado before moving into potentially much cooler air.

Update - I have decided to race north to Ellsworth, NE since the moisture is mixing out per latest surface observation at OGA. The surface observations look good further north. The towering cumulus also look crisper. 

What happened?

I opted to take the dreaded Oshkosh-Ellsworth highway northward. This road had  plenty of water in places but I was able to go around the puddles. Also, cows were walking or laying in the road in several places but my car horn was very effective at scaring them off. This road is big enough to accommodate 1 car, thats it. With all the hills, you never know what is going to pop over the next hill. I could easily invision a head on collision occurring, Actually, U didnt see 1 car for 40 miles. A moderate cumulus cloud developed immediately north of us near the Crescent Lake Park (also note water on road). It was fascinating to watch this cloud develop into an incipient thunderstorm , thunderstorm with precip and then supercell storm. I knew that due to the fast storm motion (by June standards) that the storm would only stay in the higher theta-e air for about 2 hours. So the storm looked great for awhile. We got several nice pictures of the storm. I measured a T/TD of 70F/58F at Mullen, NE. This  is not bad give the fairly high elevation of Mullen and the fact that 500mb temps were around -15C. So surface based CAPE values were surely at or above 2000 j/kg. However, my fears came true as the storm moved into more stable air further east and weakened.

Jun 07 2009

Chase partners: Guy Caputo, John Dunne, John Dunne Jr. and Rosa Finch

Discussion (1030 am)

An outflow boundary from nocturnal convection extends from north of Manhattan to Topeka and into western MO this morning. A stationary front extended from northern KS into central IA. A shortwave trough will approach the high plains this afternoon. The models are forecasting 70-75F dewpoints today in northeast Kansas. How can this be given that the higherest dewpoints this morning are in the mid 60sF ? In summer, the boundary later tends to be deeper in the warm sector of the southern plains--south of the upper jet. However, deeper into the westerlies, the elevated mixed layer tends to be lower to the ground so that moisture trapped beneath is confined to a more shallow layer. This leads to higher mixing ratios further north even though the precipitable water could be the same. Also, MCS clusters tend to move along the southern edge of the westerlies. So areas further north often have a wet ground with lots of evapotranspiration. Evapotranspirated moisture tends to mix out deep into the warm sector. However, along the southern part of the westerlies, areas of moisture convergence (such as ahead of a surface low and shortwave trough) can pile up  and concentrate this evapotranspirated moisture in a small area where storms later develop. Storms could develop along the outflow boundary and along the front or anywhere along a weak N_S convergence line. I may go down Interstate and reassess around 2 pm. Given that storms will be moving ene at 35 mph, I dont want to get caught behind the storms in Kansas with overshooting tops to my northeast. So I plan to be in Platte City, MO by 2 pm then reassess from there. After a further loook, we may head to Horton, KS and wait for initiation (1130 am).

What happened?

A storm developed in southern NE by mid afternoon. We opted to ignore this storm. We were located about 50 miles southeast of the storm but the sfc winds in our location were about 5 kts. So there was little inflow into the Nebraska storm that was riding the surface front. Also, a storm began to develop to our west-southwest on the edge of the stronger low level winds with better warm sector inflow. We stayed just ahead of this storm for several hours. This storm was awesome and I dont understand why there were no tornadoes. The storm structure was amazing with frequent rfd dry slots.

Jun 08 2009

Chase partners: Guy Caputo, John Dunne, John Dunne Jr. and Rosa Finch


I opted not to chase today. Although a few storms could develop on the higher terrain of Colorado, these will not produce tornadoes due to a lack of moisture.

