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Tornado Chase 2012 - George Kourounis

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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


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June 17 - Norman, Oklahoma
That's a wrap!
 
My 2012 storm chase tour guiding duties are now complete. Everybody made it to the airport safe and sound. The past 6 weeks have been a blur, but we had a great time, saw lots of wild storms and shared memories that will last a lifetime.
 
Thanks so much to everyone else at Cloud 9 Tours and especially to all the guests who traveled from all over the planet to come join us on such a crazy trip. It was great to see so many old friends and to make so many new ones as well.
 
I'll see you guys next spring!


June 16 - Monument Rocks, Kansas
With no prospects for storms and the fact that we needed to get the tour guests back to Norman, Oklahoma tonight, we had no choice but to make today a travel day from northwestern Kansas, back down to central Oklahoma.
 
Along the way, we stopped off at one of our favorite spots, Monument Rocks, south of Oakley, Kansas. The landscape there is nothing that you would expect in such a flat state. It's more like something you'd see in southern Utah rather than Kansas.
 
Unfortunately, we found ourselves in yet another rescue situation. This time it wasn't a person in trouble, it was a baby pronghorn antelope. It was alone, scared, malnourished and was having trouble walking. Clearly it was in bad shape and needed help.
 
There wasn't much we could do other move it into the shade, give it some water and make a call to the local animal services. Hopefully, the were able to make it out there in time to save this cute little fella.
 
After Monument Rocks, were continued through the town of Greensburg which was totally devastated by an EF-5 tornado 5 years ago. It's amazing how much progress they've made. The town is coming back strong. It was nice to see how they were doing and to pump a little money into the local economy.
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June 16 - Goodland, Kansas
Our last chase day of the season...
 
Our group started the day off in Colby, Kansas and it we headed west into Colorado to chase a couple of storms that had popped up there, but it became clear very quickly that they were becoming outflow dominant and were dying. So, we turned back and headed east towards Kansas again when a couple of other storms popped up in a better environment.
 
We went after them, but by the time we got to where they were, they too were dead. All was not lost though! Back to the west, a huge squall line had formed and was heading our way.
 
We found an open spot north of Goodland, Kansas and waited for it to come to us. The shelf cloud on this storm was amazing.. AND it was moving slowly, so we had plenty of time to set up some shots and really capture this thing as it got closer and closer.
 
I totally lucked out and got a really nice lightning photo with dramatic colors as we were overtaken by the storm. It was all I could do to steady my tripod in the fierce winds as I tried to take long exposure shots. The combination of the blue clouds, the purple sunlight that was being filtered through the rain and the green & yellow fields made me a very happy photographer. What you see here is only a small sample of the photographs I took.
 
As darkness set in, we drove back to Colby, and as were were on the road, I continued to take lightning photos from the moving vehicle, with some nice results and even after we arrived at the motel, the lightning was STILL ongoing, so of course, I had to keep shooting.
 
Some of the bolts were extremely close, so I had to find a sheltered area at the back of the motel where I could be safe and stay out of the rain as much as I could.
 
There was even some upward lightning that came up off a nearby radio transmission antenna. A rare treat to capture in a photograph.
 
What a nice way to wrap up the season. It was one of the most photogenic storms of the year.

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June 14 - Near Ness City, Kansas
Even after losing a lot of time responding to a nasty car crash, we still managed to make it onto a good storm in Kansas. Several storms in the southeastern portion of the state looked good, but we can only choose one. It looks like we chose wisely because it eventually became tornado warned near Ness City.
 
The problem was that there was another storm too the south that was merging in with it and we didn't have a clear liine of sight to where the rotation was. The merging storm did have an impressive looking shelf cloud and as the 2 storms came together, we had to quickly retreat to the east on a dirt road, but that was hampered by all the blowing dirt from the gust front.
 
It was blowing dust around so badly, that visibility was down to near zero and at times, I couldn't even tell if there was a road to drive on!
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June 14 - Tyrone, Oklahoma
We had to stop and help with yet another emergency situation today.
 
We came across a single vehicle accident just south of Tyrone, Oklahoma. There were 7 people in the minivan and 3 of them were injured, 1 of them very seriously. We stopped right away and several of us ran out to help where we could. The driver had a minor head wound, another male had a t broken arm and possibly broken ribs. The seriously injured man was about 30 feet away from the car. we didn't even see him at first.
 
