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Tornado Chase 2006

This page contains the daily updates that I posted while on the road in Tornado Alley. Once again I was driving 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


May 27th - Norman, Oklahoma Tornado chase 2006 is now winding down for me. Unfortunately, this May has been the slowest for tornadoes in about 27 years!! Although there's nothing I can do about that, I was able to take some great photos and got to spend some time with a variety of amazing people. Today is being spent doing some maintenance and re-packing of the vehicle, then tomorrow I'll begin my arduous two day drive back to Toronto.

May 26th - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma This was a day for doing on-camera interviews. First up was Gary England from News Channel 9 in Oklahoma City. He's the broadcast meteorologist that was live on the air doing the play by play when the huge F5 tornado struck the region. Then it was off to the Storm Prediction Center where I met with the director Joe Schaefer. We also filmed the forecasters as they issued severe thunderstorm watches for parts of the nation. It was great to meet all these people and see them in action. I'll be reuniting with the Cloud 9 Tours group tomorrow.

May 25th - Wakita, Oklahoma I travelled from Kansas back to our home base of Norman, Oklahoma today. Along the way we stopped in to the small town of Wakita where part of the movie Twister was filmed. There is a museum there that has many of the props and memorabilia from the filming.

May 24th - Hallam, Nebraska I've split off from the rest of the group for a couple of days and today I returned to the town of Hallam, Nebraska. I was here two years ago the day after it was leveled by a 2.5 mile wide F-4 tornado. There has been a lot of rebuilding but it's still an ongoing process. I even got to speak with the owner of the local pub whose tavern was demolished by the tornado but it's now rebuilt and re-named the "MacDonald's F4 Pub"

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May 23rd - Norfolk, Nebraska Tornado Watch - We had high hopes for today but when the forecast storms fired up, they quickly formed a line which had little or no tornadic potential. We were able to get a few photogenic moments though.

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May 22nd - Holyoke, Colorado Despite traveling across most of Kansas and into Colorado, only one good storm formed in our target area and even it didn't amount to much. After nightfall, we continued to Kearney, Nebraska for the night.

May 21st - Salina, Kansas We got into position in Kansas for the possibility of severe weather but it never materialized. It looks better over the next couple of days....

May 20th - Norman, Oklahoma This current inactive weather pattern is starting to drive me crazy. It's just blue sky and oppressive heat. Great for a trip to the beach but not good for storm chasing. Today we travelled back to Norman and did some filming around where the F5 tornado hit the town of Moore and we also did a couple of interviews with some fellow storm chasers.

May 19th - Westminster, Texas Today we drove to the small town of Westminster, TX where a strong F3 tornado hit on May 9th. There was plenty of evidence of the tornado still visible around the area. One of the more dramatic examples was a Honda that had been lifted up and wrapped around a tree. Its engine was found at least 100 feet away in a field.

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May 18th - Lubbock, Texas We returned to Carlsbad Caverns today and hiked down to 750 feet below the surface. The formations inside were breathtaking to see and the temperature inside the cavern remains cool all year. We also had the opportunity to meet with one of the bat research scientists who uses thermal imaging cameras and special image recognition software to accurately count the bats as they exit the cave each night.

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May 17th - Carlsbad, New Mexico Today was spent traveling from Amarillo to Carlsbad, New Mexico. Along the way we were able to film several big dust devils that formed out in a freshly plowed field. One even formed right across the road from our vehicles and I ran out to catch up with it. I was able to re-position myself as I ran and was actually in the calm middle of the the dust devil as the dirt swirled around me on all sides. It was a very cool experience. Once we made it to Carlsbad, we went to the famous cavern/national park there and waited at the entrance for the nightly feeding migration of the bats that live there. When they finally appeared, it was quite a spectacle. Thousands and thousands of bats all exiting the cave, swirling in a hypnotic vortex as the streamed out to feed for the night. Unfortunately, there was no photography of any kind allowed. Tomorrow we'll be entering the caverns to see them from the inside.

May 16th - Palo Duro Canyon, Texas As the stubborn ridge of high pressure continues, all the storm chasers are united in our frustration with the lack of any severe weather in the Great Plains. Today we visited Palo Duro Canyon, south of Amarillo and then we took a trip to the Big Texan Steak Ranch for dinner. I tried to finish their world famous 72 ounce steak but I was only able to finish 41 ounces of it within the allotted hour. I won't have to eat again for a week.

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May 15th - Amarillo, Texas Right now the weather pattern in the Plains does not favour any storms. We're going to have to wait it out until the next disturbance comes across the region. Today we visited the "Cadillac Ranch" near Amarillo. It's a series of 10 Cadillacs half buried in the ground. Hey, it's exciting for Texas! Also, to the right I've included a picture showing the amount of equipment I'm carrying in my truck. Now imagine transporting most of it into the motel room each night. Usually not on the ground floor.

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May 14th - Norman, Oklahoma We're back in our home base of Norman and we're doing our switch over of people between tours one and two.

May 13th - Shreveport, Louisiana Today is a travel day for us. We need to get back to Norman, Oklahoma to drop off our tour one guests and pick up the folks for tour 2.

May 12th - New Orleans, Louisiana After an early start we went into the hardest hit areas of New Orleans and found that the lower 9th ward is still a complete disaster area, even nine months after the levees broke during hurricane Katrina.. Many pictures will be posted when I get more time. We also took a trip into the French Quarter and strolled down Bourbon Street.

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Debris piled in the Lower Ninth Ward.

The entire neighborhood had similar damage.

Floodwaters had swept entire houses off their foundations.

Entire houses were dropped on top of cars!!

