Tornado Chase 2005

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This page contains the daily updates that I posted while on the road in Tornado Alley. Once again I drove one of the tour vans for Cloud 9 Tours. Charles Edwards runs one of the oldest and most reputable storm chase tour companies around. We take people from all over the globe to the Great Plains to search for the worst weather in the world.

- George Kourounis

June 6th - Toronto, Ontario After completing the chase on June 4th, I said my goodbyes to the Cloud 9 Tours crew and I headed to Emporia, Kansas to meet up with my travel partners for the long drive home to Canada. Fellow Canadian chasers Bob Berry and Dan Wexler along with his friend Steve were down in the U.S. for only a few days worth of chasing but we all decided to drive back together. We started the drive back at 11:00 on Saturday night and we finally arrived home at midnight on Sunday. In total, I drove just over 21 thousand Kilometers in 4 weeks of chasing across 11 states. I'm now in Toronto resting up for my next adventure......

June 4th - Eureka, Kansas Tornado Warning - Today was one of the rare days where the Storm Prediction Center issues a High Risk warning for severe weather. This usually means that they expect a widespread outbreak of severe thunderstorms and/or tornadoes. Well we were able to get on a tornado warned storm but it didn't produce one for us. There were reports of tornadoes from other parts of Kansas that were not within our reach. This was the last day of tornado chase 2005.




June 2nd - Hays, Kansas A large portion of today was spent waiting for storms to fire up near the Kansas/Colorado state line. The tornado potential was good today and two tornado watches were issued for the area but the best storms formed farther west, deeper into Colorado. We were tempted to abandon our target area and race after these storms but we stuck to our original target. The storms did make it but not until after dark.

June 1st - Colby, Kansas The first of June marks the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season and the forecast is for it to be another busy one. Well, I'm still on my tornado chase and today was spent as a travel day so that we could get up to Kansas from Texas to put us in better position for tomorrow's chase. Although today wasn't a true chase day, we were still treated to a nice sunset.


May 31st - Lubbock, Texas Our target area worked out perfectly today when a tornado warned storm formed near Hereford, Texas. As we got a closer look, the storm was looking great and had all the characteristics of a tornado producer. Our big problem was the choice of roads. Our south option started off as paved, then switched to gravel, then quickly changed to West Texas clay mud (like pudding). We tried to continue but 2 out of 3 vehicles became hopelessly stuck as a rapidly circulating portion of the storm passed just east of our location. We think we may have even spotted a rain wrapped tornado in there. All we could do was wait for the worst of the hail & rain to pass. By the time it was through, we were stuck in a river of mud that buried the van up to its axles. It took about 3 hours to get the 2 vehicles free, after which we barreled south to Lubbock where we met up with John in the 3rd vehicle. We got there just in time to catch the end of the tornado warned storm that passed through that area. Cold, wet and shivering, we eventually made it back to a motel where it took the better part of an hour to check in. Ugh.... It 1:00 A.M. local time and I'm exhausted.







May 30th - Springfield, Colorado We chased a tornado warned supercell in Colorado. No tornado was spotted but we did see one very tough motorcycle rider braving out the heavy hail core of the storm. He barely slowed down while other panicky motorists pulled off under overpasses, even blocking active lanes of the interstate highway. I give this anonymous biker a 10 out of 10 for attitude.

May 29th - Tucumcari, New Mexico After stopping for a brief photo opportunity at a doppler radar installation near Sublette, Kansas we continued back into New Mexico. Although the landscape is nice, the roads are few and far between in the Eastern portion of the state. Because of the poor road choices, it was tough to intercept the few storms that did form in the afternoon. We expected today's chase to be marginal but we still ended up with a nice looking storm that formed over some of the mesas.



May 28th - Garden City, Kansas Another day, another state. The day began in Oklahoma City and we knew we had to be near the Kansas/Colorado border by the afternoon. We made it there in time to see a few storms that never seemed to really get as organized as we wanted but they were photogenic. We were also treated to a bright rainbow and a wonderful sunset. It goes to show the storms don't have to be violent to be beautiful.




May 27th - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma The day started off in Amarillo but we needed to travel to Oklahoma City to pick up a few more people so we travelled East and made a brief stop at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman. In OKC we all enjoyed a nice seafood dinner. Who would've thought the seafood would be so good in Oklahoma?

May 26th - Amarillo, Texas With the passage of a strong cold front yesterday, the chances for storms in the area went along with it so today we decided to take in the local sights. We took a trip to Palo Duro Canyon State Park where we enjoyed the view and had fun in one of the water crossings on the canyon road. Michel got a bit more than he bargained for when he stood too close to the van as I plowed through the water.



May 25th - Roy, New Mexico Today we ended up on the high ground in Eastern New Mexico. The first storm we encountered had promise but it became undercut by cold air which caused it to die out quickly. After that, the remaining storms were not all that impressive. Even with mediocre storms, New Mexico is a very picturesque place. Now we're in Amarillo, Texas and we expect to be down for a few days with no storms to chase.



