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Tornado Chase 2010

This page contains the daily blog 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 15 - Millbury Ohio & Dundee, Michigan
I'm back home in Toronto after my 50 day, 30,000 km epic journey that lasted 50 days and criss-crossed 13 U.S. States. Time for a rest.
 
Earlier today I documented the extreme tornado damage in:
Millbury, Ohio
&
Dundee, Michigan.
 
Click on either one to see the photos from each site.

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June 14 - Bowling Green, Ohio
Continuing the long trip home. I made it into central Missouri yesterday and today I've pushed on into Ohio. Tomorrow I'm going to look at some of the damage in Ohio & Michigan from the June 5/6 storms that rolled through here, doing a lot of damage.

June 13 - Norman, Oklahoma
We arrived back at our home base in Norman at 2:00 A.M. and after a few hours of sleep I began taking the tour guests to the airport for their flights back home. Another season done.
I got to see many old friends and also had the pleasure of making many new ones as well. I look forward to next near's chase!
 
Now to begin the long journey back to Canada. I usually do this trip in 2 days, but this time, I think I'll stretch it out and not push so hard.

June 12 - Texas Panhandle
Tornado Warning - This was it. Our last chase day of a very busy, productive season. We got up early, pack up the vans and headed south to the Texas Panhandle where the best storms were expected.
 
What we didn't expect was for the storms to sit over the same area for hours and hours. We started chasing a large, tornado warned supercell that was barely moving. We could park by the side of the road and just relax, watching it from a safe distance without having to scramble to chase after it. It's a good thing we stayed on the safe side of the storm since we heard reports of 5 and possibly even 6 inch hail stones coming out of it. This would've destroyed our vehicles and we were glad to not be in the middle of it. If there had been a town where we could've found shelter, that would've been a different story but the storm was in open farmland with no places to hide.
 
Several storm ended up merging together to form a broken line of storms and they kept passing over the exact same area, one after another. This caused tremendous flooding because all that rain kept coming down in the same place for hour after hour.
 
With the tornado chances dwindling and the roads filling up with water, we abandoned the storms and made our way to Amarillo for a nice dinner at the Big Texan Steal Ranch. Not a bad way to end the trip... Except after dinner, I still had a 4 hour drive from Amarillo back to Norman, Oklahoma to do. Ugh.

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June 11 - Denver, Colorado
Tornado Warning - This was one of our last chase days of the season and as we waited in Limon, Colorado, it seemed that almost every storm chaser out there had the same idea. We were all parked at the same truck stop, filling up almost every parking space. The locals must've been very worried.
 
The first storm went up and made a bee line for the city of Denver. We blasted towards the city and re-discovered why we hate storm chasing in urban areas. The traffic was getting quite bad so we turned around and took another route towards the airport. The storm looked to be passing directly over the terminal. It became tornado warned and was looking very strong and menacing.
 
We continued to follow it out into more rural areas and for a while it looked like it had a lot of tornado potential but it eventually died off so we targeted another tornado warned storm to the south.
 
This new storm dumped large quantities of hail on the road as we got behind it. It reminded me of winter driving on snow and ice. It was piled up on the side of the road and at times the hail was quite deep on the road itself. As it melted, it formed streams of swift moving, muddy water that washed along the ditches, flooding them out and often overspilling the nearby fields.
 
We caught up with the storm along Interstate 70 and followed it east until sunset. After that we decided to stay in Burlington, Colorado for the night.

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June 10 - Limon, Colorado
Tornado Warning - A good portion of our day was spent sitting and waiting in the town of Kimball. We were already in our target area and had time to kill. It was interesting because a few weeks earlier, the town was bombarded by giant hail stones during a very intense storm and evidence of the storm was everywhere. Windows were boarded up, car windows that had been destroyed were covered in plastic sheets and exterior walls of building were still carrying the scars of the onslaught.
 
While we were waiting, a strange thing happened. A house fire broke out about 1 block south of where we were waiting. Of course, being a group of curious photographers, we had to check it out. The tornado sirens went off in town to signal the local volunteer fire brigade and soon, the road was blocked off and firefighters were spraying down the house, which had thick smoke billowing out the front door. They got there in time to save the house, but I'm sure the smoke and water damage was extensive.
 
Once we saw storms begin to form, it was time to abandon Kimball and head out.
 
A tornado warned storm had formed along the Nebraska/Colorado border and we plotted an intercept course. The storm had good structure but in the end, it never did produce any tornadoes.

