Chase Log 2005 - Stories & Pics from Tornado Alley.

Chase Dates - Thursday June 2 to Sunday June 5

Hours on the chase - 86

Sleep Hours - 6 1/2

Mileage - 5350kms.

Amount of fuel - A ton!!

Approaching the Tornadic Core

Chase County Kansas

Dan Steve and Bob at the Twister Movie

Dan Wexler Wakita Oklahoma

Dan's Truck Emporia Kan

Hi all...What can I say...I'm tired, to say the least. Lol. Although this weekend in June was slated as Mod/High risk, allot of the experienced chasers all had similar conclusions.."ya high risk but things are missing"..Hmm (clearing throat) Well...let me tell you that what we were involved in was so far from a bust trip. The reason we put the type of hours in is because we did what we should have...Not listen to SPC or anyone else...

Bob Berry, a friend of mine Steve and I left the Toronto area in the mid afternoon on Thursday targeting South Eastern Kansas/North Eastern Oklahoma. Some where between Toledo and Dayton, Ohio my phone's Ron Gravelle..I'm fairly happy thinking he's been checking things out and wanted to give me a target area (you know Ron. if the target isn't at the mile marker then go home...LOL) but infact, things were going to get better for us, much better. You see, Ron will not drive those kinds of miles to see rain. We set up a location to meet outside of Indiana cuz I had 2 extra drivers with me and I thought he could use one. We met at around 04:00cdt outside of St. Louis and had a monster breakfast...good thing because we didn't eat till 20:00. We talked and revised some models and off we went. At around 10:00 we were just east of Kansas, heading for 2 super cells, one 55,000 and the other 60,000. By early afternoon we blasted by the first one as it was raining itself out and was heading for the bigger second one in south central Kansas. As we were real close to the section that we wanted, we stopped for a quick course correction. For those of you that don't know Ron and his ability to read the raw data and pick an area in mins, literally to the marker, is , to say the least, spectacular!! As we headed west, we turned south then a quick west again, east of I35, and once we passed the tree line....boom. Tornado on the ground, not 200 feet away heading straight for us at around 50k's. The ugliest, greenest, slightly rain wrapped F0 you've ever seen. A perfect V. We hit the brakes, take a pic and roll video. Ron yells that we should turn around, we do and go a few yards east and pull off in a drive way facing the road way when we realize the tornado is literally (to the west, we're facing north) beside the chase vehicles. Ron yells to get out of the way and blasts on a north road, I on the other hand, being me, has to see what’s going on and stays...You have to realize that we were WELL equipped with Wx sat and radar and tons of internal info to tell us what's going on in this thing so I knew it was at the low end of the wind scale..hahaha...That tornado hits the side of the truck and I hit the gas heading east but too late. The vehicle starts rolling on it's own and I floor it. Stuff is flying across the roadway and rain worse than a car wash. I had to pull over because it had me beat. I had the best car wash/sand blast ever. Ron's calling but I don't answer...I'm a little busy Lol...He's worried but finally I call him and turn around heading west again in real strong head winds with braches, etc flying around...We meet up and head for the next target not to far from where we this point is about 16:00 Friday afternoon. Toronto to Tornado, express!!.......This is just the beginning!!.......

Embedded and Rain Wrapped HP Tornado

Getting Fuel and Coffee, Ron, Dan and Bob

Hail Core at night Emporia Kansas

Kansas 2005 HR

Light Pillar Shining 2005

So the afternoon continues. After we left the sand blasting we just encountered we headed towards I35 and north towards central Kansas when once again the Wx Barron let us know that there was a serious threat south of us. We stopped to look at the radar images and decided to head south on I35 towards the Oklahoma state line. It's funny because now that I think of it, I did get calls from people that were tracking us wondering why we were traveling in every crossed into OK and noticed an awesome (southern style) shelf cloud to our west. We stopped and took pics/vid and discussed the situation. Before we knew it the monster was on top of us. Boom , 90mph winds and torrential rains. Of course we start driving at this point southward. Traffic is at a stand still and the vehicles are rocking!!. We pop out the south of it right into a well lit forming super cell with the base virtually on the ground. We stop to see the development and take readings. We decide that it would be a while for anything to occur and realize that we are not to far from Aunt Meg's was just south of us and westward on that is Wakita. We get to Wakita by around 19:00 and meet Linda Wade, the twister lady, she runs the Twister museum. We get a private tour as the town is empty. It is chase day As we exit the museum I hear a hiss from my truck at the same time the Wx Barron blares out a dangerous situation signal. I have a nice rusty nail in my big tire and there is a big, rotating super cell just east of the town. We can see the funnel already. How ironic!. I plug the tire and fill it up (gotta be prepared for anything) and we say our good bye's and blast through main st. east out of town. No, we're not shooting Twister was so ironic. We get about a 1/2 mile out of town and video a beautiful, white rotating funnel which was just feet of the ground but never touched down. At this point it's almost 21:00 and we are real tired and fatigued. We head east on 11 toward I35 to get to Ponca, Ok for the night when we're stopped by a half rain wrapped tornado to our east, a rotating meso to our south, 2 funnels to our north and off in the distance to the north/west, another shelf cloud. Tornado warnings were all over the place. On the NWS Wx radio (great stuff down there) and they commandeered the radio waves with breaking tornado warnings and locations. The one to our east was infact n/e of Ponca. Got to a motel around 22:30ish. We couldn't move. I washed up and fell asleep before I hit the bed. Not 10 mins later I get woken up by the blast of the tornado warning. My chase partner Steve was a little quick look at radar showed it in the county north of us. I was out cold....Very early in the morning I get woken up by 1) 2 tornado warnings 2) Bob calling us in the room telling me we have to go and 3) Mark Robinson yelling...Get Going.........................

