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.

May 8th, KS slight risk squall line

Well today, Chris Bishop, Mitch, and Josh Gregory went to OKC to skate and hang out. I decided to take them to KS to chase some storms. There was a supercell that was already going, so we tried to meet it in Kingman CO. well, the whole system was squalling out, but we intercepted a notch in the line. There was a persistent Meso-Vortex wall cloud, for a good 45 minutes. Accidentally met up with Tyler Costantini and Jay Cazel. We were overtaken by the monster complex of crap. So we went home.

431 miles.

May 7th text message marathon/storm chase. minus the storms.

So I started this day off in Glenpool. My best friends, Randy Rhea and Josh Gregory, tagged along today. Pretty boring day. Drove to Paris, TX, met up with Randy Hicks and the outlaw crew. Michael Ratliff showed up. Right as Ratliff showed up, his wife called, and said she could see a tornado(landspout) from their front yard(Yukon, OK). Fantastic. He drove to TX and missed a nader in his front yard. So a few hours go by, our storm died, waited some more. I went into a gas station to get some food and use the little boys room, and when I returned to the car, I had 4 missed calls and 23 text messages. There was a tornado warning issued for southern Tulsa CO and instead of turning on the tv or taking cover, everyone that i know decided top call me or text me for info. TURN ON YOUR FREAKING TV'S PEOPLE! I AM NOT A WEATHER TIP HOTLINE! anyways, I guess there were brief touchdowns in Bixby and Broken Arrow. Our storm had gusted out and had a cool whales mouth but we decided to drive home. the end.

406 miles. Meh.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

May 1st, Pawnee/Osage Co. Tornado-fest!!!

What a day. Started off at work in Jenks forecasting throughout the morning. My savior showed up to work for me, to whom I owe this entire chase, Joshua Giddens. So I left at 1pm to get the car ready and head N to Coffeyville, KS. I stopped in Caney to eat some Sonic. Met up with Michael Ratliff, and we watched the cap erode and eventually break. We intercepted the first "cell" just S of Sedan, KS. The northern one looked better, so Michael went after it, and I stayed to watch the southern cell struggle, and to watch the northern cells line together. So I dropped S into Oklahoma where the cap was breaking with a storm in Oklahoma Co, and some storm just firing right over Stillwater. I went south despite the terrible terrain, so that even if I did bust, I would be in the KTUL viewing area and get paid for any video. So I drop down to Fairfax, where I meet a left-moving LP supercell that was splitting off of the now Tornado Warned cell. She was a beauty.

I keep punching S through Osage Co and eventually cross the Arkansas River on the worst bridge I had ever seen. I mean, had there not been a tornado reported on the ground, I wouldn't
have crossed this bridge. The whole way across I was white-knuckling the steering wheel. So i get across the bridge, and turn W to intercept the wall cloud. It was very nice.

I get to within about 2 miles and stop in a good clearing. It displayed very good motion and finally debris becomes visible. Tornado #1

So I call 911 and report it, and take off to the West to get closer to it. It picks up for a minute, then puts down another tornado, that went from just debris to wedge in a matter of seconds. Tornado #2

I blast through some stop signs to get even closer, hoping it will cross the road within 1/2 of a mile of me. It picks up again and I set up about a mile E of the wall cloud. It cycles for a few minutes, then spins up a skinny little rope for about 10 seconds, then its gone. Tornado #3

About a minute later, a rather large cone funnel appears but isn't on the ground. It had the "Im gonna be a multiple-vortex monster" look to it, but only spun up one quick debris swirl before dying out. Tornado #4

after another 2 minutes of good motion, a nice stovepipe hits the ground within 2 seconds of appearing. #5
It quickly grows into a fat cone with multiple-vortices screaming around it.

This was a strong tornado, luckily it was in a rural area. I keep filming while repositioning, following it N up muddy-ass county roads. The Meso becomes smaller and smaller and eventually wraps itself around the top of the now truncated-cone-stinger. At this point, the tornado was coming sideways out of the updraft, and then dropping straight down to the ground.

With a new meso to the E, I watch this bad boy rope out, and reposition to the E. Theres already a tornado on the ground with this new meso when I find a clearing. So I set the camera up and let it capture the next few tornadoes. Tornado 7 happens and dissipates while #6 rages on


#8 ropes out and 9 appears
cycling again

and the #7 still going as the storm is moving out of reach.

342 miles. What a day. My video of #2 and #5 was aired on KTUL, and then on The Weather Channel, numerous ABC platforms such as GMA, and World News Tonight. I also sold it to the Associated Press, who aired it on CNN Headline News. Over 6800 miles without a good tornado will make you feel like its a bad year, then with one slow-moving cyclic-supercell, the season is salvaged.

Disclaimer:For the haters and neigh sayers, there were actually 9 different tornadoes. Not 5 tornadoes that skipped a few times. If I counted tornadoes like that(some people do) there would have been over 15. Some didn't show any visible damage during surveys. Some people say that the 7th tornado was on the ground for over an hour.

April 23rd, Moderate Risk. NC TX. 5 TX Busts in a row?

Well, you can pretty much sub in the last chase for this one, as it was almost exactly the same. actually, it's been a few weeks and I hadn't written up a report because I thought the last report was for this day.

Randy Rhea and I headed out from Edmond the day before to stay at my Mom's house in Decatur. Later that night, Randy and Lisa(the Outlaw Chasers) showed up. We woke up early to head west towards Breckenridge. DeLorme informed me of an imaginary highway in an imaginary town(W of Albany on TX180), and the storms bright green core was fast approaching, so we ducked S to get in position. There was a nice velocity couplet to the N in the core, and another one to the S. I would have much rather stayed for the N one, but road options made the decision for us. We jogged out ahead of it, and enjoyed some decent structure with an AMAZING lightning display. Stayed out ahead of it through Albany and shot N out of town to watch it come in. Looked like junk the whole time, so we caught the next storm. Also an HP mess, but we had to chase it. Punched through it to see if there was really a tornado. there wasnt, but as we approached the wall cloud, there was a nice needle funnel starting to poke out. It never touched the ground, and we dropped S to weigh our options. We decided that the only cell isolated enough to produce tornadoes was to our E and we let it go. Randy and Lisa went after it and were about 5 minutes behind a strong tornado. We dicked around, got some dinner, went by my Mom's again, then headed back to Edmond. Randy and Lisa stayed at the KGB house in Edmond, and we would discuss chasing in KS the next day.

847 miles. 3 "supercells" that never really looked capable, but thats how TX has treated us so we'll deal with it. However, finding a funnel in that mess of a storm was definitely a good feeling. Eh.