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June 09 - OshKosh, Nebraska
We had high hopes for toady that just didn't pan out. A tornado watch was issued for parts of Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado which meant that conditions were conducive for potential tornado development. We managed to target the only really good storm to go up, near the town of Bridgeport, and as we approached, we could see... Something, hidden in the curtains of rain. Was it a tornado? We'll never know, but it looked like it might have been.
 
As the storm was dying off, we stopped at a rest area and met up with veteran severe weather scientist Chuck Doswell & his wife and he commented that he saw the same thing but couldn't confirm a tornado either.
 
We made our way to North Platte, Nebraska for the night where the Cloud 9 Tours guests tricked our waitress into thinking it was my birthday and I was treated to a free desert and a group of singing waitresses. I suspect I'll have a few more of these before the trip is through...
 
There was more craziness later in the evening when the guests started playing with fireworks... INSIDE the motel. All I can do is shake my head sometimes!

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June 08 - Cheyenne, Wyoming
There was a very marginal chance of severe storms in Colorado today so we made the drive from Big Springs, Nebraska to a spot near Denver and waited. And waited... And waited. The capping inversion was very strong today and our chances were diminishing by the hour. We decided to abandon today's chase and head to Cheyenne for the night.

June 07 - Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Tornado Warning - Our first storm of the day passed very close to the town of Torrington, Wyoming and started off moving slowly. It took on a good shape, but never really got its act together. We followed it on dirt roads, across the state line into Nebraska where a second supercell formed behind the original. We stayed put and waited for the second storm to come to us, but when it approached, near the town of Mitchell, it looked like our day was pretty much over.
 
We made pit stop at the local gas station when all Hell broke loose. We could hear thousands of thuds as the hail approached. It smashed against the ground and we had to position our vehicles to avoid the worst of it. Too late for van 2 which took a few new cracks in the windshield. The largest hail we measured was 2 inches in diameter.
 
The storm had ramped back up and now was tornado warned. We piled back in and resumed the pursuit.
 
South off Scottsbluff, we came across a damage path where a tornado possibly came through. A roof had been peeled back, several small grain silos were crumpled and tossed, power was out and many trees were either snapped off or uprooted.

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June 06 - Sterling, Colorado
Tornado Warning - The day started off in Colorado Springs, in the shadow of Pikes Peak. We were really just planning on heading north to Ogallala, Nebraska to reposition for tomorrow. We knew that there was a chance of severe thunderstorms today, but we were pleasantly surprised. Several storms with severe thunderstorm warnings popped up, and the one we were on near Sterling became tornado warned. It was showing signs of rotation which was backed up by the radar data we saw. We watched it for quite a while before it eventually became undercut and died.
 
As we continued our way we treated to a nice double rainbow display as well as a nice sunset.
 
Even though we didn't see any tornadoes today, it was a much better day than we had expected.
 
In Ogallala, we discovered that the entire Vortex 2 research team is staying at the same hotel as us. The parking lot is FULL of radar trucks, mobile mesonet vehicles and other various odd devices on 4 wheels.
 
Tomorrow should be interesting.

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June 05 - Colorado Springs, Colorado
We had a tough decision to make today. Do we head into far eastern Iowa or Illinois to try and catch the highest threat area or do we go west into Colorado to try and chase the upslope setup there. Going west today would make our next few days easier and the eastern target, although better, has more hills & trees, making visibility a problem.
 
We went west and are currently in Colorado Springs after some odd mechanical problems. The van I'm driving kept losing power and stalling. We found a mechanic in a small town who took a look and the computer found that our fuel mixture was too lean. Perhaps it was a faulty fuel pump, or even a bad fillup at the last gas station. The really odd thing is that after we stopped, the problem seemed to just go away on its own. I'm OK with that.

June 04 - Hebron, Nebraska
Today was one of those days when most of the atmospheric parameters are in place for severe weather, but a strong capping inversion inhibits the development of any storms. A good chunk of the the day was spent sitting at a gas station in Hebron, Nebraska, waiting for the storms that never came.
 
At least we were treated to a nice sunset with windmills and horses.
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June 03 - Norfolk, Nebraska
Tornado Warning - Today we edged north, up into southern South Dakota, then ended up sliding back south into Nebraska. Several storms formed in the area near the town of Butte. but one tornado warned storm was the dominant one. Hordes of storm chasers, including the Vortex 2 project swarmed around it. The storm unfortunately, became elongated and although any tornado threat quickly vanished, we were still treated to a spectacularly sculpted storm.
 