Light Pillars Oklahoma 20

Nebraska Sunset

Rotating Wall Cloud with the SC

Rotating Wall Cloud with the Verkaiks

Rotation in Kansas 2005

As we scramble to get our gear together, Ron is out finding Wifi and getting the latest info on the tornados positions that we were awakened to and targeting our next move. We realize that they are to our south and we head out to grab Those Sonic restaurants are tasty but greasy. We realize also that this may be the last time we eat for hours. How true that came to be. We decide to head towards Emporia, Kansas which is north of Wichita on I35. The road trip out there was fun and of course you have to stop to take a pic of the Chase county sign. We get into Emporia and find out that Jack Kertzie is to our south about 1 hour. Cool. In Emporia, we enter the Best Western and fire up 2 laptops. Chasers start rolling in due to the chase vehicles outside and of course a chaser convergence Shane Adam's is there with his crew and a number of people that I have met before. We have about 25/30 chasers in this place and Ron is displaying his talent's in forecasting. Poor guy, he was just sitting there minding his own business when they "lowered" on him. I should have taken a pic of that because everyone in there was silent as he spoke and I’m telling you. If they had their own target area, they changed their mind right there and then! We decided that the brunt of the upcoming event would be right in Emporia later in the afternoon but Ron convinced us that an upcoming super cell to our northeast had the goods to show something. We pack it up and get out of there with a chase team of 8 were heading for a town called White City on Hwy. 4 when I hear the radio crackle with the voice of George. Woo hoo..looks like, in the end, everyone was interested in this storm. We get through the little town, head north then east, passing chase vehicles on the side of the road when we find ourselves alone on this road with a real mean looking lowering just above us. Once again, if you know Ron, it's not good enough to look at this thing from the side of the must stress that with Ron and all of us, safety is first even though the pic's may be awesome close up.. We find ourselves on "Bob's" road and RIGHT under the rotating wall cloud. We stop, get out and take pics/vid. It's a heavy sight!!. It tries to put one down in the field next to us but was missing a good RFD. We take off and go in and out of serious torrential down pours and finally out in the clearing. We decide that it's getting later in the afternoon and we should head back to Emporia. We start heading south west on a country road and over a hill an awesome sight awaits us............

