“Chasing” in the Boston Metro area

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As is often the case during July and August in MA, severe storms were in the forecast on August 7.  By 4 pm, towering cu (cumulonimbus) clouds were already forming and thunderstorms were popping in various areas of eastern Massachusetts, southeastern NH, Maine and RI. On days like this, we are typically glued to the radar (computer, phone aps or even tv) to see if there’s anything near us that we should “chase.”  Trees, traffic, and hills are the bane of a chaser’s chase.

Normally, chasing in this end of the world means hanging out in our nearby park to watch the clouds develop, then watching the storms from the back porch.  Other vantage points include the top of a nearby parking garage from where we have seen a funnel cloud, the parking lot of a local church (high ground with a bit of visibility) from where whe have seen circulation with debris, with no confirmed tornado, Rt. 2 when we encountered a microburst while driving, and last night’s “chase” on Rt. 95/128.

Well, we weren’t really chasing – we were going to a dinner meeting!  Since Ian was driving, I got to actually try to see the beautiful developing storms as we crawled along at 5-20 mph.  At dinner, we were treated to a double rainbow out the window.  On the way home, we got glimpses, through the trees, of a gorgeous sunset highlighting the elevated remnants of a storm.

 

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Byers, Colorado

Rain Wrapped Tornado Near Byers, Colorado?

Rain Wrapped Tornado Near Byers, Colorado?

Yesterday’s chase was pretty intense with an amazing HP supercell and chaser convergence like I have never seen before. We started just south of DIA and watched the cell develop. We stayed with it all evening and saw glimpses of what were reported as rain wrapped tornadoes. As further discreet cells developed further south, we were in position to continue heading east on Rt. 36 without getting nailed by anything more than small hail We were treated to a few funnels and delightful light show into Colby, KS.

Edge of Storm

Edge of Storm

More Structure

More Structure

Storm Structure

Storm Structure

Chaser Convergence

Chaser Convergence

May 21 still in Nebraska

A delightfully fun chase with an isolated supercell on the dryline NW of Ogallala. We chased this storm through Arthur, Keith, and Perkins counties, staying just ahead of (most times), the hail core, that was dropping quarter sized hail. One funnel and a short-lived gustnado later, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset mammatus show and one of the best light shows for a long time. What a treat!

Wild Day in Nebraska: May 19, 2012

Target SE Nebraska. Left Valentine early and were rewarded with quite the show. We sat on the front and the low developed with isolated supercells firing. Beautiful! NE of Nelson, NE, right after 5 pm, we got ourselves a brief tornado that formed right in front of us. Whoa! I’ve never been close enough to hear one before. What a treat – especially when it wasn’t strong enough to do much or in a populated area. We played with these storms and with strong gustnadoes (debris flying), beautiful mammatus, and ran into TWC’s Mike Bettes at a gas station in Hebron, NE where he was taping for the Great Tornado Chase 2012.

A Day Like Yesterday…

Yesterday, we saw a very low contrast tornado at Guthrie, OK. The sky was filled with haze, the storms were amazingly difficult to deal with due to the energy in the system and the cell mergers, and we refused to try to chase in the Oklahoma City urban area due to traffic issues, although we started the day in Oklahoma City. Chasing in urban areas is almost as bad as chasing in the trees and hills of Missouri, Arkansas, etc. Therefore, we are heading home. We have seen tornadoes four days in a row. A record for us. It has been an active season and we are tired. A good kind of tired but tired nonetheless.

People keep asking me why I chase storms. Days like yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that….are the answer. The sky is alive with raw power. Nothing else matters but the energy. In my profession, there are conference workshops dedicated to learning how to “be in the moment” and “mindfulness.” Storms are elemental, a part of the soul of humankind that requires no learning. Being in the moment is essential to stormchasing if one wishes to truly understand this elemental part of nature, stay safe, and experience the energy of these beasts. Standing in wind that threatens to whip my shirt off my body, driving through rain that falls harder and harder and faster and faster, hearing the first dings of hail and knowing that bigger and dangerous hail is just behind, knowing that there are tornadoes wrapped in rain that no one can see until they destroy, or seeing columns of twisting air rotating from a cloud to the ground with dirt and debris coloring it to make it visible…this is the power of energy that mother nature produces and that I experience while chasing. It is real and these beasts speak to me in a way that other things don’t. That’s why I chase.

Joplin, MO

Yes, we were chasing the storm that hit Joplin, MO. We veered off of it a few miles from Jopin when any tornado that developed would be rain wrapped and very dangerous to chase. The storm was a beast and kept evolving and expanding. The beast that hit Joplin ate 3 more cells as it grew. We have seen from the field that cell mergers appear to contribute to tornadogenesis, and Ian has done a bit of research and found some articles on this topic.

We were sitting on top of a hill watching beautiful storm structure when we turned on the radio and learned about what happened to Joplin. Speechless, with tears in our eyes, we could only say our prayers and look in awe at the power of mother nature. We talked about whether we could help in any way but none of us is a qualified first responder and we knew that the chasers in our community who are would respond generously, as they did.

We carried on the chase with mixed emotions, knowing that we couldn’t change what mother nature brings to us. Many ask why did this happen and why are there more deaths this year? It’s an active year – La Nina is one reason. And, for all of the unpopulated and sparsely populated land in tornado alley (and what they have now coined dixie alley), storms and tornadoes don’t determine their paths by whether structures and people are in front of them. It’s probability. The vast majority of the time, tornadoes hit noting but fields and many go unreported unless someone happens to see it. Sometimes, it hits a town. Like in Alabama, Joplin was under a tornado warning for quite some time. In this end of the world, there is a bit of a “it won’t happen here” mentality, which we hear all the time.

Yesterday, while watching storms develop on a dirt road and looking at some holes in the ground (armadillo dens?), an elderly man stopped to check that we were ok. I told him that we were watching the storms and he said, “You know what I do when those bad storms come? I go to bed and say my prayers.”

Many people don’t have tornado shelters. A tornado as strong as the one that hit Joplin requires a basement or a reinforced storm shelter to be really safe. Most important – it requires that someone actually be in one of these. A few years back, we met a woman who showed us her storm shelter. It was filled with junk. She was using it as either as extra storage or a junk bin. We were watching a storm that could produce a tornado right where she was. I hope that she decided to clean out here shelter.

We went on to see a beautiful tornado just on the other side of a lake in Bernice, OK and a beautiful sunset.

Windmills and sunsets: May 19 Chase

Started the day in Woodward, Ok and ended in Dodge City in 1.5 in hail. We played the triple point and enjoyed the isolated cells around Spearville, KS, missing the mess to the North and South and enjoying gorgeous structure and sunset. Too tired to post more. What a chasecastion already.