It took on that alien mothership appearance and we raced to keep ahead of it, stopping every now and then to take photographs and marvel at its beauty.
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June 02 - O'Neill, Nebraska
Nothing to chase today, so we took it easy and repositioned ourselves to O'Neill, Nebraska. Tomorrow we expect tornadic storms in northern Nebraska, along the South Dakota border.

June 01 - Lincoln, Nebraska
With such a great chase day yesterday, we were hoping to keep that momentum going today, but Mother Nature had other plans. It started off looking promising when the Storm Prediction Center issued a "Moderate Risk" for severe weather and a tornado watch for much of Nebraska. When the storms did get started, they did not remain discrete, instead they clumped together in a disorganized mess that eventually turned into a large squall line. We kept ahead of it as much as we could, but it was over before it began.
 
We called off the chase and went for dinner in Lincoln. One interesting thing we did see today was a perfect halo of ice crystals around the sun.
 
I need to mention here that today marks the start of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. All the experts are expecting it to be a very busy one, and with the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, who knows what will happen? Of course, I'll be there for it if things get crazy.

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May 31 - Campo, Colorado
TORNADOES !! - What a day! I'll keep it short for now because I need sleep but here are the details:
Saw 3 tornadoes in southeastern Colorado/Oklahoma Panhandle. One was long lived and very photogenic. It was on the ground for at least 20 minutes.
 
We had the surreal experience of driving down a dirt road, watching the tornado slowly heading our way when we come across a herd of cattle, which turned into a STAMPEDE of cattle. They were running along beside our van as we drove south. I rolled down my window and could almost pet them. I've never had my celebratory steak dinner come to me before!
 
We intercepted the hail twice. The first time, there was a lot of it, but it was not huge, up to ping pong ball size. Later in the day, we encountered golf balls with a few stray baseballs. At one point, we were getting back into the van and a stray baseball whizzed by my ear. The whizzing sound was very loud and scary. Time to go!!
 
This storm lasted at least 9 hours and the forecast for today was not even very promising. There was only a slight risk with a 2% tornado probability and the SPC was only calling for a "chance of marginal supercells"

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May 30 - Enid, Oklahoma
Our first chase day with tour 3. We were originally going to blow off the severe weather risk in Oklahoma and drive west to better set ourselves up for tomorrow, but after looking at a few of the computer models, we decided to go for it. Our first stop was in Guthrie, Oklahoma where we spend a large chunk of the day waiting at a truck stop.
 
This is a large part of storm chasing.
 
Eventually, storms started to go up along a cold front and we headed out. A sever thunderstorm watch was in effect and we targeted a storm northwest of Enid. It was the "Tail-End Charlie", The last storm in a line of storms that had the best potential to be severe. It eventually earned a sever thunderstorm warning but it didn't look like much in person. It was ragged and disorganized. We tried to core punch it a few times, but the biggest hail we saw was about the size of a nickel.
 
As the evening went on, the line of storms filled in and that was that. Not much to show for the day's efforts, but it was a good shake down chase for the new tour guests.

May 29 - Piedmont, Oklahoma
This was the main arrival day for all the tour 3 folks and since they would be trickling in all day, Mike, John and I took the tour 2 people out to the annual storm chaser barbecue, hosted by Rocky Rascovitch. A good time was had by all as we shared stories of the chase and watched videos of past chases. Thanks Rocky & Dee for the invitation.

May 28 - Norman, Oklahoma
The end has come for tour 2. With no more storms in the forecast before they have to return home, we headed back to our home base in Norman, Oklahoma. What a two week stretch it has been!!

May 27 - Hays, Kansas
Today was a travel day. We took it easy and leisurely drove from Big Springs, Nebraska to Hays, Kansas. The tomfoolery at dinner tonight was epic, with peanut fights, a mechanical horse and a surprise birthday desert for J.R. who wasn't expecting it since his real birthday was back in September. Oh well, close enough.

May 26 - Chugwater, Wyoming
We chased after upslope storms that formed in the higher elevations along the dryline in Wyoming and Colorado. A tornado watch was issued and a tornado warned storm was heading north at the state line but couldn't hold itself together and we could never get close enough before fizzling. It didn't help that Charles was suffering from food poisoning all day. Not good.

May 25 - Devil's Tower, Wyoming
After yesterday's wild chase, we took the day off and decided to see some of the sights. We started off at Mount Rushmore and then worked our way west to Devil's Tower in Wyoming. Our day ended back in Rapid City, South Dakota.

May 24 - Faith, South Dakota
TORNADO-PALOOZA !!
 