May 24th - Lamar, Colorado Tornado Warning - With numerous storms firing up throughout Eastern Colorado today it made for an interesting day. We chased at least 3 tornado warned storms including a beautifully sculpted supercell near Sheridan Lake, CO. It was simply incredible. On our way to Lamar for the night, the rain and hail were so intense that I couldn't even see to the end of the hood of the truck. We had no choice but to pull off and wait it out. It was one of the most intense downpours I've ever experienced.



May 23rd - Burlington, Colorado We intercepted several severe thunderstorms across the eastern plains in Colorado today. A tornado watch was issued for the region and we did encounter torrential rain, frequent lightning and some small hail. At the end of the day, several chaser groups ended up meeting at a steak house in Burlington as the last of the storms rumbled overhead.



May 22nd - Salina, Kansas For years I've been traveling to Tornado Alley each May and every time I'm here I hope of seeing a tornado on my birthday but alas, this year was no exception. There was marginal potential along the Oklahoma/Kansas border today and we spent the better part of the day with new group, waiting in Ponca City, Oklahoma for storms to form. Well the thermal inversion that's been dogging us for days won again and the storms didn't materialize until well after dark. We weren't able to stick around since we'll have to be over towards Colorado for Monday afternoon. We got a decent start and are now in Salina, Kansas. We'll be getting up early to continue west. So far this May, the tornado statistics are WELL below average.

May 21st - Norman, Oklahoma Record heat is baking the central Oklahoma region again today. The high temp is about 96F with clear skies. Not exactly ideal storm chasing weather. We're making several trips to the Oklahoma City airport today to pick up the participants for tour 2. The only time I like to have clear weather here is on these airport pickup days. One of my pictures and a few quotes made it to a newspaper article printed in today's Toronto Star. The writer joined fellow Canadian chasers, Mark Robinson and Dave Sills (among others) for about a week and a half. The article chronicles the details of chasing storms and life on the road.

May 20th - Norman, Oklahoma Here's a bit of a "rogues gallery" of the tour 1 participants. Even when there's no tornadoes to chase, we have a good time, all the time. If you see any of these people on the side of the road, do not stop. Call the local authorities immediately, don't try to pet or feed them. They've been known to attack with silly string and slingshots loaded with candy. If they're not snacking on dog food, they might be reciting obscure movie quotes or communicating in the Martian language from "Mars Attacks!!" It's been a great ride with these folks and we switch out this weekend when the tour 2 participants arrive.

Charles Edwards

John Guyton




Charles Edwards - Shawnee, Oklahoma - Owner/Founder of Cloud 9 Tours.

John Guyton - Maryland - Guide/Driver Cloud 9 Tours.

George Kourounis - Toronto, Canada - Guide/Driver Cloud 9 Tours.

Chris - Buffalo, NY - Has been returning to Tornado Alley for years.

Ian - U.K. - Trying in vain to look innocent.






Jay - Holland - First time in Tornado Alley and a real troublemaker.

Jeff - Redmond, Washington - Likes to photograph geysers & tornadoes.

Mark - U.K. - Photographer and one of the crazy Brits

Melanie - Sacramento, CA - On an extended road trip across the country.

Nathan - U.K. - Trying to blend in amongst the local cowboys.




Patty - Chicago, Illinois - Big sports fan and silly string sniper.

Ray - U.K. - Doing his best Wicked Witch of the West impersonation.

Thad - Florida Keys - Jokester extrordinaire. A force to be reckoned with.

May 19th - Norman, Oklahoma With the best storms today forming east of the Mississippi, there were no chaseable storms in "Tornado Alley". The pattern is slowing down for a while which is good for us because we're starting a new round of tour guests this weekend.

May 18th - Enid, Oklahoma A lot of effort today for no real payoff. The day began in Lincoln, Nebraska and we decided to target Eastern Kansas where a cold front was projected to fire off thunderstorms by late afternoon. Well the storms held off too long and when they did finally form, they were not impressive. We ended up traveling all the way through Kansas and are now spending the night in Enid, Oklahoma. The oddest thing we saw today was an ambulance parked outside of an adult store in Nebraska. The photo speaks for itself. Bizarre.


May 17th - Lincoln, Nebraska The storms today didn't stay isolated long enough to produce a lot of severe weather. They ended up merging into a long squall line which we intercepted near Grand Island, Nebraska. The portion that we were on had a severe thunderstorm warning on it and the National Weather Service detected some rotation within the storm complex.


May 16th - Hays, Kansas Today ended up being a travel day to help us get into position for storms tomorrow. Here is a radar image of the supercell thunderstorm that produced the tornadoes and giant hail on May 12th. You can see that we were "in the hook" of the storm while the curtains of monstrous hail wrapped around us.

Radar May 12th

May 15th - Shawnee, Oklahoma No storms forecast for today so we ended up taking a trip to the local movie theater and then out for dinner.

May 14th - Shawnee, Oklahoma With no storms to chase today and the vehicle repairs finally completed, the day was spent traveling to Shawnee, Oklahoma. We ended up going back to Charles Edwards' house for a cookout and to review some of our tornado footage. It's a clear night here in Oklahoma and here's a photo of the moon tonight. 05_14_Moon

May 13th - Amarillo, Texas After yesterday's exciting day, the van was in need of some serious repair. Right now, it's off at the glass repair shop and tonight we'll be going to the Big Texan steak house for a celebratory dinner. A video clip is now online
Video Clip Tornado/Hail video clip now online Here.