He had pretty bad head & face trauma, and who knows what other injuries. There was plenty of blood & his pulse was weak & erratic and he was unresponsive. I ran back to the van, grabbed a towel and used it to help support his head, in case his neck was broken. His breathing became laboured, slow & frothy and his face was swelling up badly. Several of us, including a local nurse who was driving by help as best we could
 
It took a while for paramedics to show up, but when they did, I was glad to hand over duties to them.
It was not looking too good when they eventually took him away.
 
The occupants all spoke only spanish, so it was difficult to communicate, but we did find out that the driver didn't have a driver's licence.
 
It looks like one of their tires blew out & they lost control.
 
Wear your seat belts, folks.

June 13 - Amarillo, Texas
Today was a bit of a let down... A total bust actually. After yesterday's great storm near Melrose, NM (and not enough sleep last night) we were hoping for a bit of a replay today. The Storm Prediction Center had a slight risk for our area, so we decided to not get our windshields replaced. Instead, we would chase today and fix the vehicles tomorrow. If we encountered more hail, no big deal right? The windshields are already shattered.
 
Well as luck would have it, the forecast fizzled and we waited around all day for nothing. We even drove out into New Mexico, hoping a good storm would fire up there. One pathetic, scrawny storm did form, but it quickly died.
 
The forecast never did pan out. That's how it goes sometimes.
 
There's only a few days left for tour 3, so I'm really hoping to get them some more good chases before they have to fly home.

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June 12 - Melrose, New Mexico
Tornado Warning
 
What a crazy day this turned out to be. Our target area was still far away from our starting point in Hays, Kansas so we had a LONG way to drive. That meant getting up early and heading out the door fast.
 
After way too much road, we finally got to a storm in our target area in New Mexico. There was one, single storm that was isolated from all the others and despite starting off slowly, it kept growing and getting stronger.
 
Just before sunset it went berserk and started really rotating. The structure was gorgeous and the only way I could possibly photograph it was to create a panorama shot from numerous wide-angle photos.
 
The storm became tornado-warned near the town of Melrose, New Mexico and we watched it form a slender, snake-like funnel that came halfway down and was close to touching down. It was especially nice with the setting sun illuminating the mammatus clouds behind the funnel.
 
The wind really picked up and started blasting us with dirt. as the storm really spun up and formed a classic hook echo on radar. It was time to go!
 
Too late... That hail started coming down. Small at first, then bigger and BIGGER until both vehicles had smashed windshields from the now tennis ball size hail. It was all we could do to blast south to get away from the hail and any potential tornado that may have been bearing down on us. It was dark by now and we were directly under the strongest rotation.
 
We measured some of the hail at 2 1/2 inches in diameter, and there were certainly some larger ones out there.
 
In the darkness, we spotted at least one more funnel cloud, but since it was too dark and getting very late, we decided to break off the chase and head to Amarillo. The windshield was intact enough that I could see well enough to drive as we passed through heavy rain, more hail and blinding lightning on the way back.
 
In total, we drove 710 miles through 4 states today and were on the road for about 18 hours or so. Exhausting, but a great chase. Certainly the best storm I've ever seen in New Mexico.
 
Tomorrow, there's more potential for storms in the same general area. Perhaps we'll wait an extra day to replace the windshield!

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June 11 - Hays, Kansas
Not much to talk about today. It was just a travel day to help us get from Iowa to a spot closer to our target for tomorrow in New Mexico. We decided to stop for the night in Hays, Kansas where we treated ourselves to a great meal at Whiskey Creek, A Cloud 9 Tours tradition.

June 10 - Webster City, Iowa
The weather pattern this week has been a tough one. Our day started off in Grand Forks, North Dakota, then we tried chasing several thunderstorms across much of Minnesota, but they were mostly junk. Too many storms, moving too quickly, and none of them very interesting. We eventually bailed on Minnesota and dropped further south into Iowa. A couple of storms there looked more promising there, but in the end, they died off too.
 
We stopped for the night in Webster City and waited for the remaining nocturnal storms to roll through. There was plenty of rain & wind, but not much in the way of lightning. I did manage to capture several small bolts which I stacked together to make one, panoramic image.

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June 09 - Grand Forks, North Dakota
I had high hopes for today, but they did not pan out. We chased storms in extreme northeastern North Dakota. At one point we were less than 10 miles from the Manitoba border, but we could not cross since not everyone with us had passports. It didn't matter anyway because the storms were weak and mushy. All that travel for nothing... That's part of storm chasing.
 
The sunset was nice though. We've been getting plenty of great sunset photos. A nice consolation prize, but still a letdown for a group of storm chasers. Better luck tomorrow!