South Dakota does it again, for the second time in a week. I don't know what it is about this state, but they get some very photogenic tornadoes here.
 
Wow, what a day! When we got up this morning, we were expecting a tough chase day due to fast moving storms and a poor road network in western South Dakota. The Storm Prediction Center had already issued a moderate risk for severe weather, including tornadoes so all the ingredients were present, but the location was not ideal. The cell phone network there is also not very good, so we were worried about losing our data feed during the chase today as well.
 
A tornado watch was issued and storms fired up early in the afternoon so we got into position to try and find the best storm of the day. The strongest storm was to our southwest and was tracking just west of due north. We plotted a course to intercept it and before we knew it, a tornado touched down. We thought it would only last a few minutes but it just kept on going. At first it was distant, then it got closer and closer. It showed no sign of weakening at all as it changed shape from a cone to a wide wedge to another fat cone. It was on the ground for over 15 minutes.
 
I noticed that it was going to cross a road nearby so we packed up and went west. As we approached the spot where it was headed, a smaller satellite tornado formed and was orbiting around the larger one. We watched it kick up dirt a couple of hundred feet ahead of us, but the main tornado was now getting really close too. We stopped in front of a small church and let the tornado cross the road less than 200 yards ahead of us, passing just behind the church. It was still a giant cone and the inflow winds where we were increased to the point where I needed all my strength to open the van door! It was like being in a hurricane!!
 
Several of our group also noticed another satellite tornado that passed behind our vehicles. Most of us were too busy with the main tornado to notice it and I need to see if any of them have video to confirm it. It wouldn't surprise me considering how close we were. There was even some concern about the vans possibly blowing over, but they remained firmly on the ground.
 
If we had an armored car, we could've easily driven right into the tornado... Certainly not an option in our vehicles, but one local motorist must've had quite the scare. As we filmed the tornado approach the road, a car came at us from the west, it just barely missed getting crunched by the tornado. I don't know if the driver was oblivious to what was going on or if he saw the tornado and needed a change of underwear.
 
Luckily, the house was spared. After it passed, we back-tracked and followed it north. Over the next half hour or so, we watched this storm produce tornado after tornado, most of them were conical in shape, another one looked like a multi-vortex tornado, and later we saw a distant stovepipe shaped tornado. Some of these were difficult for me to document because I was driving the lead vehicle at the time, but others in our group were able to get video and photographs.
 
As quickly as the chaos started, it all ended when the storm died and others merged together. It was one of our best tornado experiences to be that close and feel the incredible winds as it cross right in front of us.
 
Even after years of doing this, I still get a thrill out of it when Mother Nature puts on a really dramatic spectacle.

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May 23 - Pierre, South Dakota
There was a threat for severe weather further south into Kansas, but if we chased it, that meant a very long drive and another very long drive back to South Dakota for more severe weather on Monday. We decided to remain up here and not chase today and rest up for tomorrow's chance for more wild weather.

May 22 - Roscoe, South Dakota
5 TORNADOES IN SOUTH DAKOTA TODAY !!
 
 
What a day !!!
 
The best part is that it was my 40th birthday today. I couldn't have asked for a more exciting birthday.
 
We witnessed 4 or 5 tornadoes today in South Dakota today. We arrived on scene, just as the storm became tornado warned. We watched a large white cone tornado form to our north, we chased after is and were able to get very close. So close that we were on the edge of the collar cloud circulation. If we had gone even 50 feet closer, we would've likely rolled the van in the hurricane force winds that were right in front of us.
 
As we tried to get closer, we saw that the road was blocked. The TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle, an armored car with an IMAX camera inside) appeared to have taken a direct hit from the tornado. Power poles were snapped and lying across the road and electrical lines were down.
 
We back tracked and took some dirt roads to get east when we saw another tornado. This one was huge. A massive, violent, dark wedge of a tornado that looked to be at least a half mile wide was churning away. It passed just north of the main road and the towns nearby.
 
After is dissipated, we stopped on the side of the road to photograph a nicely back lit stovepipe tornado that changed shape into an elephant trunk and a sheathed funnel. I was able to capture stable, tripoded HD footage of this tornado as it spun to our west.
 
After a quick fuel stop, we saw yet another tornado. This one didn't have much shape. It was a large, bowl shaped multi-vortex tornado that was difficult to spot in the wrapping curtains or rain.
 
As we continued east, the storm took on an amazing structure, much like an approaching giant spacecraft.
 
This was my best chase day ever in South Dakota and a wonderful way to celebrate my 40th birthday. It was certainly a birthday I'll never forget.

