Friday, March 13, 2009

March 9th western OK night supercells

Started the day off at work in Jenks, OK. Worked for a few hours, then begged my bosses to let me off early(thanks Eagle and Joshua). My target was the Weatherford area but people were trying to talk me into going to the KS/OK border. I decided to take 75s to 40w to keep focused on my South target. I had been having some car troubles for about a week, and I thought I had it fixed. As I neared the Okeene area, my tahoe was still having trouble so I stopped and had my fuel filter changed. After a few miles, same spitting and sputtering came back. So I did some internet research, and decided to replace my crankshaft position sensor. I bought a new one, found the old one, took it out, and half of it broke off inside the crankshaft. AWESOME. So I went back into the autoparts store, and bought some things I thought MAYBE could be used to pull, pry, or squeeze it out. After wrestling, screaming, cursing, and pleading with it for 30 minutes, she came right out. So I plugged it all back in, and headed W right at sunset, and the storms had just started cookin. I met my first cell of the day near Amber, OK and the structure was amazing. I wish there had been more lightning, but the cell was weakening. She had an amazing mothership structure though. Here's a picture of the early stages of that storm

I decided to just North to catch the next cell near Union City. As I neared the storm, the lightning was intense and the supercellular structure made my mouth water. I caught the storm a few miles East of Union City, and just as I set up the camera, the storm weakened and the lightning died off. I was very angry but the structure was still very beautiful.

As this cell weakened and drifted over the OKC metro, I dropped S to Minco to wait on the next storm. It looked good in the distance, but weakened as it got closer, and was outflow crap by the time it got to me.

So I shot some pictures, and headed to Yukon for some late night Wendy's action. While chatting about the weather and chasing with the dude working the drive through, lightning struck a transformer about 1/2 a mile in front of me. It was awesome. I pulled into a parking spot to eat and watch the lightning show. Before I could even put it in park, another bolt hit a transformer about 200 yards to my right, showering sparks onto Garth Brooks BLVD. It was awesome. I finished my dinner, and headed to Stillwater. A small LP supercell blew up near Guthrie and was drifting off to the NE So I tried to catch it. Every few minutes, it would spit out a monster CG from the base of the storm, and she was a beauty. I finally got to where I could take some pictures, but she was too far away and the lightning was obscured by BS clouds between the storm and I, so I headed on to Stillwater to sleep. It's always nice to get out and chase, but the storms all seemed to weaken as they were getting going. Low instability-high shear days suck.

334 miles.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

February 10, 2009 C OK Moderate Risk

Started of the day changing my tires at home in Glenpool, OK. Randy Rhea and I scooped up Josh Gregory(progress in color) and headed S. Our original target was Denton, TX but before we could get that far S, the dryline started to blow up. We were in walmart in McAlester, came out to the truck, and the radar had gone from dead to 3 supercells in a matter of 15 minutes. So we backtracked to I40 and headed W. The first cell had already smashed cars with baseball hail in Yukon, OK, and was in the process of tearing up mansions in Edmond, OK. We jumped N off of 40 to intercept near Langston. We could see the monster wall cloud, and it was a ground scraper(see video). There was definitely a tornado on the ground, but I'm not sure we were seeing it. We were about 1 minute late crossing the Cimmaron River, so we were behind the tornado, driving through quarter sized hail to catch up. I'm pretty sure the tube crossed 33 about thirty seconds ahead of us. Which is REALLY scary seeing as how no one on our side of the tornado(a few chasers, spotters, AND A FREAKING SCHOOL BUS) could see it due to the rain/hail core. We finally got through the hail, and noted a damage path that was about 300yds wide, before noticing that the tornado was roping out right next to us(check video). We report the tornado and damage to KTUL, and follow the cycling wall cloud into Stillwater. At this point, KTUL wanted me to stop and send the video in. The storm was looking cold and rainy by this time, and we decided to hang back and wait for the second cell while uploading video for Frank. The next cell had a very impressive wall cloud, and the storm snuck up on us faster than expected. We had parked in front of a home on a county road, and the owner came out and chatted a bit, and another local had driven past us. I was finishing the upload when the guy took off running for his house, and we all looked ahead and saw a brief spin-up about 100yds down the road. It was a very small, but very intense vortex. I couldn't film, because the tape was in a bad spot, but luckily Randy snapped this picture.

At first we thought it was a gustnado, but we noted a bit of cloud-base rotation with a lowering seen in the picture. It was only on the ground for about 5 seconds before disappearing, none-the-less, I called 911 and reported it. We headed E to reposition, and followed the storm to ok51 and decided to let it go, as the terrain N of there gets pretty bad, and the storm was looking just as cold as the first one. So we dropped back and waited for the next one. It never did anything, and we decided to head S and hope for some more cells to go up ahead of the line. The storms never fired, so we jumped on to 44 in Stroud, and headed home.