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June 08 - Selby, South Dakota
What was supposed to be a low key travel day had more than its fair share of drama when a medical incident took place at the truck stop in Nebraska where we were having breakfast. An elderly woman collapsed and two of our people (John Guyton & Tom Cosgrove) had to start giving her CPR. By the time the ambulance arrived, it was pretty clear that she was not going to make it.
 
The unfortunate part was that her family was there to witness the entire thing. At least they saw a group of strangers try their best to keep her alive.
 
The rest of the day was uneventful, other than a pretty sunset over a small lake.

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June 07 - North of Cheyenne, Wyoming
Tornado Warning - We intercepted an awesome tornado warned storm north of Cheyenne, Wyoming that was barely moving at all. It was so slow that we had plenty of time to sit and wait for it while we positioned ourselves in the exact spot where the rotating part of the storm would be right in front of us. If it had dropped a tornado, we would have been in very close proximity to it.
 
The panoramic photo on the right was stitched together from about 6 wide angle photos, so it's hard to envision how big and close this thing was to us.
 
After it passed by, we kept up with it and encountered all kinds of great weather photo opportunities.
 
We took shelter from the hail at the high school in the town of Burns, where hail on the roof poured down the downspout and piled up 15 inches deep! The biggest stones we found were about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, south of town.
 
We also saw a very bright rainbow, some nice lightning and a very dramatic sunset display of mammatus clouds.
 
All in all, a great chase day, even without seeing a tornado.

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June 06 - Greeley, Colorado
Today was a weird day. A tornado watch was issued for our target area in eastern Colorado, but only one tornadic storm formed, and it was well to the south, out of reach. The rest of the day's storms were mushy and disorganized.
 
While out on the chase, we met up with several other chasers, including Brad Riley, who was one of our guides on tour 2. He's still out chasing with his girlfriend but today, he had a problem... He accidentally locked his keys in his truck in the middle of nowhere. It took quite a bit of effort, but we managed to get the door open using a VHF antenna and some duct tape (Is there nothing duct tape can't do?)
 
Just in case, I had already prepared "Plan B" which was a big rock. Luckily, we never had to use it.
 
We kept on chasing until darkness, but the storms kept teasing us. They'd look good for a while, then die off. I did manage to squeeze off one lightning photo. (I had to delete hundreds of frames without lightning in them).
 
The nice ending to this odd day was one of the best sunset shots I've taken in a while. The sky was purple-blue with orange rays of sunlight peeking out from behind the clouds and I managed to get some green wheat in there too.
 
Nice.
 
Tomorrow looks like a similar setup in the same area too. We'll see how it goes.

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June 05 - Sidney, Nebraska
We tried to photograph the transit of Venus today, but cloud cover kept thwarting our efforts. We did get a few brief moments (very brief) wheren it was visible through a layer of cirrus clouds. I did manage to get one quick shot in. Venus looks like a small circle, almost resembling a sun spot on the right side of the sun.
 
I'm glad I was able to at least get some kind of an image because this won't happen again until the year 2117.
 
I don't think I'll be around for that one.
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June 04 - Big Springs, Nebraska
What was supposed to be a travel day, turned into a chase day. As we were driving from Liberal, Kansas to Big Springs, Nebraska we noticed some storms forming in the higher elevations along the Colorado/Kansas state line. Why not go chase them?
 
The road network there was not great, but as we approached, it was looking like we'd get the chance for some nice lightning shots, so we found a good spot to pull off and the entire crew piled out and we started taking photos. I was concentrating so much on getting the shots that I didn't notice a wall of dust and sand being blown at us by strong outflow winds. I was just able to zip up my camera bag before the high speed wall of dirt overtook our location. We got totally sandblasted!
 
We scrambled to close the car doors and I hid behind one of the vans to try to keep the sand out of my eyes, but it was no use, the winds curled the dust up from underneath the van, right into my face (and one of my cameras).
 
Ugh, now my eyes were stinging and grit was everywhere... and I mean everywhere.
 
Despite the dusty mess, it was a far better chase than I was expecting, even though I never did get the lightning photo I was hoping for.

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June 03 - May, Oklahoma
The first day of tour 2 and we found ourselves near the town of May, Oklahoma where a tornado watch box was issued, but it never really panned out. We did see one decent storm that was trying to get organized. At one point it had a corkscrewing updraft and a nice, finger-like funnel cloud, but it only lasted a short time. I did get a nice panoramic image of the storm with some bales of hay that showcases what the terrain is really like in this area of the U.S.
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June 02 - Norman, Oklahoma
Tour 2 comes to and end and the new folks from tour 3 have arrived. Today was the switchover day between groups, so much of it was spent getting back to Norman, orienting the new guests and saying goodbye to many friends, both old and new.

