June 7, 2015 Illinois Convection and Amazing Optics!

Okay so this post is going to more or less be about the amazing optics we had this evening instead of the convection. We had a good convective line move through and produce some bursts of wind (60-70 mph) with tree damage in several areas, your typical June severe thunderstorm. What followed though during the sunset period was nothing typical, one of the best post storm skies I’ve seen in a long time. Check it out below!

Stormy Sunset Sunset Rainbow Mammatus

Both of the above shots were taken at the same time facing different directions. The top shot was facing west towards the actual sunset. Incredibly textured clouds above with mammatus and a sky that looked like someone lit on fire. To the east we had more mammatus developing and then a double rainbow as well. Lightning was occurring in this area and I tried for a shot of it, but no cigar. It was also pouring rain, so my lens kept getting water on it. Oh well, win some, lose most 🙂

I took very little photos before this event here though, so while the convection during the afternoon/evening was strong/severe, it was not photogenic at all, I have a few crappy cell phone pictures that I won’t post.


June 5, 2015 Eastern Colorado Multiple Tornadoes!

Will have to excuse my brief quality on these accounts, essentially putting up place holders until I can add more photographs. After the incredible Simla, CO event the day before, decided we should head back west to play the next day (June 5th) which featured an identical setup nearly. 3000 J/KG of CAPE backed up against the front range with strong moisture return. A couple cyclical tornado producing supercells over Kit Carson County, Colorado were the result of this. I documented 4 to 5 tornadoes this day and even one instance of 2 on the ground at the same time! Here are a couple shots of mine from that day

Strong Stovepipe Tornado

Tornado #2 for the day (above), this was the first real photogenic tornado the storm put down after a brief tornado initially.

Flagger Colorado Tornado

The biggest tornado of the day I observed, had a satellite develop just to the east of it before I took this and roped out quickly. The structure here was halfway decent

I will upload more photos as I get them processed, however this was a pretty good redemption day after missing the crazy event the day before, though with the show I got in KS I was still somewhat satisfied.

***Also of note, with a count of 4 tornadoes on this chase day, that brings me up to 17 total for the 2015 season. Hoping to get a couple more chases in this year before I call it a year, however as of June 14th, nothing really pops out to me, stay tuned!***

June 4, 2015 EPIC Kansas Supercell *A Beast*

June 4th featured a couple different plays in which one could choose from. Either the warm frontal boundary near the KS/NE state line further east which featured explosive amounts of instability (~5000 J/KG) along with strong shear but a formidable capping inversion. Or you could play the front range again and gamble with that working out, as the past couple days had not really worked out. I chose the KS/NE state line this time and picked a target from Alma, NE to Phillipsburg, KS. I arrived in the area fairly early and sat and waited and waited and waited. Some of the composite indices were completely off the charts and of the kinds I hadn’t seen since 16-18 June 2014.

stpc_15060421 ehi3_15060421 sbcp_15060422

This time the cap was stronger though with stout warm air aloft, so we needed a well timed disturbance. The morning disturbance set off storms across Central Nebraska north of the front. So being on the tail end of this disturbance, I was betting on a cap bust by mid-afternoon when no storms had formed despite an incredible environment.

7pm finally came around and storms finally formed in an arc from SW NE back to SW KS, several quickly became tornado warned and the chase was on. The first storm we came upon near Atwood, KS was un-remarkable and quickly died, however the second storm further south near Seldon (I-70 area) was off the charts incredible. This was the first view I got of the storm coming south looking through the vault of it into incredible clear air (cell phone image):


Epic Supercell

And the structure/lightning combo that followed that was out of this world amazing…


And then the after-dark lightning show was the best I had seen topping my previous top show from June 2009.

Epic Lightningj

All in all this was an amazing chase day despite not logging any tornadoes. The storm was tornadic, and may have even produced a tornado, however I could not visualize it. The structure though was a career best for me and incredible to say the least. The Colorado target panned out though with a cyclic supercell dropping several tornadoes near Simla. The next day would offer tornadic redemption for me though…

June 3, 2015 Gournsey, Wyoming Supercell!

