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Tornado Chase 2007

This page contains the daily updates that I'm posting while on the road in Tornado Alley. Once again I'm 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


June 17th - Toronto, Ontario

Back home.

This year's chase was full of great adventures with many awesome people. The journey totaled 19735 miles (31760km) across 21 different states!!

47 days in a row on the road with a different motel & bed almost every night, plenty of bad truck stops and restaurant food.... There's a LOT more to chasing than just the storms but when the storms are good, they're incredible.

More adventures coming soon...


June 16th - Chicago, Illinois We stopped in at the Ryerson Conservation Area near Chicago where an amazing thing is occurring...The emergence of the Brood XIII Cicadas. Every 17 years, billions of cicadas crawl out of the ground to molt & reproduce. The sound of all these cicadas is unreal and the conservation area is ground zero for this year's batch. 17 Year Cicadas

June 15th - Luverne, Minnesota The past few days have been spent seeing some of the sights in the Black Hills of South Dakota & Wyoming. I'll be posting pictures later. I'm now slowly working my way back to Toronto.

June 12th - Rapid City, South Dakota

Several tornado watch boxes were issued today and there was even a few tornado warnings but the area we were in quickly went from developing storms to a complete mess. These storms basically turned into giant rain blobs with no chance of producing a tornado at all. The area did receive a tremendous amount of rain though.

The next few days will be spent here in the Black Hills region of western South Dakota, filming things other than storms. I'll try to put up some pictures from the past few days when I get the chance.


June 11th - Northeastern North Dakota A very frustrating day. We started off in Murdo, South Dakota and spent all day driving north to get into our target area. By late afternoon, we'd hooked up with Charles Edwards again, this time along Interstate 92 in North Dakota. There were a couple of storms going up well to the north of us but we didn't think we could reach them but after a while it became clear that there was not going to be any development further south and this was our only chance. We blasted north and drove, and drove...to no avail. In the end, we came within about 25 miles of the Saskatchewan border but as soon as we got close to the storm, it fizzled. There was even a report of a tornado very close to the border. Argg!!

June 10th - Kearney, Nebraska This was to be our last day with Dave Lewison & Scott McPartland before they headed home via Denver. Most of the day was spent in & around Kearney, Nebraska in oppressive heat. We eventually had to make the decision to forget about any meager potential the day had and get north for possible storms in the Dakotas. We said our goodbyes and they continued west as we turned north at the town of North Platte. There was a storm that fired up but I was not too impressed with its general appearance but it did look nice when the sun set in the sandhills of Nebraska. There was some decent lightning and a great rainbow set against a red backdrop of sunset lit clouds.

June 9th - North Platte, Nebraska Not much to report today. after the disappointing morning forecast, we decided to head a bit north into Nebraska. Perhaps tomorrow there will be better weather. Enough of this clear blue skies nonsense.

June 8th - Oakley, Kansas

This was supposed to be a travel day, moving west in order to get into better position for tomorrow's storms but it ended up being a bit surreal...

As we meandered through Kansas, we stopped at some of our usual favorite roadside attractions: The world's largest ball of twine in Cawker City and the Garden of Eden in Lucas. Those were good to see again but we really wanted to get to Monument rocks, south of Oakley by sunset. We arrived with just a few minutes of great light remaining and started taking photos and video. Now here's where things get weird.

I climb up onto the rocks just like I've done before and mark Robinson decides to try it too. I did warn him that going down is a lot tougher than getting up but he makes it to the top without any difficulty. I eventually climb back down and when Mark tries to do likewise, that's when he realizes exactly how tough it really is. The problem was this one steep area where the rock is crumbly and you can't see your footholds and he just couldn't find his way down. This was in exactly the same spot where I had to help another stranded climber back on May 15th...Here we go again.

After videotaping his predicament for a while (hey, that's what friends do right?) I climbed up and helped guide him down. That particular spot is a lot trickier than it looks and I'll bet quite a few people have problems. Who would've guessed...Two cliff rescues in 3 weeks in Kansas.

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June 7th - Chillicothe, Missouri

Tornado Warnings - Even though there was a high risk of sever weather forecast for Wisconsin. It was too far away and the trees in Wisconsin make it terrible chase country, also the storms up there were going to be traveling at rocket speed today. Instead we chose the central Kansas/Missouri border and we had a great chase day. The storms that formed in that area all lined up for us one after the other along the boundary. We must've chased five different supercells and were in at least four different tornado warnings.