June 01 - Gruver, Texas
There was a slight risk for severe weather in the Texas Panhandle today. We left Amarillo in the morning and drove up to the town of Gruver, where we waited for much of the afternoon at a gas station, alongside other storm chaser friends. Once storms fired up, we blasted east, but it was tough for them to stay organized today and we didn't see much.
 
We were treated to the interesting sight of a group of cows, a horse & a donkey, all standing at the side of the road with one of the storms in the background. The horse & donkey were very friendly and let me walk right up and pet them.
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May 31 - Amarillo, Texas
Today was a down down in Amarillo. We took in some of the sights. First up was Palo Duro Canyon, which is the 2nd largest canyon in the U.S. after the Grand Canyon. We shot some photos along the canyon edge, then drove down to the bottom where we hiked up to a small cave and had some fun driving through one of the water crossings. I thought I'd destroyed one of my cameras in the water, but we were able to eventually revive it!
 
In the evening, we tried to get some cool sunset photos at Cadillac Ranch, but clouds off to the west thwarted that effort. We still had fun and got some great photos.
 
As an aside, I must recommend the Coyote Bluff restaurant in Amarillo. It is a total dive, but the food is amazing! Especially their signature hamburger the "Burger from Hell" which consists of a half pound of meat, a generous handful of grilled, fresh jalapeno peppers, sauteed onions and a fist of cheese. It's a hefty one, but delicious! This place was featured on the Food Network show "Man Vs. Food"

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May 30 - Amarillo, Texas
What a big diappointment. Today was forecast to be active in western Oklahoma, but by late afternoon, it became clear that everything was going pear-shaped. Some tornado warned storms formed down in Texas near Paducah, but there was no way that we could possibly reach them, so the day turned into a total bust.
 
At least we got a nice sunset northeast of Amarillo.
 
The rest of this week does not look too promising for storms, so it looks like some quite time ahead.
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May 29 - Piedmont, Oklahoma
Tornado Warning
 
Our first storm of the day formed near the town of Alva, Oklahoma. We chased it until better looking storms to the south started to get more organized.
 
Then things got "interesting"
 
Near Piedmont, one storm was producing some of the biggest hail I've ever seen. We were skirting the edge of it as baseballs and larger were coming down, smashing into the ground round us. We got lucky and didn't lose any glass from the vehicles, but there were some who actually measured hail up to 6 inches in diameter. That's the size of a grapefruit!
 
We found some shelter in town and waited for the big hail to come. The tornado sirens were blaring, and the sporadic, giant hail was punctuating the mayhem with loud bangs as it it hit the metal awning at the school where we were parked.
 
Then things got even crazier. Another storm from the south merged with our storm and for a few minutes, this increased the rotation and formed a brief tornado just to our west. It was wrapped in rain and hail, so we never did get a good look at it.
 
Tomorrow looks even better for severe weather, and it's going to be in the same general area...

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May 28 - Seymour, Texas
It was quite a haul from Hays, Kansas down to Seymour, Texas, but we made it there just in time to intercept a nice supercell north of town that packed a punch!
 
We observed the storm for a while as it got organized and developed into a mature supercell with a hook echo. It was slowly moving southeast, so we played leapfrog with it as it got closer and closer to overtaking our position and it eventually sand-blasted us with a dramatic, high speed wall of dirt.
 
After the tornado risk had diminished, we headed into town and found a metal overhang to park underneath. The main hail core was coming our way and we wanted to experience it safely from outside the vehicles. This was the LOUDEST hail I can remember hearing. There was a lot of it being blown at high speed and the added factor of the corrugated metal overhang made for a cacophony that pulsed and roared for what seemed like a deafening eternity. The largest hail we measured was around golf ball sized, and most was much smaller, but it was intense to say the least. It was blowing like a hurricane!
 
After the storm passed, we were treated to one of the prettiest skies I've seen in a long time. It had everything. A rainbow, beautiful cloud formations, sunbeams, you name it. To top it all off, some dramatic looking mammatus clouds were perfectly lit up by the setting sun.
 
What a nice day of storm chasing. It's not always about the tornado. Today, the sky showed us how gorgeous it can be.
 
Later in the evening, we met up with a whole pile of other chaser friends at a restaurant in Wichita Falls. The next couple of days look like we'll be chasing in Oklahoma.