As we head south west, Ron and I simultaneously look at the car parked on the side of the road in disbelief and he hit's the brakes as I hit mine not to ram his We get out of the vehicles and he says "do you know who that is" and I say at the same time "is that who I think it is".....Yes, in the absolute middle of nowhere, Kansas on a rural road with no one else around for miles is Arjen and Jerrine Verkaik!! What an honor, to say the least. These people are the pioneers of storm chasing. They have seen more than all of us put together. They are world renound, have written books and have made posters and severe weather text for EC to name just a few things. We are in awe. We take pics with them and finally ask why they are in the location they are. They chase with a small car and Wx radio......that's it!! For years!! We talk a little more when someone ask's "what's that under the cloud". Out of absolute nothing, a very large, rotating wall cloud appears. We look at each other. It's big, it's low and it's rotating. With all the equipment we had combined, we had no We scrambled for our cameras and rolled vid and snapped pics as it was trying to put one out. We were there for a bit when they decided to leave for the east. We asked why and they said cause that's what it feels like. If I'm not mistaken, I think a tornado was on the ground (I heard later) where they went. stuff.. We now see that the lines are intensifying west of Emporia and hit the road again. While traveling we encounter beautiful mamatus and distant lightning which got close real quick. Everything down there is big and get into Emporia as night falls and stop to refuel and get coffee's as radar indicated golf balls or bigger 12 miles south west of our location and the radio in the service station was saying it was coming with dime size hail. As I was mixing my coffee and listening to this report, some of the folk's in there asked if this was true. I said no, it's big hail. Not 10 seconds later the radio reported that the NWS is seeing at least golf size or bigger. They laughed (in a very scared way) and left. We, of course, take off straight for the hail core while stopping to take pics of a green, night sky with a brilliant, white shaft. The sheriff decides he need's to know what's doing and Ron explains the situation. He is extremely grateful. Ron ask's if he want's to follow....lololol...he say's "no way!!" you guy's go and have fun and report back to guy's, all the law enforcement down there. We had the SKYWARN emblem's on the vehicles and all respected that and asked us thing's everywhere we went. We head west out of town when the monster hail shaft shift's to the north...blah..left turner. We head back into town for a big dinner and to thank each other for the great 2 day's we had and the other chasers that we're with us. In the restaurant was Jim Leonard and team and Tim Samaras and crew. That was the place to be. George was on his way from saying goodbye to his team and was meeting us soon for our grueling 25 hour drive home. I thanked Ron for everything as he was staying to play in the alley for a while longer (still there as I write this). I couldn't find the words to thank him for showing us the time of our lives. Would we have found storms with out him? I think so considering the amount of instability but would we have been at all those places, at the time we were there, seeing the things we did and producing memories that I will never forget...No way! He is truly an amazing forecaster, guide and this dude knows how to party! I know I sound like this is my first chase but what a time I had........George arrives in Emporia at around 23:00 and we dread the long drive home...he's not happy that I've talked him into this...and what we were about to encounter on our way home didn't make him like me more.....................

Shelf Cloud with Hail SC Kansas

The Gang with the Verkaiks

The Gang, Chase County Kansas

Wakita Museum

Wakita Oklahoma June 200

It's about 23:00cst in Emporia, Kansas when we (Bob, George, Steve and I) start heading for home north on I35 towards Kansas City. We know that there is intense severe weather on a line to our east. We also know that it has tornadic potential and the dreaded part of the whole thing is that at this point, all of us have been awake for around 16-17 hours and another 25 to go. Talk about a test of stamina and ability. As George would say, "Don't try this at home". No kidding. We're out of Kansas a little after 00:00 and whoo weee...Strobe lightning, hail, torrential downpours, winds from all directions at very high speeds. Rain is pounding off the windshield in biblical think we see lowerings, funnels and shelf clouds. At night, things are not as they appear but the one thing that really keeps me focused, besides Red Bull, knowing that I am on the road with one of the only 2 people I know that were inside a tornado at night (Ron being the other)..That was comforting to George...not!! At one point I thought the winds coming across the interstate were quite peculiar and as I reach for the mic George comes on and says he thinks he should fire up the radar imagery....I agree!! Although it's not a tornado we still get pounded for hours on end till the sun came up, later to find out that infact there were tornados to our north and south. Daylight finally arrives and we are ecstatic because it's much easier to drive in the light. Allot less stress on the eyes but temps in the low to mid 30's take everything out of us. Nothing like not sleeping and dealing with those temperatures. They sling shot M&M's at my truck and I think its stop at various places to refuel and the road trip, as tiring as it is, has fun in it. When we're west of Ohio, Mark Robinson calls in an exited voice telling me the NWS has put out severe warnings and tornado watches for Michigan. He's extremely exited; I'm extremely exhausted but get a boost from this new info. I find that he and Dave P and Tom S are on their way to Exeter and we are coming up to Dayton, Ohio. I make some calls to find out the potential and keep talking to Mark but things are just not going to go our way....well in the US part maybe but as we all know what happens to weather once it crosses the We cross at Windsor around 17:00 and hit the first Tim's in town......Mmmmmm, coffee!! (Self explanatory). We start the most grueling part of our trip...the dreaded 4 hours to Toronto and of course the lake breeze shot the storms to Owen Sound. Bob though still has another hour to drive after due to leaving his vehicle at my place. On our way home we talk to Scott on ZAP in Dufferin County and he informs us of some serious storms heading our way in a line from Owen Sound to Windsor. We're so close to home and we just want to sleep. We made one last stop for coffee's and to transfer Bob back to my vehicle from Georges' just west of Kitchener, said our good bye's and blasted the last hour homeward. Got home at midnight. Steve and Bob leave, I clean out my truck and sit on the curb by the road and ponder the event's of the last few days. I chuckle and wonder why they said there is no action this weekend. I had the time of my year in the alley!!!!!!

- Dan Wexler - VA3WXX


A huge thanks to the following for everything:


Ron Gravelle

Bob Berry

George Kourounis

Arjen and Jerrine Verkaik

Mark Robinson

Dave Patrick

Tom Stafanic

and Canada Customs for letting me back home!!


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