The sirens were blaring in Mooresville & Chilicothe as tornado warned storms rolled over them and we just kept stair stepping south & east with each new storm that came our way. In Bogard, we watched yet another tornado warned storm plow our way and we sought shelter in a large equipment shed as the rain & hail really got cranking. As it turns out, the strongest part of the storm passed right over our location... Just down the road in Carrollton, the last storm of the day came through and since this one didn't have a tornado warning on it at the time, we decided to play in it by pulling well off to the side under an overpass (Never do this during a tornado). The winds were gusting well into hurricane strength and carried with it a lot of rain and hail. Overall, we witnessed a smorgasbord of weather today including some wicked, intense lightning which even sparked a few grass fires. No tornado today but this kind of chase day reminds me that you don't have to see a tornado to have a satisfying chase day. One eerie thing we encountered was "hail roar", it sounds almost like continuous thunder but is the noise of hail stones clacking together in the sky and hitting the ground. Creepy to say the least and definitely a signal to turn the car around!

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June 6th - Kadoka, South Dakota

TORNADO - The first chase day of part 2 of this year's trip was quite a success. We ended up in South Dakota near Murdo where one main storm fired up. We hooked up with Charles Edwards and moved in to intercept. The road network south of Interstate 90 was poor in that area so we had to pull off and find some dirt roads to travel on. The storm was really starting to get organized and then we saw it in the distance...Tornado on the ground! It was really far away (about 35 miles) but the visibility was so good that it was clearly evident and persistent. It stayed on the ground for about 20 minutes or so before dissipating. When we ran out of dirt roads, we doubled back and witnessed some incredible storm structure as the ominous green core caught up to us.

The coolest part was that this storm formed right over the Badlands of South Dakota so there was this beautiful landscape all around with multi-coloured mesas and rock formations.

Back in Murdo, we also met up with Dave Lewison and Scott McPartland who flew in to meet up with us. They missed the distant tornado but saw the impressive storm. We're now traveling together for the next few days. It should be a party.

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June 5th - O'Neil, Nebraska I'm now more or less in position for the anticipated severe weather outbreak on Wednesday. I suspect that I'll end up somewhere in South Dakota tomorrow but exactly where is to be determined. If the forecast pans out, there could be a significant weather event unfolding over the next couple of days and I'll be right there in the middle of it. We're meeting up with Dave Lewison and Scott McPartland who are flying out from New York for this chase...Stay tuned.

June 4th - Salina, Kansas

I decided that it didn't make much sense for us to blast down into southwest Texas today and then have to drive like mad to get up into Nebraska for Wednesdays setup. Add to that a whole whack of errands we had to run this morning (Including picking up Mark's missing luggage at the airport).

The decision was made to work our way north and we've made it as far as Salina. The setup on Wednesday is looking like a classic tornado outbreak, the Storm Prediction Centre has issued a rare Moderate Risk on their day 3 outlook so big things are brewing...


June 3rd - Norman, Oklahoma

The show crew is now all assembled here in Oklahoma and the 2 week filming stint is beginning. Fellow chaser Mark Robinson has just flown down from Toronto via Chicago where he was filming the 17 year cicada brood that is just now emerging.

The last of the tour 2 participants are now on their way home.


June 2nd - Norman, Oklahoma

Today marks the end of tour 2 and the the end of my stint with Cloud 9 Tours for this year. As always, it's been a blast...We have a good time, all the time. We got to see some great storms with some awesome people. Guiding for Cloud 9 is a great experience, sure it's tough with all the driving and the pressure to always be on the best storms but the rewards of taking enthusiastic people to do what they love makes it all worth it.

Thank you to everyone on tours 1 & 2. I hope to see you again next year..Ack ACK!!

But wait... The chasing is not over yet... I'll still be out here for another 2 weeks filming material for my "Angry Planet" TV series so there will be even more adventures, more storms and of course...more blog updates.


June 1st - Crowell, Texas

Tornado Warning - Wow, what a storm. An early afternoon supercell formed near Childress, Texas and drifted southeast. It grew and became tornado warned but the road network in that part of Texas is not so good. We had to "thread the needle" with this storm by heading straight towards it to take the only available road south. We ended up on a few scary dirt roads as the hook of the storm was bearing down on us. The sky was the most intense green I've ever seen and we knew that at any moment, we were likely going to get pounded by a barrage of giant hailstones. Add to that, there was a very suspicious lowering that we had to negotiate around which could've been the pre-cursor to a rain-wrapped tornado. After a few tense moments I was extremely happy to finally be driving on a paved road near the town of Crowell.