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May 21 - Chadron, Nebraska
Tornado Warning - Starting off in Salina, Kansas, we headed west into Colorado to play the upslope storm chances at the higher elevations there. A tornado watch was issued and we figured that we were in a good position, but getting farther north was the plan. As we went north, things started to go wrong. First off, there were 2 areas of road construction that had the highway reduced to one lane only. This meant that we had to wait, and wait, and wait for the pilot car to come and bring a few cars at a time through the work zone.
 
This took forever.
 
The next problem was that storms did indeed form to the north... WAY to the north in Wyoming. We pushed so hard and drove for what seemed like forever. All the while this storm was tornado warned and had a great appearance on radar. When we finally got to the storm, it was too late. we only had a limited amount of light left and as soon as we got under the storm, it died. In total, we drove 630 miles. This is the part of storm chasing you typically don't see on TV.
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May 20 - Salina, Kansas
Today was a travel day. We started off in Shawnee, Oklahoma and traveled north into Kansas. It looks like the next round of severe weather is probably going to be on the Northern Plains so we want to be in position for it. We didn't push too hard today and stopped in Salina where I enjoyed a relaxing dip in the hot tub and a great meal at a local Japanese restaurant.

May 19 - Guthrie, Oklahoma
Tornado Warning - The Storm Prediction Center had issued a rare "high risk" forecast for Oklahoma and by early afternoon, a a PDS (Particularly Dangerous Situation) tornado watch had been issued.
 
A supercell storm formed north of interstate 40 and it was within reach so we went for it. This storm would end up being a very long-lived cyclic supercell that would go on for hours and produce numerous tornadoes but there were numerous problems chasing it:
 
- The road network was not very good. We struggled to get into position to see the area of the storm with the best tornado potential but a river valley, sparse roads and the lack of a close east option made it tough. Often we'd have to just stop on the crest of a hill and watch as it approached. Many times we could see strong rotation with small funnels and downward hanging tendrils which could have been on the ground, but hard to verify.
 
- The traffic. I've never seen so many storm chasers converge on a single storm like this. There were hundreds of cars including the Vortex 2 research armada, film crews, tour groups, independent chasers... You name it. It became a real zoo out there with what looked like a parade of vehicles all taking the same few roads options there were.
 
- The storm spent a great deal of its life cycle as an HP storm (high precipitation) which meant that its rotation was mostly wrapped up in rain. This makes viewing any tornado inside very difficult and dangerous.
 
In the town of Guthrie, we had a very pronounced funnel cloud come down at least half way to the ground just our south. We all thought for sure that this was going to end up being a firmly planted tornado but it never seemed to make it all the way down.
 
As we continued east, trying to stay ahead of the heavy rain and hail, John was in the lead and pulled off onto the grassy shoulder to get out and take a better look when all of a sudden, as soon as all 4 tires were on the grass, he started to slide and wound up slowly gliding into the ditch. The soft, muddy ground in Oklahoma is not very forgiving.
 
He was stuck
 
Like an Indy car pit crew, we sprang into action and pulled out our tow straps (thanks to Bill Hark for the additional strap) and pulled him out with one of the vans. The whole process was amazingly fast and we were back on the road within about 5 minutes, but our troubles were fart from over.
 
Over the radio, we could hear some of our other friends who were right behind us. The "Auto Club" as we like to call them which at this time consisted of a large group of chasers including Mark Robinson, Dave Lewison, Scott McPartland, Chris Kridler and a few more. We were all heading south on highway 18 when something strange happened.
 
We were in the rain and started to get very strong winds. We looked at the radar and saw that there was a broad circulation nearby, but it wasn't wrapped up that tight, or so we thought. Without notice, Charles and I spotted a funnel cloud passing from right to left ahead of us, then the winds picked up and shifted dramatically, suddenly and violently. At the same time, the Auto Club, about a mile behind us experienced some incredible winds that started to pull shingles off a house and toss around various debris. We speculate that a weak tornado may have passed just south of them and either just north of us, or basically on top of us. It was a scary few minutes but it didn't last long.
 
That night we stayed in the town of Shawnee and as the storm moved off, I was able to capture some great lightning photos. A nice end to an exciting, sometimes frustrating, but certainly wild day.

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May 18 - Dumas, Texas
I'm so far behind on posting photos on here but it's been busy.
 