Jun 09 2009

Chase partners: Guy Caputo, John Dunne, John Dunne Jr. and Rosa Finch

Discussion: 1030 pm June 8

I continue to be in the dark about today. Will there be sfc based convection in the afternoon and evening, or will elevated convection in the morning persist all day? Models continue to fester elevated convection all day in southern and central KS and it is not clear when the transition between elevated and surface based will occur. Target area continues to be along warm front/outflow boundary in northern OK and southern KS. A shortwave trough will be approaching by this afternoon which should provide lift for storm development along the surface boundaries. The GFS/NAM show a 50-70 kt 500mb jet max entering southern KS by 00 UTC. The NAM shows 30-40kt southerly 850mb winds along a OKC to ICT corridor, with P28 and END located along the western extent of the LLJ. Thefore, wind profiles will be improving during the afternoon and evening.

We decided to chase in southeast Kansas. We drove to Wichita and then to Burden. I didnt like the veered out winds further west. Sure storms could develop out west but the chances for significant tornadoes were very low there. The low level jet was further east as well as lower dewpoint depressions and more backed winds. Storms began developing by 530 pm. A storm developed west of Cambridge and moved east. However i didnt like the fact that the boundary was still sagging south a little. But strong south winds were starting to hold it up. Another storm developed in the warm sector northwest of Ponca City. We decided to target this storm but it fell apart. Then another storm developed west of Ponca City but this storm quickly gusted out. We had a flat tire in the Osage County Indian reservation. We saw a Buffalo as well. Despite the trials and tribulations, we still managed to have a good time and see some interesting storms.

Discussion: 940 am June 8

Heading for Anthony, KS.

Jun 10  2009

Chase partners: Guy Caputo, John Dunne, John Dunne Jr. and Rosa Finch


After a flat tire in the Osage County Indian reservation, we spent the night in Bartlesville, OK. The target area for today is southwest Missouri along the east-west surface boundary. Initiation could be in Dade County MO. However, there is some uncertainty in exactly where the boundary is since there are no surface observations between Joplin and Sedalia. Anyway, convective initiation should occur north of Joplin some distance with storms moving east along the boundary. Supercell chances look good but we are not sure about tornado chances. The low level turning is marginal with ssw winds veering to the west-southwest. I like the 80+ kt 250 mb winds which should help with storm ventilation. There is quite a bit of uncertainty in the exact wind profile as the ruc and nam seem to change from run to run. Anyway, we are giving this a shot.

What happened?

We drove north from Joplin in the early afternoon trying to find the boundary. We knew that towering cumulus would probably be developing. When we got to Lamar, MO, we saw large towering cumulus to our north-northwest. This developed into a storm and another cell was just to the south-southwest. The roads once again gave us big problems. We tried to maneuver ahead of the storms but ended up being too far north. So we drove east and then south and got ahead of the storms. As we did this, another storm exploded ahead of the 1st two, This storm quickly developed a funnel at 532 pm. I reported this to the National Weather Service. Then a tornado developed to our south between 539 and 541 pm which I also reported. I thought we were looking west so I reported the tornado as being west of Schell City when it was actually to the south. This was a  picturesque tornado with an obvious debris cloud starting between 539 and 541 pm. The tornado lasted for a few minutes and took on a variety of shapes.  We decided to stay put and just watch the tornado and take pics instead of trying to maneuver aheadof the storm. Even though this tornado was small, close-up video from other chasers show the tornado ripping up trees. So this was probably a low-end F2 tornado.

June 11  2009

Chase partners: Guy Caputo, John Dunne, John Dunne Jr. and Rosa Finch

What happened?

Today didnt work out.  I didnt play upslope since the really rich moisture has not begun to push into Colorado yet. CAPE values will generally stay at or below 1000 j/kg. We drove to the Texas Panhandle. A storm developed west of Clarendon and was picturesque for awhile. However, this storm was never rotating and became anorexic after moving into a capped environment and died. We ate at the Big Texan that evening.