This storm was so incredibly green, When we were right up in it, the green was everywhere I looked. It was really an eerie experience. We continued following the storm for several hours as it pulsed up & down, generating severe thunderstorm warnings and even more tornado warnings. We eventually let it overtake us in the town of Throckmorton as we took shelter under a gas station awning.

Today also marks the start of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season. It looks like it might be a busy one.

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May 31st - Guymon, Oklahoma

Tornado Warning - A great chase today. We headed west into extreme southwest Kansas and southeastern Colorado. storms were struggling to get organized for a while but then one really got cranking. It eventually became clear that it was rotating like mad and it produced several large, persistent funnels that never seemed to touch down despite coming very close a few times.

The storm then moved into the Oklahoma Panhandle and moved towards the town of Guymon where a tornado briefly formed but was tough to tell from our location. The tornado sirens started wailing while we were refueling in Guymon and the manager at the local McDonalds was in a bit of a panic when he learned about the tornado warning.

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May 30th - Oakley, Kansas We did a bit of sightseeing in Kansas today as we re-positioned further west. Now I think I'm going to go off and take a bit of a nap for a while.

May 29th - Salina, Kansas Because we were so far north yesterday, all we did today was drive south...We made it as far as Salina, Kansas after driving through 4 states. Not much to report today, lust a lot of highway...

May 28th - Fargo, North Dakota A disappointing chase. We drove all the way up to North Dakota and although there was a tornado watch issued, the storms never got organized in our area. One storm did produce a tornado but it was up near the Canadian border and way out of reach. The one storm that did go up near us looked terrible and never got strong enough to be impressive.

May 27th - Fargo, North Dakota As expected, today was a travel day in order to get into position for tomorrow's chase. I've been driving so much that I see dashed lines when I close my eyes. So far on this trip I've been through 16 states: Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota...Whew, and there may still be more to come...Still think storm chasing is glamorous?

May 26th - Waterloo, Iowa There was a marginal risk in Iowa today but the storms that did form were either too far north to reach or they were too weak and didn't last. The forecast is looking up for the start of next week so tomorrow will be spent getting into better position.

May 25th - Salina, Kansas Today was a travel day. we started off in Amarillo and made it as far as Salina, Kansas. it looks like they've received a tremendous amount of rain here. The road leading up to our motel looked more like a lake than a road. I expect tomorrow to be another long day, we may even end up in Iowa.

May 24th - Woodward, Oklahoma No storms to chase today so we took a side trip to visit the Alabaster Caverns in Oklahoma. We then carried on to Amarillo for a great steak dinner at the Big Texan Steak Ranch.

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May 23rd - Perryton, Texas Tornado Warning - More tornadic supercell thunderstorms fired up today, this time starting in the Texas Panhandle. Just south of Perryton, we were able to get close to the base of a tornado warned storm with a rapidly rotating wall cloud that looked as tough it was going to produce a tornado at any time. We eventually got cut off by the hail core and had to navigate around the storm and eventually caught back up with it. The visibility today was not very good and it was tough to get close to the storms due to the poor road network in that part of Texas.

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May 22nd - Hill City, Kansas

TORNADO - After over 10 years of storm chasing, I finally saw a tornado on my birthday!! We first started seeing the early stages of storm development as we got west of Ness City and the storms fired up right on schedule. At one point we were watching 2 supercell thunderstorms both with excellent rotation and storm structure. One of them became the more dominant, photogenic storm and we followed it for several hours as it spun like a top, prompting numerous tornado warnings. It finally got its act together and produced a brief tornado just southwest of Hill City.

We eventually ended up in Hays, Kansas and had a celebratory steak dinner but as we ate, more storms were heading our way, including another tornado warned storm. The sirens in Hays were blaring and the lightning was continuous. We went north of town to watch the lightning and there were several police cars rolling past announcing the tornado warning for the city over their loudspeaker. The town became almost deserted as we headed back to the main business area and sheltered ourselves at a gas station in anticipation of a large hail event. the winds were hurricane-like but we never got the giant hail we were hoping for, it passed just south of town and we weren't too interested in getting the windows of the van smashed out.

All in all...A great chase day.

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May 21st - Woodward, Oklahoma A decent chase day and a bit of a warm up for things to come later this week. We ended up intercepting a group of storms that eventually combined into a squall line along the Texas/Oklahoma state line near Perryton. we had a great view of the storm as it approached with good looking structure and 3/4 inch hail.

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May 20th - Liberal, Kansas The last of the tour 1 folks were dropped off at the airport in Oklahoma City today and we took the tour 2 folks up to Liberal, Kansas to get into position for tomorrow's chase. The forecast is starting to look up and we anticipate a good week ahead.