461 miles. 4 supercells, 2 tornadoes at close range, and 1 hell of a first chase for 2009.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

June 12th KS tornadoes.

We left from OKC and met up with Michael Ratliff and his buddy. We met some storms near Strong City, KS and saw some amazing rotation. At one point we were looking straight up into a funnel(video soon). It's been a few months since this happened, so I don't have many details. we caught a stovepipe tornado not far from Strong City, or Cottonwood Falls(same tornado as Brandon Ivey, i believe) and then followed it east, and saw one more brief touchdown. At one point we ran into the Samaras crew. anyways, I will have video up sometime within the next month. Hopefully.

538 miles.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hurricane IKE, SCTVs first hurricane!

Randy had to work so he could not make this chase, so I invited James Machen, a buddy of mine who had never been on a real chase. He was super excited, and understood the mental a physical strain of a hurricane chase. So on Thursday, the 11th, we left Tulsa with high hopes, tons of redbull, and a lifetime supply of beef jerky.
We stopped in Tyler Texas for some rest, that we would for sure be lacking the next night. By now, it was a for sure night landfall, which sucks, but we were already half way there. We met up with Tyler Costantini and Bart Comstock as we arrived in Houston, and we all agreed to head to the coast as the outer bands of Ike were whipping ashore. We met the Hurricanes first rain band near Seabrook, where a lot of media and other Hurricane chasers were riding out the storm in a Hotel. We geared up and walked down to the shore, which was already flooding the lower level of the parking garage with 6 feet of water. We played around in the 60mph winds for about an hour, filming the trees whipping, and parts of the side of the Hotel being ripped apart by the 80mph gusts, then decided to head back to Houston to ride it out in a parking garage. We had decided against going to Galveston with the experienced Cane chasers, as all 4 of us were newbs. We found a sturdy 4 story parking garage and set up shop there around midnight of the 13th. We put on our rain gear, and headed out on foot to film downtown being pummeled by the now Cat 2 hurricane. With the now 70mph sustained winds, things were starting to get interesting. Since it was dark, we missed a lot of the action. There was some tree damage beginning and small debris starting to blow around, but it was still less intense than we had expected. After being harassed by some security guards for filming on "private property" we decided to go back to the garage and wait for the winds to pick up. Around 3, the winds picked up to about 80mph sustained with gusts up to around 95, and we decided to head out again. Trees were starting to come down, and it was getting pretty interesting. We spent much of the time on the top of the garage, feeling the wrath of the storm. We had a blast playing around in the wind and rain. It was amazing. I had never felt winds like this for more than a few seconds at a time. We had been hearing some extreme damage being done all throughout the downtown area. I decided to watch for small spin-up tornadoes and I believe we hay have seen one about a mile North of our location. I saw what looked to be a cone tornado with 4 power-flashes illuminating the funnel. There was never any report of damage by this so I decided not to count it. Around 4AM, the EyeWall was making landfall so we decided to head out in our trucks to survey the damage that had been done, and see if we could catch some video of the carnage taking place. Large trees were being uprooted, even larger trees were being blown completely over, and the streets were littered with debric from the buildings sawying around us. Office windows were being shattered by the 110mph gusts, and office supplies were raining from above. We drove around for about 20 minutes, then glass and debris from the Chase tower starting falling onto our vehicles so we headed back to the garage again. After a quick power-nap, the sun was rising and we decided to venture out and take a peek at the damage. It was complete destruction. Stop lights laying everywhere, every tree blown over, every building missing all of the windows, and major flooding of most of the bridges in the area. Our original route out of town had 5 feet of water over it. After taking pictures of the wreckage, we decided to try to find a way back to Barts Uncle's house in North Houston. The whole area sustained heavy wind damage. We get back to the house around 8am and decided to catch some sleep before the drive home.

1114 miles.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

May 24th tornadoes NC OK

I started this day at work, watching the OFB situation unfold, and expected another day of tornadoes to the north, with BS storms on my end of the system. As the day went on, I realised i needed to be on I35 and 412. With it being Saturday, I couldn't just leave work. So I watched all the chasers streaming video of ever shape of tornado possible. My boss even watched with me, as the trunk twister destroyed a pig barn. live from a helicopter. The groans of agony finally led my boss to let me off work. A week previous to this, I blew the engine head in my Tahoe(im an idiot) and was now completely broke, and could only drive my 2000 rear wheel drive Crown Vic. I love ole' blue. we've been through some storms, but I really am not comfortable chasing muddy OK county roads with a RWD vehicle. But I had missed hundreds of tornadoes this week, so I was tired of it. I picked up my girlfriend Daniele, and we busted ass to Stillwater, OK. We met the storm near 35 and 51, with a stovepipe starting to occlude/rope and a new truncated cone on the ground just N of the occluding tube. Here you can barely see both tornadoesOrlando Double

OrlandoTornado1 I set up on a hill to shoot video and admire Daniele's first 2 tornadoes. We stayed out ahead of the monster, watching for new tornadoes. There was one more quick rope-of-a-spin-up about a half mile W of us at one point, when we were struggling through the mud trying to avoid hail. Pretty scary, but we made it out. Followed the storm all the way to Red Rock, then lets it go at sunset.