June 12  2009

Chase partners: Rosa Finch


I plan to position myself between 2 possible target areas tonight (Thursday night). Upslope flow may become a little more unstable by Friday afternoon. There is also a chance of storms in the Texas Panhandle. I will probably take my chances around Limon, especially since the next day should be in Colorado. There is no way I am traveling to southern OK or north TX and face a daunting drive to Limon/Akron for Saturday. Colorado here we come!!  Actually I may use Friday June 2 as a travel day since there could be an early show Saturday June 13 around Akron/Limon.

Update: 1130 am June 12

I plan to target the Simla-Limon-Wild Horse-Punkin Center area for initiation today. Dewpoints are lower further north. Some low level convergence on the eastern part of the Palmer Ridge along with elevated heating should allow for storm development. Storm motion vector should initially be to the east but right turning to the east or southeast is likely.

I took some pictures of old tornado articles in Springfield before slowly moving toward the target area later in the afternoon. Storms developed in my target area but they were never that great. We took a few pictures anyway. We ate at Denny's afterward and there was not much choice.

June 13-15  2009

Discussion: 8 pm June 11

I have high hopes for this period. I plan to spend all 3 days on the central high plains or front range. My target for Saturday is Cheyenne to Chugwater to Wheatland and possibly as far north as Douglas, WY.

June 13  2009

Chase partners: Rosa Finch

Discussion: 10 am June 13

I am fairly optimistic about today.  At 15 UTC, a cool surface ridge extended from eastern Nebraska into southeast Colorado.  This ridge may stay in place all day. However, lee troughing was already occurring across northern CO and southern WY. Winds shifted to the south and southeast across the high plains overnight. The core of a jet streak (125kts) will be located over Gunnison, CO by 00 UTC. Southeast WY will be in the left front quadrant of this jet streak and should help with lift. Also, surface winds may be more backed along a corridor from Scottsbluff to Wheatland to Douglas, WY. The Laramie Mountains may serve as a lifting mechanism as upslope flow strengthens. I plan to stay away from the effects of the cool surface ridge in southeast Colorado. There is a chance of tornadic storms in eastern CO today after storms develop northeast of Denver. But I prefer to stay further north where upper level temperatures are colder and where surface based CAPE values may be higher. Also, a surface low will develop in southern WY in response to the approaching shortwave trough. This may also help to promote backed low level flow and greater vertical wind shear. Also, there will be a gradient in 700mb temperatures between Laramie and Wheatland. Actually, the moist boundary layer may extend up to near 700mb along the frontrange of Wyoming. Capping should erode first along the edge of the 700mb warm plume along the east edge of the Laramie Mountains. I plan to jog north to Chugwater and Wheatland and wait for initiation near the mountains.

What happened?

Low level inflow was lacking in my target area and winds just above the boundary layer were rather weak. So storms developed but these were not tornadic supercells.

Cumulus couds developed west of Cheyenne around midday. We jogged to the north and watched the clouds grow. I took some readings with my kestrel. Towers developed and we watched these with hopeful eyes. A storm developed west of Chugwater but unlike June 5 this storm took a long time to get going and never actually became a supercell. There were a few nice moments though. These pictures were taken of our failed storm as we drove away from it. This was a disappointing day. We still took a few more pictures of storms that evening. We met Dan, Kent, and Nick chasing and we decided to eat together at "Old Chicago" that evening. We drove to Fort Collins and played tennis under the lights that evening with Dan.

June 14  2009

Chase partners: Rosa Finch

Discussion: 10 am June 14

A shortwave trough will approach the high plains of Kansas this afternoon. A small area of strong 700-500mb flow is progged to emerge into far southwest KS, the Oklahoma Panhandle and far southeast Colorado by late afternoon. The GFS/NAM and RUC depict this very well. 700/500mb winds will increase to 35/50kts in this area. An area of strong low level convergence should develop in the Oklahoma  Panhandle as strong southwest winds develop over northeast New Mexico and the western OK Panhandle. Surface dewpoints should rise into the mid 60s by late afternoon with surface based CAPE up to 3000 j/kg.