May 19th - Piedmont, Oklahoma With no storms to chase today and airport pickups to do, we ended up attending the annual storm chaser BB-Q. The event is graciously hosted by Rocky Rascovitch and there was a great time had by all. It was great meeting new people and seeing old friends again. we shared stories of past conquests and discussed the potential for the rest of the storm season. What will the atmosphere provide for us...Time will tell but it'll soon be time for us to get back on the road...

May 18th - Norman, Oklahoma Today was a travel day from Amarillo back to our home base in Norman, Oklahoma. I've finally had a chance to get a bit caught up with emails and other work that has been going neglected while I've been on the road. Tomorrow we pick up new tour guests for tour 2.

May 17th - Clayton, New Mexico

We played the thunderstorm risk in northeastern New Mexico today. There were numerous small storms that popped up throughout the day bringing mostly heavy rain and gusty winds. We did visit the extinct Capulin Volcano and hiked around the rim, getting a great view of the surrounding terrain. As we came down from Capulin, we were even able to watch one storm fire up along the slopes of the volcano.

This was the last chase day for the tour 1 group and tomorrow we head back towards Norman, Oklahoma. So far on this tour we've visited 8 states and driven somewhere around 5,000 miles.

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May 16th - Greensburg, Kansas Today was a travel day to Amarillo and we ended up passing by the town of Greensburg, Kansas which was destroyed on May 4th by a huge EF-5 tornado. The town is still sealed off but the damage was clearly evident. An endless stream of dump trucks was carrying piles of debris away from the disaster site to be burned outside of town. It'll take years for the town to fully recover. This was the strongest tornado anywhere on the planet since 1999.

May 15th - Oakley, Kansas

No storms today but it ended up being a rather dramatic day nonetheless. We visited the Monument Rocks in western Kansas (Which are totally bizarre and seem out of place in such a flat state). While we were there, a man who climbed up onto the rocks and couldn't get back down. Myself and fellow chaser Dave Patrick had to climb up and rescue the man. I climbed up to the top and Dave helped him from underneath. It took us a while to assist the man down the side, since he was quite distraught and frightened. It all ended well, I never expected to be doing a cliff rescue...Especially in Kansas of all places.

As a side note, we've been driving so much, I think Charles needs a rest...

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May 14th - Limon, Colorado Tornado Warning - Another day, another state. We started off in Wyoming and decided to play the storm potential in northeastern Colorado. It started off as a few weak, disorganized storms but then they got their act together and soon there was a huge supercell with a tornado warning. There was a report of a probable tornado but we never saw it, we're not even sure if there was a tornado. The storm did produce a lot of hail and we had to retreat to the town of Last Chance to get out of the storm's way. before getting pummeled.

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May 13th - Billings, Montana Another Looong day! From Nebraska we pushed through Wyoming and up into Montana. This is outside of the traditional "Tornado Alley" territory but we go where we have to if we want to see the storms. Just west of Billings, we encountered a nice looking supercell with clear signs of rotation. It had a severe thunderstorm warning on it but it never could get its act together enough to produce a tornado. We've relocated back to Wyoming now and are getting a few hours of rest before trying again tomorrow.

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May 12th - Chadron, Nebraska A long day of driving today...We started off in Amarillo and wound our way through Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and into northern Nebraska to get into position for possible storms tomorrow. We'll see how things pan out. Right now, all I need is some sleep.

May 11th - Tulia, Texas

We visited the town of Tulia, Texas in the Texas Panhandle south of Amarillo which was hit by an EF-3 tornado on April 21st. Part of the town was very badly damaged and there was still plenty of evidence of the storm's destructive power. The pictures below link to a page with even more photos from Tulia.

Right now we're in Amarillo and just had a wonderful steak dinner at the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, and no I didn't attempt the 72 ounce steak this year...

Tulia, Texas Tornado Damage

Tulia, Texas Tornado Damage

May 10th - Lubbock, Texas What was supposed to be a simple travel day from Del Rio to Lubbock turned into a mini chase. A storm cell popped up northeast of Lubbock and we decided that it was close enough for an intercept. We caught up with the storm near the town of Lorenzo and it briefly took on an impressive look. The small storm even showed some signs of rotation on doppler radar but it never kept its act together long enough to get truly organized. Even so, it was a nice treat to get a surprise storm.