The day before this, June 2nd, featured a warm front play in Southern North Dakota, however by the time I reached this supercell, it had mostly disintegrated. Thus the day was a bust, and no post was made for it

Okay, now that I got THAT out of the way, the target for June 3rd was North Central Colorado into Southern Wyoming where strong moisture/instability was forecast to back against the mountains. Models were showing CAPE values up to 4000 J/KG for the front range, which is completely unheard of. The day of the event came around and instability values were looking much more tame with values only reaching 2500 J/KG. Storms struggled to stay organized all day long as they moved off the mountains, they would just go up and then die. Almost giving up on the day, a storm fired right around 7pm and persisted through dark. Only got a couple decent shots of it, had some pretty good structure, but no tornadoes.

Wyoming storm

Guernsey, Wyoming Storm

The storm tracked through Gournsey, Wyoming state park and was similar to chasing in Arkansas, mountainous and lots of winding roads. So once dark fell, we gave up the chase.

June 1, 2015 Black Hills Magic!

Documented/Photographed an exceptionally photogenic and stationary supercell north of Rapid City, South Dakota this evening. The storm dropped copious amounts of large hail and produced several wall clouds, however no tornadoes occurred. Here are a couple shots I captured of this storm as it spun in place for quite some time (over an hour). Had several inflow bands and a striated mesocyclone. Started the day in Cheyenne, Wyoming and moved northward to near the NE corner of Wyoming sitting near the SD border all day. Headed east after seeing a supercell fire near Rapid City along a mesoscale boundary and punched through the core and documented this beast in all its glory! Successful chase day despite 0 tornadoes!

South Dakota Supercell

Beautifully textured supercell right before sunset!

South Dakota Structure

Beautiful supercell (wide angle shot) with dissipating wall cloud.

Looking forward to another chase day possibly in North Dakota tomorrow (6/2/15). Stay tuned for more!

May 16, 2015 Elmer, OK Violent Wedge Tornado

May 16th had arrived and we had awoken in North Platte, Nebraska. To our surprise, SPC went with a 15% hatched tornado probability with the possibility of a widespread tornado outbreak across the plains. I had originally only planned on chasing Friday and heading back because I wasn’t impressed with Saturday. However when I saw the strong wording and some of the mesoscale models were showing, I had to chase it. I figured there could be something noteworthy


However despite these high probabilities, there was a large shield of precipitation and cloud cover over much of Kansas and Nebraska. For that reason, I decided it was best that I get south to at least the KS/OK border. We headed south early on and made excellent timing, only stopping in Hays for breakfast. By the time we got to the border, it was early afternoon and I noticed a large area of clearing across Western OK/Eastern TX panhandle and decided that area was probably the best shot of seeing a tornado. I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of heading back into Texas after being damn near Wyoming yesterday, but hey, I’ve came this far, why not? Storms started firing fairly early on across the panhandle (~1pm).


We intercepted these near the TX/OK border and they looked like outflow dominant crap, so I decided we should head south towards the cells coming out of Northwest Texas into Southwest Oklahoma.


The cell near Paducah, TX was really spiking my interest. Parameters in this area were great with a strong 70 knot jet core punching into this area along with great backed 850 flow. Instability was fairly strong as well with values reaching over ~4000 J/KG with strong low level helicity in excess of 300 m2/s2. This would support a strong tornado threat as we got into the evening.

Eventually our cell near Paducah pushed into the Quanah, Texas area and had incredible structure albeit appearing a bit elevated at the time. I followed it east toward Chillicothe, Texas where it appeared to lower in and ingest a storm merger from the southwest which caused it go nuclear pretty much. As we crossed the border into Oklahoma via highway 283, I noted a massive bowl lowering to my southwest and sure enough a large tornado was developing (will post photos later)

We crossed the river into Oklahoma and a large violent wedge was ongoing at the time with incredible motion. The structure above was extremely spectacular too with a large alligators mouth inflow banding feeding into it from the east. We were in perfect position south of Elmer, Oklahoma as the beast approached…

Elmer Radar


Radar indicated a couplet of 191kt intensity as the beast neared Elmer growing to over 200 knots as it passed by to the south of town by no more than a couple miles. No doubt had this monster tornado moved through town the damage would have been catastrophic. Luckily it mostly impacted rural areas with damage being minimal despite its size and intensity. The tornado managed to cross the road no more than a few hundred yards in front of us and I have attached a few video stills and a DSLR capture to show our experience. The roar of this tornado was incredible as it also exhibited violent lifting vortices similar to other huge tornadoes (Andover 91 and Bowdle 2010) as well as multiple horizontal vortices (IE rolling pin effect) that are also associated with violent intensity tornadoes.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 10.21.09 PM Lightning Wedge

Lightning striking through a monster wedge tornado on 2 occasionsas its just to our west.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 1.06.03 PM

Violent wedge tornado with huge collar cloud extending around the west side. This also indicative of higher end violent tornadoes. As the tornado passed to my east it exhibited some very wild multiple vortex structures and also many horizontal vortices as well. I shot this DSLR still as it sideswiped a building although missing it to the north.