The new model data do not look good for my initial target area possibly due to ongoing convection in western Oklahoma generating outflow and blocking the moisture return. I plan to chase the Palmer ridge east and southeast of Colorado Springs and hope for a miracle. There could be a late show between Akron and Burlington.

I changed my target area and this was a bad idea. There were tornadoes in southwest Kansas. Storms did develop along the front range. We did see a nice storm north of Limon and it looked interesting for awhile, but outflow from storms to the south kept wrapping around the updraft of this storm.

June 15  2009

Chase partners: Rosa Finch

Our target area the day before was southern Kansas. But since the forecasted boundary in this area was not well defined, I was having doubts by late morning. By late morning and early afternoon, a weak dryline developed, the northern edge of which was located just south of Dodge City. Surface based CAPE values were up to 3000 j/kg. I was hoping that convective initiation would wait until later in the day so that the 40 kt progged low-level jet would be able to ramp up the storm relative helicity values during the evening. This did not happen. Initiation was very early and the low level jet was not a factor. Apparently these birds are fairly common in southwest Kansas. But the vertical wind shear was still sufficient for supercells. A storm exploded just west of Dodge City. The high level storm relative flow was marginal since 300-250mb winds were only 50 kts to the ENE while the storm motion was to the east at 25 kts. The storm produced a nub funnel near the Spearville wind farm which made for a very nice picture.  I watched this storm for quite awhile and it looked awesome. I thought there would be a tornado any time. The storm looked particularly threatening as it approached Offerle and Kinsley. Lots of dust was being kicked up underneath the storm. I decided not to take the east-west road south of Kinsley and this cost me dearly. As soon as I lost sight of the meso the storm produced a tornado. This was the last day of our chase break.

July 20  2009

The left exit region of a jet streak and a mesoscale outflow boundary made for a great chase in central KS. A storm developed southeast of Hays and was initially an awesome supercell for a while and remained nearly stationary. We took quite a few pictures of the storm. The storm was moving slowly so it was easy to chase. After the storm started moving to the south-southeast it became anorexic and shrunk in size until it died.

May 25  2010

Chase partners: Fritz Kruse and Rosa Finch

We intercepted a storm that developed near Campo, CO. We watched this storm for about 3 hours as it repeatedly tried to produce a tornado. Finally at 845 pm CDT, we decided to abandon the storm and head home. We are all hungry and I hadn't eaten all day. Also it was near sunset (9 pm) and we were on dirt roads in the middle of nowhere. As we drove away from the storm, I looked back to the northwest just in case we were missing something and I saw something that looked like a tornado. I stopped the car, got out and snapped pictures of a tornado that lasted for 7 to 10 minutes.

June 9  2010

Unfortunately we chased the wrong storms on this day in eastern WY and the Nebraska Panhandle. A supercell storm developed in eastern Sweetwater county, WY at 0130 UTC about 28 miles north-northwest of Wamsutter, WY. This storm varied in intensity through 05 UTC and progressed all the way to Wheatland, WY and beyond. Baseball sized hail occurred in Wheatland. I suspected that this storm was severe much further west. So I called a few places north of Hanna. Two residences received 2" hail about 13 miles north-northwest of Hanna. These residences were 2 miles apart. A third residence 3 miles further northwest had windows knocked out by large hail. Surface based CAPE values were around 2600 j/kg and the vertical wind shear profile was very impressive. LCL heights were also very low. Based on radar the storm was severe much of the time while over the high terrain (6500-8700 ft). Here is a more zoomed out radar view. Here is a higher slice showing the core of the storm.