May 12th - South Plains, Texas TEXAS TORNADO OUTBREAK !! - What a day!! After blasting south out of Kansas to get down near Plainview Texas, we finally caught up with the tornado warned storms that went up there. We encountered 2 tornadoes at very close range. The first started as a slender white cone that grew in size and turned dark and dusty as it crossed the road directly ahead of us. It was a very dramatic tornado indeed but this was just a preview of things to come. Shortly after the first encounter, another dusty tornado formed in the field right beside us. It grew into a large, complex multi-vortex tornado and we found ourselves trying to cut ahead of it but there was no time. We were in the "Bear's Cage", caught between the tornado and the giant hail that was now wrapping around it. We had no choice but to retreat at the last second as we were on the edge of the circulation. Dave Patrick was there as well and his video camera instantly fogged up from the rapid drop in air pressure. Our new problem was the giant hail that was now pounding us like a gorilla on the roof of the van. We sustained a lot of damage including a smashed windshield & passenger rear window, destroyed windshield wipers, a damaged antenna and various other dents. Some other chasers (Chris Kridler, Dave Lewison, Scott McPartland & Pete Venture) got pounded up even worse than us with tremendous damage to their vehicles. It's now 1:30 A.M. and we've managed to limp back to Amarillo. Probably my most intense chase day ever! More details to come when I get the time.







May 11th - Garden City, Kansas Today had a lot of potential with a moderate risk for severe weather and a PDS tornado watch box (Particularly Dangerous Situation) for most of Kansas. However, the storms that formed in our target area were moving too fast to intercept. and the rest of them died an ugly death. There were numerous tornado reports but they were way too far north for us to catch. It appears that every other chaser out there had the same ideas as us since the town we're now in is flooded with storm chasers. The parking lots at the local motels are full of storm chase vehicles and doppler radar trucks. It looks like we might be headed for the Texas Panhandle in the morning.

May 10th - Axtell, Nebraska TORNADO!! - Well... a very weak one. Most of the day was spent waiting around in the parking lot of a hotel in Kearney. There was a lot of potential for tornadoes but a strong thermal inversion kept a lid on all thunderstorm development...That was until we figured that the day was a write off and decided to book our hotel rooms and get some food. Just before we were all supposed to gather for dinner, the first tornado warning was issued for an area just south of us. We scrambled to gather everyone up and head out. The storm was tiny on radar but there was already a report of a tornado on the ground. As we approached the base of the storm, we saw numerous "landspout" tornadoes. These tornadoes were very weak and did not have any condensation funnel but they were churning up the farmer's fields, kicking up a lot of dirt. Because these were obviously weak, we decided to get very close to one of them and as one of these landspouts crossed the road near a farm house, we drove right into it as it was dying out. There was still a fair amount of dirt and leaves swirling around as it passed over us and the local farmer who was outside mowing his lawn. We followed the storm system northeast to well past the town of Grand Island where we encountered very strong winds and some golf ball sized hail. We're now back in Kearney, getting ready for the next chase.
05_10_Spout1 05_10_Spout2

May 9th - Kearney, Nebraska With no chance of storms today, we spent the day traveling to Nebraska to get into better position for tomorrow's target. Along the way, we took in some of the sights in Kansas. At the Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas we got the guided tour of the incredible concrete sculptures of S.P. Dinsmoor (Whose mummified body is on display in his glass mausoleum). We also stopped in Cawker City to see the world's largest ball of twine and meet up with a large group of chaser friends. Once there we were given the great honor of adding an additional 1300 feet of twine to the giant ball.



A high-res copy of the group photo is here.

May 8th - McPherson, Kansas Tornado Warning - After targeting central Kansas, we ended up intercepting the best storm in the state. We were able to film a small but persistent funnel cloud near Mitchell but it wasn't until quite a while later that a tornado warning was finally issued for the area. There were no reports of any actual touchdowns. Afterwards we were treated to an incredible display of a rainbow, sunset mammatus clouds and lightning. A great first day of chasing.






May 7th - Norman, Oklahoma The first group of tour participants arrived today. The day was spent picking people up at the airport in Oklahoma City and transporting them back to Norman. In the evening we all got together for an orientation, explaining the day to day workings of what storm chasing is all about. Tomorrow will be our first chase day.

May 6th - Norman, Oklahoma I arrived today in Oklahoma and met up with Charles Edwards and John Guyton just as they were putting the finishing touches on the tour van. It looks like my timing was perfect.
05_05_06A 05_05_06B

May 5th - Eureka, Missouri Today marks the start of the first leg of the 2 day drive from Canada to central Oklahoma. Good progress was made, crossing 1 province, 5 states and 2 time zones totaling over 1300 km.

May 4th - Toronto Final preparations are being made right now. I'll be departing Toronto for Tornado Alley on May 5th.


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