Elmer OK Violent Tornado

We got blasted by softball size hail here which destroyed our windshield and dented up the body of the vehicle along with extremely strong RFD winds. We clocked a wind gust of 105.2 mph before the hail destroyed our anemometer. We tried getting back north and east to get ahead and a higher contrast view of the tornado again, however we managed to stay with the wedge making out the sides through the heavy rain and hail and then intercept another strong tornado east of Synder, Oklahoma which I shot a few stills of (that I will add later). This tornado we almost drove into as it crossed the highway ahead of us and touched down, tearing up trees in the field no more than about 150 yards ahead of us. We got east and out of the storm after that crossed and decided to call it a day heading to Norman with our vehicle battered up and already satisfied from our harrowing close up intercept. Here are a few shots of the damage we incurred from the wind driven softball sized hail


Dents on the corners of the vehicle


Wide shot showing the massive stone which clipped the front of the car, I measured the dent being about 5-6″ across which is one of the largest hail dents I’ve ever seen (and yes it is a hail dent!).


Shattered wind shield


Another close up of this monster sized hail dent.

Conclusion: All in all this was an incredible chase day tracking a long lived, violent tornado that crossed the red river into Oklahoma. Overall the damage was minimal and thus the tornado only got a lower rating (high end EF2) because it impacted very few structures. Had it gone through Elmer, the story would have been VERY different, thankfully it did not. I have little doubt though this was a high end violent type tornado (by the indicators I’ve described above). Definitely one of my top 5 tornado intercepts and so far the best day of the year for myself!

Tornadoes: 2

Largest Hail: 4.75″ (Softball)

Strongest Wind: 105.2 MPH (Measured)

Note: This also brings my tornado count for 2015 to 13 tornadoes so far (as of May 26th). A pretty decent year so far!

May 15, 2015 Western Nebraska Supercells & Tornado

Another week, another chase trip. So far I’ve managed to chase pretty much every day in the month of May and had pretty good results so far with 10 tornadoes being documented. This day would yield my 11th as a brief tornado in far western Nebraska. I have yet to get the photographs processed from this day so I’ll have them up when I do, but figured I’d post the log before I forget it already lol. Had been watching this setup several days out which looked like a fairly high CAPE/high shear setup in Central/Eastern Nebraska. NAM was advertising in excess of 5000 J/KG of CAPE in addition to ~300+ SRH and very strong bulk shear values. After several runs of this, I jumped on the bandwagon and decided to head out. As the event got closer, it looked less and less impressive and further west too. By the day of, we were targetting the Wyoming border, however terrain out here was higher so parameters didn’t need to be off the charts. I still decided to go because the next day featured a possible severe weather outbreak (which I was also leary of actually happening *see next log for that*).

Day 1 Tornado Probs

Day 1 Tornado Probs

SPC chose to go with SLIGHT risk tornado probabilities for this event covering much of the high plains. To make a long story short, we drove out there making excellent timing, arriving in Sidney, Nebraska by lunch, ate, and met up with several other chasers. Storms fired in Northern Colorado and moved north into our area becoming supercellular and even tornado warned. We noted several wall clouds, funnels, and even a brief tornado touchdown. Despite this being a fairly impressive supercell early on, it failed to produce anything highly significant for us. The rotation on the wall cloud after the 1st tornado was fairly strong as well, so I expected something big. However I suspect chilly air in the inflow region was the death ticket on this storm. We caught later storms out of Eastern Colorado into Southwest Nebraska later in the evening, nothing good structure and hail up to 2 inches in diameter! Overall a very solid chase day and a fun one at that, we decided to sleep in North Platte for the night and head south for tomorrow’s event

(Will add photographs soon!)

Tornadoes Observed: 1

Largest Hail Observed: 2.00″