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May 27 - Kearney, Nebraska
Today was supposed to be the "big day" with our best potential to see a tornado in a while but it never did materialize. We started off in Des Moines, Iowa and drove to our target area in south-central Nebraska where storms did fire up, but they were moving FAST.
 
We got right up underneath the main area of rotation on one cell and it produced a very tight gustnadoes right ahead of us which paralleled the road for a while and the outflow winds from the storm kicked up an impressive amount of dirt, but ultimately, it outran us.
 
Other storms came up from the south with hail and intense lightning as we drove late into the night to get into position for tomorrow's chase. We'll be up early and heading towards Oklahoma or Texas.
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May 26 - Nebraska
Every now and then, Mother Nature reminds us who is in charge. We were expecting severe weather in northern Nebraska, yet only one, anemic, pitiful excuse for a storm was able to form. It is a complicated list of ingredients that's needed for severe weather and a capping inversion of warm air kept any serious storms at bay today.
 
The Weather Channel was out too with their "Great Tornado Hunt" but they had as much luck as we did. There were many disappointed chasers today.
 
We did salvage the day with a very pretty sunset in a windmill farm. Up close, these giant wind turbines are very impressive and the whooshing noise the blades make as they slice through the air is unreal.
 
Tomorrow looks like it will be a much better chase day for us with more widespread severe weather expected.

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May 25 - Jackson, Minnesota
Today was a travel/down day as we got into better position for severe weather on Saturday, so as we traveled west along Interstate 90 in southern Minnesota, we stopped to see a few of the local, wacky sights.
 
First up was the Spam museum. Yep, that;s right. A museum dedicated to the famous canned pork product... And I must say, it was a lot better than I was expecting it to be. They put a lot of effort into it. We've always had a running joke that we want to get close enough to a tornado to throw a tin of Spam into it and have it never touch the ground. We made sure to stock up on a few cans, just to be ready.
 
Then, we passed through the town of Blue Earth, where they have a 55 foot tall statue of the Jolly Green Giant.
 
Welcome to America.
 
We stopped for a group photo before pushing on to the town of Jackson for the night. The next few days look like they will be busy one, with plenty of storms to chase.
 
Stay tuned!

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May 24 - La Crosse, Wisconsin
We were not really expecting to chase today, but Charles went around, knocking on everyone's door in the early morning to get us up and on the road. We had just enough time to make it to the moderate risk target area in Minnesota/Wisconsin.
 
By early afternoon, a tornado watch was up and many fast moving storms were racing northeast. the problem today was that the entire storm system turned into a line of storms early on, so the tornado potential was greatly reduced. Also, the storm were moving SO fast, that all we could do was get into position and let them overtake us. After doing this a few times, the entire system was past us and that was that. An early start and an early end to the day, just across the state line in Wisconsin.
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May 23 - Wahoo, Nebraska
Several storms fired up today ahead of a cold front in Nebraska and while most of them became undercut and turned to garbage, one storm held it together and soon went tornado-warned. We dashed south from our location and caught up with it in the town of Wahoo.
 
We was a nice wall, cloud, experienced some very loud and plentiful hail and the storm produced a few gustnadoes. These are swirls of dust along the ground ahead of the gust front that sometimes look like weak tornadoes, but are not. All in all, a good day.
 
We've stopped in Omaha for the night.

May 22 - Hays, Kansas
Not a lot to report today. It was a travel day to get from New Mexico to Hays, Kansas so that we would be in a good position for any storms that happen in Nebraska tomorrow. We ended up at one of our favourite restaurants in Hays, Whiskey Creek. The staff there have better things to do than put up with 30 rowdy storm chasers. Kudos to them.

May 22 - Tucumcari, New Mexico
Dazzling lightning in New Mexico!
 
Even though the forecast was not too favorable for tornadoes today, it was clear that there was going to be some severe weather in the general area of where we were already positioned in eastern New Mexico.
 
What I was hoping for was a good display of lightning, and I got my wish. After driving in a big circle for most of the day, we found ourselves back near Tucumcari where a large, messy cluster of storms was moving east.
 
The good thing for us was that this cluster of storms was a prolific lightning producer. I was able to capture many cloud to ground lightning strike images and I put a few of them together into a multiple-exposure image.
 
A few quick facts about lightning:
- It can burn 5 times hotter than the surface of the sun.
- A large bolt can be up to about 100 million volts of electricity.
- Time between seeing the flash & hearing the thunder: 5 seconds = about 1 mile.