Boats were still piled up at the yacht club.

We also encountered a grass fire as we travelled between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

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May 11th - Gulfport, Mississippi Since we were already in Mississippi and the prospects for storms are slim for a while, we headed down to the Gulf Coast where the hardest part of Hurricane Katrina hit. The are still has a tremendous amount of damage, even nine months after the storm. We revisited the Hancock Bank parking garage where I rode out the storm last August and we toured the coastline from Biloxi to Pass Christian. We would've continued on to Waveland but the Bay St. Louis bridge is still out.

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It's clear to see where the storm surge crashed through the buildings.

The beaches are still closed along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

A completely demolished church, gutted by the hurricane's storm surge.

This boat was actually washed up here by hurricane Camille in 1969. Katrina did the rest.

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All that remains of this McDonalds is the sign. The entire building has been washed off its foundation.

The vault is all that remains of this bank building along the coast. The rest was completely removed by the storm.

Piles of twisted debris are still scattered all over. Even nine months later.

This Wal Mart had its walls and entire merchandise blown out by the force of the water.


May 10th - Brookhaven, Mississippi - Tornado Warning - After a marathon drive from Oklahoma, through Arkansas, and Louisiana, we ended up in western Mississippi for today's severe weather. This is WELL out of the traditional "Tornado Alley" area and is difficult terrain because of the number of hills and trees. Numerous counties were placed under tornado warnings and we spotted a large funnel cloud west of Brookhaven. It was unclear whether or not it had actually touched down but it was quite large and hard to spot between the trees. I've been a bit out of touch and unable to make web updates for the past few days due to travel and connectivity difficulties but the updates will continue...

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May 9th - Atoka, Oklahoma - Tornado Warning - Many tornado warned storms formed in eastern Oklahoma today and we managed to get on two of them - One in McAlester and another near Atoka. Yet again this year, visibility was an issue and our views were often obscured by rain and thwarted by inadequate road networks. It looks like we're in for a long drive to get into good position for tomorrow's storms.

May 8th - Rush Center, Kansas - Tornado Watch - Most of the day was spent struggling with a nasty dose of food poisoning I got from a certain olive themed garden style restaurant which will remain nameless...Anyway, a large tornado watch box was issued for western Kansas but the storms that did fire up quickly turned into a non-photogenic squall line.

May 7th - Norman, Oklahoma We travelled from Texas to Oklahoma and have returned to our home base of Norman. Tomorrow we'll be heading north and the chase will continue.

May 6th - Junction, Texas - Severe Thunderstorm Warning - Today found us in the hill country of central Texas where we tracked down a severe thunderstorm that looked very impressive for a while before dissipating. We've since repositioned north and were going to stay in Waco but all the motels were full because power was out to a large portion of the city after a tornado producing storm rolled through in the early morning.

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May 5th - Patricia, Texas - Tornado Warning - For the fourth day in a row we ended up chasing a tornadic storm and we were even able to briefly see a tornado near Patricia although the contrast was poor and it was surrounded by rain & hail. Today's storm was big & nasty with more large hail, strong winds and an unbelievable amount of blowing dust which at times made the visibility very poor. Today we were joined by fellow Canadian chaser Dave Patrick.

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Brief Tornado near Patricia, TX. Image enhanced - Courtesy - Dave Patrick

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May 4th - San Angelo, Texas - Tornado Warning - We knew that there was the potential for giant hail today and we were not disappointed. The supercell storm that we chased had a tornado warning on it and the only way to get into the best viewing position was to take a gravel road through the storm's core. Along the way we had to dodge a group of deer, turkeys and even a cow that was in the road as the hail size increased. we turned around when it got up to over 2 1/2 inches but we later found some 4 inch stones near the town of Mertzon. The sound of the hail hitting the roof and car windows was deafening...but the windows remained intact!! we did lose 1 headlight though.

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May 3rd - Clairemont, Texas - Tornado Warning - Starting off in Childress, we chased a large, tornado warned storm cluster that was very slow moving. It produced lots of spectacular lightning and had an impressive structure right before nightfall. It's 1 A.M now and we're in Lubbock. I'll add more pictures when I get the chance.

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May 2nd - Childress, Texas - Tornado Warning - We intercepted a couple of tornado warned storms near Childress, Texas today. They were difficult to get to due to poor road networks in the region. No tornadoes were spotted but we did encounter very high winds, heavy rain and a lot of lightning.

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May 1st - Ada, Oklahoma - The day started off with a marginal risk for severe weather so we positioned ourselves in Ada where we waited and watched for signs of storm development. The storms never materialized in our area but we were treated to a dramatic sunset near Wayne, Oklahoma.

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April 30th - Ponca City, Oklahoma - Severe Thunderstorm Warning - We weren't too enthusiastic about the forecast today but we ended up surprised when a pair of severe thunderstorms popped up in north central Oklahoma. We encountered large amounts of hail up to about marble size and a beautiful rainbow.

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April 29th - Norman, Oklahoma - Today was spent making several trips to the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City to pick up the guests for tour 1. We then had an orientation with everyone, going over the daily routine and safety guidelines for this year's chase.

April 28th - Norman, Oklahoma - The two day journey to central Oklahoma is now complete. Tomorrow we start picking up the first tour guests from the airport and then we'll see where the weather takes us.

April 27th - Eureka, Missouri - Day one of tornado chase 2006. Today was spent traveling from Toronto to just west of St Louis. The highlight today was a nice sunset behind a grain silo in Illinois.

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April 25th - Toronto - Final preparations are being made right now. I'll be departing Toronto for Tornado Alley on April 27th

 


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george@stormchaser.ca


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