TORNADO !! Today was an awesome day. A moderate risk was issued for parts of the Texas Panhandle and in mid afternoon a single storm fired up near Dalhart. We chased it as it quickly grew into a massive supercell storm that was slowly drifting northeast. We were sitting, watching it as it produced a well defined but distant, slender cone shaped tornado that lasted a few minutes before it dissipated
 
Moving on, the storm took on the most amazing shape and had the best looking structure I've seen in a long time. It looked like an alien ship coming down to land. The whole storm was rotating and was wrapped up with heavy rain and huge hail.
 
As we entered the town of Stinnet, the tornado sirens were blaring and we spotted twin funnel clouds snaking down from the sky just north of town. I don't know if either of them touched down or not. There were other tornadoes hidden in the rain, but the road network in that part of Texas is terrible and there was no safe way to get close.
 
We capped off a great day with a trip to the Big Texan steak ranch in Amarillo for a celebratory steak dinner.
 
I expect more action tomorrow, so it might be another few days before I get photos posted up on the blog. It's late now and I'm exhausted so off to bed I go.

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May 17 - Lubbock, Texas
Yesterday's somewhat unexpected hailstorm chase put us out of position for today's chasing so we got up a bit early and started to put the miles on... And on. Last night we stayed in Wichita falls and by late afternoon, we found ourselves in eastern New Mexico where several severe thunderstorms had formed. We positioned ourselves as best we could given the poor road network in the area and watched the storms come & go.
 
There wasn't a lot to see anyway, mainly just rain, high winds and a few nice bolts of lightning. We pressed on to Lubbock for the evening and will be chasing again tomorrow.
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May 16 - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Tornado Warning - Today was the first chase day for tour 1 and we were originally planning on heading to Texas to set up for a chase tomorrow, but a storm fired up near Kingfisher, Oklahoma so we went after it instead and I'm glad we did. The storm grew into a very nice supercell and developed a nice hook echo on radar. It became tornado warned and started to seriously look like it was going to produce a tornado, so we blasted south to Piedmont through the area of the storm known as the "Bear's Cage". It's the area of rotation that in encircled by rain and hail, the bear is any tornado that might be inside.
 
The storm was now producing baseball size hail and we had to keep ahead of it or else risk getting pounded by the monstrous hail and possibly busting out the windows of our vehicles. The storm tracked right over Oklahoma City and caused a lot of damage while we found a gas station awning to hide under.
 
When the hail arrived, it was mostly ping-pong ball to golf ball size, but there was plenty of it. We had a lot of fun grabbing some samples that bounced off the nearby soft grass.
 
As the storm passed on, we tried to keep up with it, but it was gaining speed and we eventually called off the chase and had dinner in Ardmore, then pushed on to Wichita Falls, Texas.

May 15 - Norman, Oklahoma
We returned to our home base in Norman, Oklahoma to drop off the tour 1 guests and pick up the tour 2 guests. With so many folks coming and going, it basically takes most of the day. Tomorrow we may head down to Texas or possibly stay in Oklahoma for the potential hail threat.

May 14 - Abilene, Texas
Tornado Warning - Heading south out of Amarillo, we targeted a tornado warned storm south of interstate 20. When we got to the highway, a whole bunch of idiots were stopped in the middle of the road underneath an overpass, completely blocking traffic. They were afraid of the small hail, but in reality, they were causing the hazard by blocking the road for any emergency vehicles. I got the traffic flowing again by jumping out of the van and having a few select words with one of the truck drivers that was stopped in an active lane... He got the point and moved on. The rain & hail core of this storm was intense with near zero visibility at times and flooded roads.
 
We followed the storm system east as it pulsed up and down and since it was moving slowly, we had no problem keeping ahead of it. The coolest thing was when we all saw a bolt of lightning come down and hit a giant wind turbine. One of our guests had his video camera aimed directly at it and caught the strike as the lightning pulsed and hit the spinning blades.
 
After the chase, we finished the day off with a Chinese food buffet in Abilene.

May 13 - Amarillo, Texas
A travel day. We drove from Kansas to Amarillo, where we all enjoyed a nice dinner at the Big Texan Steak Ranch which is our favorite place to eat whenever we go to Amarillo. It has become a real tradition amongst storm chasers over the years.
 
Nobody in our group was daring enough to try the 72 oz steak dinner though. Perhaps next time.

May 12 - Wichita, Kansas
Tornado Warning - Multiple storms today, several of which had tornado warnings on them. We started the day off chasing near Cherokee, Oklahoma, where we were the other day, then followed the storms across the state line into Kansas. At one point, we linked up with fellow storm chaser Jim Reed and his media crew from Chicago. It was great to chat with him while our tour guest were being interviewed for the news.
 