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May 20 - Melrose, New Mexico
The past 36 hours has been insane. Between the tornadoes in Kansas, having to return to Oklahoma to make the switch over from tour 1 to tour 2, AND blasting west with the new group into New Mexico for the annular solar eclipse... I'm glad to almost be asleep.
 
The eclipse was amazing. I've never seen one before and even though it wasn't a total eclipse, the fact that it occurred at sunset made it a very spectacular sight to behold. We found a clear spot on the outskirts of Melrose, New Mexico and snapped away as the moon drifted in front of the sun. It was a great thing to experience with a group of people and I'm looking forward to seeing another one.
 
Good night.
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May 19 - Rago, Kansas
TORNADO OUTBREAK!!
 
Wow is all I can say about today...
 
We had one of my most intense tornado experiences in all my years of storm chasing. We were not expecting much from today. It was the last day of tour 1 and there was only a 2% tornado probability, so we would have been happy with just about anything.
 
Well, we ended up seeing 6 tornadoes. 5 of them were of the landspout variety (including several at the same time), but the big show came in Rago, Kansas where we had a photogenic, violent tornado cross the road right in front of us, well less that 100 yards away.
 
The white tornado kicked up a dark, reddish-brown cloud of dirt as it crossed the road, ripping up trees and tossing debris around. It was intense. We had to back up because it was curving north, towards us.
 
One remarkable thing was the sound it made. I've heard tornadoes before, but this one was the loudest I've ever heard. Partially because it was so close, and partly because it was flinging around a lot of debris.
 
It did some damage to a few structures in the area, including damaging a giant wind turbine.
 
What an epic day, especially since it was the last day for the tour one people.
 
Watch the awesome video here:
 
Rago Tornado on YouTube

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May 18 - Woodeard, Oklahoma
We have one chase day left for tour 2 so we departed Amarillo this morning and have relocated to Woodward, Oklahoma so that we can be in better position to chase any storms that might form.
 
Before we left Amarillo, we stopped in at the famous "Cadillac Ranch" for a quick photo-op.
 
It's 10 old Cadillacs, half buried in a farmers field... And people are encouraged to go there and spry paint them. Hey, why not?
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May 17 - Amarillo, Texas
Today we traveled from Alamogordo New Mexico to Amarillo, Texas where we partook of a Cloud 9 Tours tradition of going to the Big Texan steak ranch where one of our tour guests, Andre from Edmonton too on their 72oz steak challenge.
 
Even though he didn't finish it all, he did manage to crush the existing cloud 9 Tours record by downing 53oz of steak. Not surprisingly, he didn't order any dessert.

May 16 - Alamogordo, New Mexico
One place I always wanted to get to but have not had the chance to, until today, has been White Sands National Monument near Alamogordo, New Mexico.
 
It is a vast area of white sand dunes made from gypsum crystals. Part of it is a military missile testing range, and part of it is open to the public.
 
We went there today and brought with us a few snow slides that we used on the dunes. They were meant for snow, but they worked well in the sand too... Well, except when you fall and get covered in sand, which happened a LOT.
 
As the sun got closer to setting, our group split up and we each walked out into the desert to capture some sunset photos. The low light on the white dunes made for some great photographic opportunities.
 
I look forward to returning here again in the future.

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May 15 - Carsbad Caverns, New Mexico
With today being a down day, we took the group on a trip to one of my favourite places in the southwest. Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. This National Park is stunning!!
 
I've always loved caves and the features inside Carlsbad ae totally surreal. Most of the cave is open to the public, so anybody can go and enjoy the beauty there, especially the Grand Room, 750 feet below the surface.
 
If you ever find yourself in southeast New Mexico... GO here!
 
We couldn't find a place to stay near the caverns, so we had to push on to Roswell for the night.

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May 14 - Fort Davis, Texas
Another south Texas storm today. Even with this cold, dry, stable pattern over most of the U.S. we've been able to find a few photogenic severe storms. Today we started off in Roswell, New Mexico and drove south to Fort Davis, Texas where we encountered a large thunderstorm that had a nice looking shelf cloud, and some intense hail. The hail was small, but like yesterday, it was plentiful and covered the road like snow.
 
Today was likely our last chase day for a while and we'll be doing some sight seeing until the atmosphere is ready for more storms.

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May 13 - Roswell, New Mexico
We left Texas for our 6th state of this trip, New Mexico, with the hopes of finding a good storm to chase. We spent a portion of the day sitting and waiting in Carlsbad, NM at the Wal-Mart parking lot where plenty of other storm chasers also converged. Among them was the "ROTATE" team, including Josh Wurman and his 3 RADAR trucks and the armored TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle) which films tornadoes at very close range with IMAX cameras.
 