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May 9th - Del Rio, Texas A tornado watch was issued for southwestern Texas and we watched as several storms moved up from Mexico and crossed into Texas. We eventually were overtaken by a squall line in Del Rio, Texas. This is the farthest south that we've ever gone with the tours and at one point we were right at the Mexican border.

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May 8th - San Angelo, Texas A large squall line formed in southwest Texas and kept moving eastward all day long as we played leapfrog with the front of the storm system. There was a tornado watch box issued as well as numerous severe thunderstorm warnings and flash flood warnings along and south of interstate 20. We expect more thunderstorm activity in Texas again tomorrow.

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May 7th - Big Spring, Texas

The highlight today was a spectacular light show after dark in Big Springs, Texas. the lightning conditions were perfect with plenty of cloud to ground lightning.

Oh and you really do have to watch where you step out here in Texas. One of our group came very close to stepping on a rattlesnake which was coiled up on the side of the road!!

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May 6th - Childress, Texas

There was a very good chance for severe thunderstorms today in western Oklahoma and we intercepted numerous storms with hail, high winds and torrential rain. There were even a few tornado warnings but no touchdowns were confirmed in our area. The storms fired up early today so it has been a very long day and we've now relocated to Childress, Texas to get into better position for tomorrow.

On another note. The damage survey team from the National Weather Service has completed the damage survey of the Greensburg, Kansas tornado and determined that it was an EF-5, the most destructive level of the scale. At one point, the tornado was around 1.7 miles wide.

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A severe thunderstorm in western Oklahoma, near Woodward.

May 5th - Norman, Oklahoma

Although there was a high risk of severe weather in Kansas today, I had to stay in Oklahoma to do airport pickups of the tour 1 guests. Tomorrow will be our first official chase day.

There has been a lot of attention focused on the Greensburg tornado from yesterday, I did several phone interviews for Fox News today discussing it. The town was completely leveled and it'll take days to finish sifting through the wreckage.


May 4th - Great Bend, Kansas

I knew that today had potential to either be a great chase day or nothing at all. I met up with Dave Lewison & Scott McPartland (who just drove 24 hours straight from New York !!) in Great Bend and we spent a great deal of time waiting for the atmosphere to get its act together. A few good storms fired up well to our southwest but they were too far away for us to get to them before dark and I needed to get back to Shawnee, Oklahoma to start picking people up at the airport in the morning for the start of tour one. There were tornadoes reported but there was no practical way for us to have intercepted them given our location and my time constraints. It's frustrating to see these great storms on radar and not be able to reach them.

UPDATE - I just found out that the town of Greensburg, Kansas was devastated by a huge, destructive tornado that struck after dark. Preliminary reports say that over 90% of the town has been destroyed. So far ten fatalities have been reported but it is still early and that number may climb. The local hospital has partially collapsed and the town is now evacuated and the National Guard has been called in to keep the area secure.


May 3rd - Blackwell, Oklahoma Today was mainly a travel day across Arkansas and a large portion of Oklahoma. I did stop to hook up with Charles Edwards and we discussed plans for the start of the tours. As it turns out, I've got 1 free day before the tours begin and it looks like there's a lot of potential for western Kansas tomorrow so I've driven ahead to Blackwell for the night. In the morning, I'll continue on and get into position. It'll mean a long drive back but that's how these things go. I did get to see a decent looking storm from the highway plus a great sunset during my travels today.

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May 2nd - Heth, Arkansas After finishing up in Xenia, I had to make a brief detour to Cincinati and then continue on my way. I'm now in Arkansas, just west of Memphis and tomorrow I'll be in Shawnee, Oklahoma. From there, it's tough to say. I might try to squeeze in a chase day on Friday before having to pick up all the guests for tour 1 on Saturday, but only if the target area is relatively close.

May 1st - Xenia, Ohio I left Toronto this morning and I'm currently doing some filming in Xenia, Ohio which was devastated by a huge tornado during the April 3rd, 1974 "Super-Outbreak" when 148 tornadoes touched down in the span of 24 hours. I'm meeting tornado researchers here who are currently developing a tornado detection system based on the acoustic signature made by tornadoes.

April 28th - Toronto, Ontario Tornado chase 2007 is quickly approaching. I'm in the last phase of preparations and I leave for the chase in a couple of days, my vehicle is tuned up, camera gear is being checked and re-checked and last minute details are being finalized. I will try to update this travel log page daily depending on my time and internet access. I think this is going to be a busy season. In addition to being a guide & driver for Cloud 9 Tours, I'm also going to be filming a new episode of Angry Planet so it'll be a very busy six week period.

 


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george@stormchaser.ca


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