We pushed to Wichita and ended up taking some lightning photos at the motel after dark.

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May 11 - Woodward, Oklahoma
Tornado Warning - Storms were expected to fire up in the late afternoon in Oklahoma but the first storm to go up ingested some dry air and evaporated before our eyes, but just before dark, a second storm fired up, just south of Woodward, Oklahoma and we were able to get on it. It was a beautiful LP storm (low precipitation) that was textbook perfectly shaped, with a barber pole updraft and plenty of rotation. It became tornado warned as we photographed it, but due to a lack of roads, we were never able to verify if there was a tornado.

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May 10 - Wakita, Oklahoma
Tornado Outbreak - An epic day certainly unfolded today with numerous, fast moving supercell storms that produced many damaging tornadoes, mainly across Oklahoma.
 
The storm we targeted matured near the town of Cherokee where we saw baseball and softball sized hailstones littering the ground. Many home & car windows in town were smashed out, but luckily we didn't get into any of it as it was coming down. Near the town of Wakita (which was the town featured in the movie "Twister") we caught up with the main updraft of the storm which was dramatically rotating. We saw it produce at least 2 brief multi-vortex tornadoes from very close range.
 
We passed through the damage path a couple of times but because these storms were moving so fast, we had a hard time keeping up and when we finally caught up with it again on Interstate 35, it had produced another tornado that caused damage and flipped several trucks on the highway.
 
We continued on and attempted to intercept a few more storms, but they were either racing off too fast or were weakening.
 
One storm to our south was a prolific tornado producer and cause a great deal of damage in our home base city of Norman, then went on to cause more damage in areas along interstate 40, all the way into Arkansas.
 
Unfortunately, there have also been fatalities, at least 5 as of this writing. I'll update this blog with more information later. I'm going to rest now after this exhausting day.

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May 09 - Norman, Oklahoma
OK, we've been hanging out in Norman too long. Tomorrow is expected to be our best chase day so far this year. In fact the forecast calls for the likelihood of long-track, strong tornadoes in Oklahoma & Kansas. Tomorrow should be an epic day, but there are some snags. the storms will probably be moving quickly, 40+ miles per hour, so they'll be hard to keep up with. Another issue will be the sheer number of other storm chasers out there.
 
This potential outbreak has been anticipated for a while now and because of this, everybody is going to be chasing tomorrow. We'll see how things go, but I'll be rested up with my camera batteries charged up. Expect some dangerous weather across the Great Plains.

May 08 - Norman, Oklahoma
Today was a down day with no storms to chase so we spent the day seeing a few of the sights around Oklahoma City.
 
Some of us went to a shooting range and tried a few guns, including a .44 Magnum and an AK-47. Interestingly, it was only the foreign guests who went to the shooting range. I guess the Americans in the group didn't see the novelty of it all. Afterwards, we met up with the rest of the group at the OKC memorial and we all went to see a movie then dinner in Bricktown.
 
There's always something to do, even on days without storms.

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May 07 - Norman, Oklahoma
With a few days to kill before the next storm system is expected to roll through, we returned to our home base in Norman, Oklahoma. After dinner, several of us went out to the motel parking lot and I taught a few of the tour guests how to breathe fire.
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May 06 - Council Grove, Kansas
Tornado Warning - After blasting back to Kansas we were hoping that our efforts would be rewarded with a nice supercell storm... Well, it sort of happened. The potential for tornadoes was good in Kansas, but the capping inversion held for most of the day which inhibited storm initiation. We waited, and waited... And waited until almost sundown when we eventually decided to grab a bite to eat and hope for a good lightning display after dark.
 
One isolated supercell storm went up after dark and became tornado warned. We approached it from the south and got as close to it as possible while remaining out of the rain to take photos. It had a great looking structure, but because it was so dark out, the photographs couldn't fully capture the beauty of this storm. We followed it as it passed through Council Grove, dropping large hail and then it eventually fell apart, east of town.

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May 05 - St. Louis, Missouri
Today was a frustrating day. We chased a small cluster of storms north of Indianapolis that never really was able to get it's act together. A severe thunderstorm watch was issued for the area, but the storms were moving too fast to chase and most of them were weaker than expected.
 
it didn't take too long for us to pass on the entire setup and start heading west again. It was nice to hook up with fellow Canadian storm chase, Dave Patrick again and in the morning, we'll all be heading west to chase the setup in eastern Kansas.