Once storms began to form, we headed north to Roswell where we intercepted a big, slow moving storm that was a prolific hail producer. Several times, we were able to get in the path of the hail and it piled up like snow on the side of the road. It reminded me of winter back home in Canada.
 
The hail itself was not huge, perhaps mostly up to one inch at most, but there was such large quantities of it that it made for a surreal site. The noise was deafening as it came down, due to the force and hardness of the hail. Some of our tour guests even dashed out in it to gather up a few handfuls.
 
The hail was obviously very cold and there was enough of it covering the ground to chill the surrounding air enough to create a layer of hail fog along the low lying areas.
 
It was a fun chase day. No aliens were spotted in Roswell, but there were some incredible sights in the sky today.
 
Check out the panoramic storm photo I stitched together from 3 photographs (at right).
 
Oh and, happy Mothers Day, Mom!

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May 12 - Fort Stockton, Texas
Today was a travel day, getting into position for possible upslope storms in west Texas or New Mexico tomorrow. We started the day off near Houston and drove across most of Texas to Fort Stockton for the night.

May 11 - Conroe, Texas
We didn't have high hopes for today, considering the severe weather threat was marginal, but we did manage to get on a severe thunderstorm in east-central Texas.
 
At right is a panoramic photo of the storm from near College Station, Texas.

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May 10 - Pawnee, Texas
TORNADOES
 
Well, today turned out to be a lot more interesting than I expected it to be.
 
Our day started early. Our group was already in chase mode as we were leaving the parking lot after brunch in San Antonio, and we just kept chasing storms until we finally pulled into the hotel at 1:00 A.M.
 
A line of supercells formed in south Texas early in the day and we targeted the closest one near the town of Pawnee. Even with the limited road options, we were still able to witness at least 2 tornadoes. We immediately sent in the reports, but the storms were not done. not by a longshot. The supercells just kept coming, training one after another, all in the same general area. As soon as we were done with one storm, we would just drop south to the next one, and they all had tornado warnings on them.
 
I took several large, multi-image panoramic photos of some of the more dramatic looking storms.
 
One, very large storm formed across the border in Mexico, then entered the U.S. late in the day. It was our last target for the day. as we got near it in the town of Freer, it dumped a tremendous amount of rain, flooding out the streets, turning them into swift moving rivers.

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May 09 - San Antonio, Texas
More stable weather...
 
There is a slight chance for storms tomorrow in south Texas so we spent today driving south to get into better position to chase. The day started off in Dallas and we went as far a San Antonio where we took in some of the local sights.
 
We started off at the historic Alamo, then continued with dinner along the river walk part of town. This was my first time spending any real time in San Antonio and I must say, I like this city.
 
Having said that, I'd rather be chasing storms than spending time at tourist attractions, but when there's nothing to chase, there's nothing to chase.
 
I hope this pattern turns around soon. There is a glimmer of hope on the forecast horizon though... Patience is a virtue.

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May 08 - Dallas, Texas
There were no storms to chase today, so we took in a few sights starting with the town of Paris, Texas which has its own Eiffel Tower... Complete with a giant cowboy hat on top.
 
From there we went to Dallas where we stopped in at the site of the JFK assassination. We got some photos of the grassy knoll and the Texas Schoolbook Depository taken from the X mark on the street where Kennedy's limo was during the shooting. Of course, we had to do some traffic dodging to get the shot.
 
While in Dallas, we went to one of our favorite cajun restaurants for dinner where we all ate way too much.
 
The forecast is still bleak for storm potential this week. We'll se if it gets any better over the next couple of days.

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May 07 - DeQueen, Arkansas
The rest of this week is looking rather slim storm-wise so we took a chance on a long shot and drove from Kansas to Arkansas to chase some marginal storms today. Along the way, we drove though Joplin, Missouri so that the new guests could see what an EF-5 tornado can do to a city. We drove through some of the hardest hit areas and although a lot of rebuilding has been done, the town is a mere shadow of what it was a year ago.
 
One we got to Arkansas, there was already a couple of storms that had fired up... The problem was getting to them. The slow, winding roads through hills and trees made it impossible to catch up with them. Luckily more storms went up near DeQueen and we punched the core though a couple of them. There was not a lot to see though. Mostly lots of torrential rain and not much else. Tonight we've stopped in Idabel, Oklahoma for the night.