June 13  2010

I was not that opsimistic about tornado prospects the night before this event. But after looking at all the data in the morning, I was fairly confident there would be supercells and possibly even tornadoes in the northeast Texas Panhandle along a retreating outflow boundary. The 700-250mb winds were progged to be fairly good across this boundary. I knew the cap would be weak and that storms would develop early. So we left our hotel around 11 am with a sense of urgency. As we drove east from Amarillo to Groom and then north around midday, we could already see towering cumulus in the stratocu breaks off to the north in the vicinity of the boundary. Indeed storms developed fairly early. I checked the temperature and dewpoint after we approached the storms. The storm was just on the cool side of the boundary with temperatures in the mid 70s and dewpoints around 70F along with respectable sfc winds. The fields were flooded from the previous days rains. The first storm was rather interesting. We stayed ahead of this storm followed this storm for awhile and it looked very interesting at times. The initial storm looked very good for awhile and finally moved off to the northeast and weakened. Another storm developed on its flank and this storm showed a lot of promise. We reluctantly took some gravel/dirt roads knowing that some of these could possibly be flooded. But this paid off as we saw our first tornado with the storm at 417 pm. This was a small multivortex tornado. I dont remember which dirt road we were on, but the tornado was south of road 270 in Beaver county, OK to the west of the road.  Then at 420 pm we observed a larger tornado that was wrapped in rain for about 3 minutes until 423 pm. This tornado was perhaps 3 to 5 miles south of Highway 270, but this is a rough estimate.  This ominous swirling cloud caused me to get into my car quickly and head east. We saw a 3rd tornado around 433 pm and the storm structure was more picturesque with this one.

June 17  2010

My wife Rosa and myself chased alone. Sean Lyon was in another car. We occasionally met up and chased together.

A very intense shortwave trough moved across the northern Plains on June 17. A deep surface low tracked from central ND into eastern ND during the afternoon. South and southeast of the low, a cold front swept rapidly across the state at about 40 mph during the afternoon. A warm front developed during the day as cool surface air generated by overnight convection retreated northward. This warm front extended from east of the low to the east into northern MN. Further west, an occluded front extended from the surface low northwestward into southern Saskatchewan. By early afternoon, surface based CAPE values were between 3400 and 4000 j/kg depending on what you use for the surface observation.

Rosa and I were fairly excited about this day. I thought that the best chance of seeing a tornado would be along the warm front underneath the upper jet or in the left front quadrant of the upper jet. But exactly what time would the supercells develop? Where along the warm front would the most intense and most isolated storms develop? We thought it might be an early show. We spent the night in a little place called "The Bunkhouse"  in Washburn, ND located about 40 miles north-northwest of Bismarck. The place was a clinic that was converted into a lodge. Rosa and I slept in the X-RAY room and Sean stayed in the examination room. But why pay $90/night for a place to sleep when little mom and pop places like this one is $40? I am not known for being a tightwad, but I also dont like to throw away money. I was a little depressed from ignoring a tornadic storm near Faith, SD the day before. Since it was a long drive from Bowman, ND, where we ended our chase on June 16, to northeast ND, we opted to drive through 1 am on June 17 to get into striking distance of the target area.When I chase storms, I make every attempt to get to the best area for chasing and in plenty of time. 