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May 04 - Indianapolis, Indiana
I can barely believe it, but we made today a travel day in order to get into position for severe weather tomorrow and we are now in Indiana. Well outside the traditional "Tornado Alley" area.
 
We go wherever we have to. In fact, this is a record for the farthest east that Cloud 9 Tours has gone and we'll probably go east again tomorrow.

May 03 - Godfrey, Illinois
We weren't expecting today to be a real chase day, but after looking at the morning forecast we decided to go for it and try to chase any storms that might fire up along the Missouri/Illinois state line.
 
We departed Kansas City and headed east along interstate 70 until a severe thunderstorm watch box was issued and then eventually one severe thunderstorm formed close to our location and passed just north of St. Louis. We followed it and got into the path of the storm, hoping to see how big the hail was.
 
Well, the hail we encountered was about an inch and a half in diameter, but there was certainly a LOT of it. We parked under a stand of trees as the worst of it hit and it was like being in a giant blender full of lettuce. The leaves all around us were being stripped off the tree branches and were tumbling down, covering our vehicles.
 
After the worst of the core had passed, we continued following the storm on slippery, hail covered roads but the storm was slowly accelerating and was getting away from us too quickly so we eventually had to give up the chase and let it go.
 
As a parting gift, the storm treated us to a gorgeous, persistent double rainbow.
 
All in all, a very good chase day, especially considering that we never really expected to be doing any chasing today at all. We normally don't like to chase storms this far east, especially east of the Mississippi river, but we go wherever we have to to find the best storms.
 
We eventually wound up in Greensville, Illinois where we had a nice Mexican dinner and got rooms for the night.

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May 02 - Kansas City, Missouri
There was very modest chance for storms in eastern Kansas today and even though the odds were against us, we headed north to see if we would get lucky. A few small storms fired up near Kansas City, but the dewpoints were just too low, the storms never had a chance to get intense due to this lack of moisture.
 
The one storm that looked like it had potential didn't last long so we called off the chase and went for dinner instead. It looks like it'll be a few days before the next big system comes in off the Pacific.
 
Update - Well as it turns out, our target did verify, the storms just waited until about midnight before firing up. We were treated to a spectacular lightning display and even some small hail. This was the view from our motel.

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May 01 - Norman, Oklahoma
Most of the airport pickups are done and tonight we'll be giving an orientation and safety briefing for the new tour guests. Tomorrow we'll likely begin the chase in earnest with a trip to Kansas being most likely.
 
However, right now a dangerous weather situation continues to unfold across Arkansas and Mississippi. Yesterday several tornadoes were reported, causing damage and even fatalities near Little Rock. The Storm Prediction Center issued a High Risk yesterday and then again today. Seeing a forecast so conducive for tornadoes 2 days in a row is very rare, but the terrain in that part of the country makes it difficult and hazardous to chase, plus we had to pick up up the rest our people today so it was impossible for us to pursue this event at all.
 
Stay safe out there today.

April 30 - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
 
A full day today. This morning I was in Oklahoma City where I did a 2 hour on-camera interview with a camera crew for the Travel Channel. They're producing a 3 part series on extreme weather events and forces of nature.
 
After that, I headed east to Shawnee where I met up with Charles Edwards and John Guyton to go over a few last minute details about this year's tours. I also dropped off my vehicle and picked up one of the vans. I think we're ready for the chase.
 
Tonight, I'm guest-hosting the American Heathen show on Shocknetradio.com with R.J. Evans. It should be totally outrageous so log in and listen if you can at 8 - 11 PM eastern.

April 29 - Norman, Oklahoma
 
The second half of my endurance drive from Canada to Oklahoma went smoothly without much to report. I'm just glad that it's over. At least when I drive all day chasing a storm, there's something to pursue and I have great company with me to chat with along the way.

April 28 - Eureka, Missouri
 
Not much to report other than a 15 hour drive today from Toronto to Missouri. It went fairly well other than the main highway through Indiana being shut down for a while. It added to my day but I pushed on so that I could get on the west side of St. Louis so that i don't have to deal with the traffic there when I leave tomorrow morning.

April 27 - Toronto, Canada
 
Tornado chase 2010 is here. For the next 6 weeks, I'll be traveling across the Great Plains of the United States in the "Tornado Alley" region of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas & Nebraska to hunt down and photograph severe thunderstorms, hail, lightning and tornadoes. This season marks my 13th year in a row of chasing tornadoes! Oh, how does the time fly.
 
This blog page will be updated daily with pictures and stories from the road so check back often to see what we've been up to.

Tornado Alley


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