May 06 - Lenexa, Kansas
Our first official chase day of the season. We drove north from Norman, Oklahoma into Kansas where we intercepted a few storms, one of which briefly had a tornado warning on it. Unfortunately, they didn't stay organized for very long and eventually all the cells merged together into lines & clusters.
 
We did experience several bright green power flashes from lightning taking out electrical transformers.

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May 05 - Norman, Oklahoma
Today was airport pickup day for tour one and everything went relatively smoothly. Only one piece of luggage went missing and we expect it to arrive later tonight.
 
On this tour we have guests from Canada, The U.S, Holland, Paraguay, Australia, Switzerland and the U.K. Talk about an international bunch.
 
After our safety briefing, we went out for a buffet cajun dinner, then we saw the "Super Moon" rise.
 
The Super Moon is the largest full moon of the year and I was able to photograph it beside a flag that was lit up beside a car dealership. The photo is a double-exposure composite of two images to get the exposures just right.

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May 04 - Joplin, Missouri to Norman, Oklahoma
 
As I continued driving southwest, I passed the town of Joplin, Missouri and decided to stop in to see how they were doing a year after taking a direct hit from a monster EF-5 Tornado.
 
A LOT of cleanup had been done since I was there last year and the rebuilding is well underway. However, most of the houses that were badly damaged were now completely gone with nothing but bare patches and concrete slabs where homes used to be. Every now and then, I spotted other buildings, still awaiting demolition.
 
It will be years before you won't be able to tell what happened here.
 
Here is a link to my encounter with the Joplin storm, the day it happened on May 22nd, 2011
 
Once I was finished in Joplin, I continued on into Oklahoma where I met up with Charles Edwards from Cloud 9 Tours. Everything is set and ready to go and we'll be picking up the guests from tour one starting tomorrow morning. It looks like Sunday will be our first chase day.
 
After all the storm tour business was taken care of, I headed over to meet up with my friend RJ Evans (Who also joined me in the Arizona Monsoon episode of Angry Planet)
 
We did what seemed like a normal Friday night in Oklahoma... We fired guns and ate at a local BBQ restaurant.
 
Hey, when in Rome, do as the Romans do...

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May 03 - St. Louis, Missouri
 
A nice driving day today. On my way southwest from Indiana, I decided to stop on the eastern side of the Mississippi River for a few photo opportunities which included the Gateway Arch and a nice shot of the start & stripes shading the sun.
 
After sweating it out in the heat, I drove to the western suburbs where I met up with fellow storm chaser Jerry Prsha and his wife Debbie & daughter Rachel. We had a nice dinner out on a restaurant patio, but it wasn't long before I had to get back to the road.
 
I stopped for the night in the town of St. Robert, Missouri.
 
Doing these long drives by myself is never a lot of fun, but what has been a real life saver for me is the many various podcasts I have to listen to on my ipod as I motor down the highway... Much better than any radio station, that's for sure.
 
In the morning, I keep going southwest on I-44. If I have time, I might even stop in Joplin, to see how the they are doing one year after the monster EF-5 tornado that destroyed much of the city.
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May 02 - London, Ontario & Ft. Wayne, Indiana
 
Day one of this year's road trip. I left early from Toronto and headed to London, Ontario where I was a special guest at the SPARK Conference at King's University College. I did a one hour workshop with some of the students, then In the afternoon, I gave a keynote talk to a larger group of about 500 students. It was great and they had lots of good questions for me.
 
As soon as I was finished at the college, I dashed off, crossed the border into Michigan at Sarnia and I've made it as far as Ft Wayne, Indiana where I was treated to a very nice sunset.

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May 01 - Toronto, Canada
 
The final preparations have been made and I'm in the final stages of packing everything up. Early tomorrow morning, I head out, on my way towards Oklahoma, but I have a stop to make first.
 
In the morning, I'll be visiting with the students of King's University College in London, Ontario. I will be giving a keynote talk and doing a talk/workshop with some of the students there. After that, it'll be across the border into the U.S. then I'll put on as many miles as I can for the rest of the day.

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April 30 - Toronto, Canada
 
Welcome to my 2012 tornado chase blog page where I will be posting daily summaries & photos from this year's storm chase.
 
From the start of May until the middle of June, I will be hunting down the most dangerous and spectacular weather on Earth such as lightning, hail and of course, tornadoes... But it's not just me. I help to guide tornado chasing trips where people from all over the world come to the "Tornado Alley" region of the United States to ride along on the chase as we see what Mother Nature has up her sleeve. We have a good time, all the time.
 
Check back often to see what we've been up to.

Tornado Alley

 

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Send E-Mail To George Kourounis

george@stormchaser.ca


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