We left the motel at 11 am after a late start. Sean left about 30 minutes before us.
I thought that the big show would be in northeast ND. I decided to go east on Highway 200 instead of Interstate 94 since the interstate was too far south. I knew we needed to hurry. We had to punch through a storm west of Carrington. But since it was well north of the front I knew that the chance of being hit by a tornado were minimal. I made it to near Cooperstown by 240 pm and took a picture of the initial towering cumulus. These were hard to see since I was north of the warm front with some low cloud cover. However, I was determined to stay north of the warm front and wait for storms to develop to my south. Then at 311 pm I photographed an incipient CB looking east from Cooperstown. Here is another picture taken at 313 pm. The low clouds had broken north of the front and the surface winds were still from the east-southeast. This storm quickly became tornadic. The first funnel we saw was at 324 pm and 325 pm. We relayed this to the National Weather Service in Dodge City (where I work) and they relayed it to NWS GFK. Then GFK called me to confirm. Perhaps I should have called this in as a funnel cloud since I coudn't verify that it was on the ground. But given this favorable environment for strong tornadoes, I felt a sense of urgency and was in a state of excitement tempered by nervousness. As soon as we saw this funnel we got stuck in road construction!! I was really mad. It took about 10 minutes to get north of the construction. Here is a picture of the storm at 331 pm as we were sitting in construction with the storm moving away from us. We saw a tornado at 337 pm well off to our northeast. We were just south of Finley looking north-northeast. Here is another picture of this tornado taken at 338 pm. I called NWS GFK and notified them of this tornado. After driving to just east of Sharon, I looked off to the east and saw a large CB with a possible tornado underneath at 349 pm!! The suspected tornado was 26 miles away and behind some trees!! I was still on the phone with GFK after I called them and said that the tornado north-northeast of Finley tornado was no longer visible. This tornado was very close to the GFK radar and was in the cone of silence. I was able to corroborate to GFK that the funnel cloud reports from the Mayville area were legit and that there was a tornado in progress.  We got a clearer view of the tornado at 349 pm as we passed over a hill heading east on county road 23 about 4 miles east of Sharon. In this picture you can see the entire storm with tornado at the bottom on the back side of the storm!!  Here is another picture of the tornado taken at 349 by my wife Rosa. We drove a few miles east near the hair-pin curve in the road and took another picture of the tornado at 352 pm with a zoomed in version. We could still see the entire CB!! This is probably about 18-20 miles away. Here is another picture of the tornado and CB at 355 pm. These pictures were taken at 357 pm as the tornado widened. This picture was taken at 359 pm. The tornado may have been at its largest at 401 pm over open country. By 408 pm the tornado contracted in width but was still very intense and was about to inflict F4 damage on a home near the intersection of highways 23 and 15. Here is a picture of the tornado at 414 pm. At 415 pm the tornado was still clearly visible. The tornado is seen roping out at 417 pm.  The tornado is still visible at 418 pm as it continues to rope out. The next tornado occurs around 434 pm about 3 miles east of Emerado. This tornado is not obvious in my picture. I thought it was a tornado at the time and this was confirmed by damage east of Emerado. This tornado continues through at least 438 pm. The new wall cloud looks ominous in this picture at 443 pm and in this picture at 445 pm. A funnel cloud develops by 447 pm and then a probable tornado by 452 pm. Here is the tornado at 454 pm, at 454 pm, at 455 pm , at 456 pm , at 456 pm. Here is another tornado at 503 pm. Here are twin tornadoes at 503 pm. Here is the tornado at 504 pm. Here is a different funnel (tornado) at 506 pm.

Luckily noone was killed by this violent EF4 tornado that traversed a path from just north of Mayville, ND to 7 miles south-southeast of Emerado over a 31 minute period. I do not know if the tornado touched down as early as 347 pm, but when I first saw the base of the storm at 349 pm, a tornado was already in progress. By this time the tornado was probably 3-4 miles north of Mayville. The forward progress of this tornadic storm was 33-38 mph.

Here is a radar loop for the event and a more zoomed out version.

Sean ended up chashing along the cold front and saw tornadoes near Cooperstown and then a bigger one in western MN near Fertile.