320 miles. It was awesome to get Daniele her first 3 tornadoes on her first chase. She must be good luck. It's kinda cool that I didn't miss out on the entire week. 3 is better than none. Of course i know people that saw 15 tornadoes this day, and 25 more in the days leading up to this. Lesson learned. Vehicle maintanence is key to a sucessful season.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

May 10th tornado update.

It's kinda funny how things turn out. A few days after the 10th we were doing some local chasing near Purcell, and I received a call from Michelle of the MO national guard. She wanted to talk about SGT Eddie Hukill. Apparently the young man I drove to the hospital was a Sergeant for the Missouri National Guard. She wanted to thank me for saving his life. The doctors said that had he gotten there 5 minutes later, he likely would have died.

It's just strange how me getting stuck in the mud near Chetopa led me to save a man's life. I thought my day was going to end like all of my other "almost got a nader" days where I just mope around until the next chase. But for some reason, I felt like I needed to keep following this storm, which was now moving at 60+mph. I can't explain why. I knew I wasn't going to catch it. Strange. I'm not one to force my beliefs onto people, but I believe there were higher powers at work.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

May 10th Tornado Devastation

Well, I had to beg my boss to let me off early. Thanks Kevin and Joshua. I left at 3 and busted @$$ north on 75 to catch a Supercell already in progress. Well, by the time i got to it, it had weakened, and a storm ahead of it had strengthened. It was an HP mess, so I tried to intercept the storm that had just started rotating S of the HP mess. I met the storm near Chetopa. There was a confirmed large tornado on the ground just S of Chetopa. I was just W of Chetopa and I couldn't see it. I could have made it, but my S option was flooded by storms earlier this week. So I kept pushing E behind the now right turning storm. I needed to drop S ASAP. I made it to Baxter Springs and decided to hit 44 to get ahead of the storm, and drop S again to intercept near Seneca. Well, as I neared Seneca, it was obvious my chase was over. The storm was screaming SE at 60mph and there was extreme tornado damage in the towns of Seneca, Racine, and Neosho, MO. I came upon a small community of residential victims, most of which had minor injuries. I made sure they had help on the way, and tried to keep going. About 1/4 of a mile further, I came into a valley with homes that were once big and beautiful, completely demolished. Cars thrown around like toys. The hillside was scoured clean of grass and trees, and littered with the belongings of those who lived nearby. It was a war-zone. I came upon more victims who had ridden the beast out in a small van. Luckily, they were next to a small ridge and the worst winds jumped right over them, but a large tree branch landed right on the front windshield, smashing the front 1/2 of the van. 4 of the 5 occupants were fine and only sustained minor injurys, but the driver had major bleeding from a gash on his head. there were ambulances on the way, but they were having trouble getting past downed trees and powerlines, so I told him and one of his friends to get in the Tahoe. I tried to get them to Neosho, but there was major damage all the way there, so I decided to run them up to Joplin. I had to drive through trees to get through the damage. The 911 dispatcher was very helpful and gave me directions to Freeman Hospital in Joplin, MO. The young guy with the head injury kept asking where we were and if his wife and kids were ok. Luckily, their house was about 1/2 mile from the damage path, and they were fine. I dropped them at the hospital, and told the nurses to get ready for a busy night due to a large damaging tornado 10 miles S of them. We were the first tornado victims there. I went back to where I picked them up to let the other victims what hospital he was at and see if they were all ok. They had rides on the way and thanked me. I shot some damage video for about an hour at the mercy of the local Sherriffs. I was in tears pretty much the whole time. It unbelievable how fast it all happened. One minute you're driving to a church buddies house for dinner and the next theres grapefruit sized hail smashing your windows as a mile wide F3 tornado barrels into you and drops a 100 year old tree on your car. Its all very surreal. The whole thing hasn't really sunk in yet. I must have been in the zone or something because it was all just a blur.

Overall a terrible day. Many, many fatalities from this storm, and others as this system spawned tornadoes from KS all the way through SC and GA. My prayers go out to the families and friends of the victims.

407 miles. I've decided to take some first responder classes and some emergency management training classes. I don't like the feeling of seeing people in need and not being able to help.