June 20  2010

Chase partners: Dan Bikos, Nick Mirsky and Rosa Finch

Radar Loop

I was fairly confident that tornadoes would occur on this day. The surface based CAPE was 2300 j/kg at 12 UTC in Cheyenne based on the 12z surface observation and the 12 UTC sounding from Grand Junction. My forecast for that day was that a storm would develop near the Chugwater-Wheatland Convergence Zone and over the mountains southwest of Casper. I also believed that a storm would develop near the mountains southwest of Douglas per my morning discussion below. We arrived to our southern target area around Wheatland by early afternoon and storms were already developing. So I decided to chase further south instead of in my northern target. Two storms developed near Wheatland and the northern one looked like it would produce a tornado for awhile. Then the northern storm died and shortly after that the southern one died. However, the outflow from the southern storm helped initiate a storm over the mountains west of Chugwater. We thought this storm might meet the same demise, so we abandoned the storm and raced up to Douglas where it was clear over a wide area with plenty of heating, strong southeast winds and high dewpoints. A storm developed just northeast of Casper and moved northeast. Here is a picture of the storm at 4 pm. This picture was taken west of Glendo at 415 pm looking northwest. This picture was taken at 434 pm near Douglas. We took route 59 north and watched the storm to our northwest and eventually west. This was a beautiful LP storm. I took a 23 UTC surface observation about 15 miles north-northeast of Douglas. The T/TD were 75F/59F and the wind was from 150 deg at 20 kts. Plugging this temperature and dewpoint at 835 mb into the 12 UTC sounding from Riverton gives 4300 j/kg surface based CAPE!! The vertical wind shear profile was excellent with strong southeasterlies at low levels and moderate SW to WSW flow at high levels. A funnel cloud developed around 517 pm MDT. Here is a picture of the funnel at 519 pm when the storm was about 22 miles west-southwest of Bill. We called this in to the weather service in Riverton and they relayed it to the CYS office. We were too far away from the tornado to tell the exact time the tornado touched down. But the tornado lasted for 3 to 5 minutes and was over by 528 pm. Here are pics of the ropeout stage of the tornado that lasted through 526 pm. The storm stayed strong through 537 pm and then slowly weakened. A tornado warning was issued for this storm at 549 pm. We thought that there might be additional tornadoes with this storm, but it weakened after moving from the high terrain 5500-6100 ft to the lower terrain of 4800-5100 ft. Here is a picture of this tornado in the ropeout stage from much closer range (courtesy of Douglas Budget). I was hesitant to leave the Chugwater area, but I strongly supported the team decision to go north and try to catch a storm in a more sunny/warm environment. We were unsure whether areal distribution of CIN (increasing markedly to the east) would allow for storms in the Chugwater to go tornadic. One thing we knew for sure is that any tornadoes would have to occur close to the  I-25 corridor and this is what did happen after we abandoned the Chugwater area. However, given the storm structure that we encountered in Converse county, I would not trade this for what was seen by storm chasers near Chugwater. Also, were are the only storm chasers that I know of on the Converse county storm, which makes this chase particularly fulfilling. The following was my informal forecast discusion from the morning of June 20.

"Ive looked at many eastern WY tornado cases dating back to 1940s and todays parameters are on the extreme side of what is typically associated with tornado events. Im sitting in Cheyenne right now. I should have stayed in Wheatland/Chugwater but I wanted to visit this Italian restaurant in Cheyenne. LOL. I just used my kestrel and got 65/60 for T/TD which exactly matched the observation from KCYS. In fact, I plugged these values into the 12 UTC skewt from GJT and lowered the starting sfc pressure to 808 mb and estimated about 3000 j/kg sfc based CAPE!! This is outrageous for 12z for CYS. Its is rare to get 500-300mb temps so cold in late June in this area. So CAPE values will be about as high as they ever get for this area today. The shear profile looks great too. Right now im excited, but im very nervous about not getting on the right storm. The road network is very unforgiving. Also, ive seen more road construction than Ive ever seen in my 18 years of storm chasing. In fact when I was in northeast ND on the 17th, I had to watch a tornado move away from me and out of sight when I was stuck in construction for 10 minutes!! Anyway, Ill probably head to Wheatland and then decide later whether to target storms that develop on the mountains southwest of Douglas, or to go further south to Chugwater. I wish we had a 19z sounding from Douglas/Chugwater area today. Im thinking there willl be a TOR within 70 miles of Glendo, WY. Of course there is not much to hit east of I25. One good thing about today is that CAPE values shoudnt rapidly drop off as you head into NE as they so often do."